May 20, 2010
Rail Freight Highly Energy Efficient

An announcement from the Association of American Railroads from last month reports the very high fuel efficiency of rail for moving freight.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 2010 ó The Association of American Railroads today announced that the nationís freight railroads in 2009 averaged 480 ton-miles to the gallon when moving a ton of freight. Ton-miles-per-gallon is the railroad measurement for fuel efficiency, like autos use miles-per-gallon. Overall, freight rail fuel efficiency is up 104 percent since 1980. In 2009, railroads generated 67 percent more ton-miles than in 1980, while using 18 percent less fuel.

To give you a sense of just how efficient that is imagine you drive a 2 ton SUV. It wold have to get 240 miles per gallon to be as efficient - and it would not be carrying a load. The load would be the SUV itself. Or imagine you drive a half ton pick-up with a half ton load. It would have to get 960 miles per gallon to be as efficient. Railroads are incredibly efficient at moving freight.

"Iím pleased to report on Earth Day that the nationís freight railroads not only haul the goods that America depends on every day, but they do so while benefiting the environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.

While there are many environmental benefits from moving more people and goods by rail, fuel efficiency is where it all starts, Hamberger noted citing the federal governmentís finding that railroads are four times more fuel efficient than trucks. "Railroads are moving more while consuming less fuel, which means weíre emitting fewer greenhouse gases and easing highway congestion."

When world oil production starts declining more freight will move by rail. The cost of living will be lower near freight rail facilities where rail freight gets transferred to trucks. However, if the rate of decline in oil production is steep enough the total volume of freight moved by rail will probably decline due to overall economic contraction.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 May 20 10:28 PM  Energy Transportation

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