In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn't some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it's already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike. The problem may only get worse, the report suggests. “A continental oil boom and lack of pipeline infrastructure have forced unprecedented amounts of oil onto US and Canadian railroads,” Vice explained on its website. “With 43 times more oil being hauled along US rail lines in 2013 than in 2005, communities across North America are bracing for another catastrophe.” Vice also published a map to see if you live in a “'Bomb Train’ Blast Zone.” If you live in a city, chances are you do. You can watch Vice’s full report above.
Posts tagged with "Oil":
Piles of dusty, black waste from coal and petroleum processing have been piling up on Chicago’s southeast side, angering residents and prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to weigh in on the contentious environmental issue. The Sun-Times has reported that Emanuel will introduce an ordinance at next month’s City Council meeting banning new storage facilities for so-called petcoke—a byproduct of the oil refinery process that can be sold overseas. It’s a step back from an outright ban proposed in December by Alderman Edward Burke, whose constituents were outraged by black dust clouds wafting from uncovered piles of petcoke along the Calumet River. Southeast side communities like Calumet, South Chicago, and South Deering are no strangers to industrial zoning. The Illinois-Indiana border has long been a pastiche of brownfields, residential communities, natural areas, and heavy industry. But the swirling black dust incited a class-action lawsuit filed against three storage sites last year. Chicago’s Department of Public Health shares area residents’ concerns. “We know that petcoke is a respiratory irritant and the main concern is if the petcoke is inhaled,” Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Bechara Choucair told the Sun-Times. “If you have somebody with asthma or other respiratory problems, inhaling petcoke would really lead to more problems…We are advancing this ordinance to protect our residents.” The anticipated zoning ordinance would prevent new petcoke storage facilities from entering the city, and would keep current outfits from expanding. KCBX, the largest such facility in the area, says the ordinance is unjustified, a sentiment shared by some business groups:
Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association called the ordinance “a solution in search of a problem.” … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is also questioning the ordinance, calling it an “overreaction.” “We don’t understand what the mayor is trying to accomplish here. Petcoke and coal have been handled and stored in Chicago for decades with few issues. This seems like an overreaction to one incident – good policy rarely comes from overreacting,” Doug Whitley, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO said.KCBX is an affiliate of Koch Industries, the business empire of brothers Charles and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Carbon, came under fire last year for storing the same material along the Detroit River.
In crafting a building whose main goal is to make the study of natural resources accessible, architects from HOK and GSG did just that: they brought the outside in. Its purpose is to study what’s buried beneath the earth’s surface, but the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center isn’t an underground bunker. At the $25.4 million center, 3D visualizations illuminate three walls of a research lab so students can plumb the earth’s subsurface for valuable minerals and fossil fuels. The three-story, 56,941-square-foot EIC contains 12,000 square feet of flexible research lab space. A massive supercomputing system runs the 3D visualization rooms, which include a 1,296-square foot drilling simulator. “Rather than viewing a 3-D screen, the center resembles a cavern with three vertical walls and a floor,” said UW’s School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam, “that makes researchers feel as if they are physically immersed in the image.” GSG Architecture of Casper, Wyo. is the architect of record. The general contractor was GE Johnson Construction Co. of Jackson, Wyo.
What’s your building burning? Some 10,000 buildings in New York City are stuck on the dirty stuff—heavy heating oils—to keep warm, which is polluting the air across the city. But as of the first of this month, the city has begun to phase out these feuls in favor of more environmentally-friendly and health-conscious alternatives. As part of plaNYC’s initiative to remake New York City with the cleanest air of any major U.S. city, NYC Clean Heat aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by the end of 2013. While used by only one percent of the city’s buildings, heavy oils No. 4 and No. 6 emit more emissions than all of the cars and trucks on New York’s streets. The elimination of the use of these heating oils in favor of cleaner fuels, such as No.2 oil, Biodiesel, natural gas, and steam, is estimated to save 120 lives a year, as well as prevent 200 respiratory and cardiovascular related emergency room visits, and 77 hospitalizations. Currently, three grades of heating oil are used in New York City: No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6. Quite literally the “bottom of the barrel,” No. 6 heating oil resembles tar, and like No. 4 oil, can contain sulfur, nickel, and other impurities which create soot when burned, thus polluting the air and lessening boiler efficiency. The byproduct, PM2.5, lodges in lungs and aggravates respiratory illnesses, while nickel inhalation can lead to heart disease. With PM2.5 concentrations 30 percent higher in neighborhoods that rely heavily on heavy heating oils, and nickel concentrations over nine times higher than those of any other major U.S. city, it is no surprise that 300,000 New York children suffer from asthma. NYC Clean Heat aims to cooperate with property owners, building managers, tenants, and environmental organizations to achieve its goals. Check out this map to see what you and your neighbors are burning, and contact NYC Clean Heat for additional information getting your building converted.
Edward Burtynsky: Oil Nevada Museum of Art, Feature Gallery South 160 West Liberty Street, Reno, NV Through September 23 One of the most important topics of our time, oil and its industry serve as the departure point for the work of one of the most admired photographers working today. From 1997 through 2009, Edward Burtynsky traveled the world chronicling oil, its production, distribution, and use. Through 50 large-scale photographs, Burtynsky illustrates stories about this vital natural resource, the landscapes altered by its extraction, and the sprawl caused by the development of infrastructure needed to transport it. Behind the awe-inspiring photography is an epic tale about the lifeblood of mankind's existence in the 21st century. Curated by the Center for Art + Environment, Oil forces the viewer to contend with the scale and implications of humanity’s addiction to energy.
When trying to wrap his brain around the quantities of oil oozing into the Gulf, Hulett Jones of the San Francisco firm Jones Haydu reacted like an architect: He went to SketchUp and did some modeling. Haydu then extracted his ideas to a nifty YouTube video that comes to the clever conclusion that One Victorian = 2 days of leakage. Wouldn't it be great if news stories provided this sort of concrete analog for their data points? Edward Tufte would be proud. You can watch the video after the jump.
Last year, the Center for Land Use Interpretation of Culver City, California, exhibited its study of the Texas oil industry: Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 12-minute "landscan" video of the petrochemical infrastructure along the Houston Ship Channel—refineries, tank farms, pipe lines—the largest such installation in the world. Now, at long last, the CLUI has posted the video online, giving us another breathtaking perspective of this terrifying and beautiful landscape.
Curbed LA points us to a new video series by VBS.tv exploring the unexplored nooks and crannies of the country called Uneven Terrains. And like all things carrying the Vice label, the web series is populated by airy hipsters with a certain indifference, and yet sometimes they turn up some really cool stuff. Case in point: the hidden oil wells of LA, including in Beverly Center mall and a nearby high school. Our pal Dakota wonders how the parents ("Won't you please think of the children!") could let such a thing happen, but given oil prices, how couldn't you? After the jump, you can check out the "ruins" of New York—been there, done that—and our favorite, the Missile Silo home—most silos have been decommissioned, and many have been privatized[!!!]. They're perfect for any fan of urban exploration and cutting edge music.
We've blogged about the oil infrastructure in and around Houston, Texas, a couple of times: here and here. But we hadn't managed to get a level view of the massive installation until stumbling across ship pilot Louis Vest's time lapse video of a nighttime trip down the Houston Ship Channel aboard a 600-foot-long Panamax tanker. Vest strapped his NIkon D700 camera to an outside rail and programmed it to capture an image every six seconds, documenting a 3 1/2-hour journey cruising at 5 to 10 knots through this gloaming industrial landscape of exhaust stacks, burning lights, and gas flares. Mmmmm... Creamy!