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Oil Train Explosion Triggers Evacuation In North Dakota

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the just-put-it-on-amtrak dept.

Transportation 199

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The LA Times reports that the small town of Casselton, North Dakota dodged a bullet after being partially evacuated when a train carrying crude oil collided with another train, setting off a large fire and explosions. Officials received a report at 2:12 p.m. of a train derailing about a mile west of Casselton, a city of 2,432 people about 20 miles west of Fargo. At some point, another train collided with the derailed train, belonging to the BNSF Railway, carrying more than 100 cars loaded with crude oil. The explosions and fire erupted after cars from a grain train struck some of the oil tank cars. 'A fire ensued, and quickly a number of the cars became engulfed,' said Sgt. Tara Morris of the Cass County Sheriff's Office, adding that firefighters had managed to detach 50 of the 104 cars but had to leave the rest. This was the fourth serious accident involving trains hauling crude in North America this year. In July, an unattended train with 72 tank cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale fields rolled downhill and set off a major explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. The accidents have put a spotlight on the growing reliance on rail to move surging oil production from new fields in Texas, North Dakota and Colorado. U.S. railroads are moving 25 times more crude than they did in 2008, often in trains with more than 100 tank cars that each carry 30,000 gallons. Though railroads have sharply improved their safety in recent years, moving oil on tank cars is still only about half as safe as in pipelines, according to Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute. 'You can make the argument that the pipeline fights have forced the industry to revert to rail that is less safe,' says Smith. One problem is that the trains go through small towns with volunteer fire departments, not well schooled in handling a derailment and explosion. Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell says it is time to 'have a conversation' with federal lawmakers about the dangers of transporting oil by rail. 'There have been numerous derailments in this area,' says McConnell. 'It's almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we're going to have an accident, it's when.'"

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199 comments

first good news of the year! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835341)

thank jebus

Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835393)

Thank everyone against the pipeline.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (4, Insightful)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | about 4 months ago | (#45835431)

I don't recall ever hearing about a pipeline colliding with another pipeline. Pump failures, punctures, and such maybe.

Anybody have statistics on ton-miles transported per accident rate for petroleum pipelines vs railroad tank cars?

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (4, Insightful)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 4 months ago | (#45835561)

The issue is demand. Demand will be met with supply. A route of transportation will be found. Similar to drugs. I just hope it doesn't get banned on trains and end up in tractor trailers.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836975)

The issue is demand. Demand will be met with supply. A route of transportation will be found. Similar to drugs. I just hope it doesn't get banned on trains and end up in tractor trailers.

All hail the Great Material Continuum!

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Great_Material_Continuum

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835435)

Thank everyone against green power.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836143)

GREEN POWER ISN'T READY, duh! Its expensive, expensive, expensive and yeah, that does make a difference. We've already 50 million people in poverty, and poverty takes about 6.5 years off your life. That's 330 million person-years less life for the American people, and "green" energy will add millions of people to the poverty roles because of its expense. Its happening already, electricity prices are at an all-time high. You want green energy? Get your PHD, get your a** in the lab, and make it cheap. Simply whining about it and expecting someone else to provide it for you is a non-starter.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#45836877)

So it's ready, it's just more than you're willing to pay. Maybe you should cut back on your energy usage instead?

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 months ago | (#45836155)

Thank everyone against green power.

Green power...where you pay Feed In Tariffs, at a rate of anywhere between 38c/kWh to 86c/kWh. And watch as your electricity rates climb through the roof so fast, you'll soon be making the decision as to whether or not you'll be paying rent, electricity, or food on the table. Last news article I saw on everyone's current favorite "green energy" country Germany, 1.3 million people can no longer afford the electricity rates. And here in my home province of Ontario, we're now looking at between 30% and 48% in an increase in our rates in the next 3 years.

Thanks environuts for slowing down the deployment of nuclear power. You're making the world a more terrible place, and increasing human misery and suffering.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835445)

Because pipes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_River#2011_oil_spill

are always - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamazoo_River_oil_spill

safe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Mayflower_oil_spill

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835483)

We have 47 people exploded and vaporized thanks to the last oil train explosion in Quebec. I don't see that happening in the pipeline oil spills you mentioned. Are there any that have resulted in mass deaths yet?

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (3, Informative)

lxs (131946) | about 4 months ago | (#45835593)

Yes. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#45835875)

The details were light in that list, but the ones I could find details about looked to all be "petroleum products" and not a single one was listed as crude. The "lesson" from that is don't put pipelines with expensive products in poor areas, and be careful with the more volatile compounds.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (3, Insightful)

blindseer (891256) | about 4 months ago | (#45835617)

Pipelines by their nature are run through low population areas, the land is cheaper and fewer people to complain about. Trains by their nature run through high population areas. Rail carries a variety of cargo, cargo that people need. If the rail does not stop at as many population centers as possible that rail does not make as much money. Pipeline on the other hand only needs to serve two customers, the supplier and the consumer, so the path can avoid the population.

I've seen some spectacular failures of pipelines before, some notable ones were from poor site choices. One I recall is from a rocket fuel plant built on top of a large natural gas pipeline. That just had "fail" written all over it.

The argument isn't if transporting oil is safe, it isn't. Nothing is "safe", even hiding under the bed from the evil world contains the risk of getting killed from a meteor strike. The argument is if the pipeline would have been safer than transport by rail. There is little evidence that the train is safer.

If you want to argue about the safety of oil transport then I'll have that argument. I'd then demonstrate the statistical safety, low cost, and minimal carbon output of nuclear power.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (5, Interesting)

QA (146189) | about 4 months ago | (#45835725)

Back in the late 70's I used to work for the only company in Canada that manufactured very large ball valves for pipelines. We are talking in excess of 10 ton's with 42" flanges. We supplied Trans Canada Pipelines, Foothills, etc. I designed the pressure testing rig and tank for these very large units.

