Thursday, May 19 2022

The railroad merger sets a clear path towards environmental gains and carbon neutrality. Protecting our environment and reducing emissions induced by climate change is complex and often defined by difficult choices. While we may wish that protecting the environment was as easy as flipping a switch, the reality is rarely that simple.

There will never be a “silver bullet” when it comes to protecting our environment. I believe that, rather than being frustrated by the lack of one-size-fits-all solutions, it can be just as productive today to make thoughtful choices today that allow us to realize additional environmental gains – which can ultimately bring benefits. longer term breakthroughs.

Sometimes progressive environmental victories are hidden from us in plain sight. Take freight transport, for example.

Every year, trucks, ships, planes and trains transport billions of tons of goods. While freight transport keeps the global economy moving – this is essential and inevitable – it is also a major driver of pollutant emissions. According to MIT, freight transport accounts for around 8% of global carbon emissions.

Reducing freight transport is not an option. Indeed, we see and experience the downsides of unforeseen freight restrictions in the current global supply chain chaos that is unfolding. There is much more we can do to ensure that our transportation infrastructure is as modern, reliable and environmentally friendly as possible. And that it’s good for our environment and our economy too.

Such improvements, however, are expensive, often requiring billions of investments to provide large-scale infrastructure improvements. This is why federal debates over legislation to fund infrastructure revitalization are so hotly contested.

Sometimes opportunities emerge to drive change in the communities we call home without depleting cash flow. Here in New England, CSX’s proposed merger with Pan Am Railroad is an opportunity that can quickly bring about significant and positive environmental and economic change without breaking the bank.

The bottom line is simple: CSX is a Class I railroad, ready and capable of modernizing the aging rail infrastructure in our region. This means improved rail lines, updated locomotive fleets with lower maintenance costs and better fuel efficiency, as well as improved technology and operations. In 2019, CSX set a record as the only Class I railroad to use an average of one gallon of fuel to transport freight per thousand gross tons.

The benefits of a modernized and efficient regional rail system for customers are inescapable: shorter lead times, fewer delays, lower costs, less pollution and more await New England if the project is approved. CSX’s higher standards will allow for Pan Am network upgrades and updates that New England’s smaller line currently cannot afford to do on its own. And in the longer term, the environmental benefits will multiply as the region benefits from a rail operator who apparently has the financial foundations to ensure that his actions really match his rhetoric.

Granted, rail is already the most fuel-efficient way to transport goods by land – at least three or four times more efficient than trucks. CSX – thanks to factors such as its modern and efficient fleet and its “Trip Optimizer” software – takes energy efficiency to another level. CSX moves a ton of cargo over 500 miles on just one gallon of fuel, on average. While the average age of locomotives operated by Pan Am today is over 40 years. A merger will introduce new models in accordance with CSX’s national operating standards as a Class I railway. In addition, CSX will be able to service Pan Am’s existing network with fewer locomotives than is required today. ‘hui, which means even less emissions.

Reducing the number of trains and upgrading them would essentially put an end to noise and pollution violations, as well as shared complaints by New England residents about archaic Pan American operations.

The merger between CSX and Pan Am is still under review before the Surface Transportation Board. Approval of the application could be a key step in moving us forward on the track towards net zero freight emissions.

Dr Michael K. Dorsey is currently Director of Strategy for Solair and most recently was a Macmillan Visiting Fellow at the Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont.


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