The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has published a position paper encouraging lawmakers “to embrace economically grounded, market-based solutions” as they consider reductions in transportation sector emissions.
The paper’s March 1 release (download below) follows U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s Feb. 25 announcement that they will team “to fight climate change and limit the environmental impacts” from the countries’ transportation networks.
“As the leader in fuel-efficient surface transportation, railroads know more must be done to drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” AAR said. “Armed with the right policies, railroads—and the nation—can make real progress toward a cleaner, more sustainable economy.”
Railroads call on policymakers to consider:
• Leveraging market-based competition. This includes implementing “a reasonable, market-based emissions reduction strategy”; restoring 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”; and imposing “an emissions surcharge based on vehicle fuel efficiency to provide dedicated funding for environmentally efficient passenger rail where appropriate.”
• Encouraging innovative solutions. This includes government and private-sector research partnerships; increased funding for ongoing alternative fuels and advanced battery storage research; and expansion and support of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) through market development programs and tax incentives; and “operational and regulatory flexibility to spur adoption of new technologies.” (See Railway Age’s “The ‘H’ Factor” and “BNSF/Wabtec BEL Pilot Under Way.”)
• Engaging the rail industry to identify and prioritize proposals. This includes ensuring “railroads can invest in maintaining and sustaining their infrastructure by preserving the current balanced economic regulatory system.” It also means allowing innovation to guide GHG reductions and avoiding “prescriptive means for reducing emissions by certain industries—particularly those that have proven untenable, such as catenary electrification of the freight rail network.” (For an alternate viewpoint, see Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze’s “Don’t Dismiss Freight Rail Electrification” column.)
“Policymakers, businesses and individuals must unite and act swiftly on smart, lasting solutions to fuel economic recovery and protect our environment,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said. “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.”