Know what the biggest problem was/is with pipelines? Materials used in manufacturing.

"Sour" gas vs "Sweet" gas valves (and the pipeline itself) are made of completely different materials. An "O" ring housing for example may be made from Titanium for a corrosive sour gas and Stainless Steel for sweet non corrosive gas.

More than once, on smaller valves (gate or ball, I forget now) we had to investigate why a valve failed and it was always the incorrect material. Some worker swapped a part behind QC's back thinking "no big deal, they look the same".

Perhaps traceability and manufacturing has improved (I would hope so) by now though.

On an interesting side note, the big guy's were tested at 20,000kpa, or about 2900psi. The rumor went that if there were ever a pinhole leak in one of the 3" deep welds, or porosity in the casting and you walked through it without seeing it, it would cut you in half.

Nothing is perfectly safe, but I do think a pipeline is "safer" than rail transport.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 4 months ago | (#45836163)

Given your experience, I actually had a question about the pipelines. It would seem most of the failures are caused by a combination of pressure and time. Assuming that you have to operate on a sliding scale of perfect safety for infinite cost and reasonable safety for much lower cost*, is there a way to build pipelines with specific failure points such that you avoid failures at costly points? Something like a fuse in an electrical circuit; you certainly don't want it to blow, but it's there to blow so that worse places don't burn. I've always been a little surprised that discussion of running pipeline through sensitive areas didn't involve a compromise where you just build in a costly but agreed upon sigma of reliability into the region at issue by shunting the risk to an area you're prepared to clean up.

*A possibly erroneous assumption.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 4 months ago | (#45837013)

" The rumor went that if there were ever a pinhole leak in one of the 3" deep welds, or porosity in the casting and you walked through it without seeing it, it would cut you in half."

An old way to check for live steam leaks is to hang a rag from a broomstick. The steam is quite capable of cutting as well as burning the rag.

3000 psi oil and hydraulic leaks can certainly cause injury by injecting oil into flesh and sometimes cutting. Hydraulic and diesel (injector lines are high pressure) mechanics have to be aware of this when troubleshooting.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836159)

"Because pipes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_River#2011_oil_spill [wikipedia.org] "

Zero fatalities.

"are always - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamazoo_River_oil_spill [wikipedia.org] "

Zero fatalities.

"safe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Mayflower_oil_spill [wikipedia.org] :

Zero fatalities.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836191)

That would be a much more convincing argument if there were any fatalities at four of the five rail accidents you mentioned.

If your definition of "dangerous" is killing people all you've got against rail pipelines is one accident, and since there's only one of it you can't prove it wasn't a freak accident.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836245)

One's enough, since the arguments against building pipelines are simple obstructionism, and not rational. If the whiners had an alternative, they would at least be reasonable. But they can't say, "Do this instead of a pipeline" because they just don't have a "this" to do. They want to cast the whole country into poverty by strangling it of cheap energy. Cheap energy is life for millions of people. Obstructing it should be chargeable as murder.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (2)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836385)

I know somebody whose response to everything is to blame it on a conspiracy to murder people by denying them cheap energy is not terribly rational, but I'll humor you because I'm bored.

I'm one of the people who opposed the pipeline. If I opposed cheap energy my response to this wouldn't be "shit, some asshole fucked up, that sucks, I wonder which company the asshole worked for," it would be "It is impossible to transport oil by rail safely, therefore Obama should immediately ban all crude oil shipments from rail lines." This would totally fuck the rail companies, but since every rail car magically becomes an 18-wheeler, instead of having 1-2 engineers per train you'd have 100 Teamsters, which would also advance my goal of increasing working class employment and boosting Union membership. Moreover since some percentage of those Teamsters would get drunk/have unavoidable accidents/just plain fuck up within a couple months I'd have the perfect excuse to ban trucks from driving oil around.

Hell, just look at your definitions. $70-$80 a barrel is the break-even point for any company operating in the Alberta Tar Sands. The Tar Sands are literally the only place in the entire fucking world that could use the pipeline you're talking about. $70 a barrel is quadruple the price oil was in the Clinton years. Oil is not cheap anymore. We're near peak oil. Supply is not gonna go up very fast. When it does it won;t be cheap supply, it will be expensive, deep-water drilling or expensive extraction from the tar sands. The Chinese are demanding cheap train rides home for factory worker's in the Chinese New Year, which is not precisely unreasonable, the Indians will be demanding the same thing if their economic growth continues, which means demand is skyrocketing.

This means that if you actually support cheap energy, rather then simply supporting your ability to convince ExxonMobile to pay you six figures, you are ambivalent towards any policy that increases oil consumption anywhere. We have too goddamn much oil consumption for oil to be cheap, and it is literally physically impossible for us to increase supply at the Clinton-era rate of $15-$20 a barrel. OTOH Solar is new tech. It will improve. It's already price competitive with oil. In the short-term we're gonna have to spend money to develop the tech. But if we don't 50 years from now there will be no such thing as cheap energy, therefore if you support cheap energy you necessarily support more renewables.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (4, Interesting)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836733)

Problem with solar is that its hard to run cars on it. Fix that, and we're walking in tall cotton. As much as you might like, we just can't leave this stuff in the ground. Yeah, cheap oil is possible, its called fracking. We're accessing billions of barrels in N. Dakota alone, and there's more in lots of other places. Too many of those places are on gov't land, which "O" is obstructing from being explored / exploited. We need to do everything we can to make oil production cheap, and rely on industry to research cheaper ways to make solar into electricity, and run cars on electricity. As soon as someone invents the magic battery, the devil will be out for breakfast in terms of building new electrical generating capacity.

