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More barges carrying oil down the Mississippi River

A barge on the river in Vicksburg, Missippi.

An oil train derailed today, this one in Western Pennsylvania. Somewhere between 3,000-4,000 gallons of oil spilled.

It raised more questions about how we can safely get all the new oil we’re producing to where it needs to be. Trains and pipelines aren’t the only way to do it – river barges work too. In fact, some in the crude oil industry have already started using them.

"This has kind of been a well-kept secret," says Austin Golding, a third generation barge line operator in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  He says about three years ago, “we started seeing more demand for crude oil to be moved by barge."

His family saw a 40 percent increase in demand for their services as a result of a fracking boom in places like North Dakota.

Train derailments like the one today don’t usually result in an immediate boost in business. And Golding knows there are risks associated with shipping the amount of oil that they do. 

"Our industry has a stellar safety record as far as spills and incidences that involve this type of product."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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