Hansen's Death Trains – now with extra scary 'coal fallout'

WUWT readers surely remember this:


NASA’s Dr. James Hansen once again goes over the top. See his most recent article in the UK Guardian. Some excerpts:

“The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.”

And this:

Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide would increase to 500 ppm or more.

Well, Hansen’s “death trains” have taken on a crazier, even more wobbly, left spin. Physicist Gordon Fulks writes Via Lars Larson nationally syndicated radio show:

Hello Everyone,

I asked my brother, who lives near Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to send some photos of the railroad tracks used by coal trains to carry vast amounts of Wyoming coal east. The BIG SCARY issue raised by the political Left here in Oregon is no longer the theoretical ‘Global Warming’ from the burning of this coal but a much more practical concern: black coal dust from the trains polluting local communities. They have stirred up images of Oregon blighted by coal dust from trains carrying the coal down the Columbia River to export terminals in St. Helens, Oregon and other communities that can accommodate ocean going ships.

As with so many other such scares dreamed up by those who specialize in deliberate misinformation, this one has no validity. My brother notes that dust is a perpetual problem during the hot, dry, and windy summer months in the Nebraska Panhandle. But the dust is brown not black and therefore of natural origin. His photos (attached) show that the railroad tracks and overpasses themselves are remarkably clean, despite the passage of thousands of coal cars each week. This is a main route for coal trains heading east, perhaps the main route.

With such a stark contrast between what Alarmists claim and what the reality is, we have to wonder if these people are capable of any honesty at all. They are a factor in all such environmental discussions because the press (such as journalist Scott Learn at The Oregonian) gives them prominent and largely unquestioned coverage.

When I am faced with people who have lied to me, I refuse to be duped a second time. In a public hearing in California years ago I asked a very prominent attorney why we should believe what he was now saying, “since you did not tell us the truth previously.” His response was classic: “This is a different case?” The fallout from my question was dramatic. His client dropped him! In my opinion, we must hold people responsible for deliberate deceptions or those deceptions simply continue from the same people and from imitators.

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

Corbett, Oregon USA

Here’s the picture. See any black?

This all got started by some activists that are equating some door to door poll with science. This is what likely got them bent out of shape:

Port of St. Helens approves coal export agreements with two companies

And the reactions, from http://www.beyondtoxics.org/blog/


Stopping coal: A renewed moral imperative

By on July 11, 2012

I want to be clear: I am not against trains (I often travel by passenger train)! I am, however, critical about using our rail system to haul coal to coastal ports and then load the coal and ship it off to Asian destinations. And justifiably so! Besides the significant safety issues posed by rail shipment of massive amounts of coal, we should consider the certainty of grave health problems we will have to address.

It is already true that health problems associated with polluted air occur in our community. Beyond Toxics has engaged with community health issues in the River Road, Trainsong and Bethel neighborhoods for many years. Recently we completed a community health survey in West Eugene. A striking pattern emerged. We found that 30% of the nearly 350 households we interviewed believe that at least one family member suffers from asthma.


Lisa Arkin, Exec. Director

Lisa Arkin, Exec. Director Oregon Toxics Alliance – aka the Coal lady

Gosh, knock on a  few doors, run an uncontrolled non-scientific survey by activist friends (no control group), ask about asthma, then claim it is the moral basis for shutting down coal trains. Who could fault logic like that? /sarc.

They don’t just want some changes, they want wholesale stoppage: see  Stopping Coal in Oregon

Here’s the entire basis for worry, a FAQs on the BNSF railroad company page:

Coal Dust-Frequently Asked Questions and it addressed the question, How extensive is the coal dust problem?

“Since 2005, BNSF has been at the forefront of extensive research regarding the impacts of coal dust escaping from loaded coal cars … From these studies, BNSF has determined that … The amount of coal dust that escapes from Powder River Basin coal trains is surprisingly large. …BNSF has done studies indicating that from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car. Other reports have indicated that as much as 3% of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit. In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks. … large amounts of coal dust accumulate rapidly…”

She continues:

So let’s do the math. Multiplying the amount of coal projected to arrive at the Port of Coos Bay, which is 6 – 10 million tons per year, by BNSF’s suggested 3% product loss, this calculation suggests that coal trains would release as much as 300,000 tons of coal dust along its journey through Oregon. That is an immense amount of highly toxic coal dust every day of the year!

300,000 tons, all in Oregon? Gosh. Heh. She seems to miss the fact that the trains move, and that the lightest dust will be dropped from the train first, as it gains speed as air moves over the train.  And, that coal dust is much much heavier than air, and settles quickly. Much of what escapes may not be dust, she cites “500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car” but really, just how much of that is dust?

From the BNSF website, it doesn’t go far, and seems to settle right on the tracks:

It also seems to be more like pebble sized detritus, rather than “dust”.

