I searched to get a general idea of how much it would cost for Cortez’ trains. What I came up with is a shocking “Oh no!”. Just ONE high speed rail project (that I voted for) would end up trying to cost $100,000,000,000. And that’s just for 1/2 of a state.
Environmentalists cry global warming – and then propose the stupidest solutions. I’m going to do a little bit of math and after that, no one will EVER use global warming as a VALID excuse for building a bunch of trains. I use global warming as an impetus to build the solid state clean energy infrastructure, not to promote transportation modes that are sooo last century.
Ok, figure on a nice even 10x what the state of CA was trying to do. And figure 100,000 people ride the trains every day. And figure half price, for a total of 20 super cool trains for a cool trillion dollars. That’s only 2 million people a day, to not have to use “gas guzzling” cars. What’s the average, let’s call it a lowly 10 mpg (yes, I’m being way “conservative” here). And let’s say that all these people drive a whopping 100 miles, every day (even). That’s 200 million miles. Or 20 million gallons. Or about 420 million lbs of CO2. Or, not even close to a million tons of CO2 “saved”. Wow, whoopie! Ok, this, per day. Multiply that by 365 = a more respectable 69 million tonnes of CO2 saved, each year.
Now, let’s consider energy inputs (needed to build a bunch of trains)… Nevermind, let’s be even more conservative and say “only clean energy will be used to make it”. That would be great, but how will we afford clean energy if we spend a trillion on trains?
Instead, I will go a more sensible and exciting route! And you guessed it. Let’s spend a trillion dollars on wind, solar and batteries. I will assume that the combined capacity factor of wind and solar will be just 30% (solar is like 20 to 25 and wind is like 30 to 35%). This means we have to build up by the inverse, or 3.33x plus account for storage inefficiency. Figure 4x wind/solar and 3 parts of that into battery storage just to make a 24/7 reliable clean energy system.
Large scale wind is about $2/watt and large scale solar is about $1/watt. Let’s just call it $1.50/watt (by the time we ever build this much). Batteries in bulk, by the time we spend this much on wind/solar, will only be about 10 cents per watt hour of storage capacity, which should last about 15 years (maybe more by the time we build it). That’s the predicted $100/kWh in 2021. The combined amount to be stored should be almost equal to the overbuild needed (to make up for low capacity factors) minus “1” (that part being used without need for storage). So, 3/4ths of generated goes into storage. That’s about 6 hours worth in this combined setup (less for solar, and more for wind, as per their capacity factors). Call it 8 hours total, just for simplicity.
8 hours of wind/solar at $1.50/watt plus 6 hours of storage at $.10/watt hour equals a trillion dollars in this case to reject ALL new trains for ALL new RE. This, assuming we already have such a thing called long powerlines, needed to better distribute from sunny and windy areas to nonsuch, to save on storage, so that we only need up to 3/4ths of a days worth of such. Algebra anybody? Since I can’t seem to quickly figure it out, I will “trial and error” it.
Let’s spend 600 billion on the wind and solar. Now we have 400 billion watts of clean energy generating capacity. We will store 300 billion x the 6 hours worth, or 1,800 billion watts, costing a tenth of that, or 180 billion. Since I don’t really know algebra (and figure exactly what a trillion dollars would give us) I’ll be (even more) conservative and say, “let’s just spend 780 billion dollars on wind, solar and batteries instead of spending a whole trillion dollars on stupid trains”.
What emissions savings do we have, now???
Each gallon of gas creates about 20 lbs of excess CO2. It also is “worth” 32,000 watt hours. However, since about 3/4ths of that is wasted in the conversion to mobility, I will say 10,000 watts (ok, I’m still being slightly conservative!). I must state that the 1,800 billion watts put into storage could be used to displace gasoline. 1,800 billion divided by 32,000 = 56 million gallons of gas, displaced, every day. Or, 20.5 billion a year, or a CO2 displacement of 400 billion lbs, which is over 180 million metric tons. Since gasoline only converts about one third of its energy into mobility, I get to add in that inverse, multiplying that 180 MT by 3 to get a realistic figure, being that electric cars are about 4x more efficient than gas cars! So, being not so conservative, I get just over half a billion tonnes save.
Compare that with just 69 MT of CO2 saved with the trains, an eight fold return on our (even lesser amount of) investment! BOOM!