Monday, 24 August 2009

UK High Speed Rail CO2 Study Flawed

Because I was unsure of the findings, I spent some time looking at the Booz Allen Hamilton/Department for Transport High Speed Rail Study (Estimated Carbon Impact of a New North-South Line) mentioned in a Freakonomics Blog Post.


First, I went to look at the source documents. This was a bit difficult, because footnote xii is actually a link to the AEA study source document. None of the links on footnote x, which is supposedly the AEA study, lead to any usable data for this study.


Looking at the AEA study for DfT, I'm able to see how they got the AEA figures. 49 for average passenger rail, 109 for all cars, 76 for bus, 180 for plane. However, they leave out the Class 373 EMU (high speed rail train).



I was unsuccessful in searching for the June 2007 DEFRA statistics released in the study, but I did find the updated 2009 statistics. Each year, DEFRA (UK's EPA) publishes statistics that they have businesses use to calculate their scope 3 (indirect) emissions from rail travel. This study shows a figure of 17 g/pkm for Eurostar, specifically the high speed rail route between London and Paris. This figure could be a bit low, because France derives a high proportion of their energy from a non-ghg-emitting source (nuclear).


Taxi, Bus, Rail and Ferry Passenger Transport Conversion Factors

CO2

Method of travel

Vehicle kms travelled (vkm)

x

kg CO2 per vkm

Total kg CO2

Taxi 1

Regular taxi

x

0.2217

Black cab

x

0.2558

Method of travel

Passenger kms travelled (pkm)

x

kg CO2 per pkm

Total kg CO2

Taxi 1

Regular taxi

x

0.1583

Black cab

x

0.1705

Bus

Local bus 2

x

0.1104

London bus 3

x

0.0830

Average bus

x

0.1035

Coach 4

x

0.0300

Average bus and coach

x

0.0682

Rail

National rail 5

x

0.0577

International rail (Eurostar) 6

x

0.0177

Light rail and tram 7

x

0.0834

London Underground 8

x

0.0780

Ferry (Large RoPax) 9

Foot passengers

x

0.0191

Car passengers

x

0.1322

Average (all passengers)

x

0.1152

Total

0


Looking at the Center for Neighborhood Technology study's figure for the Danish IC3 Diesel Multiple-Train Unit and converting lb/pmi to g/pkm, I get 72.71, which is the same (73 g/pkm) as the study. However, the IC3 is diesel-powered conventional rail train capable of a top service speed of 112 mph, not a high speed rail train. Better comparables would be the ICE line 6 in Germany or the TGV in France, which have lower g/pkm emissions.



At this point I was left wondering if the report's authors meant to analyze the impact of a mid-speed diesel powered train line instead of a high speed line. Although the report was light on specifics, the authors did mention that they meant to analyze the effects of efficiency gains in "traction electricity," although this may refer to maglev. They could have also assumed much lower load factors for these routes, although they did not state this in their assumptions.


Needless to say, I'm convinced that the study is flawed.


However, assuming it is not flawed, the energy mix still differs from region to region (different power pools have different generation and emissions profiles). I found the UK-wide electricity emissions-factor on DEFRA's site, which is 546.67 kG of CO2 per mWh. Using the EPA's eGRID data for the California region, I converted lbs/kWh to 398.57 kG of CO2 per mWh. So, California's electricity results in about 73% of the emissions in the UK, per unit of delivered electricity.


raw

convert

UK, From DEFRA

0.54667

546.67

California, from eGRID

878.71

398.5766

So, even if the report was correct, and high speed rail emissions in the UK would emit 88 g/pkm (which I highly doubt), the equivalent technology would only emit 64 g/pkm operating in California.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Rewarding Local Climate Action

I've heard and read a fair amount about how cities can be rewarded for early action or, in the case of SB 375, exceeding targets. Many policymakers think that cities should be able to monetize or receive additional funding for reductions they make beyond reduction mandates. On the surface, this seems like a great idea: to financially reward cities that do more than their fair share in reducing emissions. However, there are some drawbacks. As pointed out in UC Davis ITS Researcher Deborah Salon et al's paper on City Carbon Budgets, doing so would necessitate greenhouse gas emissions caps at the local level. While there are many concerns to tying local funding to greenhouse gas performance, my point is that cities that reduce emissions more than their neighbors will experience additional benefits. However, these benefits will not be channeled directly to the local government.


A number of publications, including Growing Cooler, have exalted the numerous co-benefits to reducing emissions in terms of urban design, property values, and transportation alternatives. However, under a carbon constrained economy, a major benefit to living in an area with low greenhouse gas emissions per capita will be the monetary savings: at $18 per ton of CO2e the difference in per capita emissions between the U.S. (around 24) and San Francisco (around 13) is about $200. This translates to about $160M of annual purchasing power to the City's residents.


While $200 pales in comparison to the differences in the cost of living between San Francisco and Los BaƱos, it's still $200.

Welcome to the Local Climate Action Blog

This is the blog of Juan Matute, Director of the UCLA Program on Local Government Climate Action Policies.