Saturday, May 19, 2007

From Netizen Kevikens

Sent: Friday, May 18, 2007 12:11 PM
To: "" <>
Subject: From Netizen Kevikens

This past week I attented a conference of the ATC, the American Transport Commission in Baltimore. Among the topics that came up was the run up in transportation costs for all movers of freight. None of the freight movers, either in trucking or railroads can any longer move any cargo without raising their rates. The necessity of doing this was bemoaned by all the conferencees as everyone knew that these costs would then be added to the costs of everything from the the delivery of raw materials to industry to finished goods to market. This will result in a reduction of buying power as consumers will be left with less cash for discretionary buying and this could propel the economy into a steep recesssion. Naturally the question of how the damage caused by the rising costs of transportation fuel could be mitigated came up and some interesting proposals were voiced. I'll mention a few of them.

Long distance trucking may have to be drastically curtailed as a mode of long distance transportation. The price of filling up a tractor trailer vehicle with diesel fuel has reached the point where the value of the fuel used excedes the value of the cargo being hauled.Representatives of the rail industry pointed out that locomotives can transport these heavy and bulky cargoes, grain, ores, coal and lumber for now and still cost effectively but not much longer if the costs of diesel fuel keep going up. In addition the railroads pointed out that over the past two decades or so so much excess trackage was torn up that even if fuel were to stabilize there is not enough rail capacity to take over what the trucking industry had been hauling. Some of the rail officials have seriously suggested that as we still have an abundance of coal that existing steam engines be returned to the rails. Apparently there are several hundred old steam engines on tourists lines and in museums that could be returned to service in this emergency until something more permanent could be constructed. The more permanent solution they mentioned was to electrify most rail lines to use electric locomotives to replace the oil burning diesels. The electric power could be generated by coal or perhaps hydro-electric. Either one would be preferable to burning oil. Here along the East Coast many of the rail lines are electified but at the moment they are moving only passengers, not freight and rail officials say that must change.

I did not have the opportunity to stay for the last day of the conference but I believe they were set to adopt a resolution calling upon the Federal Government to temporarialy ban long distance trucking moves and to nationalize the railroads, place them under federal jurisdiction and immediately start the construction of electric lines and phase oil burning diesel locomotives out of use. Before leaving Baltimore I did pick up a draft copy of the resolution and it requests that members write to their state legislators and congressman asking for these policies to be implemented. If so please mention to them that the ATC will formaly adopt this resolution as settled policy.

Netizen Kevikens

1 comment:

gerben_wulff said...

There are more options than you proposed.

Diesel locomotives can be converted to running dual fuel on diesel/CNG (or diesel/LNG). This will save approx. 70% in diesel consumption. (But will add some CNG or LNG cost.) This will require the installation of a CNG or LNG infrastructure to fill the locomotives. Locomotives will still be capable of running on 100% diesel if needed.
A more costly conversion is to convert diesel engines into monofuel CNG (or LNG) engines. Also with this option you cannot use diesel as a backup fuel.
The adaptations mentioned above can also be applied to trucks. (In fact they have as far as I know only been applied to trucks and stationary generators.)

Another option worth mentioning is ordering new steam locomotives. New coal fired steam engine designs have been proposed for years which are much more fuel efficient than the old locomotives.