Thursday, June 26, 2008

CARB Endorses High Speed Rail to Meet Global Warming Targets

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

The California Air Resources Board has released its draft scoping plan for implementation of the AB 32 greenhouse gas reduction law. This is the law that was passed in 2006 that requires California to reduce carbon emissions by 25%, to 1990 levels. It is rightly seen as a landmark national, even global law.

And as CARB recognized, its goals cannot be accomplished without high speed rail.

The cornerstone of the CARB plan to implement AB 32 is to use a cap-and-trade system. I prefer an outright carbon tax, but cap-and-trade is what we're likely to see initially here in California. This is where the overall amount of carbon emissions is capped, and credits are created to allow pollution up to that cap limit. Those credits can be traded - so if, say, a factory wants to pollute, it must purchase more credits, causing those who sell them to reduce their emissions. Over time the number of available credits is steadily reduced to achieve lower emissions.

Transportation is one of the capped sectors of the economy - meaning we can no longer just fly around or drive around endlessly; there will be increasing limits and at the same time rising costs as the cost of the credit purchase is passed on to consumers. To achieve the required lower emissions, and to provide sustainable and cleaner forms of transportation CARB endorsed high speed rail as one of its recommendations.

Their explanation was not particularly detailed - basically an endorsement of the concept of HSR and a projection that it would save around 1 million metric tons of CO2 in 2020. That's around 22 billion pounds per year, close to the figure of 17.6 billion pounds that Quentin Kopp has been quoting.

This also gives me a chance to reuse one of my favorite graphics, from Alberta High Speed Rail:

The amount of carbon emissions savings for HSR is really quite dramatic. And let's put this in context. Airline emissions are much higher than initially believed. CARB doesn't mention airline emissions, which is one of several reasons I believe their plan will ultimately be inadequate. But that just makes HSR all the more important a method of greenhouse gas reduction - if we are to have any hope of making the AB 32 targets, which are modest targets, we need to be constructing alternatives such as HSR. Without HSR it just will not be possible to make meaningful reductions in transportation emissions - and those emissions are the single largest category of emissions in the state.

Some might ask about the electricity generation for the HSR project. The CHSRA is currently undertaking a study of how to power the system with zero greenhouse gas emissions that should be ready any moment now. Given the potential for thermal solar in the Central Valley and wind power in some of the mountain passes and the Delta, a carbon neutral high speed rail system is entirely possible.

These facts are more than compelling. They demonstrate why high speed rail is an absolutely necessary part of California's solution to the great crisis of the 21st century - global warming and its effect on our environment. Although there are several other important reasons for HSR, on the environmental basis alone this project is something California cannot afford to reject.


Anonymous said...

Truly amazing analysis and statements here Robert.

And as CARB recognized, its goals cannot be accomplished without high speed rail.

I would appreciate your please showing me where in this document your statement above is made. On page 34 they talk about HSR, but I simply couldn't not find your statement.

I understand they want to displace the airline flights with HSR for flights in the state, so again lets kill off the airlines and the associated industries.

Then we have your closing statement:

These facts are more than compelling. They demonstrate why high speed rail is an absolutely necessary part of California's solution to the great crisis of the 21st century - global warming and its effect on our environment. Although there are several other important reasons for HSR, on the environmental basis alone this project is something California cannot afford to reject.

Well I don't buy into this nonsense at all. Spending $100 billion on a project is something California simply afford to do.

As an aside I see where the CARB got sucked into the 700 mile system number, which we now know to be an 800 mile system. Good leadership CHSRA. The more I read and the more I hear from Kopp and Diridon the more their remaining credibility sinks.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that apparently the expansion of the system mileage was recognized during discussion in the Assembly on AB-3034. As you can see on page one, the summary clearly says 800 miles and not 700 miles

Jack Duluoz said...

@ anonymous.

How does a guy who constantly pulls this $100 billion price tag straight out of his back-side not see the glaring hipocracy in impuning the "credibility" of the HSR backers.

No one is talking about killing airlines, we are talking about increasing competition. Name one industry where increasing competition has been negative; no seriously, name one instance where diversity has driven up costs to I double dare you.

I don't buy your nonsense Anonymous! do some freakin' research amd try keeping your un-informed opinion and garbage scare tactics to yourself.

Robert Cruickshank said...

anon, if you read the comments on Erik Nelson's post you'd know that there was no dispute - the system is going to be close to 800 miles. The actual number is around 780, so I can see why folks just take the 7 and round down. In any case it's a thin reed for you HSR deniers.

Nobody wants to "kill off the airlines." But as this blog has repeatedly explained, and as you deniers have repeatedly ignored, the industry is in the midst of a severe crisis. Already flights between LA and SF are being cut. Under a cap-and-trade system that is surely going to accelerate. HSR is necessary to pick up that slack.

Anonymous said...

This is the current link to the CHSRA efforts to study using renewable energy sources:

無名 - wu ming said...

the airlines are already nearly pining for the fjords, at least on short hauls. and as someone who just bought plane tickets recently, the prices for 2009 are way more expensive than 2008, as the oil price spike is increasingly priced into the system.

what HSR does is give us something else to ride that approximates intrastate plane travel in terms of speed (and better in terms of cost and hassle) when the airlines start going belly up or cutting short haul routes to the bone in the next couple years.

of course, as has been pointed out upthread, claiming that any competition will kill off your system is more or less an admission that it's a lousy alternative to begin with.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, did you know that airlines are subsidized too? How much more do you think California and the Federal Government are going to poor into the failing airline industry to support intrastate service than $40 billion for HSR?

