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Intermodal traffic, regulatory change and carbon energy conservation in US freight transport

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Conserving transport carbon emissions is an important policy goal. Conventional wisdom often holds that conservation is best achieved by increased regulation, and that such gains are best achieved in passenger auto transport (fuel efficiency standards or diversion to transit). We argue that the growth of rail freight has conserved carbon fuel use in the United States, and that fuel-saving changes have been facilitated by reduced regulation since 1980. Methods used include estimation of translog cost functions (and related demand functions for fuel) for intermodal rail and for truck, allowing controlled comparisons of modal fuel use. We find intermodal rail (e.g. trailer on flatcar) to be a powerful conserver: if intermodal rail were eliminated, and traffic transferred to over-the-highway truck, extra annual carbon emissions would be nearly 25 Tg. By comparison, if urban passenger transit were eliminated and replaced by autos (according to one study) the extra annual emissions would be only 3.9 Tg.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Management, Marketing and Finance,College of Business, North Dakota State University, PO Box 6050FargoND 58108-6050, USA 2: Department of Economics,University of California, BerkeleyCA, USA

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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