Electricity: See if I can work this math again. Chevy Volt gets 35 miles on 7.5 Kwh of electricity, so use that as an efficiency for cars. 4.6 miles per KwH. There are about 3 trillion vehicle miles driven per year in the USA, so that's ( 3 X 10^12) X 4.6 = 13.8 trillion KwH or 13.8 X 10^15 watt-hours. Our largest nuke is in Arizona and has a capacity of 3,875 Mw or 3.875 X 10^9 watts. So, you have to run a plant this size for 13.8 / 3.875 X (10 ^ (15-9)) hours per year to power all the cars in the USA that have the efficiency of a Chevy Volt. That'd be 3.56 X 10 ^ 6 hours per year. Unfortunately, there are only (24 X 365) = 8,760 hours in a year, so you'd need 3.54 / 8.76 X (10 ^ (6 - 3)) = 0.404 X 10 ^ 3 or 404 new nuclear plants the size of the one in Arizona to be built to power these electric cars. But wait, almost all cars are far less efficient than the Chevy Volt in terms of size, weight, and frontal area, and then we need to include trucks. Multiply the need for new, giant nuclear power plants by a factor of 4, ballpark. 1600 new giant nuclear power plants the size of our largest one in Arizona. 32 per state on average. What do you think the chances of that happening are? Probably more likely than being able to afford the construction of enough wind machines and solar farms that produce seriously expensive electricity. The Arizona nuke produces at 6.33 cents per KwH, according to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palo_Verde_Nuclear_Generating_Station [wikipedia.org]

You can do the math for the wind machines and solar panels to generate that same amount of electricity. Think we'd have any birds left after all the wind machines knock them out of the sky with their whirling blades occupying probably every square foot of the country that has any significant wind? Cost comparison for electrical generation shows Wind and Solar putting up some really ugly numbers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source [wikipedia.org]

So, solve the envirowacko opposition to new nuclear plants, envirowacko opposition to new power lines, the hideous cost of solar and wind energy, and then we can talk about leaving the oil in the ground. But until then, we NEED it - we simply cannot support the size of our population without it. People have to get to work, get back, go to the store and buy things, and yeah, recreation is necessary. Trucks and trains and airplanes have to bring us things. You probably couldn't cut the transportation required by more than a few percent, and doing so would make everyone miserable waiting for buses to arrive and trains to depart and force them to live like sardines in a can in some high-rise apartment complex, which would be miserable enough for me to contemplate suicide. I've got an acre on which I have a really fine ham radio antenna system, with another tower / antenna planned, and not being able to do that hobby, with my other hobbies also requiring lots of transportation (I have 70K miles on my car for 21 months of driving due to my other hobby) and without being able to do them, I'm miserable.

Re: Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836729)

Because "spill" = "explosion"?

Pipeline deaths seem to occur, as best I can remember, when natural gas pipelines explode, not when crude oil is spilt - oil spills result in clean up operations, natural gas explosions result in numerous corpse-less funerals... See the difference?

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835447)

SOMETHING HAPPENED SOMEWHERE ONCE IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD rabble rabble rabble.



Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835517)

Thank everyone against the pipeline.

The environmentalists working against the Keystone XL pipeline have a pretty funny idea in their heads in that they honestly believe that if they block or delay the pipeline the oil companies will say, "Oh well, if we cannot move the oil by pipeline I guess we'll just leave it in the ground." What actually happens is that the oil gets produced anyway and then moved by rail which is even dirtier than the pipeline. The environmentalists are shooting themselves in the foot opposing Keystone XL because there is no way that oil is not going to be produced. The only question for them is dirty or extra dirty oil? If it's the former and not the latter they should choose the pipeline because rail is even worse for the environment.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836041)

The railroad is already in place and does a lot more than just transport oil. The pipeline isn't and doesn't.

Re: Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836737)

The pipeline is safer than rail transport of crude oil - that's kind of important...

Re: Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836751)

The publicly stated alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline is not railroad cars in and out of Canada, it's a purely Canadian pipeline that will run the crude oil to the west coast, where it will go on to tanker ships and be carried over to China.

Will anyone argue that running all that crude oil in oil tankers to China's refineries to be burned in China is better for the GLOBAL environment than running that same crude through a pipeline right to the refinery where our own US EPA controls the emissions of the refinery?

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836861)

It never was about the environmentalists. The media gave them lip service as cover for the real reason to use rail. You see Warren Buffett is a major Obama supporter. How do you think campaign contributions get repaid? By using the power of the federal government to insure your donors get the contracts/business. WB owns Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad. Railroads are pretty much regional monopolies. By denying another major pipeline, WB instantly was granted yearly multi-billion dollar contracts to move crude from ND. It really is a sick corrupt bunch of people in Washington these days surrounded by people that believe their BS. When you reply don't even try to explain it all away as another "coincidence". There is no such thing.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (3, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | about 4 months ago | (#45835523)

Thank everyone against which pipeline? Keystone? Phase 1 has been operational since 2010 - and oh, look, it runs right through North Dakota. If I recall, phase 2 is built now too (somewhere else in the country) and phase 3 (part of Keystone XL) is under construction to connect those phases to the gulf coast. Oh, did you mean phase 4 of Keystone XL? That wouldn't even run through North Dakota... but if they build it, apparently that'd be another 2% of US daily oil consumption in pipelines.

I'd be very interested in knowing where this train came from and was going to, 'cos it sounds like it must not have been going where the perfectly good existing pipeline goes, or where any of the proposed bits would go.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Rix (54095) | about 4 months ago | (#45835639)

Shouldn't run oil by rail or pipeline. Leave it in the ground.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836199)

Do you drive a car, ride a bus, ride a train, ride an airplane? If so, you couldn't be doing it by leaving it in the ground. We don't have an alternative to oil yet. We just don't. We can't do what we need to do without oil. Yet. And we don't simply need to be able to run on electricity or some other energy (what?), we need to do it at the same price as oil, or we'll throw even more people into poverty. Poverty will take about 6.5 years off your life. IOW, poverty kills. You want to leave it in the ground? Fine, get your PHD, get your a** into a lab, and invent an alternative that won't cost more than what we have already.

