Thursday, January 22, 2009

Riding the Rails with Nuclear Energy

hoisting Trains that travel via electric power are “green,”  as we currently accept the the term, because they do not use (much) diesel fuel. And, if the electricity they use is not generated by a carbon emitting source, it’s like hitting the daily double of greeniness. An advertising bonanza. Rooty-toot-toot! Now if train food were improved, they could also eliminate the methane problem, but one emission at a time.

We frankly don’t know which American trains might qualify for this designation, but this story from The Guardian covers the European scene.

Travelling by train is the green way to go. In the month when the government seems set on railroading us into a third Heathrow runway, even ministers will agree on that. You can "travel greener" with Arriva to Wales. Or hop aboard Eurostar, which claims to "generate 10 times less CO2 than flying" to Paris. Or emit "78% less" than flying if you take one of Virgin's tilting Pendolino trains to Glasgow.

And wouldn’t you know that nuclear energy appears somewhere in the equation:

Eurostar does so well because its trains are mainly powered by French nuclear power stations. The company can't quite bring itself to say "our trains are greener because they run on nuclear power", but that is what it means.

We’re not sure why the French would hesitate to make this point since so much of everything (80% to be exact) is powered by nuclear energy. Maybe because nuclear acts as a great leveler where it is so prevalent. If Eurostar benefits as much as all other French electric trains, there’s no advantage to claim. (But since the advertising seems to be versus planes, they could still bring it up – so we officially don’t get it.)

Writer Fred Pearce, in what we might call classic Guardian style, goes into a lot of detail about just how green these trains really are, looking for purity. It’s an interesting read.

We don’t really recommend travelling this way – it’s liable to end in tears in a small town jail - but if you’re going green and really want to score points with like-minded friends, the frugality demonstrated here can’t be beat.

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