Everyone agrees that there is no single technology, no single silver bullet to solve the challenges we face because of peak oil. However, across the bigger ditch in the US, a very relevant debate is brewing about a key technology plank in the response to peak oil – electrified rail.
This topic is particularly pertinent as New Zealand gets ready to reinvigorate its own rail network after decades of neglect during our love affair with the black gold. An article published on The Oil Drum this past week has helped ignite the debate Stateside, as Americans start to take peak oil seriously.
Meanwhile, the French are way ahead of us, with non-oil dependant transit networks already linking the country, primarily via electrified rail. Should the Straight of Hormuz close tomorrow due to some geopolitical drama, the French public will still have groceries and still be able to get around. Should oil hit $300/bbl or worse and stay there for a while or forever, the French will still have food in their supermarkets and they will still be able to take a holiday on the Riviera. Will we be as prepared?
The article puts the concept of an America unified by electrified rail into an economic, environmental and national defence perspective:
An as yet unpublished analysis by the Millennium Institute using their T21 model strongly implies that a combined policy of a maximum push for renewable energy with a maximum push for electrified transportation (railroads and Urban Rail) gives the largest GDP, the largest reduction in Greenhouse Gases and the Largest reduction in oil consumption over decade and longer time horizons,
The best Economic Policy is the best Environmental Policy and the best Energy Policy ! And such a policy combination also has extremely positive National Defense implications. With some justification it could also be called the best National Defense Policy as well.
Just two major policy initiatives, renewable energy and electrified rail (Urban & freight) address every major public policy conundrum. If pursued with extreme vigor, these two policies, combined, are better than every other examined alternative.
One interesting observation is the positive effects of these two policies were not simply additive but multiplicative. There is a subtle but strong synergy between these two policies for the economy, energy and the environment.
I think that KiwiRail should be seriously considering finishing the electrification of the Auckland to Wellington Line, which is currently over 1/3 electrified already, with plans and budgets to complete the Auckland end using the same specifications. We already have a plausible target of 90% renewables by 2025, way ahead of any American plan. Let’s get cracking on this no-brainer of a solution before the cost of oil goes sky high and the capital cost goes up with it!