The Explosion of Oil-Bomb Trains

The expansion of fracking for oil in the U.S. and mining tar sands in Canada helped the number of rail cars carrying oil to increase by over 4,100% in only 5 years – from 9,500 cars in 2008, to 400,000 cars in 2011.

The Explosion of Oil-Bomb Trains
The  Halliburton  Loophole

To find a clear example of how the revolving door between the public and private sectors has had a negative impact on the health of people and the planet, let’s go back to 2005. Dick Cheney was head of the U.S. Energy Task Force, which was responsible for an energy bill that exempted the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. Many have referred to this as the Halliburton loophole, and it effectively stripped the EPA’s capacity to regulate the fracking industry. This allowed an industry, which was created in the 1940’s by Halliburton (where Cheney was CEO between his role as Secretary of Defense under Bush senior and his role as Vice President under Bush Jr.), to experience tremendous growth while claiming that there was no evidence that fracking was negatively impacting the safety of drinking water or the health of people living near fracking sites. Because the EPA has been prevented from finding out what chemicals are being used in the fracking process, it has been difficult to make the link between fracking and increased health issues that have popped up around fracking sites.1



A Bridge to Nowhere

The argument that natural gas is a bridge fuel to a more sustainable future is based on the fact that burning methane produces less heat trapping greenhouse gases than burning oil. What the industry fails to mention is that methane leaks into the atmosphere during every phase of the fracking process: from production to processing, storage and distribution. According to a study conducted in April, 2011 by leading scientists at Cornell University “fracked gas has a greater greenhouse gas impact than oil and may well have as much of a warming impact as coal when the two energy sources are examined over an extended life cycle.”2  This is because methane traps 21-34 times more heat than CO2 over the course of its life in the atmosphere, and again, the fracking process is very leaky. To help put an end to this climate-change accelerating, cancer-causing, aquifer-polluting method of methane extraction, click here to sign a petition telling Governor Brown to put a moratorium on fracking in California.

Oil Bomb Trains

Due to the explosive growth in the fracking industry’s ability to extract oil from tight rock formations (usually shale) that followed the creation of the Halliburton loophole, the amounts of oil transported by trains in the U.S. has skyrocketed. Add to this the failure of Trans Canada to push the Keystone XL pipeline through the U.S. (which is causing tar sands to also be transported by trains), and we arrive at some sobering statistics. The number of rail cars carrying oil increased by over 4,100% in only 5 years – from 9,500 cars in 2008, to 400,000 cars in 2011. This has drastically increased the number of trains that have derailed and caused different parts of various cities all across the U.S. to go up in flames. On Saturday, July 11th, Ourglass attended a protest of oil trains transporting tar sands and fracked Bakken crude. This protest was in honor of the second anniversary of the oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people in 2013.



Action Steps

To take action against the expansion of infrastructure for oil trains, fracking, and tar sands, put this blog post on your social media and add #StopOilTrains @JoseHuizar @MikeBonin @SoCal350 @SoCalTarsands @ForestEthics @SierraClub @FoodandWater @OurglassEarth.


Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin are Los Angeles City Council members who are considering the creation of a new railway that would transport oil along the LA river. We hope that with enough public pressure they will decide against this project, which would put the newly restored LA river basis in danger of explosive derailments.

  • 1 Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 15 ~ 33:45) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014                          [Audible]. 
  • 2 Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 7 ~ 11:33) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014                            [Audible]. 
  • 3 Klein, N. This Changes Everything (Ch. 14 ~ 52:40) [Simon & Schuster, 2014]. [Narrated by Ellen Archer]. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014                          [Audible]. 
  • Image: David Charron

Comments are closed.