Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trains and peak oil

A few weeks ago, at the start of the Difference of Opinion program titled 'Are We Running On Empty?', one of the panelist Professor Peter Newman commented about rural rail line closures.

Here is the whole transcript

…But we are still building suburbs as though cheap oil is going to be around for the next 50 years. We're still - we're about to close down the wheat lines, the rail lines that go out to our wheat-belt areas, as though trucking will be able to use fuel that's as cheap as it was in the last 50 years. These stupid things have got to stop. We have to face up to a future that is much more constrained. It's not going to run out, right, but it will be seriously more expensive and we're not all going to be able to have access to it. A lot of poorer people will really suffer.

My family have always tried to use rail first. It safer. Less people die in rail related accidents the road accidents. The big trucks used to carry wheat are dangerous and they damage the roads far more that cars.

These line closures are an ongoing process. At home they have been fighting a local closure since the Goss labor government.

Labor just don’t seem to understand that the last section of a rail line will generate the least money. That the freight carried will generate usage and money for all sections of line between there and its destination (usually Brisbane). The removal of a tributary means less flow at the mouth of a river.

So with peak oil and global warming, I think we need to go a step further. Once you decide to not close a line, you should be thinking of electofication. Current most country trains still use fossil fuels (diesel). We are still omitting new fossil carbon into the carbon cycle. With electricity, currently, you would still be powering trains with fossil fuels, either coal or petroleum gas. But, electricity is an energy transportation system, not an energy generation system. You can always convert the ultimate power sources over to alternative energy sources on an incremental basis.

An electrified rail system can ultimately be turned into a non fossil carbon emitting system!


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