Re: Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836585)

They probably live in a dorm, so food and water and electricity probably come from 'somewhere' and it can all be fixed if we'd just listen to the ideas their humanities professor was talking about. Anyways the girls at the rally are really hot when everybody is chanting.

No Nukes!
No Nukes!

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 4 months ago | (#45836545)

I would wager that at least 1 part in your computer or phone you use to get on the internet is made up of some oil from the ground

Shouldn't need oil period (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836017)

This accident is just another reason we need to abandon fossil fuels completely. They are far too dangerous and they continuously add to the greenhouse gasses, especially with these fucking accidents. But thanks the fucking greed in capitalistic nations we are nowhere near the point of replacing non-renewable, environment destroying fossil fuels. The only way to cure this is to have a worldwide communist revolution that also seeks to ban religion since gred and religion goes hand in hand. COMMUNISM and ATHEISM FTW! CAPITALISM AND RELIGION BOTH NEED TO BE ERADICATED PERMANENTLY!

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

voss (52565) | about 4 months ago | (#45836197)

Keystone XL is a pipeline to haul CANADIAN oil that ran through American enviromentally sensitive areas and over ogalla aquifer which supplies water
to 27% of the irrigated land in the US.

Now if you want to make an argument for a pipeline to haul American oil that doesnt involve danger to aquifers
  and enviromentally sensitive lands im all ears.

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (4, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 4 months ago | (#45836465)

Bullshit.

Creating a single pipeline will not remove demand for oil on rail. In order to reduce that demand you'd have to create a network of oil pipelines as big as the rail network itself. Oil goes by rail beause it's relatively efficient (compared to trucks et al) and can go anywhere without the need to build out huge amounts of infrastructure.

Pipelines are a total red-herring.

What is clear is that the North American rail industry has a terrible safety problem. That needs to be resolved. Unfortunately, the fact the entire industry was prepared to rally behind Ed Burkhardt, whose shoe-string rail operation in Montreal and Maine was happy to leave an oil train with a burning locomotive unattended on a slope on the main line, apparently in large part due to understaffing, I don't see any evidence there's even any respect for the concept of a safety culture in this part of the industry, or any desire to see one. Honestly, people in it seem to see "Keeping a railroad open" as more important than "Ensuring terrible horrific accidents don't happen."

The FRA will, undoubtedly, have to act. When it's done so in the past it's done so with no regard to the relative efficiencies of rail vs road, or relative safeties thereof, and it'll probably do something that ends up pushing large amounts of oil transportation onto the roads where they'll do even more damage. In the mean time, pipeline proponents will get a free pass, despite offering "solutions" that don't actually make any substantial difference.

This is a cluster fuck. Thanks Obama!

Re:Shouldn't have to run oil by rail (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#45837045)

Yes, this much energy would be more safely handled if it were in a pipeline. And more safely still if it were a cupful of uranium.

Thanks Obama... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835427)

...and all his sycophant anti-pipeline supporters.

Now show us your hate. Get typing on that Chinese hardware. Use that inexpensive gear manufactured far beyond the reach of your EPA to make it clear just how environmentally conscious you are.

Re:Thanks Obama... (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 4 months ago | (#45835623)

Add to it the fact that the quality of most of the railroads in the US are a century or more behind the leading railroads in Europe and Japan. Only a few have a reasonable quality standard, and even fewer are electrified.

Re:Thanks Obama... (2)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 4 months ago | (#45836177)

That's not true at all. If you are considering *passenger* rail, then yes, it's terrible. But we don't really use much passenger rail. That chicken and egg problem aside, US freight rail is pretty good.

For instance: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21576136-quiet-success-americas-freight-railways-back-track [economist.com]

"Even the American Society of Civil Engineers, which howls incessantly (and predictably) about the awful state of the nation’s infrastructure, shows grudging respect for goods railways in a recent report."

Re:Thanks Obama... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 4 months ago | (#45836455)

The railroads themselves don't care about the cars running on them, but my word for some the US rails where they transport goods is "scary".

Ties that are overage, crooked tracks, missing track binders etc. And on those tracks trains there's a lot of dangerous goods transported. Crude oil is harmless compared to some stuff that's transported.

I'm just waiting for an upcoming accident with a chlorine car in a city...

Re:Thanks Obama... (1)

colfer (619105) | about 4 months ago | (#45836185)

NPR ran without follow-up a rail industry spokesperson saying "99.9997% of all rail trips occur without serious incident." Without giant fireballs in the sky? Yes, we knew that already!

The workers on the train managed to unhook some of the cars that had not yet caught fire. No free speech for them though, so we get the shill.

Re:Thanks Obama... (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836203)

The US has a freight rail system that is unmatched in the world. Other countries do passenger rail just fine, but nobody beats the USA at freight rail.

Re:Thanks Obama... (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 4 months ago | (#45836331)

I'm waiting for Google to buy the railroads and integrate them with personal rapid transit.

Re:Thanks Obama... (2)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#45836395)

If we built a PRT that handled automobiles instead of just people, we could get millions of cars off roads, run transportation more on electricity which is cleaner and cheaper, and avoid millions of auto accidents that kill and injure people and animals (deer, dogs, cats,skunks, & possums, mostly.) With cars carrying families, it would be far cheaper than airlines, and at an operating speed of 80 mph, would be fairly efficient and fast enough to get coast-to-coast in about 40 hours, with their own cars (no renting) and with the luggage in the trunk, and not "handled" to wind up in Acapulco when you're in Anaheim.

