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Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors (2013)

Chapter: Chapter Six - Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Six - Greenhouse Gas Emissions ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22520.
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Page 24
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Six - Greenhouse Gas Emissions ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22520.
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24 chapter six GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS Starting in the 1990s, academic research began emerging comparing air and HSR environmental effects. Initially, the studies focused on European systems, and in the past 5 to 10 years there has been an emergence of research focusing on U.S. corridors. A summary of this literature is shown in Appendix A. Although most European studies identified evaluate long-distance travel in Spain, France, Germany, and Italy (Campos and de Rus 2009; Albalate and Bel 2012), literature was identified for nearly every coun- try with an HSR system. In the United States, research is focused on the five corridors that have made the most progress toward deploying HSR systems: California, Flor- ida, Texas, the Midwest, and the Northeast (Lynch 1990; Ryerson 2010; Burgess 2011; Carroll and Walton 2011; Chester and Horvath 2012; Tucker 2012). The trade-offs in energy consumption and GHG emissions are typically considered by evaluating changes in petroleum consump- tion and power plant effects from different levels of mode switching (Kosinksi et al. 2010). In general, study goals are to evaluate the environmental changes that occur from substituting air and automobile travel for new HSR travel. Many studies develop GHG assessments comparing existing and future air and HSR travel, and there are a few that stand out for their comprehensiveness and novel approaches. Although many of the studies shown in Appendix A focus on HSR, those presented in this syn- thesis have significant air travel analyses as either a business-as-usual future or a future where air travel has made advances in reducing its environmental footprint and is a competing or complementary service to HSR. Jamin et al. (2004) estimate the GHG and other air emissions effects of aviation emission abatement policies in the United States and include substitution of some short-distance air travel with HSR. Both Givoni (2007) and Janic (2003) develop comprehensive assessments that include GHG emis- sions in addition to other impacts and monetize the results. Givoni (2007) produces a door-to-door assessment of air and HSR travel between London and Paris and normalizes GHG and CAP emissions to their monetary external costs. Givoni’s (2007) attributional assessment finds that between London and Paris the CO2 emissions (kilograms per seat) from HSR travel are 7.2 and from air travel are 44. Janic’s (2003) attributional assessment estimates that the French TGV emits 4 g CO2 per passenger-kilometer traveled (89% nuclear electricity), the German ICE 28 g (50% coal electric- ity), and a competing flight between 100 and 150 g. These emissions combined with other damages (i.e., other air pol- lution, noise, land use, congestion, and accidents) are used to monetize the external costs of HSR and air travel, respec- tively, at ¢0.002 to 0.01 and ¢0.02 to 0.08 per passenger- kilometer traveled in the United States and Europe. Chester and Horvath (2012) include roughly 150 life-cycle compo- nents in the assessment of future long-distance travel in Cali- fornia, and by first using an attributional approach, they find that although HSR is likely to produce lower GHG emissions per passenger-mile traveled, an average occupancy of 130 to 280 passengers is needed to compete with emerging aircraft and one of 80 to 180 passengers to compete with a 35-mpg sedan. They then develop a consequential assessment to determine that given future HSR adoption uncertainty, GHG payback will occur between 20 and 40 years; that payback includes emissions from construction and main- tenance activities. Chester and Horvath also include modeling of emerging technologies, regional flight char- acteristics (instead of multiplying a per seat-mile factor across forecasted seat-miles), and uncertainty in mode shifting. Several common approaches are used to assess large-scale GHG emission changes in regions. Most com- parative studies are designed to assess the GHG emission changes that result from shifting away from air to HSR. Consequently, many comparative studies are structured as deviations from the status quo (i.e., air travel) and focus on the critical factors that will drive the success of HSR deployment in a region. The time-based GHG impacts from the initial construc- tion of air and HSR infrastructure are another important factor considered by long-distance transportation research- ers (Kageson 2009; Chang and Kendall 2011). Time-based radiative forcing assessment methods have been devel- oped as consequential assessments to account for the up- front global warming potential from initial construction of new systems. Radiative forcing is an imbalance in the earth system between incoming and outgoing radiation. GHGs allow shortwave light radiation to enter the earth’s atmosphere but restrict the exit of long-wave heat radia- tion, resulting in an accumulation of energy that leads to climate change. GHGs vary in their radiative efficiency, which determines their ability to accumulate heat. Per

25 unit of mass, N2O traps the most heat, followed by CH4 and then CO2. A GHG will continue to cause radiative forc- ing and trap heat in the earth system as long as it remains in the atmosphere (U.S. Department of Energy, March 26, 2011: http://carboncycle2.lbl.gov/resources/experts- corner/fossil-fuel-combusion-heat-vs-greenhouse-gas- heat.html). Chang and Kendall (2011) apply cumulative radiative forc- ing methods used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to normalize the warming potential that occurs over the long run of California’s HSR system. They show that the global warming potential payback of HSR, which is highly sensitive to ridership, takes longer when cumulative radiative forcing methods are used, rather than straight GHG accounting.

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