Why Are We Blaming Oil For Train Derailments?


The headline above is a frustrating one to see.

Train derailments are, of course, news. And given the spate of train derailments of late, citizens have every right to be concerned about this.

But blaming oil for a train derailment, as headlines like this one ask us to do, is totally unfair. The Virginia train derailment was already breaking news yesterday. Now it’s breaking news again because the oil on board was from North Dakota?

If it had turned out to be ethanol on that train it wouldn’t have been news. Or, to be accurately, the derailment would have been news. The cargo would not have been.

It is irresponsible to allow these train derailments to be twisted into an indictment of US oil production, including production here in North Dakota. These derailments are not an oil production problem, they are a transportation and infrastructure problem.

The rail industry needs to be held accountable for transporting this oil safely. Politicians and activists who block infrastructure, like the Keystone and Sandpiper pipelines which combined could take nearly a third of all Bakken oil off roads and rails, need to be held accountable.

But don’t blame the people who are pumping the oil. That may fit certain political narratives, but it’s not fair.