Re: Thanks Obama... (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836801)

You do realize a century is 100 years, right? You argue that the the US rail system is over 100 years behind 'everyone else'?

What, exactly, did the European rail system look like in 1914? Is THAT what the US Rail system looks like in 2014? I think not.

The US freight railroads are doing fine, passenger service is limited to regions it makes either practical or political sense - rail service isn't cost-effective, and is typically subsidized extensively. I am not aware of ANY passenger railroad in America that can operate on the ticket & light freight revenue their services generate, period.

In California there is a massive 'high-speed' rail service going in between SF and LA, it will cost hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars, take over a decade to complete, and once operational will NEVER be faster or cheaper than a commuter air flight between SF and LA.

This happened monday (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#45835429)

It dominated the news broadcasts at the end of last year.

They said most of the people in that town could return to their homes on th 6pm news on 31 december.

I bet the cold weather was the cause. W've been having January temperatures for most of the last month in the region.
Although at the moment it has warmed up to 245 Kelvin, and not much wind.
(I live about 90 Km SE of Fargo

Re:This happened monday (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 4 months ago | (#45835635)

I have seen railroads in both the US and in Europe, and even though we in Europe complains that the railroads here aren't up to the standard they run in Japan I would say that many of the railroads in the US are really lagging behind when it comes to capacity, reliability and safety measures.

I don't think that blaming cold weather is a good point - if you have correct safety precautions you would compensate for that.

Re:This happened monday (3, Insightful)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836257)

What apparently happened is that a grain train derailed and hit the oil train. Apparently only one of the trains belonged to a major carrier which can afford the latest safety equipment. I suspect that a) the derailing grain train was the one that didn't belong to BNSF, or b) the oil train wasn't supposed to be on that track at the same time as another train was on the other track due to high risk of derailment.

North American railroads are actually quite advanced at doing what they do, which is move ridiculous amounts of freight very long distances very cheaply. Diesel is cheap, electrification is expensive because it means you have to add power equipment of some kind to every mile of track, therefore they don't use electric motive power. Diesel dominance makes electrification even more expensive because your second-hand locomotive market is all diesel. Mechanics all have extensive training on Diesel engines, some of which transfers over to electric, but some doesn't. Any employee you poach from another road because he's got decades of experience you can;t get from a fresh-faced college kid has that experience with diesels. There are virtually no North American vendors selling electric motive power. The fact that government doesn't support railroads anymore means this won't change. It's not like the bond market would actually give a rail executive enough money to electrify all his track, re-train his mechanics, etc. just because he thinks it will pay off in 25 years.

Speed of any kind is expensive. It leads to wear on mechanical parts, which need to be replaced more often. It requires higher grades of track. Accidents (mostly derailments) are worse because you have more momentum at greater speeds; which in turn means your insurance rates go up. And if you're a transportation company in a country that pays jet pilots $20k, still has a postal monopoly that delivers to every house in the country within a week, and also has multiple package companies that pride themselves on doing it tomorrow, there just isn't much demand for fast freight. So instead of investing money in figuring out how to get your locomotives to break 100 MPH, you invest money in reliability at 30 MPH. If your double tracks are only running 150% of the trains of your single tracks you don't invest money in marketing to get them up to capacity, you invest money in increasing your single tracks capacity so that you can tear up the double-track and stop maintaining it.

Re:This happened monday (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45836899)

I have seen railroads in both the US and in Europe ... many of the railroads in the US are really lagging behind when it comes to capacity, reliability and safety measures.

It's true that passenger rail service is much better in Europe, but for freight it's the exact opposite. Many people, European and American, don't realize that because mostly they see passenger trains. For all the integration of passenger train service, there are still compatibility problems between different European countries in freight service. The fancy railways are almost entirely passenger service. How much freight does the TGV carry?

The US moves a much larger percentage of its freight by rail than Europe. People don't even see much of that rail network because a lot of it runs through large but thinly populated parts of the country, using different rights-of-way than the roads.

Re:This happened monday (2)

miller701 (525024) | about 4 months ago | (#45837007)

I grew a block and a half from that line that goes through Casselton ND and have lived most of my life within a mile of it, It's one of the main lines from Chicago to Seattle and there's trains about every 20 minutes. There is a derailment around Casselton about every 15 years or so (usually there's no giant fireballs).

I think this story gets attention from the right who want to criticize the environmentalists delaying the XL pipeline expansion. Other criticisms fall on Warren Buffet/Berkshire Hathaway who is/are major investors in BNSF and stand to lose a lot of money if it gets expanded.

The horribly tragic story from Canada last year is still fresh in some people's minds. I listen to CBC radio at night and the story is much worse than just the explosion & deaths; the chemicals were so nasty people couldn't go back to their homes, bodies could not be recovered. That seemed to be a completely avoidable incident.

There was a big stink about 20 years ago about BNSF not wanting to slow down for the residents in Casselton, but residents complained that when they go through at full speed the vibrations actually break windows. I've had to live with the effects of BN/BNSF most of my life. It took years of work and negotiations to get Fargo ND/Moorhead MN whistle free but the side effect was fewer crossings. There's also the effect of the Dilworth MN switching yards causing unnecessary traffic stoppages in Moorhead (Train starts moving west, sets off the sensors that trigger the traffic lights to go into a special mode; Trains slows/stops/reverses direction before it reaches the intersection).

I realize that both Casselton and Fargo/Moorhead wouldn't be where they are without the railroad going through it, but I have to deal with its existence pretty much every day.

Does anyone else have a similar story?

Stupid unnecessary consequences (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 months ago | (#45835433)

Once govt gets the power to prevent people from building private infrastructure, you get all these 'unintended' consequences. It is up to private property owners ( or supposed to be ) whether to let oil pipeline through their property, not up to govt. There should be no 'public property' (an oxymoron).

