Drought Threatens the Mississippi River, Your Gas Tank, and Pantry
Earl Griffin, Contributor
Saturday, January 5, 2013
The mighty Mississippi river is beautiful to behold, terrible in its fury, and of tremendous importance for shipping. The United States is both fed and fueled by the commodities shipped on that great river.
Like any river it depends upon the run off from regular rain to sustain it. Ongoing, persistent, and worsening drought interrupts the regular feeding of the Mississippi.
In the photograph above a coyote rests in the sun on the bed of the Mississippi river. Notice in the background the red buoy laying on its side on the dry ground. It should be floating in the water marking the channel for the boats navigating the river.
Drought now threatens shipping via barge traffic on the Mississippi river. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, “Commerce on the river could come to a halt between Jan. 5 and Jan. 15, when the nine-foot draft required for most towboats will fall to an eight-foot draft,” (JOC).
Have you ever seen towboats moving barges deliberately up and down the river? It is a sight to behold. Each fuel barge holds 30,000 barrels of fuel. A towboat may have as many as six going at once. For those of you counting, that is 180,000 barrels of fuel being moved by a single boat. That one boat is typically operated by a crew of just six.
Keep in mind that a barrel of fuel holds 42 gallons. A single barge moves 1,260,000 gallons of fuel at a time. A towboat handling six barges at once is moving 7,560,000 gallons of fuel.