Amtrak Pledges To Run on Carbon-Free Electrical Power by 2030

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It’s Earth Day 2022, an occasion that calls upon us to stop and reflect upon the condition of our planet and its future trajectory, especially now, as the climate crisis reaches its tipping point.

Will humanity reverse course and save itself, along with the rest of life on Earth, or carry on operating as it has for the past two centuries since the Industrial Revolution laid the groundwork for an eventual planetary catastrophe?


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For its part, Amtrak is decidedly onboard in terms of prioritizing positive environmental action. As Americans return to travel after two years spent sequestered, the U.S.’ primary passenger rail transportation provider today announced its vision for beginning a whole new era in train travel amid what it called “one of the most exciting phases for passenger rail in this nation’s history”.

As an alternative to expensive and carbon-heavy air travel, or gas-guzzling road trips, folks are taking a second look at rail travel; particularly in the wake of the pandemic, which made flying feel so risky that some people may still be anxious about it. And now, with fuel prices hitting record highs and airfare prices rapidly rising, an efficient alternative seems particularly appealing.

To manifest its vision for the future, Amtrak has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, and to transition all onboard electricity to entirely carbon-free power sources by 2030. Part of that destiny will be made possible through the introduction of its new ALC-42 locomotives to its national network to replace the legacy fleet.

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The new Amtrak ALC-42 locomotives in Chicago. (photo via Amtrak)

These engines will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, running cleaner, faster and more efficiently than their predecessors. While consuming less fuel and capable of faster top speeds of 125 mph, the ALC-42s also reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 89 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent. The first set entered service in February 2022 and more of these modernized, upgraded locomotives are already on order.

Already, Amtrak provides significant emissions savings compared to other types of transportation. On a per-passenger mile basis, driving by personal automobile is one of the least efficient modes. Amtrak trains already emit up to 83 percent fewer greenhouse gases per passenger than you would by driving and up to 72 percent fewer than if you were to fly. Between 2010 and 2019, the operator managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, and continues to reduce its fuel and energy consumption year-over-year.

President Joe Biden speaks at a ceremony marking Amtrak's 50th anniversary.
President Joe Biden speaks at a ceremony marking Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. (photo by Amtrak)

“The United States has the opportunity to make use of an unparalleled asset—our railway infrastructure—to support an expanded network of low-carbon, high-capacity intercity passenger rail that can reduce this country’s carbon emissions,” said Amtrak CEO and President, Stephen Gardner. “Creating a future where rail is operated on clean energy, Amtrak is stepping up to President Biden’s Climate Change Commitment and the FRA’s challenge as we aim to transition to carbon-free electricity to power our trains.”

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