2010's Biggest Dirty Energy Disasters

The year in pipeline explosions, mining blasts, and eco-calamities.
2010's Biggest Dirty Energy Disasters

It may have been 2010's story of the year and the year's No. 1 trending Twitter topic, but the headline-dominating Deepwater Horizon disaster was just one of many dirty energy calamities that occurred around the world. We've rounded up 10 of the most serious, listed in chronological order.

Several took place in the US, but the majority occurred in China, where a rapidly expanding economy has created a ravenous appetite for energy. The country has an abysmal record when it comes to mine safety: In 2009, Chinese mining accidents claimed seven lives a day. As with the Deepwater accident, the world was captivated by the story of the 33 Chilean miners rescued after spending 69 days more than 2,000 feet below ground in a copper and gold mine near Copiapó. But the sad reality is that far more miners are lost than rescued.

The list focuses on some of the deadliest incidents, so it leaves out other serious environmental calamities. Take, for example, the release of 538,000 pounds of chemicals, including benzene (a known carcinogen), at BP's Texas City refinery. The release began on April 6, two weeks before the Gulf spill, and continued for 40 days. The long-term health impacts for residents of the town remain unclear. Then there's the April 4 incident in which a Chinese ship hauling 65,000 tons of coal from Australia to China made an illegal shortcut and ran into the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world. The accident didn't claim any human lives, but it did leave a half-mile-long gash in one of the most sensitive ecological treasures of the world.