Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
... anything done on a national scale is 'a lot'. Scaling it to present electricity generation, Alan Drake's write-up of the proposal arrives at:
Transferring 100% of inter-city truck traffic (impractical) to electrified railroads, plus electrifying all (not 80%) of the existing rail traffic, would take about 100 TWh/year or 2.3% of total US electrical demand. Electrifying 80% of railroad ton-miles and transferring half of current truck freight to rail would take about 1% of US electricity. 1% is an amount that could be easily conserved, or, with less ease, provided by new renewable generation and/or new nuclear plants.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jul 20th, 2008 at 08:23:50 PM EST
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This confuses me a lot, at least if inter-city truck traffic is a significant part of traffic.

I recently read, that only about 1/6th of prime energy use in Germany is for electricity generation. 2/3rds of all oil use would be traffic. Sure there is some other prime energy use for heating and industry and so on, but oil is still double digit in heating. So overall I would guess that more energy is used for traffic than for all electricity generation together, and in the US even a higher share of energy consumption is traffic. Putting a significant part of traffic on the railway making only 1% more electricity need.
Any big think mistakes? Maybe inter-city traffic is not a significant part of overall traffic? Maybe railway is incredibly more energy efficient for goods than trucks?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Jul 20th, 2008 at 08:46:22 PM EST
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As I noted, the energy ratio is about 10:1 ... rail freight is, of course, far more energy efficient than truck freight, and electric rail more efficient than diesel rail, so you get to multiply two efficiency factors together.

I guess if trucks are taken for granted as the norm, cutting energy consumption per ton mile by in excess of 90% counts as "incredibly efficient". More accurate would be that truck freight is incredibly energy inefficient, and we only rely on it to the extent that we do because of the now fading age of dirt cheap energy.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jul 20th, 2008 at 10:07:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah. I thought it would be "a lot more" than that. Your scenario sounds good. Getting rid of a significant fraction of inter-city trucks (along with gains in efficiency) would surely be a great help to the atmosphere and to our oil tab.

What about the capital investment necessary to electrify railroads and (presumably) add extra tracks and rolling stock? Is that within reach?

Meanwhile, the airlines keep flying. The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that grounding most of those jets will turn out to be the key to calming down the atmospheric changes which are now so scarily evident.

Right after 9/11/01, when all US air traffic was banned for a few days, the skies in our area underwent a drastic change, back to the puffy clouds we used to see when I was a child, and which I had almost forgotten.

Injecting all that exhaust right into the stratosphere is, upon serious reflection, clearly Not A Good Idea. I think people would be surprised by the changes we would see without all these jets.

Still, I have to admit that our fossil-fueled civilization was fun while it lasted. I was born in 1951. When I was six, my family traveled to Europe by passenger liner and then returned on a prop plane. The experience of those forms of transportation left me with a vivid perspective on the magic of the passenger jet. Flying around the planet like some gigantic insect on five mile high stilts will never be routine for me. It is sorcery, pure and simple.

On the other side entirely, I also have to admit that I feel more and more impatient for the next phase of our planet's existence. I am sick to death of watching us wreck the place.

Aside from any ideology or purity, I just want to see that stop, and soon.

by Ralph on Sun Jul 20th, 2008 at 09:04:28 PM EST
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