If you look at this image from the BeyondToxics.org website, you’d think dust was a huge and widespread problem:

Source: http://www.beyondtoxics.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/CoalTrainVideoFF_CROP1-300×233.jpg

That’s a crop from this one video shot in Pennsylvania, which has become a favorite of those anti-coal activists:

But if you look at video of other coal trains from the Powder River Basin, I don’t see a repeat of that issue. Of course when it is raining (as it does a lot in the Pacific Northwest) there’s no coal dust at all.

If such dust and losses were a huge and widespread problem (even in Oregon), we should be able to see the difference via aerial photos in West Eugene where train tracks should be pitch black with the supposed 300,000 tons of coal dust/year accumulated over the years.

Southern Pacific rail yard in West Eugene, OR – note the nearby houses, and try to find all that coal dust – click to enlarge

BTW that grey you see is roadbed for the train tracks, composed of golfball sized crushed rock. Note the nearby residences, probably where they knocked on doors.

Source: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=44.067276,-123.12692&spn=0.01494,0.027938&t=h&z=16

But, annoyingly inconvenient for the activists, it seems the problem has been solved by BNSF, who voluntarily implemented coal dust standards in 2010 for their rail shipments. But Oregon’s BeyondToxics doesn’t tell you that.

From the very same BNSF FAQs page where they cite the coal dust loss as being a problem, there’s this:

What are the coal dust standards?

BNSF’s coal dust emission standards are contained in Items 100 and 101 of BNSF’s Coal Rules publication called Price List 6041-B. The standards require that coal cars must be loaded in conformance with a specified loading template. The new coal loading profile produces a more rounded contour of the coal in coal cars that eliminates the sharp angles and irregular surfaces that can promote the loss of coal dust when cars are in transit.

BNSF’s coal dust emission standards also provide that the amount of coal dust emitted from a train may not exceed specified levels as measured by trackside monitors (TSM) at two locations on PRB lines. One TSM is located at milepost 90.7 on the Joint Line and the other TSM is located at milepost 558.2 on BNSF’s Black Hills subdivision. A third trackside monitoring station has been constructed on the Big Horn subdivision at milepost, and will be fully operational in early 2010.

Yes, they built a coal weather station, see http://www.bnsf.com/customers/what-can-i-ship/coal/coal-dust/pdf/q4_2.pdf

It doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore in Wyoming at the source either. I’ve looked at dozens of coal train photos and videos out of the Powder River basin in Wyoming, and they all look pretty much like this:

Source: Highball productions Railfan video


Staggering, continuous coal train action on BNSF’s Orin line in the Powder River coal basin. UP shares the line, and there is a continous parade of trains. Lots of meets, a couple of side by sides, and 8 (yes, eight) trains in one shot, and even a broken knuckle. Some nice storm light and some nice sunset shots, this is one amazingly busy place.

While Ms. Larkin ponders the lack of black on the ground in that aerial photo, and the photos of the Powder River coal trains, and the coal dust solution put in place by BNSF (and why she doesn’t report it), she can also take a minute to read this essay, which I’m repeating here:

U.S. Life Expectancy in an Era of Death Trains and Death Factories

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian that WUWT commented on, James Hansen of global warming fame, argued for closing coal fired power plants asserting that “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.”

So what’s happened to US life expectancy as the number of coal fired death factories have multiplied and as the climate has gotten warmer?


Figure 1: Data are plotted for every ten years from 1900-1940, 1945, and each year from 1949 onward. Data sources: life expectancy from Statistical Abstract of the United States 2009, and earlier editions; coal usage from Goklany (2007) for 1900-1945, and EIA (2008) for 1949-2007; carbon dioxide emissions for 1900-2005 from Marland et al (2008).

As the above figure shows, US life expectancy at birth increased by 30.5 years, from 47.3 years to 77.8 years, between 1900 and 2005, while coal usage more than tripled. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 were nearly nine times the 1900 levels.  And, of course, the climate has also gotten warmer (not shown). To appreciate the magnitude of this improvement in life expectancy, consider that the approximate life expectancy in pre-industrial societies varied from 25-35 years.

While the increase in life expectancy is not directly due to greater coal use or CO2 emissions, much of it was enabled in one way or another by the prosperity fueled in large part by coal and fossil fuel consumption, as I have noted in my book, The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet.  Also recalling the IPCC’s temperature trends from 1900 onward, according to my eyeball analyzer there seems to be a better correlation between life expectancy and coal use (and CO2 emissions) or their logarithms than that between temperature increase (either for the US or the world) on the one hand and, on the other hand, coal use (and CO2 emissions) or their logarithms.

It may be argued that Hansen’s comments pertain to the future, not to the past or present. But to this I would respond that the above figure is based on real data whereas Hansen’s declaration is based on some unknown projection about the future based on unknown, unvalidated and unverified models.

