Planes vs. Trains vs. Cars

Old Oct 29, 19, 11:58 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by Dovster View Post
The question is not how much one passenger's share of the emissions is. The question is how much there would be in additional emissions if that person flew instead of driving.
Just curious, did you travel as a stowaway?
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Old Oct 29, 19, 1:10 pm
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Originally Posted by Dovster View Post
If I had driven in both directions, the plane would still have made the flights. The addition of my weight in the plane made only a minuscule difference in how much fuel the plane consumed during the flight. My driving for two hours each way would have consumed much more fuel.
But if 200 people did that, they might add another flight. And what if by flying, you forced someone else (who couldn't get a seat on the plane for a reasonable price) to drive instead? But actually, the emissions associated with one seat mile on a plane are remarkably close to the fuel burn to move a car one mile. Where you really start to save on emissions is when you put more than one person in the car. It doesn't take that much more fuel to drive a car with 4 people compared to a car with one person.
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Old Oct 29, 19, 1:19 pm
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Originally Posted by joshua362 View Post
I'd like to see a computation about electric cars with respects to the carbon that must be generated in a power plant somewhere to produce electricity in the first place.
Also would like to see an analysis of the environmental damage of mining the lithium, nickel and other materials needed to make the batteries. I understand it is mined in Canada, refined and put together in China and then installed in electric cars.
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Old Oct 29, 19, 2:06 pm
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Informations posed about electric cars and the displacement of where the carbons are released rather than 'zero emissions' warm my heart. Glad to see some multi-step thinkers, good stuff.

Malthusian musings on Climate Catastrophe
As the world population tops 7.5B, whilst it was a mere 3B in the 1970's, given most of the extra speed of growth is from peoples who burn wood to heat water... Leo DiCaprio flies private, remember. So ... even if Greenhouse Gas effect math isn't extrapolated to worst-case scenario, this is relevant to flying how?

My original degree was in Polymer Chemistry, I've been recycling plastic since the 1970's, to many other truly Green things to mention, think before you troll, let's discuss. I'm off to the dentist.

This will be educational for all. Thanks for doing it. Keep it civil, I promise I will.
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Old Oct 29, 19, 2:15 pm
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Originally Posted by STS-134 View Post
But if 200 people did that, they might add another flight.
Which is why I posted earlier in this thread: "Until -- and unless -- there is a large mass movement against air or train travel, a person choosing one over the other is not going reduce his carbon footprint even an iota."
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Old Oct 30, 19, 4:42 am
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Originally Posted by Dovster View Post
If I had driven in both directions, the plane would still have made the flights. The addition of my weight in the plane made only a minuscule difference in how much fuel the plane consumed during the flight. My driving for two hours each way would have consumed much more fuel.
Indeed you are right. But if you and all the other people chosing this flight over driving hadn't done so then the flight wouldn't have taken off at all which would have been an even greater win.
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Old Oct 30, 19, 5:39 am
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Originally Posted by joshua362 View Post
I'd like to see a computation about electric cars with respects to the carbon that must be generated in a power plant somewhere to produce electricity in the first place.
In some countries you are quite right and one must not forget the carbon used to extract the lithium for the batteries (and the diabolic labour conditions for the miners). In the UK for instance we have numerous days now where over 50% of the electricity is generated by renewable resources be they wind, solar or hydroelectric and a significant part of the remainder is nuclear generated. Coal and oil fired stations are almost all gone and gas powered stations are effectively the only carbon generating stations we now have. So it all depends on the country you are in as to whether electric cars have a lower carbon footprint. Roll forward hydrogen powered cars using filling stations generating renewable energy to make the hydrogen.
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Old Oct 31, 19, 9:04 pm
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Originally Posted by enggeol View Post
In some countries you are quite right and one must not forget the carbon used to extract the lithium for the batteries (and the diabolic labour conditions for the miners). In the UK for instance we have numerous days now where over 50% of the electricity is generated by renewable resources be they wind, solar or hydroelectric and a significant part of the remainder is nuclear generated. Coal and oil fired stations are almost all gone and gas powered stations are effectively the only carbon generating stations we now have. So it all depends on the country you are in as to whether electric cars have a lower carbon footprint. Roll forward hydrogen powered cars using filling stations generating renewable energy to make the hydrogen.
And, of course, if we carpeted every country with a good yield profile (lower latitudes with lots of sunny days) with solar panels, we would raise the near surface temperatures of the atmosphere in those countries. See here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep35070

But wait, that means large solar arrays cause localized warming, worse than urban heat islands, and thereby may exacerbate global warming.

In addition, solar panels are toxic and difficult to dispose of. See here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michael.../#6f188751121c

Everything in life has trade-offs. There is no pure way forward. The best path is to consider all options, including nuclear and fossil fuels, to get to a stable mix of power sources that meet the needs of the growing population with the least amount of damage to the environment.

Last edited by zombietooth; Nov 1, 19 at 9:33 am
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Old Nov 2, 19, 7:26 am
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German here. For this study to be unbiased with certainty it should have come from somewhere else than the country threatened the most by EV success. But even if this would be an objective representation of which technology is worse for the planet, it is still a flawed conclusion because it compares a well established versus a new technology. To give a financial analogy, one wouldn't reject an expected business profitability just because it requires an investment to the contrary, that is the case every time. The comparison should be between the result of continuing a descent until eternity, just because it doesn't require anything, versus the result of making an effort to go on a path that has potential to be way better in the long run.
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Old Nov 2, 19, 8:21 am
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Originally Posted by 84fiero View Post
I recalled seeing this study recently.

https://www.dw.com/en/ifo-study-cast...als/a-48460328

It looked at not just generating electricity but the entire life cycle including manufacturing of the car and the battery, the latter being the biggest culprit. It's just one study but my impression is that there doesn't seem to be much independent research being done into accurately tracking and comparing the life-cycle emissions to one, determine what the best solutions are and two, encourage transparency so that improvements can be made.

