Mr Norman, Your points are valid. Unfortunately I wrote that in a bit of a hurry and did not really check my wording very well. Let me try again by making several points.
1) I am a long time advocate of railroad transportation in North America, nearly 60 yrs in fact. I have stated many many times that there is no question that railroads are the most efficient means, both in fuel economy as well as manpower, of moving people and goods around the continent. As recent events are showing only too well, the public's ability to adequately maintain the interstate highway system is falling behind, as traffic has increased. This has had the effect of placing an almost "untenable burden" upon the taxpayer, required to maitain the "public road network"!
2) Despite any/all accidents involving the movement of crude oil by rail, this rapidly increasing business has become a blessing to much of the nations railroad companies. I have cheered that "blessing" as much as anyone, and have been greatly pleased to see the many of the railroad companies being able to invest more and more $$$ into an infrastructure that has been, for the most part, woefully maintained for many decades! Increasing business brings increasing profits, and that is a very good thing. The future of our nation may well likely become more vested in the railroads again, as the efficiences of that kind of operation become more evident! There are "rapidly increasing profits" in the movement of crude oil, no question about it.
3) As I have journeyed through life I have become more aware of the fact that there are basically two kinds of people around. We can be separated into "conservative vs liberal" to quite an extent. Forgive me for raising what sounds like a political argument, when my real intent is to point out some facts of human nature. Some people think in very firm ways about things, involving factual analysis of the circumstances, and eventually arriving at concluions that can be defended with logic. I am one of them, usually looking at all the angles and trying to rationalize answers.
Others think with their "emotions" as in "if it feels good, it must be good". I am a lifelong resident of Maine where the paper making industry reined supreme for a century or more. Unfortunately this polluted many of the rivers, badly, and it took a long time to clean much of that up, which I think was a good thing! This earlier environmental movement spawned a later version that rather than analyzing things with factual analysis, most of the time runs on "raw emotions"! Nothing "stokes" those raw emotions quicker than dark black smoke rising into the air.......and a body count, as in Lac Megantic. Like it or not, these events have driven millions of us, with little factual basis, at this point in time, to develop a "hatred" for any and all things that have to do with railroads and crude oil! Keep foremost in your mind that the main stream media makes most of its profits by doing all that it can to "stoke these kinds of emotions"!
4) Suffice it to say that I believe that the use of fossil fuels, particularly oil, is not going away any time soon! This discovery in ND, that I have seen termed the "greatest discovery in the history of N America" is literally a godsend for our nation, to the extent it can relieve much of our dependency upon middle eastern oil providers, and their ability to take our money and fund terrible acts against our nation and it's people!
5) I think the facts will easily show that the most efficient way to move crude oil over long distances is with pipelines, and my studying has shown that there is a better safety record with the pipelines. Unfortunately much of our political leadership is vehemently outspoken in their arguments against building ANY of these pipelines. Again, a perfect example of the thinking of some people......that is totally bereft of logical analysis! We can legislate the safest possible tank car designs, railroad track specifications and operating regulations but we can NOT control human nature, or sometimes things that are just simply the "luck of the draw". Remember that it has been bitterly cold in ND for several weeks now, and steel rails can break anytime, something that is made much more likely with low temps for days on end! I suspect that our nation may eventually come to accept the need to build more pipelines for this movement of crude oil, but none of that will happen very soon, thus there is huge incentive to move this crude oil, the only way we have to this point to move most of it from ND and that is by railroad tankcars on steel rails!
6) If business can justify doing something in a certain way, the incentive to continue doing so will be very high as those companies seeking to enhance their bottom line, look to every way they can find to do so. Some, like MMA (maybe) have sought to cut all the corners they could, even though reasonable people, with vast amounts of experience, could see things that were inherently "risky" by doing so!
7) Media sources have stated that this ND crude is as "volatile as gasoline" but that statement is crazy as it would not need the refining process if it was as they say. I have found, from reading, that this crude is somewhat lighter than most crude previously discovered. This would lead to increasing "volatility" for sure, but still not becoming the same as gasoline IMHO. It seems that new ways will have to be found to deal with the product, as best as we can, as the movement of oil by rail will continue in my way of thinking, and nobody can guarantee that this will be 'accident free".
Those who decry this fiery spectacle in N Dakota, and the death toll at Lac Megantic need to take some of this into proper perspective and rate the risk factors accordingly. In 2010 32,885 people died on the roads in America. The math works out to slightly over 90 people killed each day on the nations highways. Lets put this in perspective. Any accident where anyone is inured or killed is a tragedy, for the families, and for all of us. Nobody should die that way, but death by accident has always been with us, and always will be. There are, on average, 90 people killed every single day on the roads, twice as many who died at lac Megantic, yet nobody is advocating for bans on moving people by car on roads, that I am aware of.
We are all human, and subject to mistakes, all of us at any given moment. As long as people try to do things, accidents and deaths will continue and, by themelves are not sufficient reason for stopping what we are doing. Trying to make it safer, YES, but sitting down in a corner and doing nothing makes no sense if we wish to continue to be a viable nation and economy.