Increasing Fuel Efficiency and Alternative Fuel Use in Freight Movement Across the California/Baja California Border

Collaborative Report


Therese Langer, Karen Erhardt-Martinez, James Kliesch, Richard Billings, Rick Baker, Garry Brooks, and Heather Perez


This report, which is part of a larger California Energy Commission project on energy issues in the California/Mexico border region, discusses opportunities to reduce energy consumption and emissions associated with the movement of goods across the border. After describing transportation infrastructure, trade patterns, and mode shares in the border region, the report analyzes options to improve energy efficiency of goods movement by increasing the availability of alternative freight modes. While energy and emissions benefits of the options analyzed are not sufficient to offset costs, economic benefits including congestion reduction greatly increase the cost-effectiveness of some options. Short-distance rail upgrades and short-sea shipping projects in particular warrant further study and should be considered from the perspective of their ability to shape future goods movement patterns in the border region.

Opportunities to use alternative and reformulated fuels and advanced vehicle technologies for highway, rail, marine, and aviation modes are discussed as well. Technologies generally seem more suitable for near-term implementation than alternative fuels, which typically require extensive infrastructure development both in the United States and Mexico. For operations in the border region, however, shortage of capital is a serious obstacle to adoption of new technologies as well.

There are major issues of economic development and security associated with development of the border region, and energy considerations, while not minor, are unlikely to drive the discussion. At the same time, agencies grappling with energy, climate change, petroleum consumption, and air quality issues in the states of California and Baja California can broaden the discussion of cross-border transportation investment, which to date has focused primarily on reducing delays at and near the border.