Amtrak Trials First Cow-Powered Train

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All aboard for the first of Amtrak's cow-powered trains. In a series of environmental initiatives, Amtrak is trialing a biodiesel train that runs on the rendered fat of cows.

Funded by a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Heartland Flyer train, which travels between Oklahoma City and Forth Worth, has begun daily operations using the new B20 biodiesel fuel.

The company is hoping that using the new fuel will make rail travel more eco-friendly. According to Amtrak the fuel will mix 80 percent diesel with 20 percent of a biofuel produced from the rendered fat of Texas cows (which normally would have been used to produce soap and animal feed). Amtrak expects the change will cut both hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 10 percent, and will reduce particulates by 15 percent and sulphates by 20 percent, compared to standard diesel fuels.

However, the new fuel is not without controversy. Animal rights organization PETA has already spoken out against the biofuel.

"The answer to pollution is not to use the ground up remains of tortured animals for fuel," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich told Fast Company. "Anything using animal remains is going to be both depleting of and polluting of our environment."

The biodiesel will be key in a 12-month experiment, where Amtrak will collect emission data and study the impact of fuel on the train's engine, gaskets and valves.

In order to promote the new biodiesel train to passengers, Amtrak is now offering a 50 percent discount on a companion fare on the eco-friendly locomotive until May 28.

As a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, Amtrak has made a public commitment to reduce emissions by 7 percent from 2011 to 2012. In other efforts to be green, Amtrak has also switched from low sulphur fuel to ultra-low sulphur fuel across the railroad to cut down on air pollution. It has also increased efforts by reducing idling times for diesel trains.
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