FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (#10-09)
May 27, 2010
Contacts: Sean Jeans-Gail and Ross Capon – 202-408-8362
Rail’s Energy Efficiency Offers Solutions for a Long-Term Energy Strategy
In response to President Obama’s call for “a long-term energy strategy,” the National Association of Railroad Passengers urged dramatic expansion of the nation’s passenger rail fleet as a key element in plans to increase energy efficiency and reduce American dependence on oil.
The President’s remarks—delivered yesterday during an event in San Francisco—highlighted the dwindling reserves of conventional sources of fuel, and called for the development of a national plan to reduce energy consumption and increase alternative methods of energy development.
“Even if you hadn’t seen the catastrophe down in the Gulf, the reason that folks are now having to go down a mile deep into the ocean, and then another mile drilling into the ground below, that is because the easy oil fields and oil wells are gone, or they’re starting to diminish,” the President said. “That tells us that we’ve got to have a long-term energy strategy in this country.”
Transportation—which accounts for two thirds of U.S. oil consumption and one third of carbon emissions—is a crucial sector to address in meeting energy constraints. Federal figures show that Amtrak is 28% and 19% more energy efficient per passenger-mile than automobiles and airplanes, respectively. These numbers actually understate rail’s advantage, both because Amtrak has been undercapitalized and because rail supports transit and pedestrian-friendly real estate development, reducing the distances most people must travel to live, work and play.
Serious investment in passenger trains would divert travelers to more energy-efficient transportation and create domestic manufacturing and operating jobs. Passenger trains also offer “fuel flexibility,” as rail is the only transportation that delivers high performance over long distances on electricity. Trains have a low impact on land and water quality, as the porous nature of rail infrastructure eliminates the flooding and toxic runoff generated by paved surfaces, tarmacs and parking lots.
“If we doubled the size of Amtrak’s fleet, and had the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak work closely with the freight railroads to identify bottlenecks that can be removed to allow the doubling of train frequencies, we could—in a relatively short period of time—save literally millions of car-trips every year while improving quality of life for the American people,” said NARP President Ross Capon.
First Steps Already Being Taken
Capon praised the Obama Administration for the intercity passenger train funding including in last year’s Recovery Act, and noted that just today the FRA announced the first actual release of funds—$80 million—from the $8 billion in Recovery Act money set aside for passenger train capital grants for states.
“Delivering these funds is an important step forward in our efforts to upgrade and transform America’s transportation system, while spurring economic activity and creating jobs here at home,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “Our unprecedented investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail is not only going to provide real environmental benefits and greater convenience for travelers, but also long-term economic development for communities across the country.”
The foundation for distributing this money has been put in place. Transportation advocates and the public are asking Congress to follow the President’s lead and provide significant funding for high speed rail in this year’s budget—with an emphasis on procuring new cars and locomotives to expand and replace the existing fleet.
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