Re:Stupid unnecessary consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835493)

It is up to private property owners ( or supposed to be ) whether to let oil pipeline through their property, not up to govt.

Go go gadget government! http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/texas-judge-rules-in-favor-of-transcanada-in-eminent-domain-case/2012/08/23/87744776-ecda-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html [washingtonpost.com] http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-09-27/keystone-pipeline-eminent-domain-foes-seek-nebraska-court-order [businessweek.com] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/26/oklahoma-keystone-pipeline-tar-sands_n_937748.html [huffingtonpost.com] http://www.washingtonpost.com/keystone-xl-pipeline-is-issue-of-property-rights-for-some-ranchers/2012/07/27/gJQAqlQgDX_story.html [washingtonpost.com] http://leg.mt.gov/content/Committees/Interim/2011-2012/EQC/Meeting-Documents/January-2012/public-uses-eminent-domain.pdf [mt.gov]

Kansas is excluded because Keystone XL uses the existing Keystone segment for that state, but I'm willing to assume that they had the government come and turn out people who didn't want their farms and ranches divided in half by a pipeline back when that was built too. God forbid they spend the extra few bucks to make the pipe go along property lines.

Re:Stupid unnecessary consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835695)

You know a pipeline is underground, right? During construction, there's about 20 feet of right away, then it's covered by six feet of dirt and isn't seen again for 30 years and the gas company plants grass over the ROW. It's not like there'll be a highway there.

God forbid they spend the extra few bucks to make the pipe go along property lines.

A single 40' joint of 36" pipe is $2000+, and welders get $50+\h, and those tractors can easily burn 50 gallons of diesel a day. A large part of time isn't spent laying the actual pipe, but in tying it in, which involves using angled joints of machined pipe (very expensive) to go around things. It's not just a "extra few bucks". If you went around every 500 acre ranch then the price of a good sized pipeline would be millions more.

And no, much of the objections from the land owners isn't from the idea of having their land divided in half, but that they want to become millionaires because their neighbor's oil well travels through their land for 3000 feet. That, or they don't like pipeliners. I can sympathize with that though, they are terrible people and I wouldn't want them near my home either.

Re:Stupid unnecessary consequences (2)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 4 months ago | (#45835499)

Don't forget the crony capitalist resistance from the railroad to the construction of the pipeline in order to prevent loss of revenue.

Re: Stupid unnecessary consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836635)

That would be Warren Buffet. He owns the Rail lines that the pipeline oil would cease to be hauled on.

Fucker would rather we focus on how much tax his secretary pays.

He doesn't fellate Obama. It's the other way around.

Re:Stupid unnecessary consequences (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45836939)

Don't forget the crony capitalist resistance from the railroad to the construction of the pipeline in order to prevent loss of revenue.

Do you know for a fact that this is a serious factor? There's lots of crony capitalism in the US, but I haven't heard of railroads trying to stop pipelines.

Re: Stupid unnecessary consequences (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836849)

The real issue with the Keystone XL pipeline is that it crosses an international border, allowing the Federal government to play an over-sized role in the approval process. Were this a truly domestic pipeline, the impacted states would be the decision makers... Once federal land or national borders are crossed, the Feds take over, and it's much easier for the anti-pipeline groups to petition the federal government than a handful of individual states.

Mod parent up! (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45836979)

It seems like Slashdot mods are becoming worse censors by the day, trying to hide any opinion they don't agree with.

I completely disagree with the PP, which is an extreme libertarian PoV. However, it's not a troll or flamebait in any way. I was going to tell him just how wrong he is, but instead find myself complaining about the fact that in order for a non-AC poster to get a -1, he had to have been modded down by at least 2 points.

Railway to 2014 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835439)

Remember, the ride never ends...

Where was the dispatcher? (4, Insightful)

buss_error (142273) | about 4 months ago | (#45835441)

Ordinarily tracks next to a derailed train are closed, being considered unsafe until a track inspector or officer OKs it's use.

Re:Where was the dispatcher? (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836279)

According to the article only one of the trains belonged to BNSF.

I would not be surprised to find out that the other train belonged to one of the short lines that takes over routes that big lines can't afford to run profitably. They manage to pull it off by running with decades-old equipment, which means that the safety equipment is decades-old, and the engineer (who is being paid less then he'd make at the big line) is expected to be so good he makes up for that. That's pretty much what happened with that Quebec incident.

This is old news... they're already back at home (1)

iONiUM (530420) | about 4 months ago | (#45835475)

As per CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/01/us/north-dakota-train-fire/ [cnn.com] , the people have been given an all clear and returned home... this happened a long time ago.. why is it being posted now?

Re:This is old news... they're already back at hom (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835551)

The crash happened about 36 hours before the article was posted. Hardly the definition of "a long time ago". And it's probably being posted now because it wasn't posted earlier.

Re:This is old news... they're already back at hom (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836287)

Slashdot frequently has a day or so lag between interesting things happening and them being posted.

WMD on credit cabalist steal our babys breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835501)

stealing from (our kids') the future is so advanced we cannot even detect it? free the innocent stem cells,,, we'll all feel better fast,,, thanks mom(s)

Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (3, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | about 4 months ago | (#45835511)

One problem is that the trains go through small towns with volunteer fire departments, not well schooled in handling a derailment and explosion.

More importantly, the towns through which these trains travel aren't told what's being shipped through them. Even after Lac Megantic the Canadian government is doing everything possible to allow rail companies to not provide prior details of dangerous cargo being shipped by rail.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835891)

For major rail lines you might see 20-30 trains a day with over a hundred cars per train. "They" (presumably the rail road lines) would need to make available that data to every fire department along the (many different) lines that each car might traverse. In general unless all of those fire departments hired new staff to collect and collate all the bills of lading nothing would actually ever be done with that information. Generally several hundreds of millions of rail cars are shipped every year WITHOUT incident. And you now want to have several hundred fire departments along each of those shipments process some paper for an effective benefit of what? (Think several hundreds of millions times several hundreds of fire deparments for each car!)

