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Amtrak wants to clean up its act and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045

A worthy pledge, no doubt about that, but will 23 years prove to be too little too late?

Scott Snowden
Written by
Scott Snowden

Amtrak has announced it will aim to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across across its North American network by 2045.

'Not only are trains convenient and comfortable, they are also one of the most sustainable modes of transportation,' said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner in a press release. 'With new equipment, modernized stations and net zero emissions, Amtrak can lead the drive toward sustainable transportation throughout the nation.'

Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces, operating more than 300 trains daily over 21,400 miles of track. In the fiscal year 2021, it served 12.2 million passengers and had $2.08 billion in revenue and while it receives a combination of state and federal subsidies, it is managed as a for-profit organization

'Net zero emissions' refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions removed from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, achieving a balance is only the first step. Once the human race actually stops emitting greenhouse gases from fossil fuels altogether, we still need to deal with all the emissions we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere over the many, many years. 

So how does Amtrak plan on achieving a perfect balance? Well, there isn't much specific technical information available yet, but according to the company, 'Amtrak plans to take the following actions, which would provide significant benefits to the customers and communities we serve...'

Achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across Amtrak’s network by 2045 by beginning with efforts to increase energy efficiency, followed by the implementation of renewable fuels and energy.
Reduce diesel fuel use through advanced technologies by leveraging industry-leading research and testing in collaboration with state partners and experts to progress innovation and research in zero-emission technologies.
Achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 by focusing on energy efficiency upgrades to reduce consumption and meeting needs using carbon-free electricity through renewable energy generation.

If the company does indeed put as much effort as it claims it's doing into seeking a green, clean alternative, then it is to be commended and hopefully other corporations, companies and organizations will follow its example. 

'We congratulate Amtrak for this ambitious commitment to further reduce its carbon footprint, cementing its place as a leader in the clean transportation revolution,' said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 'As we continue working to implement President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we look forward to working with Amtrak to demonstrate the key role of passenger rail in fighting climate change.'

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) highlights the important role trains play in the future of sustainable transportation. According to Amtrak, funds from BIL will be used to support this target by helping the company procure a more sustainable fleet and make other improvements to its 'aged assets.' 

An extensive and efficient rail network could oh-so-easily provide an effective and environmentally friendly method of travel and transportation and when you look at how far some other countries (in Europe especially) have developed their infrastructure, the USA suddenly seems to be lagging quite a long way. Which is a shame, because if you've ever traveled across the country by train, you'll know how much fun it can be and how beautiful the landscape is.

RECOMMENDED: The 10 best winter train rides across America

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