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

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.

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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

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Citation: Test Run Under Way for Amtrak's 'Beef Train' (2010, May 1) retrieved 17 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2010-05-amtrak-beef.html
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User comments

Apr 30, 2010
AMTRAC is another failed government entity; its only purpose, to move money around.

May 01, 2010
Do I like it when government fails.

May 01, 2010
Will they combining this with liposuction? If the passengers fuel the trains how much of the cost would be defrayed?

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!)

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".

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...

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.

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