The fuel-related explosion from a wrecked transport train that ripped apart the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic on Monday is being used by some environmentalists as another reason to curb use of fossil fuels. The train was carrying tankers of fuel oil when it careened off the tracks, destroying the heart of the city and killing 15 people with as many as 50 still missing as of Wednesday. More than 100,000 liters of fuel has seeped into a nearby river and lake.
The obvious logic used by fossil fuel detractors was that reducing the use of fossil fuels would help prevent such tragedies, as well as reduce the significant effects of carbon dioxide pollution that causes climate change.
True enough. If we were only at the stage where renewable fuels were not needed to run vehicles, heat homes and power industry. We’re not. Fossil fuels will need to be transported for the next few decades, at a minimum, even if we develop renewable energy at rates that greatly exceed current capacity.
Interestingly, the tragedy did not also buttress the case for using natural gas via the pipeline proposed for Addison County by Vermont Gas Systems, instead of continuing to rely on fuel oil, or transporting liquid gas, as some opponents of the pipeline have suggested. According to Vermont Gas Systems, transporting natural gas via pipeline has a better safety record compared to fuel oil being transported by rail, tankers or trucks. If safety is a major concern, natural gas pipelines eliminates some of the inherent risks — however small and infrequent they may be.
The story illustrates how the news is used to make whatever point fits one’s perspective. The general public needs to keep what’s realistic and practical in mind and in the public discourse.
Angelo S. Lynn