Giving up fossil fuel energy use and, with that, compromising the real improvements in life expectancy and other indicators of human well-being that have accompanied that energy use, would be like giving up a real bird in hand to avoid being attacked by a monster that may or may not exist in the bush, that is, a monster that may only exist in the virtual world.

This doesn’t seem like a rational trade-off.


I just can’t get too worked up about railroad coal dust, which in my opinion, is a non-problem unless you are mining it and exposed to high levels of it constantly. Plus, it seems BNSF already solved the problem, but the activists aren’t telling you that.

As a kid, I had a coal bunker in my basement, with coal dust permeating the house at times when we’d get a new shipment. Somehow I managed to survive.

UPDATE: in comments, Les Johnson points out that coal cars are sprayed with something to prevent such dust losses. I checked this out. It seems this has been solved a long time ago, as the patent for the process goes back to 1979:

Control of dust during coal transportation

Spraying of coal in an open top hopper car with an aqueous composition containing at least about 2.5% of a binder material consisting of solid material in an aqueous suspension of an asphalt emulsion or a black liquor lignin product and containing 0.1 to 2.0% of water soluble ethoxylated alkyl phenol or sulfo succinate wetting agent results in the formation of a crust layer which provides protection against loss of coal due to wind action during rapid movement of the car.

Improvements to the patent are as recent as 2006:


Like I said, this is a non-problem, already solved. But, that one video from Pennsylvania gets a lot of folks all worked up about black lung disease I’m sure.


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Les Johnson

Idiots. All open coal rail cars are treated with a chemical to prevent the loss of coal from the wind.

If it were a serious problem it could easily be solved by covering the cars with tarps. I have seen dozens of coal trains and never seen them produce coal dust clouds. These pictures must be taken soon after departure. –AGF


I live in Ohio and have seen thousands of coal cars in my life & have NEVER seen the so called dust cloud from the first (activist) video – in fact, that video looks doctored in my opinion. Go figure.

Coal powder shakes to the bottom of the lorry. It’s the classic example if a convenience sample.

Gitte G.

As a german i’m disturbed by the name “death train”, as the literal translation “Todeszug” is used for the trains to Auschwitz and other death camps at the end of WW2. Is the use of the words “death train” an intented comparison from Mr. Hansen to the trains bringing hundreds of thousands jews to their gasification or is this just a coincidence and the words “death Train” just have a different meaning?

I would bet money that if that first video was sent to a video forensic analyst they would come back showing its a fake. There are obvious sections of it that are loops of the same footage (likely because the video creator didn’t have the tools to apply special effects so resorted to frame by frame edit and then loops).

Gunga Din

So now what’s going to kill us all isn’t Carbon Dioxide but Carbon itself! Let’s tax it to death!!!!
I had thought carbon was one of the building blocks of Life. Now I know I was wrong. (Or maybe it’s only old carbon that kills? It’s so hard to keep up.)

I went back to that James Hansen editorial and it sounded just like the hyperbole based in fantasy from a book Management for a Small Planet that has been pushed as a business text and at Big Business indoctrination workshops for about 20 years. It pushes the idea that somehow the Industrial Revolution disrupted “the natural processes of the planet” and we need to go back.
The idea is that the rates of economic activity need to reflect the evolutionary processes of nature. I wrote a story about it yesterday and described the VERY odd views of science being pushed to go along with all this modeling and redesigning economies and basing education on Ecological Systems Theory.
I kept reading the book going “But we are not a small planet unless you use education to extinguish human ingenuity.”
Plus I am really tired of being told the Earth is a closed system and there’s the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. I’m a history major and I know better than what is being described as the basis for a new ecology-economy dichotomy.

Well before 1979, while I was growing up in a small town in South Jersey, the freight line that carried all the coal to feed the big powerplant in Atlantic City ran – literally – past my back yard.
The steep-banked cut made for hellacious sledding in the winter, including a whacking great slam into the steel rails if you didn’t take those last few yards just so.
No significant amount of dust ever in our township, or anyplace else of note along the path to Atlantic City, and as kids we walked the tracks (the cut saved us about a quarter-mile) all the time, alert for any spillage because most of us were rock hounds, and we were eager to add specimens to our collection.
We did not find all that much.
As usual, Hansen is demonstrating pure hysteria. Somebody is wasting taxpayer money on this putz?

Jack Green

Activist Alarmist’ surveys cause increased risk of heart attacks among vulnerables.

Ally E.

