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"Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much."
A Jim Pence Quote
"American Politics, a sport for the rich and enslavement for the rest of us."
A Jim Pence Quote
rail electrification

Sunday Train: Local Electric Transport and the Energy Independence Levy

by: BruceMcF

Sun May 16, 2010 at 21:22:40 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

If we reduce our oil consumption by 5% a year over each of the next twenty years, that allows use to be free of our oil addiction if we choose to be. But as I observed last week, since 60%-70% of our oil consumption is in transport, that means that in each decade, seven out of the ten 5% reductions have to come out of transport.

I set forward three of the seven for the coming decade last week: the Steel Interstates, national funding for sustainable power local transit corridors, and a target of 5% "Active Transport" - pedestrian and cycle transport.

I have written at some length on the Steel Interstate, but this was the first airing of the rest of the proposal. I promised to go into more depth this week ... and that's what I aim to do today.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2878 words in story)

Sunday Train: Working on the Railroad for Energy Independence

by: BruceMcF

Mon May 10, 2010 at 10:50:26 AM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Well how the frack d'ya like me now?

I'm not going to say "toldya so", since many who will be reading this diary said much the same during the "Drill, Baby, Drill" absurdity in 2008 ... but the undersea oil volcano underlines, boldfaces and highlights in red the basic facts of the situation that we face:

  • Our country produces about twice as much crude oil per person as the world average
  • Our country consumes about five times as much crude oil per person as the world average
  • And we have been producing oil a long time, have passed our peak of domestic oil production, and aint ever getting back to it.

And, anyway, we already tried Drill, Baby, Drill. Its played itself out already.

Obviously, the direction to go to insulate ourselves from oil price shocks and the recessions they cause is to cut our consumption. Which means, in part, Train, Baby, Train.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1490 words in story)

Sunday Train: Working on the Railroad - Why Krugman is Wrong

by: BruceMcF

Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 21:08:33 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

In his inimitable "twisting mainstream economics in as progressive direction as he can accomplish" style, Paul Krugman has made a splash among those following the challenge of our headlong and reckless pursuit of Climate Chaos with a column on the cost of policies to put the brakes on that reckless gamble.

Hat tip to A Siegal, who nailed a critical failing of Krugman's analysis:

Krugman falls into the trap of discussing the costs of dealing with climate change ... a robust cost/benefits analysis would ... result in a very serious statement as to the "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action".

In particular, it is a common failing of mainstream economics to assume an economy that naturally tends to full employment, so that policies that boost employment are a cost, when in the real world they are a benefit.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2192 words in story)

Sunday Train: King of the Mountain, Part 1

by: BruceMcF

Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 20:18:20 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I noted near the beginning of the Appalachian Hub series about the special advantages offered by rail electrification for this project.

Now that I have sketched out a process by which a national Steel Interstate network of corridors can, in fact, be built in this coming decade, this is probably a good time to come back and take a look at the challenges that are faced when putting the Steel Interstates through hilly and mountainous terrain.

Of course, if rail electrification was a particular benefit in mountainous terrain, one would expect to see it in places like, say, Switzerland.
Picture of a Swiss electric freight west of the Albula tunnel

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1254 words in story)

Sunday Train: Heritage Opposes Freedom to Choose High Speed Rail

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 17:51:12 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I'm shocked, shocked I say, that a belief tank partly funded by Big Oil and Union Busters would issue a piece attacking High Speed Rail. But they did, claiming that there is a "Coming High Speed Rail Financial Disaster".

Less shocking is that the argument in the piece is tissue-thin, relying on shell games and appeal to stereotype in lieu of evidence.

Of course, just because its an empty argument does not mean its a pointless one. When you are trying to prevent solutions to problems, FUD ... Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt ... can sometimes be as effective as genuine argument.

