1998-11-30

Lifecycle Analysis for Freight Transport 982206

This paper evaluates the total lifecycle impacts for hauling freight long distances over land in the United States. The dominant modes of surface freight transport in the United States are large motor trucks (tractor-semitrailer combinations) and trains. These vehicles account for a significant portion of the transportation sector's petroleum usage and atmospheric emissions (among which nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are especially important). The objective of this paper is to evaluate the potential for reductions in energy use (in particular, petroleum use) and atmospheric emissions that result from freight transport, possibly as the result of research and development on improved technology or alternative fuels, such as Fischer-Tropsch diesel and natural gas, or from mode shifts in competitive markets. The impacts examined include energy use, both in toto and the petroleum fraction, and emissions of greenhouse gases and nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. The lifecycle starts with extraction of the raw materials for vehicle and fuel production, continues with production of the vehicle and its fuel, and concludes with combustion of the fuel during vehicle operation. Both fuels now in use and alternative fuels are considered. Energy use and emissions values for materials manufacturing and recycling have been estimated in previous Argonne studies and are used here. We conclude that there are trade-offs among impacts. For example, lowest fossil energy use does not necessarily result in lowest total energy use. We also identify trade-offs between energy use and emissions and other factors influencing mode choices, and we briefly discuss how government policies affect the choices.

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