Region Forward Blog

Young Brits are driving less France is celebrating TGV anniversary by expanding it and nuclear power will grow less than expected

Sep 30, 2011


This week The Guardian asks if Britain’s love affair with the car has ended. Rates of driving in the UK have decreased dramatically over the past few years especially among young people. Why are young Brits eschewing the personal automobile? The piece points to two motivating factors: an increase in gas prices (and Europe already had vastly higher gas prices relative to the US) as well as the proliferation of programs like ZipCar that allow people to have a car only when they need one.

As we noted earlier this summer driving appears to be on the decline in many Western countries but the growth rates in emerging nations may more than offset the positive impacts from the West’s reductions.

Moving across the Channel France’s high-speed rail system is riding high as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. As The Transport Politic notes since 1981 trains have glided across France at 200 mph cutting travel times dramatically and reducing the need for driving or flying all without a single fatality. The success of the TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse) has encouraged France’s European neighbors to pursue high-speed rail which now covers much of Western Europe (and soon North Africa as well). However as expansion plans for building a staggering 2300 km (1430 miles) of new lines over the next decade questions are beginning to arise about how much the French state can afford.

Now let’s turn to energy. After the Tokyo earthquake/tsunami earlier this year and the nuclear scare that it provoked Germany moved up its abandonment of nuclear power. The Japanese disaster is apparently having an impact beyond Germany – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is revising its global growth estimates for nuclear power downward.

What will the impact be on greenhouse gas emissions? Germany claims that renewables will be able to fill the void but what about the rest of the world? Will the lower than expected growth rate of nuclear energy (which emits no greenhouse gases) have a negative impact on the fight against global climate change?

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