Test Run Under Way for Amtrak's 'Beef Train'

May 1, 2010 by Miranda Marquit, Phys.org weblog
Test Run Under Way for Amtrak's 'Beef Train'
Test Run Under Way for Amtrak's 'Beef Train'. Image source: Wikipedia.org

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an effort to create a greener train, Amtrak has unveiled the Heartland Flyer, which is designed to run on a special biodiesel blend that includes beef byproducts. The idea is to reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 10% each and reduce sulfates by 20%. Amtrak also claims that particulates will be reduced by 15% with the help of this new fuel mix.

However, the train won't be running solely on cow power. Discover reports on how Amtrak will use the fuel:

The Heartland Flyer uses about 100,000 gallons of each year to move 84,000 people. For this one-year test run, Amtrak will replace 20 percent of that fuel with , produced from tallow from Texas cows. The fat from the cattle, which is normally used to make and soap, will now instead help power a train.

While the new biofuel can be used on standard train engines, the Heartland Flyer has been given new parts so that it is possible to determine how much damage the biofuel is inflicting on the train over the course of a year. The Flyer is only expected to run for a year, between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Forth Worth, Texas, and then the engine and the train's performance will be evaluated.

At first glance, it seems as though this might be a great idea for biofuel. Use cow byproducts to fuel a train. But those products are often used anyway, in soap and other products. Besides, PopSci reports, these cows are often grain-finished with corn, and there are questions about the how environmentally friendly the process is:

Sure, it may benefit certain regions around Oklahoma and Texas where a cattle industry produces beef byproducts as waste regardless. But it's hard to imagine corn-fed cattle as an environmentally friendly stock for widespread biofuel usage, especially when some scientists already fret over the economic and environmental impact of making biofuel directly from corn.

It will be necessary to carefully consider the true environmental impacts of this , as well as the way the fuel affects the train's engine and performance.

Explore further: Jatropha Helps Air New Zealand Cut Its CO2 Emissions by More Than 60%

More information: Smriti Rao, "All Aboard the Beef Train -- Amtrak Debuts a Train Running on Beef Biofuel," Discover (April 27, 2010). Available online: blogs.discovermagazine.com/dis … ing-on-beef-biofuel/

Jeremy Hsu, "Get on the Beef Train: Amtrak Unveils First Biodiesel Commuter Train, Powered By Animal By-Products," PopSci (April 26, 2010). Available online: www.popsci.com/technology/arti … el-commuter-train-us

Related Stories

Biofuels: More than just ethanol

April 5, 2007

As the United States looks to alternate fuel sources, ethanol has become one of the front runners. Farmers have begun planting corn in the hopes that its potential new use for corn will be a new income source. What many ...

Bringing the Biodiesel

June 8, 2009

For some people, "biodiesel" might seem like a novelty product for which only hybrid car-driving tree huggers wouldn't mind paying a premium.

Algae-Based Biofuel From Fish

September 1, 2009

Right now, when biofuel is produced using algae, cultures are grown and then processed into fuel. But the process is expensive and difficult. Now a company in Texas, LiveFuels, Inc., hopes that it will be able to change all ...

Biodiesel fuel use growing steadily

July 3, 2006

Biodiesel fuel, a renewable energy source, is beginning to integrate into the U.S. farming and trucking industries, the San Francisco Chronicle says.

Recommended for you

Ready-to-use recipe for turning plant waste into gasoline

September 25, 2018

Bioscience engineers at KU Leuven, Belgium, already knew how to make gasoline in the laboratory from plant waste such as sawdust. Now, the researchers have developed a road map, as it were, for industrial cellulose gasoline.

14 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
2 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2010
AMTRAC is another failed government entity; its only purpose, to move money around.
croghan27
2 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2010
Not sure if it is a 'failed' entity - but as far as I know all major countries have a government backed passenger rail system.

In Canada CN Rail was formed in a vision of the Bush/Obama Bank bailout. Several railroads, built in a surplus of enthusiasm were about to go tits up just after WWI. The government took them over thereby saving some Montreal bank's asses.

