CHRSA bullet train to produce 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year

Although I added this comment to my prior post on the proposed bullet train, this professor makes a strong argument that, to date, has not been addressed.
 The Environmental Trade-offs as we promote a smaller carbon footprint.

“While many consider high-speed rail an environmental silver bullet for transportation in California, Arpad Horvath, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Consortium on Green Design and Manufacturing, punctured those assumptions.

“Our transportation decision-making is based on atrocious environmental data,” he told the audience. Decisions about which transportation modes are greenest must be made not only the basis of tailpipe emissions, but rather, a total life-cycle assessment of the various modes.

These must include manufacturing of the vehicles themselves, their required infrastructure, and the fuel used to power them. High-speed rail will produce some 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year during its construction, said Horvath. It will need to run very full trains almost immediately to offset the emissions expended in building tracks, stations, rail cars to “compete environmentally” with air or road travel.

In addition, if the train’s electricity is produced by coal-fired or natural gas-fired plants there will be substantial, harmful emissions produced until cleaner, alternative fuel sources, such as wind power, are available for use.

The bottom line, he said, was high-speed rail “only outperforms other modes if there is a very high passenger load or a very clean energy source, neither of which is assured at the moment.”

Gilbert final thoughts. In addition to the unknown price of a ticket are we prepared to pay this environmental price for a future mode of transportation?


About Larry Gilbert