Energy, Manpower, and the Highway Trust Fund

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Science  23 Aug 1974:
Vol. 185, Issue 4152, pp. 669-675
DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4152.669


If energy conservation were a goal of a federal budget policy maker, such conservation could be achieved by reinvesting the highway trust fund in any of several other alternative federal programs (except criminal justice), especially in railroad and mass transit construction and national health insurance (see Table 1). Total employment would increase in each alternative program examined. For example, if construction monies were shifted from highways to railroads, the energy required for construction would be reducedby about 62 percent and employment would increase by 3.2 percent.

By comparing the dollar, energy, and employment requirements of a highway transportation system with such requirements for a railroad transportation system, we obtained detailed information from which we concluded the following:

1) Passenger transport by railroad was much less dollar and energy demanding and required more labor than car transport in 1963. If the dollar savings had been respent in an average way by consumers, the net impact would have been to reduce the energy savings and further increase employment. A similar conclusion was reached in a study of bus substitution for automobiles in urban areas (20). If the marginal substitution effects would have held over the whole range of change, and the dollar savings had been spent on the construction of railways, then about 3.0 billion gallons of gasoline could have been saved annually and 1.2 million new jobs created.

2) Freight transport by railroad was less expensive, in terms of dollar, energy, and labor requirements, than was truck transportation in 1963. If, under a national shift to rail freight, the dollar savings had been absorbed as personal consumption expenditures, a net increase of labor and energy would have ensued. If the dollar savings had been absorbed as a tax and respent on railroad and mass transit construction, about 0.3 billion more gallons of gasoline (energy equivalent) would have been consumed annually and 1.2 million jobs created, under a complete shift to rail.

Had there been a full shift from intercity car and truck transportation to transportation by railroad with dollar savings spent on railway construction, 2.7 billion gallons of gasoline (energy equivalent) could have been saved and 2.4 million new jobs could have been created in 1963.