Green New Deal Plan - Transportation Reconstruction

The only way to make transportation sustainable is to make it almost completely electric. Since oil comprises 98% of the fuel for the current transportation system (cars, trucks, diesel rail, planes, and ships), this will be quite a task. The Interstate Renewable Electricity System can provide the electricity, but to remake the transportation system will require a large-scale change in the vehicles used, the infrastructure built, and perhaps most importantly but least understood, in the way cities and towns are laid out.

A continent-sized electric transportation system will have to be based on the original, that is, one based on rail. Electric high-speed rail is actually the most recent innovation for a major mode of transportation. High-speed rail will have to replace most airline travel, since planes can not possibly be electric. A sustainable plane fleet would have to use sustainably-harvested biomass, which will mean that perhaps there will be enough for some coast-to-coast and intercontinental travel. High-speed rail means not just passenger, but also freight traffic. High-speed electric freight trains will have to replace long-distance trucking if we don't want to use large quantities of oil. Finally, most transportation that takes within a city region will need to use electric rail -- with some use of electric buses, small electric trucks, and small electric cars.

Interstate High-Speed Rail System, passenger component

The United States has the worst high-speed rail system in the industrialized world; if you define high-speed rail as rail travelling in excess of about 150 miles per hour, than the U.S. actually has no high-speed rail system. Europe, Japan, and now China have much more extensive systems. One could use part or all of the Interstate Highway System to construct an Interstate High-Speed Rail system, or you could put the system next to parts of the Interstate Highway System, as proposed by the US High-Speed Rail Association. However it is put together, a High-Speed Rail System would have to replace most plane routes, since air travel will become less and less practical at shorter distances as the price of oil rises.

Cost

The US High-Speed Rail Association, proposes a 17,000 mile system. Let's assume a 20,000 mile system. The question is how much per mile to build this system? The range worldwide is very wide, even within France.

In addition, the high-speed rail system could probably cover its own costs, if not turn a profit. Let's take "Reason magazine's rather negative view, at $40 million per mile, including the cost of the trains, then we have $800 billion total, or over 20 years, or 40 billion per year. Let's bump that to $50 million per mile to be safer, at $1 trillion total, or 50 billion per year

Interstate High-Speed Rail System, freight component

The current freight train system is extremely efficient, at least four times more efficient than moving goods by truck. However, almost half of all freight train traffic is used to transport coal, which would disappear in a sustainable society. Freight trains can be converted to use electricity, however, and they could replace the use of large, long-distance trucks, if -- and this is a big if -- commercial areas were concentrated in town and city centers, instead of being strewn all across the landscape in malls and strip malls. If every town and city had at least one train station that could accommodate freight, then the energy needs of the country would be vastly reduced (trucks use about 1/8th of all oil). A freight system centered on trains would also require that factories be somewhat concentrated geographically. If all city regions had a ring of factories around them, it would be relatively easy to construct a rail line that would connect all factories to all city and town centers.

Cost

According to a very critical article about electrifying freight rail, it would cost on the order of $1 trillion, over 20 years, for $50 billion per year. However, without coal, we could instead use half of that money to convert to higher speed rail.