The arguments for phasing fossil fuel from our energy portfolio are most frequently focused on climate change caused by their consumption and other environmental degradations incipient in their acquisition. Often overlooked in these avenues of concern is the surprisingly high human and societal cost of the all-too-common fossil fuel transportation disaster. Roughly every single week, somewhere in America, there is an accident or incident involving a truck, train, or pipe carrying fossil fuels wherein damage at least in the thousands of dollars is caused, traffic is jammed up and stuck while all sorts of cleanup efforts and precautions must be undertaken, and more often than is palatable, people are seriously injured or killed. And sometimes, this happens.

Why, just yesterday:
> Two people killed in tanker truck crash on Interstate 75

And a few others which recently managed to grab headlines (though most such incidents are not reported in news media at all):
> Tanker, car crash causes massive explosion on I-94 (March 11, in Michigan, the one vid-linked above)
> I-95 has opened after tanker truck overturned in Prince George’s County (March 10 in Maryland)
> Railroads work to recover from derailments as group calls for oil train ban (March 5, in Illinois)
> Crash involving tanker truck along local highway kills 2 (February 27 in Oklahoma)
> Tanker truck with 9K gallons of fuel crashes, catches fire (February 23 in New Jersey)
> Tanker Truck Crash Sends Flames Shooting Into the Sky (January 6 in Florida)

Now, compare that to the transportation disaster potential for solar power, which is.... well, pretty near zero.

In anticipation of some objections, it is undoubtedly true that there would still be truck crashes and train crashes even if no fuel were being transported. But these explosive crashes would not be happening, these particular lives would not have been lost. And it is equally true that tremendous expense continues to be invested in constructing fuel-carrying vehicles so as to minimize the possibility of a crash culminating in a conflagration. But these catastrophic events still happen, and will inevitably still happen, because it is impossible to put tons and tons of a liquid explosives on vehicle hurtling along the highways swiftly enough to make it worth paying to move the stuff at all, without every time dangling out the serious risk of that vehicle crashing hard enough to blow up that payload. And even if the explosion is minimized or prevented, a fuel truck or fuel train crash can become a source of poisonous pollutants pouring into the drinking water, and into the water from which crops and livestock are fed.

Again, what is the potential for a solar power supply to blow up? None whatsoever. What is the possibility of a solar spill contaminating our food and bodies? Well seeing as how the more conventional term for a solar spill is "a nice sunny day," and seeing as how all life on Earth relies on solar power pouring down for many hours every day, it is again none. True some people stay too long in the sun and suffer ill effects, but that has nothing to do with the generation of electricity from this inexhaustible source.

And this is not even touching upon the as-yet unmet potential for terrorism. Any student of war knows that the first thing an invading enemy must do is try to blow up the fuel supply, an easier task when the fuel supply itself is an explosive. And a much deadlier proposition for the people when that fuel supply is routinely concentrated and transported through the most heavily populated areas by means already tenuous enough to occasionally blow up just by accident. Imagine the consequences of a coordinated effort to engulf cities in flame simply by targeting their fuel-loaded sitting ducks. Tanker trucks are big targets. Fuel trains are an even worse hazard, since they carry much more of the explosive stuff, and are constrained to indefensibly-long tracks from which they can not readily deviate their course. A train's set of defensive maneuvers is limited to: go faster; and: go slower. A pipeline has no maneuvers at all.

Once more, contrast that to solar power, even wind power. Production there can be dispersed across as many places as one can imagine erecting a solar array, with transport to the site of consumption being instantaneous and costless. There is no refinery to which raw solar energy must be sent to be turned into electricity; it is born consumer-usable. Now, I'm all for people having the freedom to use whatever fuel supply they wish, but clearly it is a fool's errand to continue supping at the teat of one which daily threatens to kill you and your loved ones as you drive on the road, as you drink from your faucets, or as you simply sit at home, if you happen to be within a blasted fragment's throw of a highway or train track.


3/30/15 update: I do not intend to update this regularly with new accidents and incidents, as that would be a full-time job, but all of these happened in the week after I posted the initial writeup....
* One dead after fuel tanker crashes with van" (this one in Australia)
* Tempe crash on U.S. 60 involves tanker, fuel spill (in Arizona)
* Tanker truck crash shuts down Bourne Rotary, Bridge (in Massachusetts)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.