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As TransCanada Gets More Desperate, Is It Attacking Rail to Promote Keystone XL?

2 min. read

One thing we've noticed with regard to the debate over the Keystone XL (KXL) Canadian tar sands export pipeline, is that as TransCanada gets more desperate about the plight of Keystone XL - a key piece of tar sands scaling infrastructure - the more aggressive it has gotten in emphasizing rail's deficiencies. The reason they're doing this is obvious: to try and make the case that the Keystone XL pipeline is indispensable, since there supposedly are no viable options to transporting tar sands oil.

It's an interesting game of chicken that the tar sands lobby is playing - hurting the reputation of its current transportation source for the sake of getting Keystone XL approved. We see the hand of the tar sands lobby in the wave of stories critical of rail, like this one in the New York Times.

...About 400,000 carloads of crude oil traveled by rail last year to the nation’s refineries, up from 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads.

But a series of recent accidents — including one in Quebec last July that killed 47 people and another in Alabama last November — have prompted many to question these shipments and have increased the pressure on regulators to take an urgent look at the safety of the oil shipments.

In the race for profits and energy independence, critics say producers took shortcuts to get the oil to market as quickly as possible without weighing the hazards of train shipments. Today about two-thirds of the production in North Dakota’s Bakken shale oil field rides on rails because of a shortage of pipelines. And more than 10 percent of the nation’s total oil production is shipped by rail. Since March there have been no fewer than 10 large crude spills in the United States and Canada because of rail accidents. The number of gallons spilled in the United States last year, federal records show, far outpaced the total amount spilled by railroads from 1975 to 2012.

Of course, we're not arguing for increased transport of dirty, dangerous tar sands oil by rail OR by pipeline. In fact, both would be terrible ideas, and we hope that neither comes to pass. But we most definitely ARE arguing that the interests pushing Keystone XL are being disingenuous in their sudden concern for the safety of transporting oil by rail.  Seriously; since when does this industry value the environment or peoples' health and safety over their massive profits?  And since when does an industry which relies heavily on both rail and pipeline transportation attack rail to promote a new pipeline? We wonder how long the rail industry will just sit and take it.