America is such an outlier in so many ways. Take trains for instance. While many Americans are utterly and entirely opposed to a national high-speed rail system, systems that are popular in nearly every other 1st world country, our freight rail system is second to none. Trains can make a lot of freight on very little fuel, and now the famed Union Pacific Railroad is testing a fleet of 25 locomotives with various emissions-reducing technologies.
Clean, Green Locomotives
Union Pacific is one of America’s oldest train lines, operating up and down the California coast and hauling millions of tons of freight every year. While trains are incredibly efficient when it comes to moving freight, they primarily run on diesel fuel which has been proven by numerous studies to increase the likelihood of cancer. New emissions standards are forcing rail companies to employ new techniques and technologies to reduce locomotive emissions, especially through congested urban areas.
For its part, Union Pacific is equipping its trains with some familiar technologies to car enthusiasts. In particular I am referring to an exhaust gas recirculation, or EGR system, combined with diesel particulate filters and an oxidation catalyst to reduce emissions to meet new Tier 4 standards.
Many Technologies, Fewer Emissions
These new standards call for a 45% reduction in NoX emissions and an 85% reducion in particulate emissions. Only one of the 25 Union Pacific locomotives is getting all three of these technologies; 9 others will be fitted with an EGR system only, and the remaining 15 can be retrofitted with EGR systems, should it prove effective.
Trains, both passenger and freight, could go a long way towards reducing America’s dependence on oil, though there are other competing technologies that could prove more effective. In particular I am thinking of GE’s hybrid locomotive, a project that has been years in the making, though has yet to make its primetime debut. GE is also working with Amtrak on beef-biodiesel fuel for passenger trains in America’s Heartland.
Either way, trains are vital to our nation’s future, and making them run cleaner and leaner will benefit us all.