President Obama is expected to make his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by September this year. Support for the pipeline would eventually see a 2,000 mile pipe carrying 830,000 barrels of Canadian heavy crude each day down to Cushing, Oklahoma. A refusal of the project is still likely to see much of that oil reach the refining, storage, and distribution hub in Cushing, but via rail rather than pipe.
Charles Ebinger, the director of the Brookings Institute has now stated that hauling crude by rail is worse than pipeline because the number of spills registered by railways is almost three times higher.
Related article: Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas, Keystone Spoiler?
Protestors against the pipeline have recent ammunition to support their arguments that the environment will be at danger, in the form of the ExxonMobil oil spill in Arkansas at the end of March. Ebinger warned that “the evidence is so overwhelming that railroads are far less safe than pipelines, that it would be a serious mistake to use these recent spills to say that Keystone is unsafe.” In fact he may have a point; in that same week two train cars de railed spilling 757 barrels of oil.
According to the American Association of Railroads, railways experience 2.7 times as many oil spills as pipelines, but the spills are tiny in comparison, 95% of the time merely the result of faulty valves, or leaky equipment. Pipeline spills on the other hand are typically four times larger.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com