The cars are labelled and in most cases the fire departments can quickly determine the range of product that might be inside and should be able to deal with it. Trying to shuffle through some paper back at the office won't help the process much.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836079)

For major rail lines you might see 20-30 trains a day with over a hundred cars per train. "They" (presumably the rail road lines) would need to make available that data to every fire department along the (many different) lines that each car might traverse.

The railroads already have that data. An RSS or XML feed could make it available to those who need it (securely, of course, because we wouldn't want everyone to know what is moving where). Hell, they could even make alerts available to the local fire companies & fire departments when specific types of materials are going to be going through their towns.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#45836911)

(securely, of course, because we wouldn't want everyone to know what is moving where)

Wait...why? This is a commercial shipment. It's not the old west where we have regular train robberies. There's no reason why the DOT hazard designation and classes can't be accessible. Except, of course, the people who go cray when you try and ship tankers of hazardous materials through their back yards. Best not to let them know or they might make a stink about it.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (3, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | about 4 months ago | (#45836109)

The cars are labelled and in most cases the fire departments can quickly determine the range of product that might be inside and should be able to deal with it.

In the case of the Lac Megantic accident, the cars were labelled to be less volatile than they really were. If they had been correctly labelled, maybe someone would have objected to leaving the train unmanned at the top of a hill on the main line overnight.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836005)

More often than not, city councils are filled with retards.

A recent ice storm caused havoc in Toronto with 1/4+ million locations had no power and many had no power for around a week. Wacko environmentalists made it virtually impossible to trim trees and/or cut them down in their advanced age and/or deceased state -- so every storm that comes through results in extensive power outages due to branches & trees falling on power lines. Very often it is lack of thought to the consequences of extreme "environmentalist" laws & by-laws.

To add insult to injury a not-too-bright premier dynamited clean coal generating plants (that had the latest in pollution control systems) in favour of windmills that typically run at 3% capacity. Yes $20 billion spent on windmills, where money could have been spent on updating infrastructure and/or burying main feeder lines in the cities instead of having them exposed to falling trees. $20 billion could have gone a very long way to implement upgrades.

To add insult to injury, several of the destroyed coal generating plants were to be replaced with gas powered plants placed in the middle of heavily populated areas -- during the licensing portion the government ignored the local people and moved forward -- when faced with an election loss, they cancelled the power plants in the last week of the election at a cost of $1.1 billion to the taxpayers.

It was political interference in the government owned power companies that resulted in retarded decisions being made with expensive consequences and much worse service.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | about 4 months ago | (#45836083)

Wacko environmentalists made it virtually impossible to trim trees and/or cut them down in their advanced age and/or deceased state

That's an interesting twist on it. I would have said it was budget cutters who decimated the urban forestry budget. The trees on private land were in much better shape than the ones on public land.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 4 months ago | (#45836717)

Perhaps the 'fix' for the problem, then, is for there to be less public land. Clearly the private landholders take better care and the trees in better condition than some paid bureaucrat in an office in the state Capital.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45837019)

Don't disturb his paranoid fantasies about civilization being destroyed by "wacko environmentalists". Next he may start talking about "enviro-terrorists". After that, Sasquatch. The entertainment is priceless.

Re: Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836691)

Of course, their over-reliance on above ground power lines that can be knocked over by trees in the first place couldn't be to blame, could it?

Trees don't take out high tension power lines, trees take out neighborhood and individual power feeds to buildings...

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#45836375)

The population of Casselton, ND is 2500.

In a town that size, who, exactly, is going to be keeping track of what runs on the tracks through town? I would wager that the entire fire department is a volunteer operation.

There's some chance that the chief is a full-time employee (Devil's Lake, where my wife is from, has a paid chief and a couple of salaried employees, but they're also a town of nearly 8,000 people), but I would bet they are all-volunteer and rely on nearby Fargo for anything beyond a car fire or grandma burning a batch of cookies.

Even if they somehow had the resources to keep track of everything remotely hazardous on every train, what are they going to do for the labor and equipment to deal with it should they need to? It's not like they have a budget capable of supplying them with millions of dollars worth of equipment and trained personnel at ready 24/7.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 4 months ago | (#45836479)

If I had to guess, I'd assume that the actual town of Casselton has two employees. A full-time cop, and a part-time cop for when the full-time guy is on vacation. So they probably don't even have a guy who could read all the reports from the rail companies about every train.

What they probably actually want is for their volunteer fire Chief to be able to read the report when something goes wrong. Then he'll know what his guys are getting into, and he knows if he should call the Governor for reinforcements.

I have no idea if the volunteer Fire Chief actually has the time to learn enough to digest all the info that's in the report, but small town governments don't actually have much to do except bitch about might-bes, and in a state like ND the governor's job is to make small towns happy, so they'll get their reports eventually.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (1)

Kilo Kilo (2837521) | about 4 months ago | (#45836947)

The Fire Dept's ignorance is their own fault. I can't speak for BNSF, but I have gone through training with CSX and Norfolk Southern. Both of those companies spend a lot of their own money to educate local FD's. There are tons of free training opportunities out there that most small FD's avoid because of the "can't happen here" mentality.

Yes, the Smallville-Rural Volunteer Fire Company might not be equipped to deal with dozens of derailed crude tank cars, but that doesn't mean that they can get off burying their heads in the sand. Even if your plan is, "secure the scene, call for better equipped organizations," you need to practice that. You need to do the drill for the once-a-decade event. Obviously you don't need to make it your priority, but you need to have a plan and practice it.

