Australia: Public Transport Greenhouse Emissions Similar to Cars

Guest Blog by Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs


Public Transport Greenhouse Emissions Similar to Cars

Contrary to the repeated claims of high-density advocates that public transport travel is environmentally far superior to travel in cars, it has now been found that this is not the case. Greenhouse gas emission data posted by Demographia shows that the average petrol car in Australia in 2006 emitted 188 grams CO2 equivalent per passenger km and the figure for the more efficient cars now is as little as 60 grams.

These figures should be compared with the average bus in Australia which emits 155 grams CO2 equivalent per passenger km and with the 105 grams for travelling by rail in Sydney.

The emission figures of the Toyota Prius and the Peugeot hybrid diesel cars are indications that even the surprisingly small advantage of public transport could soon be eroded away by technology.

The reality that public transport use is not significantly more environmentally sustainable is of huge importance for planning policies. For the past two decades the NSW State Government has been implementing a policy of forcing high-density into communities. The principal foundation of these policies has been the allegation that people living in high-density will be able to travel more sustainably by public transport instead of by car. We now know this is not so.

The rationale for the despotic policies that have destroyed home ownership and grossly overloaded existing infrastructure is baseless.


GHG Dilemmas: Consigning China & India to Perpetual Poverty?

I was taken aback at a Melbourne conference sponsored by the Australian Financial Review. A questioner suggested that we need to recognize that third world nations will never be able to live at first world levels of affluence because of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction policy. My response was simply that I doubted the Chinese and Indians would agree with that proposition.

Yet much of the current rhetoric on GHG reduction proceeds from this assumption, despite the fact that IPCC models and documents assume that strong economic growth will continue. Much of this has to do with the “hysterical” nature of the GHG reduction debate. For example, some observers blame global warming for Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans, rather than the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies that were remiss in their responsibilities to maintain the levees to withstand a category 3 hurricane (yes, a category 3 hurricane, not the category 5 hurricane that the hysterical so often disingenuously assign to Katrina). New Orleans was not a victim of climate change, it was a victim of government incompetence.

It is time to cut through the rhetoric. The Indians, Chinese and other lower income nation residents will not be satisfied to continue their less comfortable quality of life at the same time that Americans, Western Europeans, Japanese and Australians live their rich, comfortable lives. Nor should they. This is simply unsustainable.

Moreover, the political institutions of China and India are sustainable only if they facilitate the strong economic growth that their citizens have rightly come to expect. Simply reducing GHG emissions by reducing economic activity or controlling demand will not work. This does not mean that GHG emissions will continue to rise without limit --- technological advances can reduce GHG emissions while permitting economic growth to continue. This is the hope; it is the only hope.

For those inclined to “back to the cave” strategies that somehow imagine sacrifices being made by lower income nations, there is a single rhetorical question:

    If Chinese and Indians are not to be permitted to live as well as Americans and Western Europeans, then when will Americans and Western Europeans going to start living like Chinese and Indians?