Railroad CEO: Fossil Fuels are Dead

An article in the Financial Times quotes Hunter Harrison, CEO of CSX, a freight railroad company, that the business of hauling coal by rail is in decline. He stated:

“Fossil fuels are dead, that’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be in two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.”  He also said that he would not be buying a single new locomotive to haul coal trains, or add any extra tracks for coal freight.

A recent report from the Association of American Railroads states that coal represents 31.6 percent of all tonnage hauled on US Class I railroads, and provided 13.9 percent of rail revenues.

In the US, contrary to most countries, the Trump administration is pushing for a revival of coal, by easing environmental regulations, but it would seem that a lot of the damage to the coal industry has already been done, with more power stations moving to natural gas, and the increased use of wind and solar.

The consequences of a coal’s decline are not limited to the the mining industry only; from Hunter Harrison’s comments, it appears that the rail industry is looking to adjust to a new reality.

  • sam
  • Leonard Weinstein

    The shipment of coal to other countries will be the main use of the coal. This should be increased for at least several more decades. Gas is a better choice for the US for several decades, but is also finite. Solar and wind are limited by dispatch requirements, and lack of suitable long term storage. Nuclear is the best next generation source unless e-cat and brilliant light can fill the need for the future.

  • Omega Z

    The U.S. is switching to natural gas power plants because of economics. N-gas at present is cheaper. Also note that most U.S. power plants have been duel fuel purposed for decades. This has allowed them to convert back and forth between N-gas and coal for decades dependent on price.(about a 1 month transition period. Triple+ the cost of N-gas and watch them switch back to coal. It’s always economics.

    As to Fossil fuel being dead. This is not NEWS. All the CEO’s have stated repeatedly that Fossil energy within 40/50 years will not be economically viable. It’s not gone. Just to expensive to use.

    There is 1.6 trillion barrels of proven? oil reserves. At current rates, that will last 40 years. Should use increase, not even that long. Presently increasing by 1.5 million barrels a year. Sure they will find additional reserves, but they will also find that some so-called proven reserves don’t actually exist. Like Indonesia a few decades ago learned 75% of their reserves didn’t exist when they went to drill for it.

    Many have heard of Venezuela’s massive oil reserves that will last in excess of 100 years. A key element is at current production. If they increased production to the Saudi’s level, it would be gone in 10 years. Keep that in Perspective- The U.S. can supply itself for 75/100 years, As Long as we continue getting half our daily oil needs from Canada and South America.

    The U.S. only gets 1 million barrels a day from the middle east(notably the Saudi’s). That is for trade purposes only so they can buy products from the U.S. and others. The well’s in the U.S. currently caped waiting for completion could increase U.S. supply that much in the next 6 months.

    Bottom line is in an energy hungry world, Fossil supplies are limited. Within 40/50 years or less, fossil energy will become economically nonviable for most of the world and a major economic drag for those who can still afford them.

  • Piper

    There is a gas turbine pilot plant using CO2 as a very high pressure working fluid, with an oxy/fuel mix injected as the source of operating heat. Excess Co2 produced is bled off at pipeline pressure for CCS purposes. Efficiency is comparable to NGCC (60%) without CCS.

    North Dakota & EERC are developing a lignite gas-synthesis feeder stage compatible with the Allam (modified Brayton cycle) to supplant natural gas, which the commercial turbine design will initially use.

  • Zephir

    Actually there are no signs of fossil fuel share/significance decreasing – on the contrary. The main reason is, most of so-called “renewables” technologies actually increase fossil fuel consumption on background, being raw materials resources hungry.

    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.COMM.FO.ZS https://www.reddit.com/r/Physics_AWT/comments/5ztd1a/research_team_warned_of_mineral_supply