Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

For Midwesterners, more boxcars mean cleaner air

09.12.2011
Shifting a fraction of truck-borne freight onto trains would have an outsized impact on air quality in the Midwest, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Much of that impact boils down to simple efficiency, according to Erica Bickford, a graduate student in UW–Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. For each ton they carry, long-distance trucks go about 150 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel. Trains can move a ton more than 400 miles per gallon.

Shifting from road to rail 500 million tons of the freight passing through or to the Midwest would make a large dent in the carbon dioxide spilled into the air by the movement of goods.

"There's a 31 percent decrease in carbon dioxide produced by freight shipping in the region, and that's straight from emissions," says Bickford, who made a model of freight traffic in 10 Midwestern states from Kansas to Ohio that she will present today in San Francisco at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "It's 21 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of what's produced by about 4 million cars."

But carbon dioxide mixes fairly evenly in the atmosphere, spreading its effects around the globe. Bickford's study accounts for weather patterns and the way particular pollutants are distributed to determine how long other products of diesel engines — like black carbon soot and the ozone ingredient and lung irritant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — linger near their sources.

"The result is a much more thorough and local idea of the differences between truck and rail shipping," says Tracey Holloway, director of the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and Bickford's advisor. "If you're emitting CO2 in Indiana or India it has the same impact. But something like soot, that has local impact."

More rail traffic would mean more pollutants near the tracks, but relief near roads frequented by trucks — a tradeoff is unbalanced in favor of more densely populated areas.

"Black carbon and NO2 are harmful to everyone's health," Bickford says. "But because more people live near roads than railroad tracks, more people would benefit from the shifts in these pollutants."

As much as 16 percent less black carbon soot would linger near roads with heavy shipping traffic, according to Bickford's model, while the increase around rail corridors would be as high as 20 percent. Nitrogen dioxide would plummet by as much as 30 percent near roads, but rise by as much as 20 percent near railroad tracks.

Holloway's research group is already working on further modeling to explore connected changes in the number of asthma and heart disease cases.

The effects of greater rail use would be particularly noticeable in the middle of the country, according to Bickford.

"We're sort of a freight crossroads in the Midwest," says Bickford, whose work was funded by the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education at UW–Madison. "International shipping comes into the country on the coasts and then passes through our backyard on the way to its destination."

The study limited hypothetical changes in shipping to trips of more than 400 miles to ensure a cost savings for shippers, and to cargo — such as automobiles and non-perishable food — that could handle the slower trip in railcars. The 500 million tons Bickford selected for travel by rail represent about 5 percent of U.S. truck freight by weight.

"These aren't pie-in-the-sky figures," Holloway says. "They are reasonable and achievable."

And they come with non-pollution benefits, like reduced traffic congestion, wear on roads and demand for diesel fuel.

"Truck freight travels on publically-funded roads, rail traffic on privately-built tracks," Bickford says. "But these benefits could be an impetus for public investment in rail infrastructure."

— Chris Barncard, 608-890-0465, barncard@wisc.edu —

CONTACT: Erica Bickford, ebickford@wisc.edu; Tracey Holloway, 608-262-5356, taholloway@wisc.edu

Erica Bickford | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Laser rescue system for serious accidents
29.11.2016 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

nachricht Bremen University students reach the final at robotics competition with parcel delivery robot
19.10.2016 | BIBA - Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>