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Trains hauling oil and other flammable material should be better and more frequently inspected, a National Academies of Sciences report out Wednesday says.

Why it matters less today: The amount of oil shipped by rail has dropped 77% since its high in 2015.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

What's driving the drop: "Trains receded into the background after the oil price fell and pipelines started up, both of which took pressure off the rail network," said Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, an independent research firm.

The backstory: A series of fiery oil-train crashes over the last few years prompted federal regulators to issue a rule, finalized in May 2015, strengthening requirements for trains hauling flammable material like oil and ethanol. President Trump has targeted most Obama administration regulations for repeal, but so far he hasn't said anything about eliminating or scaling back this one.

Pipelines > rail: While rail offers companies more flexibility on where to move oil, pipelines are cheaper and safer, so they're generally preferred as the default oil mover where and when possible, most experts agree. If there's another big oil boom, you can expect oil-by-rail shipments to go back up, and that's where this report's findings and the regulation would come back to the front burner.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

President Joe Biden vows to be “a president for all Americans”

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden sought to sooth a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, but warned that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

The big picture: Moments after taking the oath of office, Biden spoke on the Capitol’s West front, from the very steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier. They were attempting to overturn an election where Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes.

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.