I don’t believe they knocked on doors at all. They lie about everything else, why would they bother to shift their butts and find out about anything, then tell the truth about it? Not likely! They knew what they wanted to say, why would they let facts get in the way of their Cause?
I want to know when the MSM will wake up to the fact there are bigger stories in the scam than there is in any claim of warming. People really need to be told about the lies: the why, the who, the where. Certainly fewer people now are accepting the nonsense they’re spewing in the MSM bid to suck up to politicians.
There should be a media stampede to tear these liars to shreds in every paper and on every tv in every country. What are the MSM “reporters” doing? Looking around to see who’ll go first? What cowards they are! Get on with it!


They believe. Oh my. Well, that’s great, but believing is irrelevant. Let’s face it, if I would believe that one of my family members has asthma, what would I do? I would drag that family member to a doctor and get a diagnosis. And a medical diagnosis is based on facts, evidence gathered, etc. I think there we already have the problem, but let me carry on for a second.
I’ve been a voluntary paramedic for 20 years, trained as a nurse, still read medical journals. Now imagine this scenario: paramedics are called to an incident. A man is lying on the ground, he seems unconscious, he may be a bit blue in the face, that happens. Now people like Lisa Arkin and the folks she interviewed will stop there, look at the man and say “I believe he had a heart attack” and then start the related treatment.
Congratulations. You have probably just killed the patient since you’ve failed to apply proper procedure. For all we know he may have had a hypo with his blood sugar in the basement and just fell over (happened to me once.)
Now the trained specialist, the real paramedic, will check the vitals, will try to make contact with the patient. The trained specialist or even the decently enough trained first helper will gather data, make sure the patient is then passed down the line of further specialists who gather more data until they come to a diagnosis and hit the patient with the proper treatment. Depending on the situation he may even begin treatment right there, but this, again, will be based on the data he collected.
Now what is the reasonable approach?
We all know the answer to that. It’s not the “I believe!” I can believe I can fly, doesn’t mean I actually can fly though. Belief is irrelevant. Facts matter. And I can believe 4 million times per hour that my father has asthma, but as long as there is no data to back up that my father has asthma, as long as I don’t have an actual diagnosis based on facts that belief is worth as much as believing in aliens.
Personally I’m not too surprised Hansen wrote this in 2009 and that people now continue with this. They’re slowly losing it. Their arguments are faulty, more and more people are turning away from them and even the media isn’t really that keen to listen to them anymore. So what’s the solution? Even bigger, more threatening scenarios, no matter how far detached from reality they might be. “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!” sells, “Well, it’s really just a 0.01% variation” doesn’t.
I give some of these folks about ten years until they’ll come out with “global warming and coal death trains are a plot by US government! It’s George Bush’s fault!” Some might actually get there earlier than that.
As for life expectancy, let me get that for a second as well. Of course it went up with the use of energy and fossil fuels. The fuels allow transport of goods and people, not just industrial stuff, but also medication and medical personnel. People can get transported to a hospital faster on a truck with horns and signals than on a horse cart, and all the modern medical wonders in our hospital require stable electricity and other resources, which are often deemed “evil” by the usual suspects: oil and nuclear. Radiological medicine, for example, is vital today and has done countless good, but of course, some still believe (there we go again) that all radioactivity is evil.
Belief. It’s a cult, really. The cult of global warming, pardon, climate change, with its own pair of Satans: oil and radioactivity.
By the way, this reminds me of the shoddy statistic the WHO has been throwing around for years now. According to them 600,000 people die from passive smoking every year on the planet. Sounds a lot, as long as you don’t remember that there are more than 6 billion of us around. Even worse, in Germany they’ve used a similar shoddy statistic from the university in Heidelberg (which actually claimed that people in the age group from 65-85 have a 50% risk to die from passive smoking, while the actual death statistics of Germany show us that people in that group have a 50% risk to die anyway, and it also claims that 3,301 people die every year from passive smoking in Germany, nobody knows where that odd number comes from), to implement all kinds of ridiculous laws, going so far that some politicians actually want to ban smoking in private homes. Of course completely ignore that Germany has more than 800,000 deaths every year (I read death statistics, yes), that 3,301 are below any statistical relevance (more people die in traffic accidents in Germany alone) and that there are no medical files or autopsies to back any of this up (because there are no facilities or staff to really conduct 800,000+ autopsies with all the connected tests every year), and then you’re ready to believe!
Statistical deaths based on risk factors and other number shenanigans. Just wait, within the next few years we will see similar with Fukushima. Lots statistical deaths and number fudging to come.
I could go on about the medical lies connected to this for a while, but I think I’ll stop here. Let me just add this: old Paracelsus said something interesting “All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.”

Eve Stevens

Let them shut down all the coal plants as long as it is law that the people who caused the coal plant shut down get electricity last.
Let that include polititians and activists. I think that anyone protesting at any electicity plants should be removed from their electricity provider. Let them live without.
On the “hottest day in Ontario”. I wonder how they know that. All the coal plants and gas and oil plants are running. In fact everything we have is running, including the 15 wind farms which are producing together, the same amount of electicity as one old Candu nuclear reactor, At least the nuclear reactors are paid off, not so the wind farms.
All this because people insist on air conditioning. I turned my one fan on for a bit but just turned it off.
So people of Ontario with your a/c, you cause the coal and gas and oil plants to run.


