Replacing standard forms of transportation such as cars or planes with a high-speed rail system would be environmentally friendly only if administered under particular standards of efficiency. These standards include how the energy is obtained, how many passengers are on the train, and how the infrastructure is constructed. Two researchers conducted a “life cycle assessment” of high-speed rail in California, so they could weigh and compare the impacts using a holistic approach, with consideration of everything from construction vehicle emissions to evaluating performance under various occupancy levels. As it turns out, high speed rails are more efficient than other modes only if they run at full passenger capacity and utilize renewable energy sources, such as wind. Such a system would require extensive planning and energy-intensive construction. The researchers have weighed the costs and found that careful planning and a holistic awareness of energy and output costs is essential for making such a system environmentally friendly for our community.
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