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Amtrak’s Arte boards the offset tree train

By Joe Romm

"Amtrak’s Arte boards the offset tree train"

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blue-spruce.jpgMy mother happened to take Amtrak down to DC Friday — the day they were handing out trees to offset train travel, which is how I heard of this dubious program.

My mother received a transparent plastic cylinder containing a small Colorado Blue Spruce with the label “plant this tree and offset the carbon output from 14,000 miles of train travel.”

Yes, like the Pope, Amtrak never got the “trees are lousy offsets” memo from here or Gristmill. Fortunately, Amtrak is the energy efficient way to travel inland, and trees are great things to have — though it is a bit odd handing out the state tree of Colorado, which is native to the West, in DC.

arte.jpgAnyway, the plastic cylinder directs us to “Learn more @ whistlestop.Amtrak.com” where we meet “Arte the environmental engineer,” probably the lamest corporate environmental mascot ever. Arte is named for Amtrak Recognizes the Environment — yes, we all recognize the environment as it whizzes by us at 60 mph. More strangely, Arte is a typical leaf, but the Blue Spruce is an evergreen conifer.

Well, at least Amtrak isn’t handing out iron for ocean fertilization.

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One Response to Amtrak’s Arte boards the offset tree train

  1. Earl Killian says:

    People assume that public transportation is energy efficient, but it is not always true. Is Amtrak energy efficient? At http://tinyurl.com/n22lr it says Amtrak energy intensity was 2,935 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per passenger-mile. A Prius uses 1,706 BTUs per passenger-mile (46 MPG, 124,000 BTU/gallon, 1.58 passengers per vehicle). Amtrak is capable of much higher efficiencies when the trains are fully loaded, but they are not. European and Japanese trains operate much more efficiently than Amtrak.

    Some US public transportation is very efficient, such as San Francisco’s BART. One report said “During the lowest day time ridership hour in the midday lull (noon – 1PM) BART averaged 360 watt hours per person-mile (wh/p-m). From 4-5PM the average was 251 wh/p-m and from 5-6PM it was only 171 wh/p-m.” 171 Wh is 583 BTU, so BART at rush hour is almost 3 times the efficiency of the Prius. Better, it is electric, so it has the potential to be zero GHG with the right electric grid.