Gitte G. says:
July 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

There’s no misunderstanding over translation. Just like the use of “denier”, this a deliberate Nazi reference.

L Nettles

So why our streets and highways not covered in the rubber from a hundred years of tires constantly wearing away?


Hansen and co. often claim that if we ‘burn up all the fossil fuels’ climate will return to, say, the Cretaceous, which was warmer.
A few problems:
we can’t “burn up all the fossil fuels”. Even if we exhausted all marginally economically available fossil fuels, that still leaves a much vaster majority that is uneconomic. There are vast quantities of coal, methane on the sea bed, shale gas, and so on which is too deep, underwater, too low in concentration, and simply not viable to extract, not now, and not forever. This is a firm physical fact of resource science, by far the vast majority of mineral and fossil fiuel resources will forever remain in the ground, as these resources get exponentially larger with each slight reduction in concentration of grade. It is true or stones in the stone age, and it is also true of carbon in the carbon age.
Perhaps we have burned so far, at a guess, 1% of world fossil fuels deposited since the Cretaceous, that should mean the T should reach 1% of the difference in carbon (and c02) deposition since the Cretaceous. No need to worry about those hot Cretaceous afternoons.
As usual, vastly under-estimating how much fossil fuel (stored carbon) is out there, and vastly over-estimating effect of c02 in the atmosphere.

Edo- You are entirely correct but we are officially shifting to an ed system that fosters the view that unfounded or erroneous beliefs and emotional exclamations are just perspectives and perfectly valid and entitled to parity in a dialogue to reach a consensus among those participating.
So if you know your stuff and can prove it, it’s just a continuum of perceptions and you should give ground.
That balance still gives illegitimate views negotiating currency.

“We found that 30% of the nearly 350 households we interviewed believe that at least one family member suffers from asthma.”
“Believe” means they don’t know–how very factual. LOL

Gunga Din

Gitte G. says:
July 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm
As a german i’m disturbed by the name “death train”, as the literal translation “Todeszug” is used for the trains to Auschwitz and other death camps at the end of WW2. Is the use of the words “death train” an intented comparison from Mr. Hansen to the trains bringing hundreds of thousands jews to their gasification or is this just a coincidence and the words “death Train” just have a different meaning?
Coincidence. You’re just in “Denial”.
(How do I make a “sarc/tag”?)

David Ross

This is a non-problem. Besides spraying methods you can transport coal in covered railcars (which I believe they do for coal dust). The fact that this group are not campaigning to make this method mandatory (however misguided that might be) but to shut down coal industry, suggests that they have a different agenda.
Covered Hopper
If a bulk dry commodity needs protection from the weather during transport, it’s loaded into a covered hopper. The enclosed car operates the same as the open-top hopper, although variations can be optimized to carry dry chemicals and cement, whereas others are meant to transport agricultural products including grain and sugar. Some covered hoppers look very similar to the open-top cars, but many have rounded sides to improve unloading. Unloading from the bottom can be done through gravity or pneumatic suction.
Hypocrisy Alert
BeyondToxics.org the source of that cropped photo has some interesting sponsors. If you want to support them, forget the train and rent a Hummer instead.
Beyond Toxics Sponsors
Enterprise Holdings (St. Louis, MO)
Natural Choice, LLC (Eugene, OR)
Northwest Community Credit Union
(Springfield, OR)
Enterprise Holdings
Enterprise Holdings, Inc. is a privately held company formed in 2009 to operate rental car subsidiaries: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car, PhillyCarShare, WeCar and its commercial fleet management, used car sales, and commercial truck rental operations.
Enterprise is headquartered in Clayton, Missouri, U.S., an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis.
Types of vehicles available to rent
Standard SUV: Jeep Grand Cherokee or Nissan Pathfinder
Full Size SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, or Ford Expedition
Premium SUV: Chevrolet Suburban or Toyota Sequoia
Luxury SUV: Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator
Specialty SUV: Porsche Cayenne or Hummer H3

Philip Finck

What I do note in the video is the contrast between what appears to be very clean, fresh looking vegetation and the coal dust cloud. This would have to be an unusual event (if real), otherwise the vegetation would be covered with dust. Also the rail ballast would be dusted. No sign of this.
I am some what suspicious.

charles nelson

I don’t know about anyone else but I have noticed that a lot of the media nowadays is coated with green scum?

Toxic coal dust? Death trains? Tons of coal dust blowing about? Absolute hooey. Why would anyone give Hansen an iota of credibility?


