Life, death and nuclear fallout.
As this issue of Fortnightly was going to press, the bodies of 43 coal miners were being recovered from a mine in Pakistan, after a methane gas fire. It was the latest in an ongoing series of coal mining accidents, including last year’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion, which killed 29 miners in West Virginia. Worldwide, thousands of coal miners die in accidents each year. In China alone, accidents killed approximately 50,000 miners between 2000 and 2009.1
As this issue of Fortnightly was being edited, a gas leak in Minneapolis sent a fireball into the sky, damaging structures and vehicles—but causing no injuries. A month earlier, five residents of Allentown, Pa., were killed when gas leaked and caused an explosion. The incident echoed last year’s San Bruno fire in California, where an exploding gas pipeline killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 578 pipeline incidents occurred during 2010 in the United States, resulting in 25 fatalities and 111 injuries.2
And yet … we don’t stop delivering natural gas. We don’t stop mining coal. As a society, we’ve come to accept such risks as the price we pay to maintain our way of life.
You know where I’m going with this.