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Is it more environmentally friendly to take the bus? Perhaps not

Do you worry about the environment and the ways in which you can help reduce your carbon footprint? Are you under the impression that taking public transport over driving your car lowers the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that you create?

You may be surprised to find that taking public transport has a lot of hidden emissions that increase the ‘tailpipe tally’ which is calculated by the amount of fossil fuels used on a journey.

A study was undertaken by Environmental Engineers, Mikhail Chester and Arpad Horvath at the University of California at Davis in which they calculated the ‘tailpipe tally’ to get a clear view of the environmental costs of transport. Their paper is published in the Environmental Research Letters, of Britain’s Institute of Physics Journal. They based their research on United States lifestyles and technologies.

To test automobile performance they used a Toyota Camry Saloon, Chevrolet trailblazer SUV and the Ford F-150. For aircraft testing they tested the Boeing 747 and 737 and the Embraer 147 for different aircraft benchmarks.

It may be more environmentally sound to drive a SUV into a city rather then take the train, you need to factor into the journey the amount of occupied seats and the carbon cost of the train or SUV.

The use of fuels to generate energy to power trains can change the carbon output dramatically. The Boston metro system uses 82% of fossil fuels to power their trains, whereas the San Francisco metro system only gains 49% of their electricity from fossil fuels. The ‘tailpipe tally’ does not take into account the emissions released from transport buildings or their maintenance.

Another factor not considered when adding up the numbers to see which mode of transport releases the higher amount of gas emissions, is the seat occupancy. A sedan or four-wheel-drive that is fully occupied releases less gas emissions per travelled kilometre then a train that is only occupied at a quarter.

Once you have a full understanding of the environmental cost of each different transport you should be able to make an environmentally sound decision on which type of transport you should invest in at which time.


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