BNSF. That’s Warren Buffet’s choo choo train, isn’t it? Sleep with greenies, get up with cooties.


Edohiguma says:
July 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I entirely concur with you about the abuse of statistical deaths. It’s the old adage that figures don’t lie, but liars figure.
Another example, also involving Germany:
German beer contains around 5% alcohol. Beer steins at the Octoberfest in Munich hold typically 1 Liter of beer. One liter of pure alcohol imbibed in a short time is fatal to an average adult. Therefore, using the “death rate” statitstics, 5% of the Octoberfest visitors have to die statistically of alcohol poisoning even if each is limited to one stein of beer only.
This is BTW not a joke, but the exact same application of the same statisticical reasoning as for example applied to second-hand smoke or radioactivity.
The reasons activists don’t apply it there are:
1. German beer IS good
2. Everybody could see how ridiculous that statistics is
3. If they tried, they would have a revolution on their hands in Germany.

David Ross

Gitte G. wrote:
“As a german i’m disturbed by the name “death train”, as the literal translation … is this just a coincidence and the words “death Train” just have a different meaning?”
Your understanding of English is correct Gitte G. The phrase “death trains” has a very strong association with the Holocaust, even more than the word “denier” has with the phrase “Holocaust denier”. So it is almost certainly not a coincidence. It is a recurring theme among radical warmists, which includes the accusation that “deniers” are committing a “crime against humanity”.


Coal dust causes asthma? Lame… I wish people would study how immune system actually works.
I would say more like a possible contributing factor, not actual root cause.
Root cause would be widespread vitamin D deficiency. It often rains in the NW area so people would not be seeing much of sun meaning less vitamin D. NOTE: No food will ever match the amount of vitamin D we get from sun exposure. It is way more than what is currently recommended but I’m not going to go into that because it is more complicated than it looks. You would have to go to Vitamin D Council website to learn about it. It will take months for everybody to wrap their minds around it how it exactly works.
I am all for clean air because dirty air pollution blocks UVB sunlight to a degree because that is how your body produce vitamin D and others not yet identified. It will take forever to get to where I suggest everybody take 5,000 IU of D3 a day to be officially recommended by federal gov’t. It’s only 600 IU a day. It’s a shame. It’s probably worse than CAWG BS…


The asthma crap is pure nonsense, but the trains will pose a real burden. Most of them will come right through the middle of Spokane, multiplying existing freight traffic considerably. We removed most of our rail capacity in 1974 to make room for Idiot Comrade Nixon’s Green Expo ’74, which means that the remaining rails through downtown have been overstressed for a long time.
With such a large quantity of very long trains, there will be considerably more derailments and more wear on the rails. Since America has decided to let its railroads rot, this could get serious very quickly.
Do we need all this added trouble to aid our ENEMY’S industrial expansion, at the expense of our own? I don’t think so.

David Larsen

I grew up between the Milwaukee Road and Chicago Northwestern lines. They have hauled coal for over 50 years and there is no dust along the routes between Milwaukee and Chicago. You might find a small chunk along the side of the tracks, that is it. BN also requires all coal hauls either have the coal immersed in a dust suppressant or to have the top of each coal car sprayed with the chemical to reduce dust emissions. End of the whining.

Hansen apparently wants to consign the third and developing world to misery, poverty and death. That’s no way to run a railroad.

Judy F.

I live in a small town close to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. We have a mile long coal train go through our town every hour to hour and a half. I have never seen coal dust blow from the hopper cars. I have never seen coal blow out of the hoppers. ( In fact when my kids were in the 4-H geology project we walked along the tracks in vain, looking for a piece of coal to add to their collections) There is no coal dust on the tracks.
The only time I have seen coal on the tracks is when a train derailed south of town and the coal tipped out of the hopper cars. At that time I saw goverment regulations in force, when all the spilled coal was treated as Hazmat material, and had to be hauled to and buried in the local landfill. The reason it had to be buried was because it might have been contaminated from being on the ground. i don’t know where they get Wyoming coal, but I was always under the impression that they dug it out of the ground. /sarc

David Ross

KLA wrote:
“German beer contains around 5% alcohol. … One liter of pure alcohol imbibed in a short time is fatal to an average adult. Therefore, using the “death rate” statitstics, 5% of the Octoberfest visitors have to die statistically of alcohol poisoning even if each is limited to one stein of beer only.”
That is an excellent and very apt comparison and worth repeating. I hope you don’t mind if I use it later without attribution.

