Feeds

Research: Airliners can be more eco-friendly than trains

Flying cars bound to be greener than normal ones, surely

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Research carried out by boffins in California appears to have seriously undermined a major piece of received wisdom regarding transport: namely, the belief that railways are more eco-friendly than airliners.

The cage-rattling analysis comes from profs at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Rather than merely considering the carbon emissions resulting from fuel burned, the researchers considered every ecological impact created by having a given means of transport. Carbon or other greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from manufacture of concrete and steel, generation of electricity, manufacture of rolling stock etc. were all accounted for with respect to railways: and in the case of aircraft, building of airports and other associated infrastructure was included along with manufacture of the planes and so on.

According to the Berkeley boffins, the added greenhouse burden of construction, manufacturing, supply chain etc. etc. adds 155 per cent to the impact of railways, compared to "tailpipe emissions" arising in use. For road vehicles the increase is 63 per cent. But for aircraft it's just 31 per cent - the low figure being partly because aircraft emit a lot of exhaust in service, and partly because they need relatively little infrastructure, materials and so on.

What this adds up to, according to the engineers, is that the highly energy-efficient light-rail system in Boston - where a lot of electricity is fossil generated - has the same environmental impact when half full as a medium-sized airliner with 38 per cent occupancy. The virtuous public transport system is actually more environmentally damaging per passenger mile than the fuel-guzzling jet, even at somewhat higher occupancy.

We here on the Reg flying-car desk are particularly bucked by this news, obviously, as it would seem to lend support to our hypothesis that flying cars could be greener than normal ones. Or anyway, greener than trains running half empty.

The Californian engineers' paper is published online (free) today, in the journal Environmental Research Letters. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.