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  • Writer's pictureazurecoder

Councils need to think about Carbon impact on road planning!

I was stuck in traffic today for a few hours on the way to New Scientist Live. Missed loads of it. My bad planning. Worst luck. Really annoying.

I left my town, Bishop's Stortford and wanted to jump on the M11 towards London (the Excel conference centre). I was shit out of luck because the M11 roundabout was closed between Stansted, Cambridge and London. There was no sign anywhere saying to me "if you're going to London, avoid this roundabout like the plague. If you don't, you'll be re-routed via the arse-end of nowhere"

So, I got to the roundabout and every car in front of me was routed left. I'm at a really awkward junction and if I hit the roundabout and go left instead of straight or right, it's 15/16 miles to Saffron Walden, the next exit that I can get off on. So, me and bunch of cars in front of me were forced left without a sneaky exit between bollards and road closures so that we could self-correct and go cross-country.

So, late and annoyed and careering at 50 mph north on the M11 in traffic I head to the next junction worried that I hadn't charged my EV enough for this addition to my journey. As I was incensed, I got my son to look up the CO2 emissions from an average 1.6 litre engine. Turns out it's 411g/Mile. We went through the calculation so that I could wind myself up some more.

So, at a 32-mile wasted round trip we calculated that an average vehicle would expend just under 13kg of CO2. Grrrr.

So, at the next junction we car-counted. It was 2pm in the afternoon so maybe relatively peak in the day but 6 cars including us came off and within a 10 second period turned around at the Saffron Walden junction. So that puts us at 78kg CO2 per 10 second period or around 28 tons of CO2 per hour. I'm estimating here because I don't know but I'm going to assume that for 4 hours this was more or less the mean and for an additional 8 hours it was half of that per hour. That puts us at an incredible 224 tons/CO2 for not putting a proper sign up or including a place to turn around and go cross country or via Stansted onto the M11 to London route. I got home later on and learned (in my ignorance as I don't drive on Saturdays normally - D&D day :-)) that this had been going on for 2 months. So, let's re-estimate Saturdays. That's around 1.8 Ktons/Co2 emissions for bad planning on the part of the Council.

Now, the funny thing about this is that Carbon has a price. It's a not a very good price and has been more or less determined by a bunch of bankers rather than scientists but nevertheless it has a value in tradable Carbon certificates. That's $50 on average. So now, if we extrapolate this out ... If the Council had to trade away the Carbon that it just caused it would cost $90K. Thanks to successive recent governments running the country into the ground and seeing the dollar exchange rate go through the floor that's around £81,200 at today's spot prices. Hmmm, so if we'd paid two people £35K/year each, leaving a little for pension and Employers NI one could have been responsible putting up a large sign on the two routes to the roundabout and the other to formulate a way for people to turn around.

But, it gets better than that. If, however, bankers and economists don't work out the price of Carbon and engineers and scientists do we can peg it to a technology like Direct Carbon Capture which on average is $250 (it should be the gold standard for these calcs since it literally sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere) then that raw cost for 8-weeks of this is around £400K. If this was the external cost and the council had to pay a fine for their intransigence and blatant lack of thought on the negative externality that they had generated my back of the envelope says that council tax could go up by another 20p per household.

I think I've made a case for spending £35K/year and training someone in assessing Carbon impact on roads and avoiding these stupid issues. I live in a relatively normal part of the country (I think) so I can assume that this is going on in other places. If we take this to the logical conclusion and say that this is happening in at least 50 other places for the same time period and conditions every year it leads to whopping external cost of £20 million per year or 90kton/CO2. Such a waste. More common sense needed and more thought about roles that can be responsible for things like this whilst we're in the middle of a potential climate meltdown.

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