Interstate High Speed Rail Can Be Green
America must eliminate coal consumption, multiple Green Energy to power vastly more electric & biofuel Transportation and Industrial uses by 2030 or catastrophic environmental events will be set in motion.
Coal is worst fossil fuel to burn, followed by oil. It is important however, not to demonize coal and oil industries. America’s wealth and livelihood would be impossible without them. But America is a place here industries must adapt over time or be replaced. In the 1800s, coal supplanted whale oil and wood burning for heat, then adapted to electric power generation. Oil became prominent with the rise of automobiles in the 1910s. Just as the Internet has supplanted newspapers, phone books and catalogs, the season for coal is ending, while oil’s lifespan is several decades longer.
Natural gas is not clean fossil fuel, but it is less dirty than coal and oil and cheaper than both. As more coal power plants switch to natural gas and add green energy, coal consumption is diminishing. Cheap gasoline prices since 2009 have caused America’s oil consumption to remain remained high. As a result, 72% of all oil used in America goes to a Transportation Sector and 23% of oil used in America goes to Industrial Sector. In the Climate Change Era, we need Electric Power, Transportation and Industrial sectors switching to 30% natural gas, 50% wind, solar & biofuel energy and 8% nuclear & hydro-electric energy by 2030.
To understand why I peg these energy sector percentages to a 2030 milestone date, read Interstate High Speed Rail – Energy Sources, then return to this page.
Take Care Of Business At Home For Greater Influence Abroad
China is notorious for hiding public safety issues. Leaders from every nation knew that Chinese air pollution was horrible. At global climate change summits, other leaders asked Chinese leaders to reduce GHG and smog emissions by burning less coal. Other leaders did not include the President Bush II, who refused to attend those summits. Whenever U.S. officials spoke abroad about China’s global smog problem, China retorted, “America built the world’s largest economy burning more fossil fuels than everyone else. Don’t ask China to cut coal consumption, when you won’t do the same.” They were right to call out America’s hypocrisy.
Then on Earth Day 2010, President Obama announced his green energy policy. Many in Congress believed that cutting coal and oil consumption for green energy was dumb, as long as China remained glued to coal. No one predicted the sea-change about to happen.
In Winter 2013, China experienced the coal-originated Airpocalypse over Beijing and northern China. Airpocalypse repeated in 2014. Credible reports indicated that Beijing lung cancer rates doubled in 10 years and filthy air in northern China shortened life expectancy by 5.5 years. Those events caused the Chinese government to reverse its policy stance. That rising nation now commits to burn less coal, build the world’s largest electric-powered Transportation network and become the world’s largest supplier & consumer of solar panels and wind turbines. To ensure that it meets Paris Climate Accord goals in 2030, China plans to eliminate coal imports, while encouraging citizens to buy electric and electric-hybrid cars.
That gave President Obama more political muscle to help America to move away from coal. For example, in 2010, coal produced 44% of electricity while natural gas produced just 22%. In 2019, natural gas produced 37% of electricity, while coal shrinks to 24%. Nuclear and Renewable energies have grown to 36% of our Electricity generation.
America, China, European Union, and Japan spearheading the Paris Climate Accord convinced 195 nations to join the agreement. It is particularly important that India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh joined, which are forecast by 2050 to collectively become a larger economy than North America and the European Union combined. Also note that Brazil, Southeast Asia and Nigeria shepherd most of the world’s rain forests.
Unfortunately, the current President injected chaos into the Paris Climate Accord, by pulling America out and giving a false promise to save coal miner jobs.
Towards Higher Capacity, Fuel Efficient, Longer Distance Aviation
Passenger and cargo jets in America consume 0.43 billion barrels of oil/year. Over 99% of oil used by passenger airlines are populated with the worst polluting and least oil-efficient segment of transportation — regional flights less than 500 miles. A Brookings Institute study finds that over 50% of American flights are regional and nearly all travel between our Top 100 Metro Areas.
Most flights go from smaller airports to a larger airports in a “Hub & Spoke” pattern where flight crews string together combinations of flights usually varying from 200 to 2000 miles each shift. A 200-450 mile flight produces 0-14 minutes at fuel efficient cruising height and speed. Those sub-500 mile flights waste more labor time on the ground and generate the most GHG and Smog per passenger-mile of any passenger transportation mode.
From an airline perspective, 500-mile and longer flights better fit their 21st century business model. In 2001, fuel costs were 10% of airline operating costs. By 2011, they were 35%. In 2018, the price of jet fuel is 37% higher than 2017. As a result, airlines are reducing the number of flights on certain routes and increasing fares to offset the increased operational costs from fuel prices.
To Aviation industry credit, new Boeing and Airbus jets are 18% more fuel efficiency for less GHG and Smog emissions per mile. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are investing R&D to make biofuel a larger percentage of jet fuel that reduces nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions as well. Airlines are also excited about the transition to NextGen Air Traffic Control by 2020 to increase cruising time per flight and reduce non-revenue labor time on the ground. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects that NYC-LA flight time will reduce by 30 minutes. Play the short video below for more insight.
The good news is more airlines are shifting their finite airport capacity from regional flights to longer, more profitable flights. The bad news worldwide air travel is growing at 5%/year and long distance travel is growing. All things considered, the best case scenario is that aviation oil consumption will level and that jet-related Smog and GHG emissions will nominally decline.