I was born very near, and brought up in a small village just across the river from a large colliery. The village was, and is, Aberfan in South Wales. You may have heard of it. Most men over 18 worked in the mine, and quite a few developed lung complaints, mostly after they retired. Working on the surface shifting, sorting, and loading coal into wagons and lorries was considered a “soft” job, if still a “dirty” one. To my knowledge, no-one working on the surface developed any lung complaints. The coal was either wet when brought to the surface, or was sprayed with water pumped from the river, so there was no airborne dust to speak of. Coal dust (from tiny particles up to pea-sized) is money, and there was a market for it, making briquettes. No-one throws money away, not then, not now.
This exaggerated crap about dust and asthma is from the same stable as the claims about methane leakage from fracking wells. No-one in their right mind throws money away through leaks or wastage. Waste reduction is top priority in every industry. Every bit saved is pure profit – everything has already been paid for.

Coal dust can be a problem, but is not dangerous unless continuously exposed without protection (as in underground mines in the past where miners got black lung). Here in Australia near the largest coal export terminals in the Southern Hemisphere (Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point) coal dust can occasionally blow from the stockpiles to nearby Louisa Creek, a small beach side hamlet. Dust is reduced by continual irrigation of the stockpiles. Conveyor belts are covered. There doesn’t appear to be any higher incidence of asthma or respiratory disease after four decades. And the ground isn’t covered in coal either. When driving on the road out west we often pass trains, and dust does blow off them at higher speeds. It settles pretty quickly though. In urban areas coal trains typically travel slowly as they negotiate yards, crossing points etc.

Benjamin D Hillicoss

hhmmm death trains brings to mind some german conotations…I guess we are deniers all over again


David Ross says:
…I hope you don’t mind if I use it later without attribution.

Go right ahead. Another example is Chernobyl. Activists often claim that as a result of the accident 4000 people in Europe will get cancer. This scary number is often reported as certainty, 4000 deaths or more.
This is typically calculated based on the population of Europe at ~700 Million. Which means the chance of a person getting cancer as a result of Chernobyl is 0.0006 %. However, from medical data we know that the chance of anyone getting cancer in their lifetime is around 25% worldwide. Which means the chance of a European citizen getting cancer increased from 25% to 25.0006%. Not even measureable, but as a result countries in Europe are changing their energy policy.


Like many other commenters, I live near a rail line that carries many coal trains every day. I’ve lived here nearly 20 years and seen coal trains regularly all that time. There is NO dust anywhere on the ground. Did these folks ever go out and LOOK at the ground around railroad tracks?


When I saw the name EUGENE, OREGON all credibility to their claims vanished. I always associate it with radical left wing enviro’s or frankly any other left wing radical group that comes to mind.


Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide would increase to 500 ppm or more.

WONDERFUL! (And I’m not being sarcastic.)
Just think how luxurious our biosphere would be if we added just another 105 ppm CO2, which is all it would takes to get our current 395 ppm to 500 ppm. I actually wish we could add more!
The only thing off the tracks in this story is Hansen. He’s a logical train wreck.

Gail Combs

I agree with Hansen. These are “Death Trains” As they carry US coal to western ports to be shipped to China, these trains spell the death of the US economy.


So, this activist believes that a business doesn’t care about losing $26,268,000 and would just let it continue year after year? Obviously they solved the problem years ago.
Gitte G.- The members of the Carbon Cult use “Death Trains” and “denier” because of the association with the Nazi death camps and holocaust deniers. With just a few words they can dismiss what we say and illustrate how evil we are.
We wish they would engage in a rational debate but they won’t. They know they always lose debates.


I’ve got to strongly disagree with even the assumed (and exaggerated numbers!) weights – even those coming from the rail company’s own website.
They can’t – no one can today – live with 3% losses per car, per trip, per anything. Nobody’s profits are large enough anywhere to allow 3% throwaway of your cargo. Average profits are 3% (retail) to 8%, sometimes up to 12% in rare industries. Losing half your profits on coal falling off of the cars? Ridiculous.
From this site for the power river basin: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,128359 average coal car loads have grown from 80 tons a few years ago up to 120 tons per car today. Other sites are similar: so assume 100 tons per car. Losing 500 lbs dust in 100 tons x 2000 lbs/ton? More like it.

Put the Youtube up full screen, when the camera holds still for a long span of time, fix on a point immediately above the cars and watch the ‘coal piles’ and ‘dust’ pass in front of that fixed point. Seems like the coal piles are not uniform enough for what I’ve seen in coal cars, and really look a bit too transparent.