VIA Rail, the passenger service, was separated from both CN and CP and is now strongly government backed.
croghan27
not rated yet May 01, 2010
otto - I have often disagreed with you in your postings - but that is one of the most reasonable and balanced ones you have made.

A constant and reoccurring problem to that paradigm happens when, as now, the country swings one way or another. Right now the (corporate backed) 'watch my lips - no new taxes'; government regulations are hampering the legitimate business of business people have gained an upper hand. Immediately the world went into an economic tailspin.
magpies
not rated yet May 01, 2010
Do I like it when government fails.
croghan27
not rated yet May 01, 2010
In what way is Gramm-Leach-Bliley a 'hampering government regulation'?


Aux contrare, bloodof - by replacing Glass-Steagall it unleashed financial institutions to broaden their scope and build the shaky pyramid that destroyed the economies of most western countries when the 'housing boom' finally had to be paid for.
croghan27
not rated yet May 01, 2010
Aux contrare, bloodof - by replacing Glass-Steagall it unleashed financial institutions to broaden their scope and build the shaky pyramid that destroyed the economies of most western countries when the 'housing boom' finally had to be paid for.
Right... So how did an over-regulating government cause the situation we're in right now? If anything, deregulation was the ultimate progenitor of the situation we're in right now.


Sorry bloodof ..you must be thinking of someone else ... the I am socialist that does not believe the government should interfere in the market place - is should BE the market place.
joe6pack
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2010
Will they combining this with liposuction? If the passengers fuel the trains how much of the cost would be defrayed?
CWFlink
not rated yet May 02, 2010
Re Amtrack "failure" ...
Yes, most countries have government owned mass transit. And I bet they all lose money like Amtrak. Why? Because the people paying for them are not the ones actually riding them. No 'free enterprise' can get away with taking someone else's money to pay for services for others.

So is "government run" good or bad? It depends on your perspective: if you are a rich SOB who does not want riff-raff blocking his limmo or clogging his airport, you don't mind paying for their mass transport. If you are poor, government mass transit will get you there... eventually.

If you are one of the remaining independent minded middle class people that WAS the basis for American exceptionalism, it is an expensive humiliation.... takes your money, inefficiently provides services your parents use to be wealthy and independent enough to handle themselves (i.e. drive their OWN car!)
CWFlink
not rated yet May 03, 2010
"Will they combining this with liposuction? If the passengers fuel the trains how much of the cost would be defrayed?"

Smacks of "Soilent Green". ...and eventually, it looks like we will be "eating our own".
croghan27
not rated yet May 03, 2010
I responded, at length to your post, CWF - but when I pushed 'Submit' it disappeared. Sorry - needless to say I do not agree with you - but the discussion was interesting.

Another success for the ever efficient free enterprise system.
SongDog
not rated yet May 03, 2010
Sad: the infrequent train from Montreal to NYC's Penn Station still takes longer than driving. Of course nobody questions the subsidies to the highways...
croghan27
not rated yet May 03, 2010
Sad: the infrequent train from Montreal to NYC's Penn Station still takes longer than driving. Of course nobody questions the subsidies to the highways...


Correct-oh-mondo, SongDog ... as well I believe it is impossible to get a train from Montreal to Boston. That used to be one of the more popular routes.
Jelt
not rated yet Jun 23, 2010
As a vegan who abhors the factory farming industry, I'll be sure to boycott Amtrak for the year they use tortured animals as fuel.

The fact that they could be using plant based biofuels just as easily seemed to escape someone in charge. Sad. But they won't get a dime from me during their "Soylent Green" experiment.
croghan27
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
Sad: the infrequent train from Montreal to NYC's Penn Station still takes longer than driving. Of course nobody questions the subsidies to the highways...


I agree songDog - even if the the vile troll er ... toll roads are springing up all over the place.

Canada, being of MFing size and small population needed a national railroad to bind it together - the 'private sector' just did not have the moeny, so the gov't financed the CPR. (see about about the CNR). It needed a national air line, so the Conservative gov't created the CBC, (later a TV network), and medicare - so it became a gov't backed program.

Th private sector just cannot do some things.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.