Texas is BIG—268,597 square miles, featuring the most roadway in the United States at 314,000 miles, the largest share of rail lines at 10,400 miles, and 400 airports, including 2 of the top 15 busiest airports in the nation. Leaders in transportation are reducing emissions, becoming carbon-neutral, and recycling tens of thousands of tons annually. In an industry not typically synonymous with conservation, Texas transportation companies are driving sustainability advances for others to follow.One of the world’s largest transportation companies, Union Pacific continuously strives to give its operations a smaller environmental footprint.
“We understand the Earth’s climate is changing. As one of the nation’s largest freight railroads, it is our responsibility to act as environmental stewards, working to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Brenda Mainwaring, Union Pacific Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs – Southern Region.
Every Union Pacific employee commits to preventing pollution and complying with regulations, while the railroad’s environmental management team rigorously plans, coordinates, and communicates environmental requirements and best practices.
In 2018, Union Pacific reduced its energy consumption by 3.1 million kilowatt-hours, with a large part of this reduction resulting from employee-driven solutions. Last year, Union Pacific kept 71 percent of its roughly 2.09 million tons of waste from going into landfills. Annually the company recycles 300,000 tons of scrap metals including steel, aluminum, and copper, which is repurposed into everyday products like construction equipment, cell phone towers, and much more.
Union Pacific works constantly on fuel efficiency. The company has more than 6,200 miles of track crisscrossing Texas. Its trains move a ton of freight 444 miles—roughly from Austin to Amarillo—on a single gallon of diesel fuel!
“Fuel efficiency is critical, and we have employees dedicated to finding ways to reduce consumption,” Mainwaring says. “Innovation plays a fundamental role in our fuel efficiency performance.”
Union Pacific decreases fuel usage and emissions with technology that predicts potential failures while locomotives are en route, rather than forcing them to idle in rail yards. Additionally, technology such as an energy management system, much like cruise control, is being added to its high-horsepower locomotive fleet to increase efficiency.
Union Pacific hopes to bring more freight onto rails and off the roads. Railroads move approximately a third of the country’s freight but account for just 0.5 percent of total U.S. emissions. Shift a mere tenth of truck freight onto trains, and annual emissions would fall by more than 17 million tons—the equivalent of pulling 3.2 million cars off the highways for a year. In growing Texas, that shift could have major environmental implications, as the Texas Department of Transportation estimates freight volumes will grow from 2.2 billion tons to 4 billion tons by 2045.