CARB Explains Why HSR Is Essential to a Greener Future
Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to use cap-and-trade funds for high speed rail has generated some ill-informed criticism from environmentalists and right-wingers. Last week I explained how HSR is an appropriate use of those revenues. Apparently the California Air Resources Board wanted to speak up for themselves, which is exactly what they ought to do. So Mary Nichols, chair of the CARB board, joined Secretary of Transportation Brian Kelly to publish an LA Times op-ed explaining high speed rail’s important place in California’s green future:
High-speed rail has the same potential to change the way people travel in California. By 2040, it could reduce car miles traveled in the state by 3.6 billion miles a year, the equivalent of taking 317,000 cars off the road daily. And by 2020, the project is estimated to eliminate between 278,000 and 674,000 net metric tons of greenhouse gases from voluntary emissions reductions, electrification of local rail and other efforts. High-speed rail will be constructed with net-zero emissions and operate 100% from renewable energy.
This statewide rail system would also give rise to transit and pedestrian-friendly development, which, in turn, preserves Central Valley farmland. The city of Fresno, for example, has approved a land-use plan that directs growth to infill and denser development in the city core, while barring expansion into prime farmland on the city’s outskirts. A key element of this downtown development is the future high-speed rail station and its connection to transit.
California is on track to meet its 2020 emission reduction goals under AB 32, and we need investments in rail modernization to help achieve long-term reductions beyond that date. Reducing car travel, promoting infill and transit-oriented development, preserving farmland and open space, and avoiding massive highway and airport expansions are all part of the high-speed rail project and the vision for California transportation.
CARB knows what it’s talking about. They are the ones charged with implementing AB 32 and the cap-and-trade system, not the Sierra Club, and not the Legislative Analysts Office. CARB are the experts in the room, and they are saying that California needs high speed rail to meet its long-term CO2 reduction goals.
Nichols and Kelly also point out numerous other reasons why high speed rail is green, and those matter too. For anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist, concerned about reducing CO2 and protecting open space, supporting high speed rail at a moment when it is coming under intense attack from the right should be a top priority.