The word 'green' is today associated with almost anything that lends itself to being beneficial to the environment. Sometimes, the use of the word may stray beyond plausible boundaries; one such 'green' misconception is as applied to electrically powered transportation.
Electric trains have been extant for many years. There are two main types: the most common nowadays being those that take their power from high voltage overhead lines. Losing ground against this 'overhead' supply is the visually unobtrusive third or fourth rail supply at track level with a voltage of approximately 800Vdc. It is claimed, with some justification, that this latter system has no place in a safety conscious society. To some extent this is true, for there have been many deaths, not only of trespassers, but also of railway workers that have touched the 'live' rail, yet have we done enough to make this system safer, given the modern day switching systems now available?
However, should 'greenness' only be taken as limiting the amount of pollutants in our atmosphere? Perhaps visual pollution as illustrated, should also be a factor we take fully into account, particularly if we properly investigate some of the inadequately considered aspects of electrical propulsion. It is true that at the point of converting electrical energy to kinetic (movement) energy, be it a train or a personal transport application, there is almost zero atmospheric pollution, but are we deluding ourselves?
The electricity we use for trains and cars must be generated somewhere and, depending upon the generation method employed, be it coal, oil or gas, varying amounts of particulate pollution will arise and there are separate issues with nuclear generation. There are, sadly, some proponents of the green cause, noble though it is, that would brush some of these factors under the carpet, believing that renewable energy will come rapidly to the rescue. However, do we really want huge wind turbines marching across our once green and pleasant land and only to travel when it is windy?
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