At some point, we’re going to have to acknowledge that all the oil conditioning rules and track inspectors in the world aren’t going to change the fact that we’re producing more oil than the rails can handle.
This morning came news of another oil train derailment, this time near Heimdal, North Dakota.
Every time one of these things happens the anti-fossil fuel activists leap into action, demanding heavy and restrictive regulations on shipping oil by rail. As the problem were the oil and not the derailment. Had ethanol been in the tankers that came off the tracks near Heimdal we’d have likely seen a similar explosion.
In response to these derailments the government has been introducing new policies. The USDOT has released new regulations oil by rail shipments. Here in North Dakota the Industrial Commission has implemented new oil conditioning standards aimed at making the substance less explosive, and the Legislature approved funding for a state rail safety program to supplement federal inspectors.
That’s all well and good, but none of it addresses the root problem which is that our rail infrastructure is overrun. Inspections and regulations aren’t going to address the fact that oil by rail shipments have more than quintupled over the last few years:
Are pipelines perfect? No, they’re not. Do they offer a number of advantages over oil by rail including fewer incidents and, you know, not exploding and stufF? Absolutely.
We’ve all heard about the on-going political fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, which could be taking about 1/10th of North Dakota’s oil production off he tracks had it been allowed to be built. There’s also a political fight in Minnesota over the Sandpiper line, with the state government led by Democrat Governor Mark Dayton roadblocking it even as Minnesota liberals propose punitive legislation for North Dakota oil development masquerading as “rail safety” policy.
The rail safety issue absolutely has its roots in political obstruction of energy infrastructure in generally, specifically opposition to pipelines.
It’s time the proponents of that obstruction owned the fruits of their labor.