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


  • John Bitzan
  • Theodore Keeler


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.

Suggested Citation

  • John Bitzan & Theodore Keeler, 2011. "Intermodal traffic, regulatory change and carbon energy conservation in US freight transport," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(27), pages 3945-3963.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:43:y:2011:i:27:p:3945-3963
    DOI: 10.1080/00036841003742603

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Bitzan & Theodore Keeler, 2014. "The evolution of U.S. rail freight pricing in the post-deregulation era: revenues versus marginal costs for five commodity types," Transportation, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 305-324, March.

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