November 3, 2008

Are you There, Sal?

Thanks to Atrios, we get a nice coda to my proximity post. It turns out that the Erie Canal is alive and well (and getting better). And not because of some nostalgic effort to turn the canal into some kind of frozen-in-time theme park. Hard nosed economics plus low-carbon goodness make for a beautiful friendship:
The canal still remains the most fuel-efficient way to ship goods between the East Coast and the upper Midwest. One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by train and 514 miles by canal barge, Ms. Mantello said. A single barge can carry 3,000 tons, enough to replace 100 trucks.
And because I love it when a plan comes together, we get this bit of grand unity:
When a company called Auburn Biodiesel decided to convert an old factory in Montezuma into a biodiesel plant, the building's location beside the canal "was merely an incidental consideration," said David J. Colegrove, the company's president. But after watching the number of cargo shipments along the canal grow, Mr. Colegrove said he hoped to bring soybeans in by barge and use the canal to ship finished product to New York City.
And the money quotes come fast and furious:
"I've worked the East Coast, the West Coast and the Panama Canal, but up here is some of the most beautiful country you can ever see," said John Schwind, 62, the captain of the Margot, who first learned to pilot tugs here in the 1970s.
It's enough to bring tears to the eye of this New York native. But the kicker comes from Colegrove:
"The amount of money you can save is really eye-popping," he said. "I'm fascinated by the history of the canal, and I'm intrigued by how well it still works."
Audacious hope, anyone?

Chart by The New York Times

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