About travel policies and energy consumption

Last week the local region of west Sweden (Västra Götalandsregionen) announced a new travel policy. The 50.000 employees of the region are obliged to use train and bus for transports longer than 50 km. This means that it will no longer be acceptable to use air travel from Göteborg to Stockholm.

The recent EU proposal on public procurement that I mentioned the 13th of January opens interesting possibilities to compare different means of transports. From an environmental standpoint the new travel policy of west Sweden makes sense. Travel by air gives about 10 times higher CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre when compared to bus and about 4 times higher energy consumption than the rapid train (X2000).

In most parts of the world coal fired power plants contribute heavily to the electricity generation. And, buses thus give less environmental load than trains, due to less emissions of CO2. Now, the trains in Sweden use “green” electricity, mainly from hydro power, and do thus not give any CO2 emissions. The Swedish trains have therefore been considered clean.

But now, when calculating the environmental load with the new proposal, logically, the use of energy has a similar environmental load as the emissions of carbon dioxide. A rapid train like X2000 therefore gives higher environmental load than coaches, even when the train is using green energy! This due to the fact that high speed trains use plenty of energy per person kilometre!

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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