Yesterday the Federal Railroad Administration announced two grants totaling $766,562 to help advance the use of bio-based fuels and lubricants in American trains. The overall goal for the research programs at North Carolina State University and University of Northern Iowa is critical: reducing our carbon footprint through the use of alternative sources.
With its award, NC State will continue its research into biofuels for freight and passenger rail operations. Ideally, this will result in a recommendation of a “premium” biofuel blend for locomotive engines. And Northern Iowa's National Ag-based Lubricant Center will use its money to study the feasibility of using readily biodegradable soy-based lubricants in freight and passenger railroads.
Now, this is not the FRA's first step into cleaner fuels. Amtrak's Heartland Flyer is now using a blend of biofuel and traditional diesel called B20 on its daily run between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, TX. Thanks to another FRA grant, Amtrak has been able to work with the Oklahoma and Texas Departments of Transportation on this pioneering project.
And I am proud to say that, through its FRA grant, Amtrak's B20-fueled Heartland Flyer has just been selected as one of Time Magazine's 50 Best Inventions of 2010. Time cited Amtrak's "steps toward a greener, low-carbon future" and B20's ability to reduce emissions and slash Amtrak's fuel budget.
“This recognition from TIME magazine is an honor to our state partners and all of us at Amtrak who are working on this project, the nation’s first test of biodiesel in an interstate passenger train. If the test shows this use of a renewable fuel in our locomotive is successful, it’s a home run for our passengers, for our partners and for the planet.”
The Heartland Flyer, part of FRA and Amtrak's pursuit of a reduced carbon footprint
As FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo said, "FRA has a long history of funding research to make railroads more energy efficient and cleaner."
He's got that right. And I congratulate Administer Szabo and everyone at the Federal Railroad Administration for their leadership in working toward clean and green transportation options that reduce our carbon footprint while remaining safe, convenient, and reliable for shippers and passengers.