Best 50 Inventions of 2010
No. 24

قطار أمتراك الذي يعمل بلحم البقر

Amtrak’s Beef-Powered Train


Compared with its ultramodern counterparts in Europe and Japan, Amtrak is not a font of innovation. But on its Heartland Flyer — a daily service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas — Amtrak is taking tentative steps toward a greener, low-carbon future. Since spring, the Heartland Flyer has been running on 20% biodiesel rather than the carbon-heavy diesel fuel on which Amtrak's other trains — with the exception of the electric Acela Express — currently operate. The biodiesel reduces air pollution and helps cash-strapped Amtrak save on fuel. And appropriately for a train in cow country, the biodiesel is made from rendered cattle fat. Biodiesel from beef burns cleaner than plant biodiesel, though it may not be scalable outside the beef belt.


Debate about the subject:

Amtrak train

Taking Amtrak's Heartland Flyer train between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City sometime in the next year? You will be hitching a ride on the first beef byproducts-powered biodiesel train. The train, which runs on 80% regular diesel and 20% beef-based biofuel from a Texas vendor, is running for the next 12 months courtesy of a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration. But is it morally suspect?

Amtrak says that the cow tallow (read: rendered fat from cattle) fuel reduces hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 10%, cuts down on particulates by 15%, and reduces sulfates by 20% compared to standard diesel. All good things, to be sure. And as long the cows for the Heartland Flyer's fuel would have been killed anyway, it's hard to argue with Amtrak.

Still, the idea of sitting in a train powered by animal fat gives us pause. Unsurprisingly, PETA isn't too keen on the idea. "The answer to pollution is not to use the ground up remains of tortured animals for fuel.  Anything using animal remains is going to be both depleting of and polluting of our environment," explained Bruce Friedrich, PETA's VP for Policy.

In any case, Amtrak has yet to decide if tallow-based biofuel will make it past the test stages. Over the next year, the company will gather information about the potential impact of the fuel on train valves and gaskets.

More Information about the subject ( ):

Travel Green with Amtrak

Recognized as one of the more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, Amtrak strives for a greener passenger rail with practices and tactics for improved fuel and energy efficiency. At Amtrak the earth matters, so travel green and learn how to become even more eco-smart.

Energy Efficient Travel

At Amtrak we're committed to increasing our energy efficiency by improving operating practices and conservation measures as well as reducing emissions. Open up the fact sheet below to read all about it.


Rail's Carbon Footprint

Traveling by train generates a lesser amount of carbon dioxide than either car or air travel. This and other steps can reduce your carbon footprint. Consider carbon offsetting to mitigate any remaining greenhouse gas emissions.


Amtrak Recycles

Amtrak is committed to making recycling an integral part of train travel and strives to protect the environment and conserve its resources by reusing material, recycling waste and preventing pollution.

Auto Train: Earth-Smart Travel

When you ride the Auto Train and take your vehicle off the road, you're giving the earth a break too. You'll save your car and help the earth every time you ride.


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We are dedicated to the ongoing mission of building a safer, greener, healthier railroad. Learn more about our projects and progress in the latest report.


Going "Green" on Acela

When it comes to defining those terms in the transportation industry, Acela Express is at the head of the class.