Railroads for passengers and freight must be part of the solution, with the energy cost savings from this efficient mode of transportation.
Railroads run on electrical motors. Some transit systems use a “hot grid” to power these motors, with an electrified cable or “third rail.” Long-haul railroad engine electrical motors are powered by generators run by diesel engines, which could use bio-diesel, processed from soybean oil, waste oil/polymers, and/or algae. Soybeans enrich the soil in which they are grown, and algae can be grown from wastewater treatment plant effluent. Ultimately, we would be using our own sustainable resources to stop the energy trade deficit that has devastated our economy and weakened our national security for almost four decades.
Passenger rail service includes urban rail transit systems, as well as city-to-city networks traveling over existing conventional tracks, or using high-speed “bullet train” technology. All Aboard Ohio! and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce are working toward linking the Mid-West and East Coast passenger rail networks with a Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh connection.
Freight transportation is the bloodstream of our economy, moving raw materials and products to where they are needed. The volume of foreign oil used for freight transportation must surpass every other category combined, and without a self-contained, sustainable fuel supply, we are bleeding our wealth every day we convert imported oil into diesel fuel. Price spikes add cost to everything that everyone buys, and have put too many truckers in debt, or out of business.
Railroads must play a central role in restructuring our economy for energy independence, using a network of strategically placed rail-truck terminals. Trucking would still be essential for local/regional deliveries, and for express-delivery "hot freight," but we need to use railroads as the standard for long-haul tonnage. Having managed freight shipping (trailerload contract carriers, LTL common carriers, UPS, and intermodal truck-rail-ocean) for manufacturers, I have experienced the savings of using railroads.
Rail-truck intermodal shipping containers are the most cost-effective inland transportation system on the market. Fifteen years ago I was able to save $300-400 per "48x102" trailerload, using intermodal shipping containers to supply my customers in New York, shipping from Tupelo, MS through the Memphis, TN intermodal rail terminal. Diesel fuel retailed for about $0.75 per gallon back then, causing intermodal cost savings to multiply with the cost of imported oil.
Since returning to Ohio, I have been advocating the construction of a regional rail-truck intermodal shipping container terminal in the Youngstown area. This idea has gained support with our regional transportation planning and economic development organizations, and I am now involved with discussions about site selection, engineering, and funding.
So much for my experience and insights, I want to hear about yours. This group was created for anybody with an interest in railroads as a solution for our energy and economy.