Todd Luvs Loungin' said...

I'm all for rail, but when the Los Angeles/Orange County/Riverside/San Bernardino has poor regional rail services, a high speed rail mainly servicing the business class is a waste of resource. More CO2 could be reduced by developing regional rail (such as the subway to the sea for Los Angeles and other desperately needed projects) where commuters will use once or twice a week instead of once a year.

I see there is $950 million for regional rail, but when you consider a subway from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica alone would cost $6 billion, then it's foolish to divert what little resources to projects that does not maximize savings of money and CO2.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Todd, that's ridiculous. HSR will serve average travelers, business folks - and yes, commuters. It will link OC and Riverside to LA (and Metrolink provides frequent service already, but HSR will improve upon that dramatically).

We also need to build the Subway to the Sea - but these projects are not mutually exclusive. We need intercity rail AND local rail. And we can do both.

Anonymous said...

As this project is now going to be presented to the voters, nobody has any idea of what this project is really going to provide.

AB-3034 opens up 8 possible routes, and they are not clearly defined.

Those in the central valley may well be denied any service. They have been the big supporters; the whole project was started by a central valley legislator.

The routes in AB-3034 are not clearly defined. Even if Altamont is chosen, will this mean a Dumbarton crossing? Rafael thinks that option is off the table because of cost.

I don't think anyone here really believes the cost estimates. Even Robert, the biggest supporter of HSR indicates it may go over budget. Robert is a supporter so strong that he writes just the saving of CO2 makes it worthwhile (regardless of the routes). I take a much stronger position and the Senate report endorses the position that indeed the CHSRA cost estimates are not accurate and are underestimated. Thus the need for an updated business plan.

Rafael dives into real numbers and finds CHSRA is promoting Pacheco by falsely extending trip times via the Altamont by extending a turn around time at San Jose by 30 minutes.

AB-3034 calls for a business plan to be presented by Oct. 1 this year, and that that plan is to be peer reviewed. The election is Nov 4, obviously the voters will never know the result of the peer review since it can't possibly be completed.

Equally as bad, who is going to conduct the peer review. The peer review group is to be chosen by the CHSRA. Great government. Absolutely un-acceptable.

Robert can call me a denier, call me what you want. Everyone should by now realize this group, the CHSRA, has done a miserable job. The State is being asked to embark on a mega project and its leadership is completely incompetent. Continue on this journey and the net result will be disaster.

Robert Cruickshank said...

How do you define disaster? Do you believe the HSR ridership will not materialize? That's the key. The riders will pay back the costs through fares. Yes, the project will go "over budget" but that is due to factors totally outside of anyone's control - the CHSRA cannot stop global inflation in construction materials costs and cannot stop the decline of the value of the dollar.

But I do not expect the cost to increase by any more than 10-15%. The numbers people are pulling out of their asses - $80 billion, $100 billion - have no basis whatsoever in reality. None.

Further, your definition of "disaster" is biased because it does not include an assessment of the alternatives. Isn't it disastrous to let the airlines cut back on service within California and to let fuel prices soar without providing alternatives? The cost to Californians of those developments will be far higher than the cost of building HSR, even if it goes over budget.

I have supported a renewed business plan. I firmly and strongly believe AB 3034 needs to be amended to guarantee completion of the entire system, and not to simply allow a few routes here and there to be disconnectedly built.

HSR deniers will only claim success when everyone else has been converted to their view that the status quo is perfectly acceptable and so we can and should do nothing in the face of an environmental and energy crisis. They believe Californians should reject the affordable approach of HSR and instead embrace the unaffordable approach of shackling our state to high oil prices.

You lack credibility, anon, because you refuse to assess HSR in context.

Rafael said...

@ anonymous @ Jun 28 7:22am -

I do believe that a new Bay crossing at Altamont would be more expensive than many believe. In part, that's because of the existing shipping lane and the current seismic code. Mostly, though, it would be because there are many opponents to construction near a National Wildlife Refuge who would insist on expensive additional measures to avoid stirring up mercury-laden mud.

The only Altamont alternative I've ever considered viable calls for trains to be routed from San Francisco to Santa Clara or San Jose and then up the East Bay, cutting across to Pleasanton, Livermore and on to Tracy.

My argument is that this particular option (CHSRA's variation #9 minus the Oakland spur) would deliver good connectivity for the emerging Northern California mega-region and still result in acceptable line haul times for SF-LA. Altamont #9 only would therefore serve two functions, whereas Pacheco only serves one. That's why CHSRA is now "considering" an expensive HST overlay in addition to Pacheco.

At no point have I ever advocated a new heavy rail Bay crossing.

Anonymous said...


In an editorial in the Sac Bee, commenting on the CARB report we find the following:

Other aspects of the scoping plan also seem dubious. The air board assumes California will build a long-delayed high-speed rail system – reducing a small amount of carbon for $30 billion. Is that the best use of state money?

They obviously don't think reduction of CO2 emissions should be the basis for building this HSR project.

I am still awaiting your pointing to the statement in that report confirming your assertion

"And as CARB recognized, its goals cannot be accomplished without high speed rail."