Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Railroading the discussion

Did you know that rail transport is five times as energy-efficient as road? Or that air transport takes about 420 times the energy of rail to move the same amount of weight? And so why would we give road travel an artificial boost with a promise of cent-for-cent excise reduction to cover any rise in petrol under an emissions trading scheme? Quite apart from being a disappointing cave-in that sends precisely the wrong message (the Government will protect you and your car), it also means that rail freight will be disadvantaged over road. In their wisdom, our leaders obviously consider it to be a necessary political sweetener to wash down the bitter pill of the end of our energy-intensive lives.

When there is soon national hand-wringing and finger-pointing over QANTAS needing to be bailed out or being bought out in the coming consolidation of air carriers, spare a thought for poor underfunded RailCorp and CityRail.
H/T Doug for the statistics.

3 comments:

Christopher said...

That is depressing and frustrating.

Julio said...

Energy use fits into the Triple Bottom Line reporting category - it's not a core decision making criterion. The key one is capital cost - then maintenance cost.

When you look at capital cost - the ratios you describe are reversed. It is incredibly cheap to slap down some asphalt. (With due respect to the Civil Engineers who report these costs - whose role I have massively oversimplified). The cost of commuter rail investment is generally calculated in terms of the number of cars it takes off the road.

It sounds like we as a society need to demand TCO for energy use.

byron smith said...

Julio - yes, from the little I know about it, TCO sounds like a very good idea.