wall street journal

Thu, 2014-10-23 06:00Justin Mikulka
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Rail Industry Fights Speed Limits, Brake Regulation in Quest for Profits

CP Rail train

Earlier this month Hunter Harrison, the CEO of Canadian Pacific told the Globe and Mail that he thought regulators have “overreacted” to the oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people. 

Lac-Mégantic happened, in my view, because of one person’s behaviour, if I read the file right,” Harrison said.

As detailed by DeSmogBlog, he didn’t read the file right. The accident was directly related to lack of regulation and the railroads putting profits before safety.

Harrison’s choice of words echoed those of American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard commenting on the new proposed oil-by-rail regulations when he stated: “Overreacting creates more challenges than safety.” 

Yea, that’s right, according to Big Oil and Big Rail, the biggest threat to the 25 million people living in the bomb train blast zones is the overreaction of regulators.

Thu, 2014-10-16 05:00Justin Mikulka
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Oil-by-Rail Fuels Record U.S. Imports of Canadian Oil

Oil by rail

In September, many of the major railroad stocks hit new all-time highs.

Investors Business Daily attributed much of the increase to the business of moving oil-by-rail.

While the majority of the oil moving by rail has been fracked light sweet crudes from places like the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale basins, the railroads are telling investors that to keep increasing profits they are looking to expand the business of tar sands by rail.

This past week, the Wall Street Journal reported Canadian Pacific’s chief operating officer Keith Creel’s optimistic position about the growth prospects of moving tar sands by rail.

The growth is shifting from the light sweet Bakken crude which is the more volatile and sensitive, to the heavy crude in northern Alberta,” Creel said. “It’s safer, less volatile and more profitable to move and we’re uniquely positioned to connect to the West Coast as well as the East Coast.”

Tue, 2014-10-07 10:41Justin Mikulka
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‘Wild West’ Approach to Regulation in Bakken Shale Means Bomb Trains Continue to Roll

Wild west Bakken

Prepare yourself for a rare moment of honesty from the oil industry.

It happened on Sept. 23 at a hearing of the North Dakota Industrial Commission during a discussion on ways to make Bakken crude oil less flammable for transportation.

The flammable characteristics of our product are actually a big piece of why this product is so valuable. That is why we can make these very valuable products like gasoline and jet fuel,” said Tony Lucero of oil producer Enerplus.

So, there you have it: making Bakken crude safer to transport by rail via oil stabilization, which removes flammable natural gas liquids such as butane, means making it less valuable to the refineries.

This profit motive is at least part of the reason why the American Petroleum Institute has made it clear it will not accept mandatory oil stabilization as part of the new oil-by-rail regulations.

Mon, 2014-09-08 11:56Justin Mikulka
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How Many Crude Oil Scientists Will Testify At Congressional Science Committee Hearing on Bakken Crude? Zero

Bakken crude

Bakken petroleum: the substance of energy independence.

If you think that sounds like the latest branding from the oil industry’s public relations efforts, you might be right. However, it isn’t an ad — it is the title of the congressional hearing on Bakken oil on Tuesday.

When North Dakota congressman Kevin Cramer first announced he would hold this hearing, he promised to bring together the top scientists to discuss the properties of Bakken crude.

Here’s how he explained it when being interviewed by the 6:30 Point of View television show. 

I want three good solid scientists… consultants apart from all of the politicians and the presidential appointees. And I’ve promised them a very fair thorough review of the data and the evidence and the information. So that we can, you know, answer definitively and scientifically what is the volatility, if you will, of Bakken crude. How does it compare to other crudes?”

Congressman Cramer was apparently unable to find those three good scientists. Here are the five people who will be witnesses at the hearing.

Wed, 2014-07-09 10:38Justin Mikulka
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Fox Guarding Henhouse: Oil-By-Rail Standards Led by American Petroleum Institute

How did it get missed for the last ten years?”

That was the question Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), posed to a panel of industry representatives back in April about how the rail industry had missed the fact that Bakken oil is more explosive than traditional crude oil.

How do we move to an environment where commodities are classified in the right containers from the get go and not just put in until we figure out that there’s a problem,” Hersman asked during the two-day forum on transportation of crude oil and ethanol. “Is there a process for that?”

The first panelist to respond was Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president of environmental and hazardous materials for the Association of American Railroads (AAR). His response was telling.

We’ve know about this long before Lac-Megantic and that is why we initiated the tank car committee activity and passed CPC-1232 in 2011,” Fronczak replied, “To ask why the standards are the way they are, you’d have to ask DOT that.”

So, now as the new oil-by-rail safety regulations have been sent from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, it seems like a good time to review Hersman’s questions.

How did we miss this? Is there a process to properly classify commodities for the right container before they are ever shipped? 

Tue, 2014-01-21 17:35Mike G
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Wall Street Journal Investigation: High-Tech Oil Pipeline Monitors Catch Less Than 20 Percent Of Leaks

Last September, a farmer harvesting wheat in North Dakota smelled crude oil in his fields. That was the first indication anyone had that a Tesoro pipeline had ruptured and spewed some 20,000 barrels of oil into the environment.

