What is the carbon footprint of the internet? The ‘immateriality’ of the internet may be an illusion. Search robots and social media sites are big users of server energy. In 2007, ‘Greening the media’ reported that the energy use of information technology is close to 3% of all energy use, similar to aviation. But how to get away from this? Should we introduce a concept like “internet use efficiency”?
At least, contrary to aviation, computer servers use electricity, an energy carrier that is well on its way to decarbonisation.
Where to focus when aiming for an energy efficient subway system: stations or trains? The Warsaw metro did both, investing in energy efficient trains as well as in highly efficient lighting in the stations.
But probably the best efficiency measure is to make public transport more attractive, comfortable and secure – even if such efforts would increase energy consumption of stations. It could stimulate travellers to take the subway instead of other, less efficient means of transport. And it could improve the occupancy rate of the trains, which has a direct positive influence on system efficiency.
Biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to varying degrees, when compared to fossil fuels. The reduction potential varies between 10% and 90%, depending on the fuel used and how it is managed (in some extreme cases, due to land use change, the carbon balance can be even worse than the fossil alternative).
A new development since 2012 is the rapid electrification of transport, for which there is both political momentum and market developments. In carbon-intensive electricity systems, some biofuels can perform well, but on average, electricity works better than most fuel types, and will do so increasingly as the electricity system decarbonises.
The US railway company Amtrak was right in this statement that rail travel is more energy efficient and already more decarbonised than cars or airplanes. Convincing consumers and authorities is another matter …
As for the EU, after strong growth for 20 years, since 2008 the number of passengers in high-speed rail is stagnating due to a lack of investments. The electrification of the EU railway network has almost come to a halt as well. Time to pick up where we left off?
While connections and delays are a necessary nuisance, couldn’t we make public transport more enjoyable (and more family-friendly) to increase its use?