The recent accidents heighten the debate between rail and pipeline transport of crude. Industry estimates indicate that rail capacity could grow enough to handle 700,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude a day this year—up from roughly 150,000 barrels currently.
Compare that with the estimated 700,000 barrels of crude per day that could be transported by the Keystone pipeline by 2016, according to estimates from research firm IHS, and it appears that rail is becoming the more viable option.
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But not only might rail transport of crude be more dangerous, it's also far more expensive. Analysts estimate that shipping oil domestically by rail costs about $4 to $5 more per barrel than by pipeline—and shipping oil by rail from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast (the route Keystone would cover) would be about $7 or $8 more expensive per barrel.
Corridore said that the spate of recent rail accidents "certainly makes the case for pipelines stronger, especially because the cost to ship is so much less." But he also pointed out that pipelines' completion has been slow in coming, so their relative scarcity is an issue.
Rail will continue to benefit for years in the United States because pipelines are not moving enough oil right now, Corridore said, but he added that longer term, the energy industry will see a blend between pipeline and rail transport because "one way or another, crude will get where it needs to go."
—By CNBC's Jackie DeAngelis. Follow her on Twitter @JackieDeAngelis.