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National Newspaper Questions Safety of Rail Transportation of Ethanol

(Chicago, Illinois – October 8, 2011)

One of the nation’s leading independent and investigative newspapers, The Christian Science Monitor, reporting in the wake of the massive Tiskilwa, IL derailment which resulted in explosions and fires has questioned the safety of carrying the flammable, explosive material by rail.

“The derailment comes at a time when the shipment of ethanol by rail has increased dramatically,” reports CSM writer Mark Guarino in an article published Saturday.

The article goes on to say that transportation of ethanol by rail has increased 400% during the 2000-2009 decade according to the Association of American Railroads, whose spokesperson, Patty Riley, said that there are 200,000 carloads of ethanol on the rails daily due to the dramatic increase in ethanol production.

Chris Barkan, director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, IL, says that the increased rail transit of ethanol doesn’t translate into increasing the danger, as he feels the utilization of a newer fleet of tank cars specifically designed to haul ethanol improves safety. The CSM reporter then turned to the investigation into the cause of the Tiskilwa derailment which occurred early Friday.

Paul Metaxatos , associate director for research programs at the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago, says one area that will draw intense investigation will be the placement of the hazardous loads in the train’s consist. Metaxatos says that, even though there is no current policy regulating the placement of hazardous materials – especially ethanol — in train make-ups.

If, during the investigation, investigators learn that “shipping ethanol makes a difference in the number of derailments, this will result in a change of policy.”