If you’ve been following the press of late, you’ve noted the considerable angst generated by the unit oil trains that seem to be taking over the land. The “Chicken Little Caucus” has been running around so mindlessly predicting imminent immolation that they might as well have had they’re heads cut off. Their allies the “deep environmentalists” who’ve grown out of eco-terrorist groups like Earth First to run mainstream environmental groups are partners in this crime against science, egging them on in hopes they can confine all the oil in the ground, the trillion or so people that would starve as a result of such “cold turkey” measures be damned. With their pet politicians and legions of Facebook followers, they’ve built their fortifications on the left side of the canyon. On the right side Koch funded contingents of the Flat Earth Society, south Florida real estate hacks, and big oil have built their own fortifications, determined to ignore global warming until the oceans rise and drown them.
With both sides secure in their poor excuses for “science” and so far apart ideologically, not even the instant explosion of a for real 100+ car unit train of crude spiked with some particularly nervous lighter gases is going to move them from their worlds apart positions. None the less, I’ve spent the last few days braving the abyss, studying up on blast zones, derailment dynamics, and remote fire sensing tied to reverse 911 and social media alerting systems. Then it hit me: “A recent report prepared by several state agencies shows that about 3.3 million barrels of crude oil cross Minnesota every day. About 80 percent of that oil is being transported by pipeline. The rest moves by train.” Thanks to Minnesota Public Radio for that strategic snippet.
So the unit oil trains are essentiality “peakers”, very profitably hauling the overflows the pipelines can’t handle. Reduce crude oil consumption by 20% and the oil trains disappear, or haul ethanol or biodiesel instead. Actually, the repurposed oil trains would be making shorter hauls of those biofuels, because unlike dead dinosaur derived fuels which are concentrated in a few oilfields, biomass is just about all over the planet. And the switchover would be relatively painless- most gas engined cars and trucks on the road can adapt to up to 30% ethanol, and up here in the frozen north of Minnesota many fleets are running on 20% biodiesel winter and summer. And unlike dead dino fuels, biofuels are darn near carbon neutral- the soy beans, rapeseed, corn, etc. they’re made from consume carbon as they grow.
That’s just the beginning… Bring on the energy conservation! Drag the gas guzzler tax threshold up to 10 liters/100 kilometers (24 MPG), with exception for bona fide occupational need for one of the full size pickups that baby boomers so love. Scania has a production truck that get’s 10 MPG at 40 METRIC tons, why are our 10% lighter ‘merican trucks stuck at 6 MPG? And IIRC, BNSF is competing with UP to be the country’s if not the world’s 2nd biggest consumer of diesel fuel behind the U.S. Navy, and doesn’t corporate parent Berkshire Hathaway own a big electric power company with a huge renewable capacity too? BNSF’s 4 track “raceway” across Illinois ought to provide an adequate ROI to justify electrification. And for the branch lines, between natural gas which BNSF is now experimenting with and the stronger than 20% biodiesel blends a buyer BNSF’s size can get would have even the pipelines suckin’ air!
And if we can find “adaptive reuses” for containers, DOT111’s should be no problem…