Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Don't stay in bed, unless you can make money in bed. - George Burns

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Riding The Eco-Friendly Rails

I’m extremely skeptical of various supposedly eco-friendly light rail projects.  Most of the existing ones are money losers.  They are outrageously expensive and mostly hyped by people who have a vested interest in them.  Detroit wants to build one that serves no purpose.  Atlanta wants to build one that’s equally useless.  But even the most generous studies have concluded that these things are massive financial sinkholes, draining millions out of our economy.  The big rail lines our President wants to build would suck hundreds of millions a year out of our economy in maintaining and operating a useless and expensive rail system.

Well, that may be the tip of the iceberg.  An article at the economist claims these aren’t just bad for the economy, they’re bad for the environment:

Amtrak’s passenger services are sparse compared with Europe’s. But America’s freight railways are one of the unsung transport successes of the past 30 years. They are universally recognised in the industry as the best in the world.

This is another one of things we can thank Jimmy Carter for.  No, seriously.  His deregulation of the rail industry turned an economic sinkhole into a powerhouse.  Since then, rail use has tripled while the cost has been cut in half.

But many of the plans for high speed rail involve using existing track.  For every passenger car that would be put on the existing tracks, six freight cars would have to come off.  And if those cars come off the tracks, their cargo goes onto trucks.  Gas-guzzling, smog-belching, traffic-congesting trucks.  In terms of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, rail is massively more efficient than trucking.  This is especially true since Bush 43, with no attention from the media, forced the industry to upgrade their engines to far cleaner and more efficient models.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to put high-speed rail, at least in its current iteration, into the same bin as corn ethanol fuel.  This is looking more and more like a boondoggle, supported by special interests and slathered with glowing and false environmentalist claims.  Time to put a fork in this one.  At least for now.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 11/24/10 at 08:55 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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