On May 6, there were radio and TV news reports of another oil unit train being derailed with a resulting fire that caused the evacuation of a small North Dakota town.
First reports indicated that a number of cars were burning, but later reports pared the actual number of cars involved in the fire to six.
All of which reportedly were older and supposedly of weaker design and construction. An early radio report stated it was due to a broken wheel.
A May 7 newspaper story stated that this latest one was on BNSF tracks while a story the next day stated that the track had been reopened to traffic.
Naturally, reports stated that there were calls to remove all these old cars from use for high-volatile oil transport. Never mind that it takes time to manufacture cars of the newer, double-wall design. One story stated that this latest incident with the older cars was the fifth since February and industry critics responded with calls for them to be taken off the tracks.
In my opinion there are more ominous circumstances involved in this continuing set of circumstances.
The Department of State, while Hillary Rodham Clinton was still secretary, had issued an approval of the cross border Northern Extension of the Keystone XL Pipeline. However, the PRESBO Administration had stalled and ordered a delay because of objections from various environmental obstructionist groups. If the pipeline approval had gone through then, it probably would be in use, or nearly so, by this time – which would have substantially reduced the need for the unit trains of oil tank cars and a reduced price of oil at the refineries.
Also it has been long proven that pipelines are much safer and more reliable than trains or trucks for transport.
Now the question rears its head as to whether some of the delay in approval is at the behest of Mr. Warren Buffet, majority owner of the Berkshire Hathaway empire and a billionaire staunch supporter of PRESBO. B-H also owns BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railroad, which is enjoying substantially increased earnings and profits from the oil hauling business. As an aside, a subsidiary of B-H recently purchased the World Publishing Company, which is the publisher/owner of the local daily, the Tulsa World. Just last month it was announced that it had also purchased a group of weekly suburban newspapers, thus creating a virtual monopoly in the Metro area.
The multiple federal agency control over the pipeline approval occurs because of it crossing the international border between Canada and the United States. Otherwise, there would not have to have been so many sources of approval from Washington, D.C. It therefore has been a surprise to me why the Keystone sponsors have not broken that line into two sections, one to begin at the first production injection point inside the United States in North Dakota and the other for the section that would actually cross the border.
Naturally, the objectors would still protest that part that passes over the Nebraska Sand Hill Country, where they complain that a spill would impact the water sources underground. It has occurred to me that from my own experience the groundwater in that area is not usable for livestock or human consumption.
Further, the Oglala Aquifer that is the deeper source is at such depth and under sufficient pressure that a spill on or near the surface could not have any adverse effect on that water.
In short, it seems most likely that there are several factors involved, none of which bode well for the well-being of the United States or its citizens and businesses. But the Congress is to be complimented for passing approval legislation, which suffered a PRESBO veto which Democrats would not join in an override vote, so it died.