“No-one in their right mind throws money away through leaks or wastage. Waste reduction is top priority in every industry. Every bit saved is pure profit – everything has already been paid for.”
Not quite so fast. Why then do business these days not employ enough people for customer service, why do you have to wait in excessive lines, why there is no-one around to help you and so on. I regularly walk out of stores that do this. But the fact that I havent bought anything for THAT reason doesnt show up in the daily accounting.
A middle manager can claim he has saved money by not employing staff to look after customers, and hide the fact that he is losing customers as well. It simply doesnt show up in the figures, unless one delves very deep, which usually doesnt happen.
The same goes for leakage during fracking and so on. Sure it is cheaper to reduce leakage, but in a poorly regulated industry, the cost is so small that companies simply dont bother with proper monitoring (e.g. have to employ someone to check, have to introduce up to date reports and standards etc etc). Most companies in the past sit around with about 2 employees in an office who rarely visit the sites; better regulation esnures better standards and procedures, which is harder and more time consuming.
I really don’t think market forces address this kind of thing. The only way is through people voting on the feet power and through effective, but balanced regulation (not easy).
Its the same reason why Mcdonalds alway says ‘sorry for the wait’; I always say, “No, your not really sorry, otherwise you wouldnt have allowed it in the first place-what you really should say is: I might care, but the Management doesn’t, Management only care about profits, so we don’t have the necessary staff numbers, space and work procedures to make sure the chance of you waiting excessively is small. What Management hopes for is your good will, that you will put up with poor service so that they can make a a slightly bigger profit”.
I’ll give another example where market forces dont really work. Shoes. I have size 14 shoes, and have real trouble getting them, everywhere. In Portgual once they were stolen on the beach whilst I was surfing, and I had real trouble replacing them so as to get on a plane home. A store manager will tell you, it simply isnt worth the trouble to supply size 14 shoes for the <1% of the population who needs it, it doenst work out economically-they usually have to send them back at a loss. But then, what is the size 14 shoe person supposed to do? The only way to address this is 1) to make shoe companies, by law, have to supply them, or, 2) get a rare delivery-supplier which you can order from-but this takes time and is difficullt and has its own other problems, or, 3) the government supplies the shoes. (Not a goood option).
Either way, I still have trouble getting shoes.


Lisa Larkin said:
“So let’s do the math. Multiplying the amount of coal projected to arrive at the Port of Coos Bay, which is 6 – 10 million tons per year, by BNSF’s suggested 3% product loss, this calculation suggests that coal trains would release as much as 300,000 tons of coal dust along its journey through Oregon.”
That 300,000 tons of “possibly” escaped coal, at a price of USD150.00 per ton (2008 price, 2012 would be nearly USD200.00 or so) then the loss would amount to at least USD45,000,000 worth of coal.
No serious accountant would ever tolerate that sort of loss without a serious attempt to restrain it—wetting down loads regularly over the trip, or even covering them (tarpaulins), would cost much less than that.
Preventive measures taken for such losses are possibly why the tracks seem so clean.
The darker coloration between the rails of each track is most likely caused by spilt diesel and lubricating oil over the decades (all locos seem to leak a little) and perhaps diesel soot.
However, I don’t work in coal or coal transportation, so this is all pure speculation.

Gitte G. says:
July 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

As a german i’m disturbed by the name “death train,” as the literal translation “Todeszug” is used for the trains to Auschwitz and other death camps at the end of WW2. Is the use of the words “death train” an intended comparison from Mr. Hansen to the trains bringing hundreds of thousands jews to their gasification or is this just a coincidence and the words “death Train” just have a different meaning?

Oh no, that is exactly the reference Hansen used and wanted people to recall. The links at the top of the post still work. The Guardian article has the letter in full, the part in question is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/15/james-hansen-power-plants-coal and immediately flows into a reference to Germany:

The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. When I testified against the proposed Kingsnorth power plant, I estimated that in its lifetime it would be responsible for the extermination of about 400 species – its proportionate contribution to the number that would be committed to extinction if carbon dioxide rose another 100 ppm.
The German and Australian governments pretend to be green. When I show German officials the evidence that the coal source must be cut off, they say they will tighten the “carbon cap”. But a cap only slows the use of a fuel – it does not leave it in the ground. When I point out that their new coal plants require that they convince Russia to leave its oil in the ground, they are silent. The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, it set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young, let alone the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black – coal black.

This was before fracking greatly expanded the natural gas supply, otherwise Hansen likely would have word “gas” into his WWII allusions.


Anyone who doesn’t want the produce. Deny it them. How can anyone be more fair than that?


Am I the only one who finds that video not quite plausible? It’s not as if green activists have never been caught “enhancing” images before.

Louis Hooffstetter

Can’t say for sure, but the BNSF photo appears to be a picture of taconite pellets spilled from a hopper car:
Taconite is a low grade iron ore commonly shipped by rail. A brief description of taconite and how the pellets are made is found here:

Louis Hooffstetter

Upon further examination of the BNSF photo, I am convinced these are taconite pellets next to the tracks. Note that this accumulation is at the base of a sign that says ‘swing nose frog’. A ‘swing nose frog’ is a switching mechanism that switches trains from one set of rails to another. Passing over these switches shakes the rail cars as they pass over, which can cause taconite pellets to bounce out. Coal dust would also shake loose but would not likely accumulate directly at the switch. It would tend to blow down wind.