Planes: The Boeing 737 airplane is the most produced jet airliner is history. There are over 1,250 in the air at any given moment. Each burns about 50 liters per minute at an average speed of 850 kilometers per hour. That means that each kilometer travelled by a 737 burns over 14 liters. Considering that the average plane can seat around 145 people, each passenger of a 737 is responsible for nearly 0.10 liters of jet fuel for each kilometer travelled. Given that 1 liter of jet fuel weighs about 830 grams, it will then emit 2.61 kilograms of CO2 when burned. Therefore, a single airline passenger is responsible for about 261 grams of CO2 for every kilometer travelled.
Trains: Rail has the unique ability to run purely off of an electrical power grid which, in the case of China, is 90 percent powered by fossil fuels. The power grid in the USA is 70 percent powered by fossil fuels and in Britain, 74 percent. The ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) estimates that the average British rail passenger is responsible for 61 grams of CO2 for every kilometer travelled.
* * *
China is home to nearly 78,000 kilometers of railroad track. With an investment of 292 billion US dollars, China plans to expand its railway network to 120,000 kilometers. Of the proposed expansion, 13,000 kilometers will be high-speed rail.
In 2008, nearly 1.5 billion train tickets were purchased in China resulting in over 773 billion kilometers travelled by rail. Taking into account the British estimate of 61 grams and China’s fossil fuel-powered electric grid, China’s rail would be responsible for over 74 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer travelled. Therefore, China’s 2008 rail service would account for 57 billion kilograms of CO2.
If China’s 1.5 billion rail travelers had decided to fly the same distance instead of riding the rails in 2008, it would have been responsible for an additional 145 billion kilograms of CO2. The average human’s respiration emits approximately 1 kilogram of CO2 per day. The theoretical amount of CO2 saved by China’s rail service is equivalent to adding nearly 400 million more breathing humans to the planet.
Electricity Production in China. Library of Parliament. October, 2009.
Making Electricity for the UK. Association of Electricity Producers. October, 2009.
Steiner, Christopher. $20 Per Gallon. Grand Central Publishing: 1 edition. July 15,2009.
Baseline Energy Statement – Energy Consumption and Carbon Dioxide Emissions on the Railway. ATOC. March, 2007.
High-Speed Rail in China. The Transport Politic. January 12, 2009.
Rail Transport in the People’s Republic of China. Wikipedia. October, 2009.
Daley, Will. Bombadier China Venture Wins $4 Billion Train Award. Bloomberg. September 28, 2009.
China Completes “Lifeline” Railway in Mountainous Yunnan. Xinhua. September 28, 2009.