SAT Essay Prompt from March 2019 School Day SAT Test

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SAT Essay Prompt from March 6, 2019 School Day SAT Test

As you read the passage below, consider how Marcus Stern uses:

- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

How to Prevent an Oil Train Disaster

By Marcus Stern May 19, 2015

1 The Obama administration recently issued new safety rules for oil trains, to take effect in October. But it didn't do the one thing many independent petroleum engineers say could immediately reduce the risk of a deadly disaster: require energy producers to remove more of the volatile gases that the oil contains when it comes out of the ground, before they load the crude into rail tankers.

2 This can be done easily at most wells. North Dakota recently required producers to extract some of these gases, which include propane and butane. The state is the epicenter of the new oil boom and was the departure point for most of the more than 400,000 oil tank cars that rolled across the United States in 2013.

3 But the North Dakota rule is still too lax, and instead of toughening it, the new federal rules focus on strengthening the tankers that carry the oil. That is a long overdue step that will take five years to complete. And already, the oil industry, which owns many of the tankers and will bear much of the cost of upgrading them, has sued to extend the deadline.

4 Oil companies have a financial stake in keeping the volatile gases in the oil. When the gas-laden oil arrives at refineries, the gases can be separated, processed and sold for added profit. . .

5 If producers are forced to remove these lucrative gases at the well, that significant additional revenue would be lost. North Dakota doesn't have the degasification plants and pipelines needed to process the gas and get it to market.

6 ... As the trains rumble along, the gases begin separating from the oil, forming an explosive blanket of vapors on top of the roughly 30,000 gallons of flammable oil that a single tanker usually contains.

7 If a derailment occurs and the tanker ruptures, a spark could ignite those vapors and send a mushroom-shaped fireball hundreds of feet into the sky, and flaming oil in all directions. A burning tanker could ignite the next one.

8 That's what happened in Lac-Mégantic. It has also happened in nine other places in North America in the past two years, including Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois and twice in North Dakota. Fortunately, nobody died in those other accidents because they occurred in rural, isolated areas. But oil trains also run through crowded urban and suburban neighborhoods. Albany is a major hub for oil shipments by trains from North Dakota, with trains traveling south along the Hudson River toward mid-Atlantic refineries.

9 The Obama administration is well aware of this risk. After the earlier oil train explosions, the administration issued a series of emergency orders and safety alerts stressing the oil's volatility and the "imminent hazard" it posed to communities along the tracks.

10 But after almost two years of orders, alerts and testing, the 395-page final rule offered no explanation for why the trains were exploding and took no steps to require oil developers to reduce the oil's volatility before shipping it by rail. Instead, the administration said it planned to spend up to two more years studying whether — and perhaps how — to regulate oil's volatility.

11 Some have suggested that federal action was unnecessary because on April 1 North Dakota began requiring oil companies to reduce their oil's vapor pressure to no more than 13.7 pounds per square inch. But this is clearly inadequate. Some of the oil tank cars that have ignited have had vapor pressures well below that.

12 The new rules have other shortcomings. No disclosure is required to alert the general public that oil trains will be passing through their borders. Emergency responders can get the information, but wider distribution raised security concerns. And railroads are not required to have comprehensive emergency plans, as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board and Canada's Transportation Safety Board.

13 The new rules on oil trains don't go nearly far enough to protect the town centers, schools and homes that these trains pass by with increasing regularity. The Obama administration should quickly enact an aggressive interim volatility standard while it searches for a more durable solution.

Write an essay in which you explain how Marcus Stern builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to work fewer hours. In your essay, analyze how Marcus Stern uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Marcus Stern claims, but rather explain how Marcus Stern builds an argument to persuade his audience.

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