The Diane Rhem Show had a good hour-long discussion about BP's ever-worsening oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this morning and it got us to thinking. We're all familiar with what happens during a tragedy like this, even when it turns out to be a lot worse than we originally thought, but what about fifty years from now when oil-burning cars are the minority? (they will be the minority by then, right?) As we shift away from petroleum, what other problems might we be creating?

Will we see terrible lanthanide mine disasters? Will a boatload of lithium batteries ever explode, sending all those chemicals into the ocean? Hydrogen cars won't go up in flames quite as spectacularly as the Hindenburg did, but is there anything that could happen somewhere along the H2 supply chain that would rival the disaster in the Gulf? Will biodiesel plant explosions get worse? Was that $176,750 fine for environmental violations just one of many for the ethanol industry? Basically, our question to you is: What's the worst that could happen?

We're not looking for arguments that are just put forward to favor one particular gasoline alternative, just wanted to start a conversation about what transportation energy-related disaster reporting might look like in a few decades. Also, if you're interested in hearing The Diane Rhem Show on the spill, it should be available here for streaming or podcasting later today.

[Source: Diane Rhem Show, Daily Kos | Image: HO/AFP/Getty]

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