2013: The Year of the Deadly Oil Spill?
As the age of coal and oil draws to a close, the “drill baby drill” crowd has become louder and more rambunctious than ever. No longer content to poison our oceans with offshore drilling platforms, tar sands oil has become all the rage.
For years those who see the futility of barreling head first down Hydrocarbon Lane have warned that unleashing Canada’s tar sands would be a climate death sentence. But who cares about the dumb old climate, right? Humans don’t act until it’s personal. Well, now it is.
In the past six months we’ve seen a rash of deadly oil spills, the most recent of which have resulted in multiple human fatalities. These disasters show that no matter how we attempt to extract, transport or consume it, oil is killing us. And it won’t stop until we realize the folly of our addiction.
Below are details of just a few of the major oil spills that have happened in the first half of 2013:
In early March a 26,000-gallon tank car (just one car in a mile-long train) transporting crude oil from Canada ruptured in Western Minnesota. The disaster leaked 30,000 gallons of crude something (the rail company refused to say whether it was tar sands oil or not, but you put the pieces together) onto the frozen ground.
Thanks to the cold conditions, the oil was as thick as molasses, making it nearly impossible to get up off the ground.
Just days ago, a train moving crude oil to Irving Oil Corp.’s Saint John refinery in New Brunswick suddenly derailed right in the middle of the town of Lac-Megantic. The immediate explosion engulfed the center of the small town in a literal lake of fire that killed at least 13 people and left dozens more missing.
“This is another data point that shows how much costlier and riskier rail is compared to pipelines,” John Stephenson, a Toronto-based fund manager, told Bloomberg.com.
But before you believe him…
In April of this year, a 65-year-old ExxonMobil pipeline burst without warning, dumping Canadian tar sands oil all over the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas.
Within minutes, “the slick of noxious black crude” spewing from the pipeline “was eight feet wide, six inches deep and growing fast.”
Ultimately, 5,000-barrels were spilled from the 22 foot-long gash in the pipe, covering suburban lawns and roads in a toxic goo. Residents reported putrid smells and burning sensations in their eyes, noses and throats.
Exxon immediately went to work blocking any information about how or why the disaster occurred, public relations maneuvering that has since caused the State of Arkansas and the federal government to file a suit against the oil company.
And just last month, heavy rain (that’s right, nothing more than rain) allegedly ruptured a pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest pipeline company. According to most reports, 750-barrels of synthetic crude oozed out of the pipeline before the company managed to shut it down.
The rupture occurred in Line 37, which serves CNOOC Ltd’s Long Lake oil sands project in northern Alberta and carries huge amounts of oil into America. Enbridge gloated in the fact that there were no human habitations or roads nearby, as if that simply wipes away the harm that hundreds of barrels of oil has on the eco-system.
These are only a few of the major oil spill disasters that have occurred this year, and we’re only seven months in. The truth is, there is no safe way to transport poison. Floods happen. Human error happens. And when these statistical certainties happen to a train or pipeline carrying thousands of barrels of toxic oil, death always happens next.
If the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is approved, however, the next time might be in your backyard.
Image via Thinkstock