I have seen a number of posts and tweets over the last few days along the lines of “If you are opposed to oil pipelines, transporting oil by train is even worse/more dangerous!” The gist of these posts is that anti-pipeline activists are silly, their poorly thought-through, knee-jerk opposition to pipelines is just setting everyone up for something even worse.
Yeah, so that is a classic false dilemma.
This discussion comes in the wake of a train derailment this past week in West Virginia:
Thick, black smoke rose for a second day Tuesday from a 109-car train hauling North Dakota crude oil that derailed Monday along a snowy West Virginia river.
As the last of the fires burned themselves out more than a day after 26 cars left the tracks near Mount Carbon, crews began hauling away the blacked hulls of tankers Tuesday evening. The two-engine CSX train was carrying about 3 million gallons of Bakken shale oil bound for a refinery in Yorktown, Va.
The derailment ignited 20 tank cars, burned down a house and prompted water-treatment plants to shut down after initial reports that at least one tanker had landed in the Kanawha River south of Charleston. But the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday that none of the tank cars entered the water, and river samples detected no traces of oil.
I am not so naïve as to think that all transport of oil around the country could be stopped without serious/catastrophic consequences. However, when the debate is consistently framed in terms of "shitty option based on fossil fuels #1 v. shitty option based on fossil fuels #2," I have to wonder why more people aren't asking if maybe there isn't some other choice that doesn't involve leaking pipelines or exploding trains.