Well, I hope someone out there is able to frame great counter-arguments that are useful in cracking into Dr. Utt's (Economics) target audience of those with short attention spans and limited access to information. What I can offer here is raw material for those counter-arguments.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2286 words in story)

Sunday Train: Economic Independence will Help Pay For Itself

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 23:48:25 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I presented a draft of a national Steel Interstate plan. The focus was on the Institutional Framework required to be able to build it, including the source for the interest subsidy to finance its up front capital cost.

Possibly lost in the wall of words was an important point, which was focused on by some commentary: the users are paying the capital construction cost. As a country, we need it, so as a country, it makes sense to find a way to jumpstart it and have it available for the oil prices shocks that are coming in this next two decades.

... but once it starts getting used, that's what will cover the original construction cost. One way we can tell we are heading toward Economic Freedom is that it helps pay for itself.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1896 words in story)

Sunday Train: A Nationwide Freight and Passenger Regional HSR System

by: BruceMcF

Sun Mar 07, 2010 at 21:12:39 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence

It often seems there is a deep canyon lying between what we can do and what needs to be done as a community, as a local region, as a state, as a national region, or as a nation.

But the Steel Interstate is a national program that a coalition of determined groups of advocates scattered across the country could get going. It bridges regional interest conflicts, and offers a way to advance some of the interests of so many - Interstate motorists, advocates of freedom from cars, organized labor, the largely disorganized army of the unemployed, advocates of ecological sustainability, advocates of mitigating climate chaos, and Progressive Patriots, to name just a few.

Of course, I want to talk process, but it seems to be network maps that catches people's interest. So how I will go about this is alternating Map and Process.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 3670 words in story)

Sunday Train: Going to Disneyland, Disneyworld, and Other Adventures

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 19:23:38 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Huh, seems me that whatever the state of my various concerns, the agenda of the Sunday Train has been taken over by the White House ... funny how announcing the recipients of a total of $8b will do that.

The Transport Politic (aka Yonah Freeman and the TTP commentariat) has a very complete rundown. The allotments over $200m are:

  • California, $2,344m
  • Florida: $1,250m
  • Illinois: $1,236m
  • Wisconsin: $822m
  • Washington: $590m
  • North Carolina: $545m  
  • Ohio: $400m

So, what's the money for? Join me below the fold. For the Appalachian Hub, this is essential background information, though the St. Louis, Cincinnati and North Carolina projects have special interest.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1641 words in story)

Sunday Train: A Train Running A Profit is Charging Too Much

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 20:22:48 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Note that the statement is abbreviated for the title. The full statement is, a common carrier like a train, bus, or plane that running a profit based on passenger revenue while paying its full operating and capital cost is charging too much for its tickets.

The radical abbreviation of the title is in part because of the radical abbreviation of the lie that is commonly used as a frame. The lie is that a common carrier like a train, bus or plane that is paying for its full operating and capital costs out of passenger revenue ought to run a profit, commonly expressed as a charge of, "SERVICE_XYZ is losing money, it needs to be reformed!", which assumes that Service_XYZ is supposed to be making a profit.

And, of course, in the sense described above, if its a common carrier transport service, of course it shouldn't be making a profit. And further, if under the above conditions, if its making a profit, you're doing it wrong. In the sense given above, PROFIT=FAIL.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1173 words in story)

Sunday Train: Freight and Passenger Trains Should Be Friends

by: BruceMcF

Sun Jan 10, 2010 at 18:06:41 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Flying home from the Economist's national conference Atlanta (see note1) my brilliant entertainment plan to pass the day lost flying home from Atlanta fell apart.

I could not attend even the 8am session on Tuesday, because the flight left at 11:15, and I was warned about TSA security theater delays. So I got on the MARTA train around 8:30, to stand in line to check-in, to stand in line to get through screening, to get to the gate and wait, to get on the plane which waited in line for a runway. It was, however, only half an hour in the air, so that fact that with a 125mph train to Charlotte I could have gone to the morning conference session and arrived in Charlotte sooner is neither here nor there.

