Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Other Unfortunate Costs of Automobile Culture

I feel good ... getting my car rants back, yeah!

So consider the fact that the environmental degradation of automobile dependence does not end with the drilling, refining, combustion and emissions of petroleum and its by-products. That petrol has to get to the pump so cars can fill up. Sometimes during that process of transportation things go horribly wrong. This just in:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) ― Multiple interstates near downtown Minneapolis have been closed after an accident involving a tanker spilled a significant amount of fuel.

According to the State Patrol, the 18-wheeler rolled on the ramp to I-394 from westbound I-94. Fire crews arrived at the scene and began to form a dam in an effort to prevent fuel from contaminating nearby sewers. According to Kent Bernard of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the truck held about 7,000 gallons of fuel and was, at one point, leaking as many as 100 gallons a minute. Traffic was blocked off in the area.
Among the roads closed: the ramp from eastbound I-94 to Westbound I-94 as well as the ramp from eastbound I-94 to eastbound I-394; westbound I-394 from 3rd Street; and eastbound I-394 at Highway 100. The Lowry Hill Tunnel is also closed. Authorities said the accident may affect the evening commute. People in the area noted the strong smell of gasoline in the air, raising concerns about possibly hazardous fume levels.

Pleasant thought, eh? All those motorists can't get where they want to go as quickly as they're accustomed to doing because a truck turned over, ruptured and is leaking the very lifeblood of their internal combustion contraptions. Pity. Fuel is expensive; that truck might as well be leaking precious metals. Gold or silver would be a hell of a lot less polluting than fuel. It will never be completely contained or cleaned up. Our ground water, creeks and rivers will absorb the excess. You might notice a little extra "kick" in the drinking water around Mpls for the next few days. Sorry if I sound terribly cynical and unsympathetic, but the real problems are with the underpinnings of an unsustainable system -- an infrastructure that bows to the automobile as its god du jour. Authorities and lawmakers are locked in reactionary mode instead of looking through to the heart of the matter -- dependence on automobile travel must simply be curbed.

On a biking note, I had my first cold weather flat tire this morning en route to work. Joy! Fixing flats at 15 degrees can be chilling. A week ago it was below zero though. Gotta be thankful because things could always be more difficult. Fellow riders, with the lack of snow streets are coated with fine gravel and shards of glass and whatever else has been scoured by freezing and plowing. Keep those patch kits (and spare layers for warmth while standing around) handy in your bag.

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