There are also serious environmental and human rights concerns with the mining of raw materials and production of batteries...which of course reaches beyond cars to our cell phones, laptops, etc. but is required in much larger quantities for a vehicle.
If you're interested in a rebuttal to that study, here's one: https://electrek.co/2019/04/22/study...esel-debunked/

For example, the original IFO study admits that the Tesla has lower ongoing emissions, but claims the lifetime difference is due to it's high environmental production cost. Even if you accept those costs without debate, the authors artificially inflate the lifetime impact by only considering a relatively short lifetime for the cars ("The life cycle in terms of distance driven was arbitrarily set at 150,000 kilometers (93,205 miles)"). This will, of course, reduce the percentage impact of the ongoing emissions - emissions which would be far worse for the combustion cars.

In addition, the results are very German centric - quoting from the article: "The fact that the carbon count tips clearly in favor of combustion engines is primarily the result of Germany's fossil-fuel-heavy energy production, the researchers however say". In other words, the applicablilty of this study to non-German audiences is questionable at best.
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Old Nov 2, 19, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by joshua362 View Post
I'd like to see a computation about electric cars with respects to the carbon that must be generated in a power plant somewhere to produce electricity in the first place.
Two observations.

First, that answer is obviously going to be very country & location specific. For example, here in Canada our electricity does not generate that much carbon; the sources for electricity generation in 2016 were hydro (62.4%), nuclear (15.5%), coal (9.5%), natural gas (6.8%), and other renewables (5.0%) (ref).

Secondly, the benefit of utilizing a central & common energy production plant (aka, electricty), is that it's possible to improve or even completely replace the energy source over time. Thus, it's reasonable to expect that the emissions produced for a set amount of electricity production will reduce over time. The same assumption can't be made about a car ... the cleanliness of the combustion process in a fixed car is unlikely to improve over the life of that car.
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Old Nov 3, 19, 12:06 pm
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"The plane would have taken off anyway" line of reasoning is shortsighted. I understand it is viewed as a sunk carbon emission but evidence of demand for the flight ensures it will continue to operate, while a lessening of demand will potentially lead to the flight being discontinued. And it doesn't take the entirety of passenger demand to evaporate; in a business with margins so low a 10-20% softening will do the trick.
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Old Nov 4, 19, 1:19 am
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Originally Posted by Dovster View Post
Which is why I posted earlier in this thread: "Until -- and unless -- there is a large mass movement against air or train travel, a person choosing one over the other is not going reduce his carbon footprint even an iota."
I think this is a misunderstanding. You do not need a massive movement. Flight connection go and come, fairly small local fluctuations change the profits sufficiently to cause airlines to reorganize. Every new passenger creates more demand that affects airline decisions. It does seem fairly inefficient to fly a distance that one can drive in 2h (and presumably a good train line would do in half of that). If you are on a 100 seat airliner, you increased the demand by 1% roughly. I think, it is much reasonable to think in terms of the number of hours flown, or the dollars you spent on the air travel. Airlines operate on fairly large scale, and the low of large numbers kick in. You do not need a massive movement to affect it. A closure of a mid-size company can cause a local air connection to disappear (or opening an appear).

Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong. I am a great fun of air travel, and the current madness against it freaks me out. Especially that there is no discussion of values the travels create, and distinction of value of various flights (See for example the recent British idea to tax frequent travelers more than ad hoc travelers, so taxing more mostly value producing work against not taxing leisure travel that one could easily substitute with something much less environment harmful; especially at the times that apparently leisure travel is becoming a bigger market than business travel, at least in some parts of the word). Still I do believe that we need to be self conscious to optimize how our travel affects the environment, and we do need to apply pressure on the industry to transport us in increasingly green ways.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 9:14 pm
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If you are serious about climate change, stay at home. There are only two solutions...

1. Drastically cut consumption of everything (including travel) for everyone on the planet.
2. Drastically shift the fuel mix for power generation to nuclear.

Calculating CO2 output on a incremental basis is not sustainable, you have to look at life cycle costs like road construction, production of steel rails and and concrete ties, gas consumed by air traffic controllers during their commute, mining lithium for Tesla batteries, paving runways, etc., etc.

Regarding train travel, unless you have extremely high population density (maybe two or three places on the planet) which will justify high frequency (think one train every 5 to 10 minutes) and high capacity (1500 pax) trains, the carbon footprint of building the infrastructure is phenomenally high on per mile traveled basis.

For those interested, average jet fuel consumption is 20% of weight (passenger plus baggage) per hour of flight. On an incremental basis it's 5% percent. So assuming a 10 hour RT flight for an average pax+bags of 200 pounds that's 400 pounds (60 gallons) of jet fuel which when burned produces roughly 1200 pounds of CO2.

If you are talking about getting rid of straws, solar panels on your house, driving instead of flying, then you don't have a clue and are BIG part of the problem.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 9:38 pm
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Originally Posted by redanman View Post
My original degree was in Polymer Chemistry, I've been recycling plastic since the 1970's, to many other truly Green things to mention, think before you troll....
So I would challenge you to compare the carbon footprint of recycling plastic (collection, transport, sorting, washing, forming) versus extracting new gas or oil, temporarily forming it into plastic for one time use, and then burning it for energy in a WTE incineration facility. Please include in your calculus the fact that a polymer (dense BTU) fueled WTE facility allows you to also mix in and burn organic waste, which also replaces fossil fuel used in power generation and which can't otherwise be burned and would therefore decompose into CO2 and other components.

Last edited by 5khours; Nov 19, 19 at 9:41 pm Reason: Punctuation
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