Then I had a 3hr+ layover in Charlotte until the plane back home to NE Ohio. But I had my Netflix and some FullMetal Alchemist DVD's, so no problem. Except my portable DVD player decided to stop working (see note2), so there were no DVD's. Which meant I was forced to fall back on a "pbook" (paper book) I had brought with me - Waiting on a Train, which meant that I finally finished it (and still had several hours to wait after I had done so).

And in particular read the fascinating discussion of the touchy relationship between freight and passenger trains. Regular readers will know that this is a critical point: indeed, the entire Steel-Interstate strategy to getting Higher Speed Rail for Appalachia rests on passenger trains running on infrastructure provided in support of 100mph electric freight trains.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1505 words in story)

Sunday Train: Doctor Dan prescribes High Speed Rail for Kentucky

by: BruceMcF

Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 18:26:43 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Doctor Dan Mongiardo, Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor, has announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for the Kentucky Senate race, to take on whoever wins the Republican nomination to challenge for the seat that Senator Bunning (R-Big$$$) has announced he is giving up.

Lots of politics to unwrap in that paragraph, which I'll leave to the political wise-guys. The Sunday Train today is about Dr. Dan's Rail Plan.

As far as I can tell, Dr. Dan's Rail Plan has four main parts, and regular readers of the Sunday Train will recognize much from each of the four parts:

  • Support for expanding Kentucky's existing and potential Amtrak routes into 110mph Emerging Higher Speed Rail corridors
  • Support for regional rail services to complete the above state rail map
  • "Hybrid Light Rail" to provide cross-metropolitan local rail services, principally to Louisville
  • Heavy investment in complementary local transit, including bus rapid transit and a high frequency driverless monotrain system for Kentucky.


Act Blue Page

For those looking to send some snake oil Doctor Dan's way: Daniel Mongiardo's Act Blue Page.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 1489 words in story)

Sunday Train: Hey, Joe, I still want sustainable electric HSRail for Christmas

by: BruceMcF

Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 19:09:36 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last year, I told VP Joe Biden about the Sustainable Electric High(er) Speed Rail I wanted for Christmas (cf. links below). It involved electrifying the 30,000+ miles of STRACNET, and establishing 100mph Rapid Freight Rail paths, including support for running 110mph or 125mph long haul electric passenger services on the Rapid Freight paths.

In short, I wanted Joe Biden to take Alan Drake's plan and just fracking DO it.

I didn't get it for Christmas last year - but then, I guess he was only VP-elect last 25DEC08. The post today is to look at the progress toward the goal. The answer, surprisingly, is that we have made substantial progress. Certainly we are not halfway there, yet, but we are much further along than I expected to see.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1732 words in story)

Build Steel Interstates with $1/barrel and 1% of the Carbon Fee

by: BruceMcF

Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 13:07:56 PM EST

crossposted from Agent Orange

The Steel Interstate concept (tagpage) is one that I have been discussing, off and on, in my Sunday Train series. The basic idea is to electrify the Department of Defense STrategic RAil Corridor NETwork, STRACNET (right), and establish 100mph Rapid Freight Rail paths, to allow an estimated (Millenium Institute pdf) half of long haul trucking to shift to electric freight rail at a saving of about 10% of our current oil imports.

This diary is about how to overcome the only thing standing in its way: Public Finance. And that is to impose a $1/barrel tax on imported petroleum and petroleum products, and allocate 1% of any Carbon Fee to financing construction.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2064 words in story)

Sunday Train: Leveraging Pittsburgh / Cleveland for Canton/Akron / UPDATED

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 25, 2009 at 19:31:15 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
crossposted from ProgressiveBlue, also available in Orange

One of the stories that came out into the press this week was the pledge by the US Department of Transport to look into extending the designated HSR corridors to include Pittsburgh/Cleveland.

