July 29, 2014
The people in the Musi-Café had no idea what hit them. At about 1am on July 6, 2013, a train parked on a slope a couple miles away slipped its brakes. Seventy-two tank cars loaded with crude oil accelerated into the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and began to tumble off the tracks, detonating and burning with a force so powerful that it leveled several city blocks. Forty-seven people were killed — most of whom were inside the Musi-Café.
In the months that followed, Lac-Mégantic became a rallying cry, a bloody shirt waved by activists across North America who were growing increasingly concerned about a relatively new phenomenon: ultra-long trains loaded with a peculiar variety of crude oil.
Months later, after several other oil train accidents, Warren Buffett went on CNBC claiming that oil train explosions were “very, very, very, very rare.”
If Buffett sounded defensive, it may have been because he is the single most important person in the world of oil-by-rail, an industry that he dominates and that has proven to be highly profitable for oil companies and railroads — and singularly dangerous to the public. MORE