Among the less-than-truths Mike Rounds used in 2014 to become our U.S. Senator was his claim that we needed to build Keystone XL to free up our overtaxed rail system to haul farm commodities. Big rail operator BNSF said that was bunk before Mike Rounds said it.
BNSF Railway has about 4,800 workers on furlough nationwide, according to a company official, but just what that means for local railroad workers isn’t known.
The furloughs are because 2015 ended with an unusually low number of average weekly rail carloads in the U.S., according to data compiled by the Association of American Railroads [Victoria Lusk, “Low Rail Traffic Leads to Furloughs at BNSF,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.03.24].
Since December, BNSF has been laying off workers and spending less on new rail in response to a changing market. According to the American Association of Railroads, the volume of petroleum products hauled by rail peaked right around election time in 2014 and has declined significantly since:
And what’s going on with grain?
“(Grain) is moving like it typically would,” said Roger Krueger, Wheat Growers’ senior vice president.
That means it’s moving out of the region more quickly than it has in recent years, Krueger said. That’s because it was especially difficult to get grain out of the region in 2013-14, according to past American News accounts.
…The number of grain carloads this year is up substantially when compared to the first nine months of 2013. Numbers for that stretch indicate that between 15,000 to 17,000 grain carloads shipped on average each month [Lusk, 2016.03.24].
So Mike Rounds got into the Senate by proposing a doomed solution that wasn’t really needed. Rounds persisted in peddling the myth that Keystone XL could ease rail congestion last November when the President killed Keystone XL. Rounds was apparently oblivious to the data above and to the layoffs that lower volumes were already prompting among the big rail operators.
Mike Rounds gets another five years to fantasize in Washington. We’d better elect Jay Williams so we have at least one reality-based Senator.