An Emergency 25-Point Plan for Action
On May 12, 2008, the Reuters news service reported the following:
In 2007, major freight railroads in the United States moved a ton of freight an average of 436 miles on each gallon of fuel. This represents a 3.1 percent improvement over 2006 and an astonishing 85.5 percent improvement since 1980.
“That’s the equivalent of moving a ton of freight all the way from Baltimore to Boston on just a single gallon of diesel fuel,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.
He noted that thanks to railroads’ fuel efficiency gains, since 1980 freight railroads have reduced fuel consumption by 48 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 538 million tons.
Hamberger pointed out that railroads are three or more times more fuel efficient than trucks, adding: “In fact, if just 10 percent of the freight currently moving by truck went instead by rail, the nation could save one billion gallons of fuel per year.”
Nothing will be more vital to the continuing function of the nation than this. In terms of cost and efficiency, nothing compares to rail transport. Since it is apparent that—whether we wish it or not—the United States will have to expand coal consumption as a new energy regime emerges. And it is imperative that there be enough rail transport to deliver it across vast distances.
In addition, the movement of other goods and people will be hobbled by fuel shortages and costs associated with less efficient means such as aircraft, trucks and automobiles. It will take decades to accomplish this task, and it should begin immediately.
AMTRAK should be fully funded and expanded to include not only major metropolitan areas but also smaller cities that are being cut out of commercial air passenger service in a shrinking economy with rising fuels costs.
The economy will depend upon this.