This would extend the Cleveland/Chicago route via northern Indiana and connect with the Triple-C route at Cleveland (both currently competing for HSR Stimulus funding). This is a 145 mile alignment that would offer a 2:10 Express trip between these two cities as a 110mph corridor, for a 67mph route speed - and faster, of course, if later upgraded to a 125mph Regional HSR corridor.

The focus today is not, however, High Speed Rail - it is conventional rail. The focus is on how to take this alignment that hit the top northeast corner of Akron's Summit County and leverage it into effective rail service for the Canton-Akron area.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2186 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Pay-To-Grow Financial Model for Regional HSR

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 19:23:43 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
also Agent Orange

Let construction or upgrade of a rail corridor be proposed, and almost immediately the cry goes up, "but we can't afford it! It costs too much!".

Confusing the response to this cry is that there are two quite different types of "cost too much" - real, and financial.

There first "cost of rail" question is the real cost question: what is the full economic benefit, including all material and energy impacts saved versus other alternative, versus the full economic cost.
___________
Note: The first kind of "cost versus benefit" question is the kind that Ed Gleaser fumbled so badly when he assumed Zero Population Growth in east Texas, no congestion today between Houston and Dallas on the intercity road network, either deliberately or through negligence bypassed important intercity transport demands along the route of his corridor, and presumed that the only available option was the most capital-intensive type of rail corridor, the all-new, all-grade separated, Express High Speed Rail corridor.
____________

The second "cost of rail" question is the financial cost - given the complex, sometimes ad hoc, and often inconsistent sets of rules we have established for allocating resources for both investment in transport infrastructure and paying for transport operations, how do we "pay for" construction or upgrade of those rail corridors that our best analysis of cost and benefit indicate are wise investments.

That second question is what I am looking at today.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 2917 words in story)

Sunday Train: Supporting Rail Electrification with the Climate Bill

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 16:16:11 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Transport For America (t4america.org) has a call to action out on the Climate Change Bill. "ACES" passed the House, and the corresponding (but of course not identical) legislation is presently up for consideration in the Senate.

The basis of the call for action is straightforward:

  • 1% of the revenues raised by the Carbon Fee is permitted to be used for clean energy transport - not even mandated, but optionally may be used for that among a range of other options.
  • Transport is responsible for 30% of the CO2 emitted
  • thus, "You can't solve 30% of the problem with 1% of the funds

Now, about 14% of carbon fee revenue is dedicated to emissions reduction, so that is 7.2% of the emissions reduction budget allocated that is the maximum allowed to be spent on installing existing clean energy transport. Based on CBO estimates of carbon fees, the maximum amount that states would be allowed to devote to clean energy transport is:

  • $391m in 2011; rising to
  • $1.3b ($1,323m) in 2019

By contrast, the bill authorizes utilities to tax customers by $1b-$1.1b a year over 10 years to finance the installation of Carbon Sequestration Technology, which is the excuse given for permitting continued construction of coal-fired generating plants. (source: 1Sky analysis, pdf)

This means:

  • The most promising single opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport inside a decade, electrification of the STRACNET long haul rail freight network, is entirely out of bounds for any funding
  • Funding for electric rail and trolley bus passenger transport requires first gaining approval through Federal programs that discriminate against energy-efficiency
There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2649 words in story)

Sunday Train: Breaking Free of the Population Density Myth

by: BruceMcF

Sun Oct 04, 2009 at 16:11:14 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Today, the focus is on one lovely rhetorical ploy used by anti-rail advocates to try to put one over on people with limited experience with trains. This relies on the false framing that "trains is trains", and uses something that is true about a particular kind of local rail transport to mislead people about 110mph Emerging High Speed Rail in particular.

Randall O'Toole, working for The Cato Institute (Sourcewatch), recently completed another of his series of propaganda pieces against High Speed Rail, for the "Show-Me Institute". Sourcewatch does not have much on the "Show-Me Institute", but it does note that in 2006, a contribution of $50,000 to the "Show-Me Institute" appeared in the annual report ... of the Cato Institute.

And what is this shell game?