After Trump, a Big Infrastructure Bill will likely be passed by the next President. It will trigger large investment in electric-powered trains, Metro rail and buses. It will encourage a shift to biofuel engines for freight trucks, cruise ships and cargo ship industries.
Towards Greener Freight Trucks
Did you know that 7% of America’s GHG is produced by Freight Trucks? Heavy-duty freight trucks comprise only 5% of vehicles on the road, yet generate more than 25% of GHG emissions from the Transportation sector, and a similar percentage of Smog.
Most freight truck builders have invested in modern pollution control technologies to meet emissions requirements. Blockchain technology allowing carriers and suppliers to plan more efficient routes has come, but needs faster adoption to consume less fuel and drive fewer unnecessary miles. Most freight truck builders support regulating truck emissions.
In contrast, Gliders accounted for 2% of Freight Truck sales in 2014, by exploiting an EPA loophole to account for 50% of air pollution from all trucks. To close this regulatory loophole, the EPA finalized a rule in 2016 requiring glider kits to meet emission standards. However, the EPA gave glider kit manufacturers lead time before they capped rule-exempt gliders that small businesses could produce to less than 300. That rule kicked into effect in January 2018, but the Trump EPA suspended enforcement of the cap.
Greener Cars Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
According to the USDOT, in 2007 all passenger cars averaged 22.5 MPG and light trucks averaged 18 MPG. Several studies by the Texas Transportation Institute also indicate that highway congestion is getting worse nationwide. To cut foreign oil and risky domestic oil by 2030, we have to ramp up auto MPG. With help from automakers, President Obama escalated CAFE standards to 39 MPG for passenger cars and 30 MPG light trucks/SUVs by 2016.
Today, electric cars have a 250-335-mile recharge range and batteries recharge in 4 hours. Electric-vehicle (EV) batteries cost $3000 in 2014. With volume manufacturing ramp-up in the industry, EV batteries should reduce to $600 by 2021. That will reduce purchase prices and insurance premiums for electric cars. Equally important, engineering advancements will likely increase EV battery to 300-400-mile recharge range with each recharge 3 hours or less by 2021.
About 76% of commuters are solo-drivers. Higher urbanization, the Great Recession and opening a number of rapid transit lines permitting and incentivized more people to use Rapid Transit, buses and bikeways, instead of solo-driving. Despite the increase in Transit usage stabilized National Vehicle Miles Traveled between 2007-15. Unfortunately, that trend reversed after 2015 as more people got jobs and then got cars. Excluding NYC and San Francisco, Rapid Transit did not go enough places to be an alternative to driving.
A wise traffic engineer summarized the situation perfectly, widening highways to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.
One of the biggest hoaxes foisted on voters is that more highway lanes reduces congestion and saves fuel. About 67 million Americans will be added to our population between 2016-40. If we continue adding highway lanes under the falsehood of congestion relief, typical Interstate Highways will have 8-12 lanes creating more traffic jams. Many oil-powered cars will be with us through 2040. At the current pace of building rapid transit construction alternatives to solo-driving, traffic jams will cause oil-powered cars to burn more oil.
More importantly, queuing theory mathematics prove that average speed decreases because more autos traveling at different speeds and changing lanes increases erratic driver behavior that reduces average highway speed.
Queuing Theory applied to highway lanes also proves that the most efficient super-highways have only 2-lanes-per-side, like much of the German Autobahn. Traffic lane efficiency gets worse for each lane added. A 4-lane-per-side Interstate Highway only carries about 65% more traffic than a 2-lane-per-side interstate highway. When we add more lanes per side, electric, electric-hybrid and oil cars are stuck in traffic longer, with oil-based cars & trucks consuming more oil and producing more GHG and Smog emissions.
Though America tripled carpool lane-miles in the last 20 years, our population grew by 60 million, mostly in our Top 50 Metro Areas. As more multi-occupant and electric-hybrid cars move to carpool lanes, more single-occupant oil-based cars quickly occupy the extra lane space. That’s not all. More diesel-powered freight trucks are on the road, increasing highway congestion, smog and GHG. Adding more carpool lanes does NOT lower traffic congestion, smog or GHG emissions.
America must do many things to cut smog and and GHG emissions to levels that Environmentalists and Climatologists insist is required by 2030. We must transfer tax breaks for coal, oil & natural gas to wind, solar and biofuel for the latter energies to grow from 11% of our energy consumption in 2017 to 25% by 2030. We must subsidize the retraining of coal and oil workers for Renewable Energy jobs. We must upgrade Amtrak & build HSR in 8 mega-regions to cut sub-500 mile flights and reduce interstate highway congestion for freight trucks. We must incentivize U.S. airlines to turnover fleets to fuel-efficient jets faster. We must incentivize freight train, freight truck and ship building companies to convert fleets to biofuel engines. We must convert half our cars to electric and electric-hybrid power. We must increase electric Metro Rail construction and electric Bus purchase to prevent traffic congestion from slowing cars and freight trucks on highways and boulevards.
Part 5 focuses on how large metro areas are increasing Rapid Transit to mitigate traffic congestion, while simultaneously complimenting both existing and planned HSR.