Evidentiary experience of prevailing negative consequences of Climate Change is mounting. The fallout from a changing global climate have even been well documented by scientists. Here's a primer on climate change agents. An unstable environment with millions of displaced people would be a threat to global security.
Heavy Trucks are the Nation's Fastest Growing Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In the U.S., the transportation sector is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases. From 1990 to 2006, "Transportation greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions increased 27 percent, accounting for almost one-half of the increase in total U.S. GHG emissions for the period.[Transportation's Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Volume 1, Synthesis Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Transportation, April, 2010, p. ES-3.] Since 1990, GHG emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks have increased 77 percent, growing at three times the rate of emissions from light-duty vehicles." The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, that heavy trucks are causing big increases in transportation greenhouse gas emission growth rates.
Despite a 42 percent increase [projected between 2007-2030] in VMT [Vehicle Miles Traveled is a measurement of transportation growth patterns] light-duty vehicle GHG emissions are projected to decline nearly 12 percent, in response to expected increases in fuel economy from corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations, advanced technologies, and alternative fuels.
Freight trucks, on the other hand, show a projected 20 percent increase in emissions, even though freight truck VMT grows at a similar rate to light-duty vehicles. Comparing transportation modes, the share of GHG emissions from freight trucks is increasing faster than any other mode. [U.S. DOT, op. cit., pg. ES-2-26.]
At the state level, research by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) confirms growth in heavy truck freight traffic is faster than all other vehicles in the transportation sector.
Measurement of transportation growth is measured in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Annual VMT growth for heavy-duty trucks in Tennessee is not only the highest in the transportation sector--it outstrips all other classes of vehicles by 50%.
It is important to recall here that the impact of a tractor trailer mile is much greater than that of a "light-duty gasoline vehicle" or passenger car.
Big trucks are far less fuel-efficient than cars; the U.S. fleet of tractor-trailers average about five or six MPG (miles per gallon).[Kodjak, D., Policy discussion-heavy duty truck fuel economy, National Commission on Energy Policy, 2004.] And these trucks produce GHGs far in excess of their share of VMT. With the national auto fleet average of about 28 MPG,[MSNBC staff and news reports, Obama unveils mpg rule, gets broad support, 5-19-09] one heavy truck mile is the rough equivalent of four car miles, though diesel engines have a small advantage over gasoline motors of the same size in overall GHG emissions.[U.S. Energy Information Agency,[U.S. Energy Information Agency, Light-Duty Diesel Vehicles: Efficiency and Emissions Attributes and Market Issues, Report #: SR/OIAF(2009)02
February 2009] The high VMT growth rate of tractor trailers makes a very large contribution to GHG growth in Tennessee and in the U.S.
In the chart, above, you can see that the transportation sector in Tennessee is by far the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions compared to all other economic sectors. That growth in CO2 emissions is expected to accelerate over the 2005-2025 period. In the chart below, you can see that Tennessee is not that different from the U.S. in its distribution of CO2 emission sources.
Chart: TDOT, I-40/I-81 Corridor Study
The Steel Interstate is Crucial to Reducing U.S. GHG Emissions
A 2009 Millennium Institute study, [see first pdf in “Related Resource” column on right] modeled a nationwide, electrified, inter-city rail system (similar to the Steel Interstate System) and determined the U.S. GHG reduction if such a system was implemented, along with the game-changing national investments in urban transit and renewable energy. The study abstract states,
Several policy scenarios were modeled with constrained oil supply using Millennium Institute’s T21-USA model. The most positive result by every significant metric (GDP, greenhouse gas emissions, oil used) came from the combination of the two most environmentally positive policies: a massive push for electrified rail transportation (inter-city railroads and Urban Rail) coupled with a massive push for renewable energy, to be completed by 2030.
With an estimated total investment of $250-500 billion in inter-city railroad lines Non-Oil Transportation could supplant most inter-city truck freight and unspecified modal share of passenger service. Up to $60 billion/year ($1.2 trillion over 20 years), spent cost effectively on Urban Rail, should allow for 28% annual growth (not compounded) in urban passenger-miles on Non-Oil Transportation. These two investments create an 11% larger GDP, only 4% increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and a 6% reduction in oil consumption already in 2030 versus a strictly market based reaction. Adding renewable energy improved the results to GDP +13%, GHG -38% and oil consumption -22%.
