Feb 12, 2019 - Energy & Environment

High-speed rail and the Green New Deal

Reproduced from IEA, "The Future of Rail"; Chart: Axios Visuals

One piece of the big climate-friendly spending envisioned in the wide-ranging Green New Deal resolution is a buildout of high-speed rail.

Between the lines: Coincidentally, an International Energy Agency report on rail transport released days earlier lays out how far the U.S. has to go.

  • The chart above shows how North America has yet to be part of the global expansion in high-speed rail, which IEA defines as trains with top speeds above roughly 155 mph.

Why it matters: The technology can cut carbon emissions by displacing some aviation and other vehicle trips, though the scope of the benefits depends on several variables.

  • "If optimal conditions are met, a new high-speed rail line can produce almost immediate net CO2 benefits by reducing air and car journeys," the report notes.

What's next: There are some projects planned in the U.S., including a major California high-speed line, with the first phase from San Jose to Bakersfield targeted for opening in the mid-2020s.

  • But in the IEA's "base" scenario, North America will have just 3% of the world's high-speed rail tracks in 2050.

Go deeper: The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative

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