The Association of American Railroads (AAR) outlined policy proposals aimed at safely and effectively combatting climate change. As the leader in fuel-efficient surface transportation, railroads know more must be done to drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Armed with the right policies, railroads – and the nation – can make real progress toward a cleaner, more sustainable economy.
“Policymakers, businesses and individuals must unite and act swiftly on smart, lasting solutions to fuel economic recovery and protect our environment,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Well-designed, economically sound policies can effectively drive the economy toward lower overall emissions, specifically in the transportation sector. Railroads stand ready to be a part of the solution.”
Today, railroads account for roughly 40% of U.S. long-distance freight volume – more than any other mode of transportation. At the same time, railroads account for just 2.1% of transportation-related emissions according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. If 10% of the freight shipped today by the largest trucks were moved by rail instead, GHG emissions would fall more than 17 million tons annually or the equivalent of removing 3.35 million cars from the road.
In the newly released paper, railroads encourage lawmakers to embrace economically grounded, market-based solutions capable of shifting the nation toward lower-or-zero-carbon choices. Specifically, railroads called on policymakers to:
- Enact a reasonable, market-based emissions reductions strategy to empower competition;
- Restore the Highway Trust Fund to a user-pays system with a short-term fuel tax increase followed by a structured transition to a vehicle miles traveled fee in the longer-term;
- Impose an emissions surcharge based on vehicle fuel efficiency to provide dedicated funding for environmentally efficient passenger rail where appropriate.
To further reduce emissions, robust investments in basic and sector-specific research are essential to unlock energy solutions that can power our economy and further reduce GHG emissions. Policymakers should:
- Embrace research partnerships between government and the private sector;
- Increase funding for ongoing research into alternative fuels and advanced battery storage;
- Expand and support use of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) through market development programs and tax incentives;
- Provide operational and regulatory flexibility to spur adoption of new technologies.
While the nation’s climate goals must be clear and unified, reducing emissions will ultimately be tackled on a sector-by-sector basis. For long-term, sustainable gains, policymakers must engage the rail industry to identify and prioritize proposals that:
- Ensure railroads can continue to invest in modernizing and maintaining their infrastructure by preserving the current balanced regulatory system;
- Allow innovation to guide railroads’ GHG reductions and avoid prescriptive means for reducing emissions.
-via Press Release