According to Mother Jones, the surge in domestic oil production has placed more demands on the”virtual pipelines” running through neighborhoods and alongside waterways. Most of this oil is being shipped in what’s been called “the Ford Pinto of rail cars”—a tank car whose safety flaws have been known for more than two decades.
The original DOT-111 tank car was designed in the 1960s. Its safety flaws were pointed out in the early ’90s, but more than 200,000 are still in service, with about 78,000 carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids. The DOT-111 tank car’s design flaws “create an unacceptable public risk,” Deborah Hersman, then chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, testified at a Senate hearing in April. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has compared the car to “a ticking time bomb.” While the rail industry has voluntarily rolled out about 14,000 stronger tank cars, about 78,000 of the older DOT-111s remain in service. Retrofitting them would cost an estimated $1 billion.
Trains carry more than 10 percent of all US oil, particularly from areas without major pipelines, such as the Bakken. The sudden surge of oil shipments has so clogged the rails that farmers in North Dakota complain that they can’t get fertilizer shipped in or their crops shipped out.
Not waiting for a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, oil companies are also building rail terminals in Canada’s tar sands region. The Association of American Railroads says that the vast majority of rail shipments arrive without incident. But more oil on the rails has also meant more spills. Trains leaked more crude in 2013 than all years since 1971 combined. (These figures don’t include the Lac-Mégantic disaster, in which 1.6 million gallons of oil spilled.)
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While Mother Jones mentions the Keystone pipeline it stops short of the obvious, if they are truly worried about the DOT-111 tank car the best solution is to fight for the approval of the Keystone pipeline, which above and beyond being safer than carrying the crude oil via train car, it is more energy efficient.
So which is it Mother Jones? Do you want to complain or do you want to stop the use of these Pintos on the rails? If you want to stop the Dot-111, then you should support the Keystone pipeline.