January 25, 2015

Conservation is Conservative

Pipelines, trains, or trucks: Let’s have a discussion

Oil train incident in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

Oil train incident in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

There’s been a lot of news lately about accidents involving pipelines, trains and trucks hauling oil. The latest news is several train cars derailing over Philadelphia’s Schuylkyll River. Read a report here.

Here’s a Grist column from the past weekend about exploding rail cars.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s make the following assumption:

Canada will continue to develop the tar sands in Alberta (many environmentalists believed that delaying the Keystone XL pipeline would force a halt to operations–it did not.) and seek to ship the product to market by any means available.

Considering environmental, human safety, GHG emissions, and economic efficiency, what is the best option to transport tar sands oil?

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  1. The safest would likely be rail, because:

    1. Rails can be laid anywhere, especially in remote areas away from populated areas, so they act like a pipeline of a sot, but …
    2. When a railroad accident happens, a finite amount of oil is spilled. A pipeline gushes until someone figures out how to shut it off (such as the Deepwater Hirozon Oil Spill)

    That’s what I think.

  2. Doug Goodall says:

    The quicker we can get converted to renewable, the less tar sands projects will make sense.

    As for transporting it by rail, the fact that there’s a finite amount that would leak is something to consider, however even if it leaks in a remote area that’s still a disaster. I will still cause serious damage to the ecosystem where the leak is.

    I believe we should still oppose the Keystone pipeline project. if we succeed in stopping the pipeline, it may not stop the tarsands project but could make it more costly for them and once again if we step up the efforts to convert to clean renewable energy the tarsands project will stop making sense sooner. Maybe at some point we could even convince our government to pressure Canada to shut the project down.

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