WASHINGTON — The nation’s freight railroads today announced that they expect to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2012, as part of President Bush’s “Climate VISION” initiative. Over the past two decades, the nation’s railroads have dramatically reduced the rate of greenhouse gases emissions through new technology and improved operating practices.
“The commitments exemplified by the… rail industry… are exactly the sort of voluntary efforts that Americans are known for, and exactly the sort needed to meet President Bush’s ambitious vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson.
Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, noted that the railroad industry has already reduced the emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 70 percent over the past two decades. Railroads are the most environmentally friendly form of ground transportation.
Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emission coming from diesel locomotives, and those emissions are directly related to the amount of fuel used.
“In 1980,” Hamberger said, “a gallon of diesel fuel moved a ton of freight 235 miles by rail. Today, that same gallon can move a ton of freight 406 miles.
“This means that freight railroads have reduced the rate of emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 30 million tons annually. We expect to continue this remarkable trend,” Hamberger said.
He noted that rail freight transportation is on average more than three times as fuel-efficient as trucks “so every time a ton of freight moves by rail instead of the highway, greenhouse gas emissions are further reduced.” In 2002, through cooperative efforts with the trucking industry, logistics providers and ocean steamship lines, railroads took more than 9 million truck trailers and containers off the highways.
Hamberger said new technology, continued research and improved operating practices will be key ingredients in achieving the railroad industry’s goal.
“Over just the past few years, railroads have installed more than 3,000 AC traction units in the locomotive fleet over. Two of these units do as much work as three DC units. That improves both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Other developments cited by the AAR president include research into top of rail lubrication, which increases fuel efficiency; and development of idling reduction technology that reduces emissions and energy used when locomotives are idling. One such device can reduce diesel fuel use during idling by more than 80 percent.
“I am also very hopeful that through cooperative research with the locomotive manufacturers and the federal government we can achieve additional reductions,” Hamberger said. “In fact, the railroads and the two largest locomotive manufacturers — General Motors and General Electric — have worked with the Department of Energy to develop a road map of research and technology projects that point the way toward additional improvements.”
The AAR’s announcement was released today in conjunction with the public rollout of the Administration’s “Climate VISION (Climate, Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now) initiative. The initiative responds to President Bush’s climate strategy that was announced last February.