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Oil Slurry Spill on Mississippi River Illustrates Need to Move Beyond Fossil Fuel Economy

Coast Guard said up to 250,000 gallons of refining byproduct may have spilled into waterway

A barge heads down the Mississippi in Iowa.  (Photo: Neal Wellons/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that up to 250,000 gallons of oil slurry could have been spilled into the Mississippi River following a towboat collision near Columbus, Kentucky.

The Coast Guard says the spill occurred at roughly 8 PM Wednesday when a boat crash caused a cargo tank on a barge to rupture and spill some of the refinery byproduct it was carrying into the river.

A section of the river is now closed, and the Coast Guard stated that an aerial assessment spotted "a five-mile discoloration" starting at the site of the accident.

Tim Joice, Water Policy Director for the Louisville-based Kentucky Waterways Alliance, told Common Dreams that the incident, as with any "oil spill, fracking operation, coal slurry spill, or failure from a coal ash pond," is "illustrative of the reality we face—that we have a fossil fuel economy and we need to move beyond that."

While the industry can skew statistics about the safety of the various methods of transporting fossil fuels, be it by barge, "bomb train," pipeline, or truck, Joice said that "reality is that none of it is safe. We will have accidents."

"So what's the alternative? We don't use oil, gas or coal," he said.

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