Why the investments should now go to railroads and renewable energy?
Keskiviikko 27.5.2020 klo 14:19 - Mikko Nikinmaa
During the coronavirus lockdowns the energy consumption has decreased markedly so that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased measurably. This has mainly been caused by reduced traffic, since heating and production of electricity have continued close to pre-coronavirus time. Now, the leaders/economist/politicians looking in the past suggest that when the economies are opened, the climate actions, including changes in energy production, should be delayed until a better time. However, there will never be a better time than this to increase investments in renewable energy.
First, all countries are giving massive stimulus funds. One of the most important sectors is improving infrastructure. When improving infrastructure, two directions stand out: railroads and power plants. With improvements of rail traffic, one could change most transport from road transport to rail transport. It would only require that in addition to improvement of rails one would build goods terminals to facilitate container transfer from trains to trucks. With this done, all long-distance goods transport would take place in railroads, and road transport would be restricted to the travel between the place of production/use and rail terminals. Such a change would have several benefits. One would decrease oil use markedly in transport, since trains are mostly electrical. One would also decrease the use of roads by heavy traffic, and thereby reduce the need for repairing them, also reducing oil consumption (in asphalt). Finally, tyre wear is currently the most important source of microplastics. Thus, reducing road traffic would reduce this universal environmental contamination. Developing bullet trains with international route planning would diminish passenger transport in air traffic, and improvement of railroads would increase local passenger train traffic, also reducing oil consumption.
One of the things with investment is that virtually all political and economic circles say that the corona support should be for a fixed time period, not taking place forever. Building power plants to harness renewable energy fulfils this criterion. Power plants producing energy from renewable sources, wind, sunlight, waves, tide or water flow, only carry costs during building. Thereafter virtually no costs are associated with energy production, so energy production becomes cheaper and cheaper with time. This is in stark contrast with power plants using oil, natural gas, coal or peat, which all require continuously buying the fuel. Further, whereas much of the traditional fuels must be imported, thus generating problems with security of supply, the renewable resources are truly local, and can be used even in the direst of crises.
In conclusion, investing in climate-friendly railroads and renewable energy makes sense both politically and economically. Such investments are going to the future, which we should do instead of reverting in tha unsustainable past.