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Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

A new paper from Carnegie Mellon University didn't get much attention, but it tackles a huge topic: the challenge of cutting carbon emissions from the energy-hungry trucking sector.

One takeaway is that trains can play a big role, but that would require a reversal of freight industry trends worldwide that favor highways.

Why it matters: Moving freight around uses lots of oil and spews lots of greenhouse gases.

  • Heavy trucking accounts for about a third of all carbon emissions from transportation, and road freight could account for 40% global oil demand growth over the next three decades, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • "Rail intermodal transportation holds great potential for replacing carbon-intense and fast-growing road freight, but it is essential to have a targeted design of freight systems, particularly in developing countries," states the paper in Environmental Research Letters.

The big picture: Several strategies in concert are needed to cut carbon from heavy trucking — greater efficiency, electrification, lower-CO2 fuels, changes in supply chain management and more, the paper finds.

  • "You need to push on all the levers," co-author Parth Vaishnav says.
  • Lead author Lynn Kaack similarly emphasizes making trucking cleaner and moving freight off the roads. “You definitely need both for deeper decarbonization,” she tells Axios.

Where it stands: It's a tough problem, and here are a couple reasons why: current battery technology and economics aren't well-suited to long-haul routes, and very low-carbon liquid fuel replacements for diesel aren't yet mature either.

  • “In the medium-term, the most promising strategy might be a shift from road to rail,” Vaishnav says.
  • Right now, trucks handle about 60% of freight movement, and that's growing in most countries amid a "shift from rail to road," the study says.

What's next: It finds a "clear need for a systematic assessment" of the worldwide potential for shifting freight movement back towards rail, and the cost and emissions cuts associated with it.

The bottom line: "Cost-effective GHG emissions reductions for the transportation sector may be available but in today's markets will likely not lead to the levels of decarbonization that are needed to slow climate change," the paper states.

  • "Thus, additional policies that include either incentives for reductions or penalties for GHG emissions will be needed."

Go deeper: Trucks are fueling the world's oil demand.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.