Monday, November 06, 2006

Optimizing freight for the economy and the environment

Optimize freight transportation system to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions

Take action to reduce the environmental footprint of freight transportation in Pennsylvania by moving more freight by rail and barge.

Current Status:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from combustion of fossil fuels is the largest source of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Fossil fuel combustion in the transport sector accounted for 28% of U.S. energy consumption (13.1 millions barrels of oil equivalent per day) and 31% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (1,860 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually) [1, 2]. Vehicles and light trucks accounted for approximately 60% of CO2 emissions in the transport sector [2].

In 2002, 74% of freight from Pennsylvania was shipped by truck, with only 15% shipped by rail [3]. Shipping one ton of goods by truck uses approximately ten times the amount of fuel and hence produces ten times the amount of greenhouse gas than shipping the same amount of goods by rail or barge [4]. Pennsylvania has excellent rail infrastructure, and received the highest rating of all Pennsylvania infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers Scorecard, a "B"”. The Port of Pittsburgh, which spans an 11-county region in Southwestern PA, is the second largest inland port and thirteenth busiest port of any kind in the U.S. [5]. The navigable waterways infrastructure however, PA'’s locks and dams, were given a "D-"” and require significant reinvestment [6].

Policy Recommendation:
The region needs to maximize use of rail and barge to move commodities that originate and travel through Pennsylvania. This can be achieved by analyzing existing freight routes to identify bottlenecks, and investment in existing and new multimodal freight terminals to facilitate rail and barge shipment of goods. Existing brownfield sites that are located nearby freight lines should be identified and targeted for development. Pennsylvania should analyze and consider the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey'’s Port Inland Distribution Network (PIDN) proposal, as it could have significant economic and environmental benefits for the Commonwealth [7]. The PIDN would load ocean freight onto rail cars in New Jersey, where they would be shipped to a Western Pennsylvania multimodal terminal for distribution - reducing shipping costs, roadway wear-and-tear, and air pollution. Funding sources that could be leveraged for new freight initiatives could come from public-private partnerships, liquid fuels taxes, additional federal grants, and expanded user fee tolling
. Other funding ideas could be a reduction in the diesel fuel tax for rail and barge operations, so they could be more attractive to shipping companies. There is a potential for significant savings in highway and bridge maintenance if rail and barge freight is better utilized.

Response to criticisms:

Criticism: We don't have any money for new incentives and investments in freight rail and barge infrastructure.

Response: By reducing the number of trucks on PA roadways, there will be significant savings from reduced required maintenance. Although trucks are and will continue to be essential to freight and commerce in the Commonwealth, an optimized freight system using trucks, rail, and barges will benefit the economy and the environment.

[1] "Annual Energy Review, 2004," Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. DOE/EIA-0384 (2004). 2005.

[2] "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:1990-2004," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA 430-R-06-002, April 15, 2006 2006.

[3] U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation. 2002.

[4] Transportation Energy Data Book, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy. 2004.

[5] Port of Pittsburgh Commission, 2006.

[6] American Society of Civil Engineers PA Infrastructure Report Card, 2006.

[7] Port Authority of New York and New Jersey PIDN, 2006.


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