The Netherlands are called the Netherlands because so much of its landscape lies below sea level. Combined with the fact that it sits besides the sea, this means that the small European country is susceptible to flooding, so much so that the Dutch have been struggling with water management issues for centuries and centuries. A struggle that is evidenced by one of the most sophisticated systems of levees and other water management constructions that can be found in the entire world, which serves to keep the water within its normal course instead of ripping through the rest of the landscape whenever the weather becomes riled up.
However, it is important to note that the Netherlands’ water management issues are becoming worse and worse because of climate change caused by the excessive build-up of greenhouse gases in our shared atmosphere. First, this is because a hotter planet is causing the seawater to expand, resulting in the sea using up more space. Second, this is because a hotter planet is causing ice formations to melt, resulting in the sea being filled up with more seawater. Combined, these two trends are responsible for a sea level rise of at least 0.04 to 0.1 inches on an annual basis since 1900, which is raising the risk of flooding for numerous countries situated all around the world. The Netherlands is expected to be one of the countries that are most at-risk from this phenomenon, both because of its low landscape and because of its high population densities.
As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Netherlands has a strong interest in combating climate change by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, which can be seen in the recent success of its national railway company NS in switching all of its electric trains over to wind energy from its non-renewable counterparts. In brief, NS signed a deal with the electricity company Eneco that mandated 2018 as the date by which all of its electric trains would have to be run by wind energy. However, Eneco was able to get that job done ahead of schedule because of the increase in the number of wind farms that can be found in the Netherlands not just on land but also out on the sea.
As a result, a significant percentage of NS’s 600,000 daily passengers now travel on electric trains powered by renewable energy, which is an important achievement that promises to become even more so as NS and Eneco continue to collaborate on making the electric trains even more efficient in spite of the fact that each one is already capable of running for 120 miles from the output of a single wind farm running for a single hour. Summed up, it is clear that the change is an enormous step for the Netherlands in regards to its environmental goals, which should come as welcome news considering the urgency of climate change.
Can the United States Do the Same Thing?
Theoretically, the United States has the resources needed to power electric trains with renewable energy. After all, electric trains are not beyond the capabilities of American companies. Furthermore, more and more renewable energy is being produced in the United States as time passes, which should come as no surprise to learn because the sheer size of the country means that there are plenty of places with the perfect conditions for producing wind energy as well as other forms of renewable energy.
Practically, it seems improbable that the United States will be powering electric trains with 100 percent renewable energy anytime soon. In part, this is because Americans have been slower to adopt electric trains than other countries in the world, which can be attributed in large part to the sheer expense involved in setting up a separate set of infrastructure for electric trains while still maintaining the previous set of infrastructure for their predecessors.
However, it should also be noted that trains are nowhere near as popular in the United States as they are in other countries, which can be attributed to the unique conditions of the American market for transportation as well as the conscious push for automobiles over forms of public transportation. Something that can be seen in the fact that rail trips make up a pitiful 2 percent of travel for the purpose of business and an even smaller percent of travel for the purpose of pleasure. As a result, while the United States possesses the capabilities to power electric trains with renewable energy, it seems improbable that it will manage to match the Netherlands’ feat in this regard anytime soon barring some sort of remarkable sea change.
With that said, it is important to note that focusing too much on a single way that the Netherlands is combating climate change is missing the forest for the trees. After all, what matters is the switch over from non-renewable sources of energy to their renewable counterparts with the attendant lowering of greenhouse gas emissions rather than the exact method used to achieve said purpose. In this regard, the United States is faring well – it is not as fervent about the process as some of the other countries out there, but it is making more and more use of renewable energy as the relevant techniques and technologies become more and more refined.
However, it remains to be seen whether the United States will take dramatic steps to promote the use of renewable energy in the near future as a whole. This is important because there is reason to believe that dramatic changes could produce dramatic results, with an excellent example being a recent study suggesting that the United States could reduce its carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent by using existing techniques and technologies. Granted, this would require the creation of a national transmission network so that solar and wind energy could be transmitted to wherever it is needed from the places that are most suitable for producing them, which would be expensive and time-consuming to build to say the least, but at the same time, this shows that making a sizable dent in its emissions of greenhouse gases is far from being beyond the reach of the United States so long as it possesses the will to do so.
- Dutch Trains 100% Wind Powered
- Netherlands is Flooding
- Sea Level Climate Facts
- Long Distance Transportation Patterns Report
- US Could Switch To Renewable Batteries
Photo by Flickr user kismihok