The report concludes:
A new paradigm appears to be evolving from this work. Public policy goals that were once considered contradictory can be, in fact, complementary. The best economic policy can also be the best energy policy, as well as the best environmental policy and best national security policy already in the short and medium term, when considering an oil constrained scenario. Previously competing interests and stakeholders could find a common policy to unite behind for quite disparate reasons and with fundamentally different priorities.[Drake, A., Bassai, A., Tennyson, E., Herren, H., Evaluating the Creation of a Parallel Non-Oil Transportation System in an Oil-Constrained Future, Millennium Institute, January, 2009.]
Placing into a broader perspective the implications of fuel-savings and, consequently, GHG emission savings, the Steel Interstate model would accomplish, a lead researcher for the Millennium Institute study, Alan Drake, asserts,
Train photo credit: Dave Foster This driver is rested and ready from his ride in a sleeper as trucks roll off a "truck ferry" train in Freiburg, Germany
Transferring 85% of truck freight to rail, and electrifying half [about 35,000 corridor miles] of US railroads, which the author considers to be possible with a large enough investment (see Appendix Four), would save 2.3 to 2.4 million barrels/day. That is 12% of USA oil used today for all purposes, not just transportation.
This dwarfs any other [oil-conservation option] being actively discussed that can be implemented quickly. And best yet, no new technology is required. This analysis shows that the major oil savings are in transferring freight from trucks to electrified rail. Electrified rail passenger service is an added, but unspecified, bonus.[Drake, A., Multiple Birds – One Silver BB: A synergistic set of solutions to multiple issues focused on Electrified Railroads, The Oil Drum]
Higher speed, intermodal, electric, freight rail is achievable using off-the-shelf-technology, improved, and electrified rail infrastructure in the U.S. Whole truck ferries are in use in other parts of the world.
Even if conventional energy sources power the Steel Interstate instead of renewable energies, just one unit of energy from the grid would require 20 units of diesel energy in trucks to move the same load.
Even a standard diesel-powered railroad is substantially more efficient than over-the-road trucking. Trains waste less energy than trucks because they encounter less friction than truck tires on pavement. Diesel locomotive engines run electrical generators that run electric motors at the wheels. Moving inter-city trucking to a diesel-powered rail system would save the economy $91.56 per ton of GHG emissions avoided. Imagine how many more tons of GHG emissions could be avoided with a super-efficient, electric Steel Interstate, powered by renewable energy. This kind of transportation system is not just something we can do with off-the-shelf technology, it is something we must do!
Remember, burning fuel more efficiently means that less fuel is needed to produce the energy we need. The less we burn, the less toxic fumes and greenhouse gases in the exhaust. Large locomotive diesels are cleaner than motor-vehicle engines. Power plants are cleaner than diesel engines. Wind and other carbon-free sources are cleanest of all. Electrified trains can run on electricity from any source as we develop wind, tidal, solar-thermal, photovoltaic and hydro sources, which produce no greenhouse gases at all.
Rail Lines Can Foster Renewable Energy Transmission
Railroad infrastructure offers the potential to transmit to markets electricity generated by windmills, solar energy installations, and other renewable energy generators in remote locations--such as off-shore on the Eastern Continental Shelf or the Great Plains, or the desert Southwest. Railroads can use of the renewable generation to power the North American Steel Interstate System. Though this is not appropriate everywhere, railroads are single-owner rights-of-way that offer opportunity for electric transmission where appropriate and crucial to green energy development.
The Steel Interstate: "The best economic policy can also be the best energy policy, as well as the best environmental policy and the best national security policy"
The most cost-effective action to reduce GHGs that the nation can undertake is to build and operate the Steel Interstate System--electrified trains, which will carry the freight that inter-city tractor trailers now haul. When the electricity to power Steel Interstate trains is supplied by coupling the project with a national energy efficiency program or by developing non-combustion, renewable energy sources--wind turbines, solar and solar-thermal, tides and small scale hydro--the rail portion of this intermodal system operates almost free of GHG emissions. Railroads could also run on nuclear-generated energy, but we recommend the clean renewable energy sources because nuclear poses greater risk than all other sources.
Policy, climate and ecology writer Susan Kraemer, listing the various government plans analyzed by the Center for Climate Strategies to reduce GHG emissions, reports that many of the plans would actually turn a profit. Diverting mid- and long-distance truck freight to a diesel locomotive operated train is the #1 most cost-effective of all is the Steel Interstate--electrified trains operating on renewable energy.
Links to more information
Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, 1250 Rudlin St, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada