A Bad Year for Dirty Energy

By Rainforest Action Network

April 5th is the one-year anniversary of the disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, in which 29 coal miners lost their lives needlessly thanks to Massey’s disregard for worker safety in its reckless pursuit of profits.

It was also something of a kickoff for what would turn out to be a really bad year for dirty energy — a year in which seemingly everything that could go wrong did go wrong, laying bare for all to see the inherent danger and unsustainability of continuing to rely on fossil fuels as sources of energy.

Just fifteen days after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine on April 5th, for instance, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, taking with it the lives of 11 men working on the drilling platform. The wellhead blowout led to a three-month long ordeal in which crude oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf, exposing once again the relaxed attitude towards worker and environmental safety held by purveyors of dirty energy.

Now, a year later, we’re facing the specter of nuclear meltdown in Japan, a frightening capstone to what should serve as a year’s-worth of alarming wake up calls.

But these of course were only the highest profile disasters that resulted from our reliance on dirty energy. The Atlantic recently compiled a long list of dirty energy disasters from the past year that should lay to rest once and for all the debate over our society’s energy future.

Dirty energy disasters

Here is a brief, by no means comprehensive list of the dirty energy disasters we witnessed last year alone. This draws from The Atlantic’s list some, with additions by me and other RAN staffers.

  • April 5, 2010 – An explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia claimed the lives of 29 miners.
  • April 20, 2010BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the lives of 11 workers and leading to an oil spill of over 200 million gallons.
  • May 8, 2010 – Two explosions at the Raspadskaya coal mine in Siberia claimed the lives of 91 miners.
  • June 17, 2010 – An explosion at a coal mine in Amaga, Colombia claimed the lives of 73 workers.
  • July 20, 2010China experienced its biggest oil spill ever – some 400,000 gallons – after pipelines exploded in Dalian Province.
  • July 26, 2010 – An Enbridge Pipeline burst, spilling 19,500 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River — a record for the Midwest. The river remains closed.
  • August 10, 2010 – Five people lost their lives and another 50 were injured when a natural gas pipeline owned by PG&E exploded in San Bruno, CA, a suburb of San Francisco.
  • October 16, 2010 – At least 20 miners were killed by an explosion in a coal mine in Yuzhou, China.
  • November 21, 2010 – Some 87 workers were killed in the year’s worst coal-mining accident in China.
  • December 2, 2010 – A Chevron pipeline in Salt Lake City, UT burst, spilling 500 barrels of oil. Chevron actually had not one but TWO oil spills in Salt Lake City in 2010. Not only that, but the company had THREE oil spills in the space of one week in December 2010.
  • February 9, 2011 – A natural gas explosion in Mont Belvieu, TX claimed the life of one worker and led to a fire that burned for nearly an entire day.
  • February 10, 2011 – A natural gas explosion in Allentown, PA killed five people and destroyed eight homes.
  • March 11, 2011 – An earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the coast of Japan, dangerously destabilizing several of the country’s nuclear reactors. To date, workers are still trying to prevent total meltdowns of the reactor cores. But it wasn’t just nuclear energy that posed a problem in the aftermath of the earthquake: A fire at an oil refinery was sparked by the quake and raged for days, some times with 100-foot flames leaping into the air.

It couldn’t be more obvious that now more than ever we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that our children are not held captive to these dirty energy sources of the 19th century. A bad year for dirty energy is actually really bad news for us all.