Tesoro says it has beefed up its monitoring of the pipeline, as the pressure sensors it had installed before the spill did not detect the slow seep of oil, even though it had soaked a surrounding area the size of six football fields.

This may sound like an outlier case, but as it turns out, it is pretty much the industry standard. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, it is all too common that oil companies are the last to know when their pipelines spring a leak.

Coming just a week after Canada’s foreign minister traveled to Washington, D.C., and called on the Obama administration to make a decision on Keystone XL pipeline, the results of the paper's analysis contradict the oil industry’s claims that the safety of pipelines can be ensured through existing measures.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which looked at Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data on 251 spills that occurred on private property since 2010, the industry's pipeline monitoring equipment was the first to detect a leak in just 19.5 percent of incidents.

The other 80 percent of the time leaks are generally discovered by people — local residents and landowners, like that North Dakota wheat farmer, as well as on-site employees of the oil and pipeline companies.

Thu, 2013-12-19 06:00Farron Cousins
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Exxon Pressures Government To Lift Oil Export Restrictions

It wasn’t long ago that the dirty energy industry and their friends in Congress and the media were screaming that we needed to open up every corner of America to oil and gas drilling in order to lower energy costs and help protect our country from oil-rich countries who don’t like the United States. 

We were promised that increased domestic production would lower our fuel costs, strengthen our national security, and help ensure our economic prosperity.  And even after the Obama Administration agreed to open up even more federal lands to drilling, the American public has yet to see any of these benefits materialize. 

But the oil industry isn’t complaining.  They’ve been given everything that they asked for over the last few years, and while we’re still paying, on average, $3.22 a gallon at the pump, the industry is pulling in profits of $375 million a day between the top 5 companies.

You would think that Big Oil would have little to complain about at this point, but you’d be wrong.  Apparently, they feel like their record profits should be even higher, so they’ve now decided that it's time to ease restrictions on oil exports so they can go take advantage of more lucrative overseas markets. Here at home, however, expect your pain at the pump to continue. You're not their priority, despite the fancy advertising.

ExxonMobil, the most profitable oil company in America, has called on the federal government to ease the rules regarding how much domestically-produced oil can be shipped out of the United States.  They are backed in this call by their friends in the conservative media, including the Wall Street Journal

To reiterate, they want to take the oil that we finally agreed to let them “drill, baby drill” out of our national parks and public lands – the oil that was supposed to lower our prices to take the burden off of U.S. families, but never did – and ship it to markets that are paying more for oil. Why? So they can make profits that make $375 million per day look like minimum wage by comparison.

Mon, 2013-09-16 22:22Guest
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John Abraham Slams Matt Ridley for Climate Denial Op-Ed in Wall Street Journal

This is a guest post by Dr. John Abraham, in response to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by British House of Lords member Matt Ridley.

How many climate errors in one article?

A recent error-filled opinion piece by Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal was so egregious that readers deserve a correction.  The article, “Dialing back the alarm on climate change”, was written by someone who has never researched anything in the field of climate change (literature search on September 14, 2013).  So what did Mr. Ridley have to say that makes a real scientist cringe? 

First, Mr. Ridley states that a forthcoming major climate change report (for which I was an expert reviewer) will lower the expected temperature rise we will experience in the future.  He also claims that the temperature rises will be beneficial. Since the report hasn’t been released yet, and reviewers promise confidentiality, my answer is based on available literature.  I can inform the readers that this isn’t necessarily the case.  What Mr. Ridley is focusing on is the lower bound of warming (the best case scenario for human society). What he doesn’t tell the readers is that regardless of which estimate of warming is correct, human society will be severely stressed.  Basically, he is arguing that the Earth may undergo a slow simmer whereas most scientists think it will be a faster boil.  Either way, the consequences are enormous.

Second, Mr. Ridley makes the unsubstantiated claim that warming of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will result in “no net or ecological damage”. 

This claim could only be made by someone who is unfamiliar with climate science.  With a fraction of that warming, we are already seeing economic and ecological damage.  Among them are increased precipitation in some regions with consequent flooding, more severe drought in other regions, increased storms, heat waves, rising sea levels. 

Fri, 2012-12-21 10:37Guest
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So-Called Skeptics Clinging To Slippery Strands Of Climate Science Denial

This a guest post by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Western Australia.

THE guy next to you in the pub turns around and says, “Popcorn doesn’t exist”… and he adds, “but it grows naturally on trees! And it’s good for you!”

Popcorn doesn’t exist but grows naturally on trees and is good for you? Would you entrust that fellow with the lives of your children if their future depended on logical coherence? No. No one would place any confidence in such incoherence.

Sadly, the public in some countries - in particular in Australia and the U.S.- is drenched in such incoherence in the form of climate denial. This incoherence often goes undetected.

To see why, it is helpful to analyze those messages from purported “skeptics” in some detail. For example, earlier this week on the same day that Australia’s only national broadsheet, the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian, received an adjudication by the Press Council against them for likening wind energy to pedophilia - yes, they really did say that - the paper also ran a piece that proclaimed future global warming to be minimal and beneficial to the planet.

Yes they really did say that, by dutifully reprinting a piece that ran in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal the day before. Is there any truth to this comforting news?

No. To see why, it is helpful to survey the three major strands of climate denial.

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