Counterpoint: High-Speed Rail Can Be a Good Investment - Post 3: Greenhouse Gases

Last Monday, Robert J. Samuelson published an op-ed in the Washington Post suggesting the high-speed rail is nothing but pork.  At one point he says:

"What would we get for this huge investment? Not much. Here's what we wouldn't get: any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, air travel, oil consumption or imports."

I think he is wrong on all counts.  I addressed commuting and air travel.  Today I address greenhouse gas emissions.

Yesterday I made the point that intelligently designed and built high-speed rail can reduce air traffic.  And it has in countries with good networks, like France, Spain and Japan.  Every plane trip that is eliminated is going to save thousands of gallons of fuel.  Every gallon of fuel contributes about 25 pounds of CO2 to our atmosphere.  In yesterday's post I pointed out that the trains from Madrid to Barcelona had the capacity of as much as sixty flights per day between those two cities (in reality, since not every train is full, they are not currently offsetting that many flights--but they could).  That's theoretically over 2000 tons of CO2 per day that could be saved.  Less, of course, than whatever greenhouse gases are emitted from running the train.

As I pointed out yesterday, however, as our production of electricity gets cleaner, so will the emissions associated with running the train.  So let's say 1/2 of that for now: 1000 tons per day.  365,000 tons per year.  For one corridor.  I would disagree with Mr. Samuelson's contention of no "meaningful reduction in greenhouse gases."  Maybe that's not much to him, but I think it's meaningful.

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