Gas Pipe Killer Inferno: A Symbol Of Our Crumbling Infrastructure

Last Thursday, in San Bruno California, at about 6:15 PM a 30-inch high pressure natural gas pipeline, belonging to the private utility company Pacific Gas & Electric Co., ruptured. The pipe rupture created a firestorm that killed at least four people, left scored injured, completely destroyed 37 homes and badly damaged 8 others.

This tragedy which is currently under investigation from state and federal authorities, should be a two folds wake-up call. Firstly, it is another reminder that America’s infrastructure, including bridges, highways, electrical grids and utilities such as water and natural gas is falling apart. Secondly, the San Bruno’s tragedy proves, once again, that relying on non renewable energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas has deadly consequences.

Recently, we had the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now we have the San Bruno man created disaster caused by a pipe which was apparently installed right after World War II. Even so BP is much bigger than PG&E, in both cases we are dealing with private companies with profit and the satisfaction of their shareholders at the core of their concerns, not the greater good and public safety.

On Monday, PG&E’s stocks took a tumble, but regardless they said they were establishing a $100 million fund for victims of the huge pipe line explosion.

“The money is intended to help victims meet their day to day needs and would be provided with no string attached,” said Chris Johns, president of PG&E.

Meanwhile, the tragedy is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Investigators want to speak with anyone who smelled gas in the days leading to the blast, especially anyone who reported the problem to PG&E or any other officials,” said Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

President Obama said he wants $50 billion invested in America’s infrastructure. It is of course too little too late, and probably will not stop America’s race to the bottom in terms of infrastructure. Let’s just hope that if any money is spent, it is not to replace 54-year old 30-inch pipelines by new ones. Fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal are deadly sources of energy: Deadly to produce, to transport and to consume.

If the neighbourhood of San Bruno would have being powered by renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, we would have no need for death trap underground ticking-bomb devices such as a 30-inch “antique” gas pipe. If America was not lagging so much behind Europe and Japan in terms of clean technologies, we already would have highly efficient high speed trains all across the land.

How many more tragedies will it take for us to wake up as a community, state and country and to come to terms with the real cost of fossil fuels?

Editor’s Note: Photo by Gilbert Mercier.


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