High Speed Rail Environmental Benefits

High speed rail development promises tremendous environmental benefits and bolsters U.S. energy security. High speed rail development in the U.S. would reduce carbon in the atmosphere, help control congestion on the roads, lower consumption of energy and help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Automobile transportation currently impacts the environment in a big way. Transportation sources account for nearly a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and it is the fastest-growing source. Transportation is also the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Automobile trips account for 90 percent of U.S. intercity trips; air travel accounts for 7 percent. If passengers were to cancel their automobile and airplane trips in favor of high speed rail, it would save 6 billion pounds of C02 per year, according to the Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology in a report funded by the U.S. EPA.

High speed rail development will help ease congestion by incentivizing drivers to come off the roads. Due to the increased congestion in the cities and on major highways, 4.2 billion hours of extra time is spent on the road, wasting 2.8 billions of additional fuel and costing up to $87.2 billion, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

By lowering transportation fuel consumption, high speed rail development would lead to increased energy conservation in America. The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil, yet it is only 5 percent of the world’s population and has less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council. Of the oil that is consumed, 70 percent of it goes towards transportation, according to the National Commission on Energy Policy. The American Security Project calculates that 68 percent of U.S. petroleum comes from countries with “high” or “very high” risk of political instability. High speed rail development would decrease the need for foreign oil, allowing the country to be more energy-independent.

The American High Speed Rail Alliance believes high speed rail must be part of the clean energy solution to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuel and reduce green house gas emissions.