Rolling Oil and Gasoline Bombs - Another Great Reason To Switch To Ethanol +VIDEO
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Originally published May 17, 2015, but even more relevant today
One of the big buzz-word stories on Sunday's TV news shows is the increasing danger and damage caused by what has been termed "Rolling Bombs." The term is used to describe what happens when railroad trains carrying petroleum oil products derail or slam into obstacles on the tracks. The incidents often result in human deaths; and they almost always cause significant damage to nearby homes or commercial structures. Even when there are no collateral damages caused by the explosions, oil spill damage affects human and animal life and usually costs millions or billions of dollars to clean up.
In the past year alone there have been several such incidents in the U.S. and Canada. One incident in Quebec resulted in 47 deaths. Because of increased petroleum oil and gasoline shipments the fear is that the regularity of these disasters will increase and threaten towns and cities along every railway used.
The oil industry contends that if new projects like the Keystone Pipeline were given the greenlight that these incidents would be far less. Of course, we all know that oil pipeline spills occur frequently and can be just as dangerous and costly as any oil train collision.
Incidentally, it's important to note that the oil industry opposes new federal oil train safety rules. This is not surprising since the oil industry always denies any risks associated with petroleum oil products and always opposes new rules designed to make their products safer. Remember, these are the same fine people who gave us tetraethyl-lead gasoline and reformulated gasoline with MTBE. It seems like the oil industry has never met a poison they didn't like and wish to force upon the public.
One sure way to diminish or entirely remove the threat of railroad oil and gasoline disasters is to replace our use of petroleum oil products with a safer alternative. The best and most easily obtained substitute is ethanol and other products made from ethanol, such as bio-diesel. There are four immediate safety advantages to using ethanol: First, ethanol is no where near as explosive and flammable as gasoline. A collision with an ethanol tank doesn't necessarily mean that the ethanol will ignite and explode. Ethanol's flash point is 55 degrees F, while Gasoline's flash point is -45 degrees F. *
Second, unlike gasoline, in the event of an ethanol spill the vapors from ethanol evaporate quickly, which mitigates the possibility of continuous secondary explosions. Gasoline vapors remain even after the liquid is cleaned, and gasoline vapors are more explosive than gasoline liquid.
Third, unlike gasoline and diesel, ethanol fires can be extinguished with water.
Fourth, a mature and comprehensive ethanol industry would eliminate most need to transport ethanol via long distance rail or pipelines. This alone reduces the risks to using ethanol versus petroleum oil products. The optimal ethanol production scenario would be similar to the milk industry model. That is to say, ethanol production would take place near retail distribution outlets. Instead of having to carry ethanol over hundreds or thousands of miles, the distance from production center to filling station could be little more than a couple of miles.
From an economic perspective, ethanol also provides great advantages. We wouldn't be dependent upon foreign enemy and terrorist regimes for our primary engine fuels; we wouldn't be sending hundreds of billions of dollars outside of America every year; we would really create a tremendous number of new fulltime jobs - not just a relatively few temporary jobs to build the pipeline; and we would be helping to support our domestic farming industry without government subsidies (this would be true regardless of the crop used to produce the ethanol).
And of course, if America didn't have to defend foreign oil producers and ocean shipping we would save billions more each year and not lose thousands of American military personnel in useless wars.
• SEE ALSO: Truth About Ethanol
*For a greater discussion on the differences between ethanol and gasoline visit