Operational support costs lead to buses producing more vehicle carbon emissions than aeroplanes on a per passenger basis, researchers suggest.
Mikhail V Chester and Arpad Horvath of the University of California at Berkeley explained that the environmental impact of transport should be assessed after looking at "life-cycle energy use and emissions".
They added that analysis of the tailpipe leads current assessments, which largely ignore data from production, fuel generation and infrastructure.
The researchers looked at data gathered through "a comprehensive life-cycle energy, greenhouse gas emissions and selected criteria air pollutant emissions inventory for automobiles, buses, trains, and airplanes in the US, including vehicles, infrastructure, fuel production, and supply chains".
"We find that total life-cycle energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions contribute an additional 63 per cent for onroad, 155 per cent for rail and 31 per cent for air systems over vehicle tailpipe operation," they concluded.
Transport currently accounts for a fourth of all carbon emissions in the UK.
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