  • High capacity, high frequency local mass transit rail systems yhtive best with high population densities
  • Therefore the higher the population density, the better for High Speed Rail
  • Therefore the Northeast Corridor shows the best that is possible for High Speed Rail

Didja catch it? Local mass transit rail and intercity High Speed Rail share people sitting in carriages with steel wheels running on steel rails - nowhere near enough in common to support the weight of the "therefore".

In reality, the Northeast Corridor could well be over the threshold where population density starts to undermine High Speed Rail operating ratios.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1708 words in story)

Sunday Train: Rapid Streetcars and Suburban Retrofit

by: BruceMcF

Sun Sep 27, 2009 at 15:24:54 PM EDT

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
crossposted to Agent Orange

The people's choice award in the Re-Burbia "Rethinking Suburbia" design competition was the entry titled Urban Sprawl Repair Kit: Repairing The Urban Fabric.

But I want to adapt these ideas from the repair of the urban fabric to the original creation of a healthy suburban fabric. From further below:

After all, no matter how much one may love big cities - big cities have never been the be-all and end-all of settlement. Part of a healthy big city economy is a healthy network of relationships to a surrounding network of healthy smaller cities. And part of what makes them healthy is a healthy network of relationships to healthy small towns and villages.

And that is the foundation of the Suburban Town and Village design pattern, using the Rapid Streetcar as its transport infrastructure backbone: providing suburban Towns and Villages that work in their own right, replacing the two-dimensional movie-set facade of Town and Village life offered by most suburban sprawl communities.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 3740 words in story)

Sunday Train: Growing Green Transport

by: BruceMcF

Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 14:13:06 PM EDT

See Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence for crosspost links

On Thursday, djrekluse at the Daily Kos said:

Despite considerable tension and even aversion in green communities to the subject, we cannot talk about "going green" without making it a discussion about growth through various hierarchies of human development.  Really, the subject of growth should come as second nature to "green" thinkers and communities-after all, a blade of grass must grow to two inches before it can grow to six; a tree must grow from acorn to sapling before it can someday become a mighty oak.  In much the same way, our consciousness, our values, and our cultures must also move through several distinct stages of growth before we can even begin to even see the problem, let alone care enough to do anything about it.

In other words, "going green" really means "growing green," and represents the crux of almost all the global issues we presently face: it's not a problem of human imagination, technological innovation, or even political will-it's a problem of human growth


Consciousness, Culture, and Climate: Growing Green

This provides a frame for thinking about growing an energy independent transport system, and about the multiple ways that local, regional, and inter-regional rail systems can help in that growth.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 3821 words in story)

Sunday Train: 21st Century Steel Interstate

by: BruceMcF

Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 15:16:07 PM EDT

crossposted from MyLeftWing

Having lost sight of our goals we redoubled our efforts
- Mark Twain

I have blogged on this topic before (links below the fold), and the concept is both powerful and simple. Electrify main rail corridors and provide the capacity to support 100mph Rapid Freight Rail. The points are direct:

  • Electric rail freight needs under 10% the energy of diesel truck freight
  • Even with short-haul trucking to origin railhead and from destination railhead, 100mph Rapid Freight Rail is faster door to door freight than long-haul trucking
  • In underused Rights of Way, rail capacity is decreasing cost, with additional capacity cheaper than existing capacity
  • As a side-effect benefit, any system that supports high reliability scheduled freight delivery automatically support substantially upgrade passenger rail services

With the focus on Long-Haul Freight, this proposed system has been dubbed the "Steel Interstate" (pdf).

Virginia is facing a Dinosaur Economy proposal to expand I-81 to  eight lanes to cope with the combination of truck and car traffic. RAIL Solutions has turned to the Steel Interstate that:

  • is a lower cost alternative
  • is not addicted to oil,
  • and takes semi-truck traffic off I-81, rather than imposing more semi-truck traffic on the motorists using I-81.
There's More... :: (2 Comments, 2728 words in story)
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