These kinds of incidents need to be wake up calls. Any time we don't learn from these disasters, we just guarantee that the next time it happens it will be worse instead of better.

Re:Can't Plan For What You Don't Know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836993)

One problem is that the trains go through small towns with volunteer fire departments, not well schooled in handling a derailment and explosion.

More importantly, the towns through which these trains travel aren't told what's being shipped through them. Even after Lac Megantic the Canadian government is doing everything possible to allow rail companies to not provide prior details of dangerous cargo being shipped by rail.

Because if it's publicly known, the "terrorists" could choose to target the shipments.

uncle sam world's leading gas guzzler (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835691)

saw it on free tv all about motives

informatIve FAGORZFAGORZ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835859)

Noises Out of the = 36400 freeBSD

Drill Baby Drill! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45835871)

Burn, Burn Baby Burn!
Disco inferno!

Major evacuation plans underway (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 4 months ago | (#45836399)

I hope they're not going to have to evacuate the *whole* of North Dakota- the congestion caused by three or four busloads of people would be awful.

Besides which, the South Dakota village hall doesn't have enough space to hold them all.

How volatile is crude oil? (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#45836427)

Apparently quite when you run into it with a train, but for some reason I would have thought that crude oil was ultimately flammable with high enough ignition temperatures or in the presence of an accelerant capable of burning alongside it but generally difficult to ignite.

I would think that it would be hard to get it to ignite, especially in the winter when the temperature of the crude would be pretty close to the ambient air temperature. The low temperature for three days prior to the accident in nearby Fargo was between -12F and -19F and the highest temperature two days prior was 2F.

Re:How volatile is crude oil? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#45836689)

Depends on the quality of the crude oil. Crude's desirability, indeed its market value, depends on its API (specific) gravity.

Crude such as North Sea Brent has a high API gravity & viscosity, is considered sweet (low sulphur) and is more flammable.

Crude from the Alberta tar sands (bitumen) is low in API gravity, worth less commercially, is sour (more sulphur), and way less flammable.

As someone who grew up in a railroad family... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836627)

As someone who grew up in a railroad family, I will tell you that this year is just an outlier. I know the guy who owned the Canadian railroad that had the explosion that killed people. Ed use to own a railroad called the WC. WC had an accident in Wisconsin and the railroad did everything in its power to take care of the he town. Short of this year and the many years ago in the WC, I do not recall major catastrophes of this scale. As a kid, I remember reading the FRA yearly accident reviews and this year is an anomaly.

I would point out two facts:
1. Trains carry a lot more hazardous chemicals than oil. If a single tank car broke open in the Chicao hump yard, a shit load more people would be killed if that tank car was full of chlorine.. Trains do not have regs on how many cars of what types have to be on trains. Trains have ALWAYS carried caustic chemicals, just because you did not know of this risk does not mean it was not there and you lived with it just fine.

2. Trains are a LOT safer than other modes of transportation. You are not going to ship chlorine by pipeline. You are not going to ship all of the other hazardous non-chlorine stuff by any other non-existent pipeline. The railroad industry's tonnage by miles driven safety numbers are well beyond pipelines, cars or trucks. Let us not forget, pipeline spills hurt water supplies that can cause cancer. IOW, just comparing raw deaths to impacts of pipelines are not apples to apples comparisons.

IOW, quit equating this to an oil problem because it is not.

There is a movement to take trains to use positive train control. Look it up if you do not know what that is. However, even that is a pain in the ass. The FCC is requiring the railroads to get individual transmitter tower permits even though the railroads need -11,000- towers to cover the man thousands of miles of tracks they have. IOW, your safety is impaired by a lot more than just oil cars.

Two things... (1)

kenh (9056) | about 4 months ago | (#45836657)

Though railroads have sharply improved their safety in recent years, moving oil on tank cars is still only about half as safe as in pipelines, according to Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute. 'You can make the argument that the pipeline fights have forced the industry to revert to rail that is less safe,' says Smith.

Well, duh. Refusing to build pipelines hasn't caused oil production to be capped, the increased supply has simply found alternative paths to market that are less safe...

One problem is that the trains go through small towns with volunteer fire departments, not well schooled in handling a derailment and explosion.

Wait, is the problem what the firemen do on e the oil train derails and bursts into flames OR that the oil train derails and bursts into flame? Seems to me that the training of the firemen in the town when the trai derails makes very little difference: their training won't prevent derailments or other accidents with trains, and the firemen are not 'on the scene' when the accident happens - their training and professional status has very little to do with anything.

Re:Two things... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#45836937)

Exactly - the problem isn't that the firemen aren't prepared or that pipelines aren't available - it's that the train companies are so unbelievably lax in their safety requirements and testing that they cause catastrophes when their "usual and customary" business practices of crashing on a regular basis with non-volatiles gets used for volatile shipments. Besides, pipelines take a long time to actually build and have collateral damage which is not as immediately spectacular as a train explosion, so it's not like a pipeline is some magic fix.

I live within driving distance, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45836663)

gonna go check it out later. I know the evacuated the town to within 10 miles because of the massive cloud of smoke.

A plethora of conspiracy fodder (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 4 months ago | (#45836995)

So let's see here. One could posit that the tracks or the rolling stock were intentionally damaged to cause the derailment because the environmentalists are hell bent on casting a dark shadow on fossil fuels. One could also posit that the derailment was created by people who are are trying to encourage the completion of the Keystone pipeline. One could also look to see if anyone shorted BNSF stock. One could also posit that sh*t happens no matter who is doing what even though there is plenty of regulation in place with the goal being to create more expensive bureaucracy and paperwork that translates to more people to be employed doing nothing productive.

Drill local. It's organic and free-range too.

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