The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Industry and the Lakes

While hiking through Toledo, I was reminded about the connection between the Great Lakes and industry & transportation & power generation/consumption with every step.

The environmentalist part of me loves the wide open beaches and soaring dunes around the lakes, but there is also a part of me that finds beauty in these industrial corridors.

If you've ever seen a lake freighter loaded with train cars and on some of those train cars are loaded with semi-truck trailers, then you've seen the economics of moving goods. In general, it is cheapest by water, then train, then truck.

Industry consumes the majority of electricity produced. Wherever there are industrial corridors, you will find massive power plants. I arrived in Monroe, Michigan today. Some of the largest power plants in the nation stand on the shores of Lake Erie.
Location:Toledo, OH


  1. Water doesn't need road maintenance, but isn't pushing mass through water much more energy-intensive than pushing it through air? I'm wondering about the breakdown comparison between water and rail. Of course, when railroads were in their prime, they ran ferries from shore to shore to get across water, e.g., from Northport, Michigan, to Manistique, Michigan.

  2. Pamela,

    Good point. It depends on what type of water transport. Ocean freighters are as economical as rail, but smaller ships are not. Here's a good source of data:

    Smarter Earth points out that airships (blimps) are the most economical way to move goods!