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Going Green in the Transportation Industry

written by: AngelaC•edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi•updated: 2/19/2010

Going green in the transportation industry means making a conscious effort to measure your environmental footprint, report your performance and make improvements. The transportation industry is continually making great strides towards cleaning up and protecting the environment.

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    Many companies are predicting and planning for the increasing number of new environmental regulations. All sectors of the transportation industry are taking note of the seriousness of their impact on the environment and taking action now. Going green in the transportation industry includes cleaning up emissions, improving energy efficiency, and working with customers and suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint.

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    The air transportation industry is an important contributor to the green movement. Currently the industry is creating new flight patterns to reduce fuel consumption and working on a new generation of more efficient airplanes and fuel mixes. Not only will these planes fly more efficiently, but the manufacturing process will be more eco-friendly, and the industry is also developing ways to recycle old planes.

    The FAA recently introduced the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative. This initiative is designed to create relationships, collect and share data, identify new resources, and continue to work on the research, development and use of alternative jet fuels. Commercial airlines, airplane manufacturers and biofuel companies are all uniting in the common goal to find another fuel source that is sustainable and cost effective.

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    Trains have long been able to take credit as one of the world’s greenest sources of transportation. Trains are continuing to reduce their carbon footprint by becoming lighter, faster and cleaner burning. The “Green Train" in Sweden has a magnetic motor, the AVE S103 train in Spain has an electric motor, and China’s Mainline Evolution trains have diesel-electric motors and are designed with high-tech lightweight materials.

    In addition, the UK Network rail is replacing 32 miles of track with 100% recycled rails, sleepers and ballasts. The benefits of this eco-friendly project include providing a smoother train ride for passengers by switching from jointed tracks to a continuously welded rail, easier accessibility for different types of trains, and higher speeds.

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    The auto industry has been exploring many options in its efforts to reduce pollution and make auto transportation more fuel efficient. The electric car has potential to become the vehicle of choice for urban transportation. Electric cars link a computer to an electric motor and battery with a system that self-regulates and is easy to maintain. Increasing the use of hydrogen, propane and natural gas automobiles is also being evaluated as a possible means to further reduce auto emissions.

    In addition, different biofuels are also being designed to be used as alternatives to petroleum fuels. Biofuels are liquid fuels made from renewable resources. .Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Ethanol is made by fermenting the sugars of wheat, corn, and other similar crops. Flexible fuel vehicles currently on the market can run on a fuel mix of up to 100% bioethanol. There are also many second generation biofuels being developed that are produced using non-food crops and inedible waste products.

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    Going green in the transportation industry doesn’t stop at land, because out at sea the marine transportation industry is continually working on a system that is environmentally sustainable. Marine transportation is actually one of the most energy-efficient forms of transportation because of the high loading capacity of large ships. The industry also implements and maintains compliance of strict environmental regulations due to the sensitive environment it operates in. Marine vessels continually monitor and make efforts to use cleaner fuels, reduce emissions, and use environmentally-friendly paints and cleaning product. Pollution of the water is also an issue the maritime industry is working on through active participation in large scale clean-up and recycling programs.

    Photo Credit: Philip Barker/

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