“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is spending billions and billions for high speed rail a good idea?

The reality of train travel.
The idea a minute crowd in the Obama administration has seized on to the idea of high speed rail as a transportation solution. I assume this has the backing of Joe Biden, who has been using Amtrak for twenty years and has never spent five cents of his own money doing so.

He also has a driver meet him at the station in Washington, gets to the office when he feels like it, and Union Station is within blocks of the Senate. Driving into and out of DC is a nightmare and taking the train from Philadelphia or Wilmington makes sense. Unfortunately that is the exception and not the rule.

In order to have high speed rail in America, a lot has to change. The first thing is new track has to be put down. It is unsafe, unwise and impractical to have passenger and freight sharing the same track. Passenger service to be effective requires speed and convenience of schedule. Freight requires inexpensive transport and many transfer points.

A successful inter city system between New York and Washington make sense if you are going from Georgetown to Manhattan, but what if your final stop is in Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx. That requires transfers to some fairly unpleasant stations and subway trains, where there is neither glamour nor romance and often inconvenience of schedules.

Wishing they were in an SUV?

What if it rains or snows or you miss a connection?

It is next to impossible to go from station to station and still be convenient to and from your home to your destination which  may be blocks or miles away from the high speed station. No high speed line will offer the convenience, privacy, comfort and safety of your own automobile. No train will match the speed of an airplane.

The only way high speed train service makes sense is to open new satellite cities for development, and that is centralized planning on a massive scale and has nothing to do with time or fuel efficiency. Just the opposite may be true. You very well may end up with more development, more destruction of the natural environment and ironically more automobile traffic in areas where today there is little.

This idea is best forgotten.


  1. Illinois' long-dysfunctional government ultimately helped the state gain quick approval for a large share of federal stimulus money to fix roads and bridges, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday.


    Looking at the possibility of developing trains moving in excess of 200 m.p.h., LaHood compared the creation of high-speed rail networks to the construction of the interstate highway network launched by the Eisenhower administration.

    High-speed rail, LaHood said, will be Obama's "transportation legacy."
    Stimulus Funds

  2. Greetings,

    Welcome to the 17th issue of the Idaho Energy Newsletter. We hope to bring regional journalists a collection of recent news in the energy field, with an emphasis on nuclear energy. This newsletter is a product of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., which has proposed the Idaho Energy Complex (, a large advanced nuclear reactor with low cooling water requirements located about 65 miles southeast of Boise, in Elmore County. Company officials plan to submit a Combined Operating License Application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010. The approval process is expected to take three years and cost $80 million. Construction could begin as soon as late 2012 and finish with power generation beginning in late 2016.

    You may also be interested in Don Gillispie’s blog at Don, the CEO of AEHI, gives his take on energy-related issues and we invite you to visit and comment.

    Please call or write if you have any questions,

    Martin Johncox

    Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.


    Nuclear plant faces crucial rezone hearing April 22
    The Elmore County Commission will decide Wednesday night whether to rezone nearly 1,300 acres of land for a proposed nuclear power plant. Supporters have gathered more than 1,000 petition signatures and set up a dedicated Web site,, as well as billboards and radio ads. They’re also using social media, including a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, to get the message out about the 5,000 jobs the plant would create over several years. For their part, opponents vow to bus protestors to the hearing from Boise and surrounding areas. The Snake River Alliance was recently forced to publicly apologize for disruptive behavior at a Glenns Ferry City Council meeting, where AEHI CEO Don Gillispie was giving a presentation to the council.

    Idaho wind farm to send its electricity to Southern California
    A Seattle-based firm that has developed wind farms in Idaho will send electricity to Southern California for the next 20 years. Ridgeline energy will send between 90 MW and 130 MW to Southern California Edison from its Goshen Phase II project east of Idaho Falls. The wind farm, a joint venture with BP energy, has received its permits and is ready to be built. The farm will put about 100 people to work during construction and will cost more than $100 million to build. The company is also seeking approval for a 150-turbine wind project on more than 20,000 acres southeast of Idaho Falls in Bingham County, to have a total generating capacity of up to 450 MW.

    South Carolina leaders call for nuclear to be classified as renewable.
    U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., said nuclear energy should be counted as a renewable energy since nuclear plants don't emit the greenhouse gasses blamed for climate change, which is the main advantage of renewables. Also, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he wouldn't vote for the renewable energy standards unless nuclear energy is counted as a renewable energy, as states with few renewable resources will be discriminated against when renewable standards are imposed. Other politicians and experts have called for nuclear to be classified as renewable, since spent fuel occupies little space and can be reprocessed to make more fuel.

    Senator: “We ought to go totally nuclear”
    While U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., often has been a critic of the Tennessee Valley Authority, he told constituents at a town hall meeting he supports its plans to build a nuclear reactor in Jackson County, Ala. "Energy is probably our greatest long-term problem … We ought to go totally nuclear," Shelby said. "We have the most modern and the safest technology the world knows."

    Nations line up to develop nuclear power

    More than 50 nations are in talks with the UN atomic watchdog to build nuclear power plants, a twofold increase over the last four years. “The IAEA is talking with 50-60 countries about the construction of nuclear power plants," said Hans-Holger Rogner, head of planning and economic studies at the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an interview with the German newsletter VDI Nachrichten. The IAEA official said he expected interest in nuclear energy to keep rising. “If you look at long-term trends in the global energy industry, it's clear that there's no getting round the nuclear power option,” Rogner said. “That is particularly the case in countries and regions with access to few other usable resources," he said.

    Assessment continues on 11 proposed United Kingdom reactor sites
    The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced a preliminary study of 11 sites shows they are credible sites for nuclear plants and would be able to host atomic plants by 2025. The public has a month to comment on the proposed sites, nominated by several companies and the U.K.'s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Planning would begin later this year. U.K. utilities are vying to build reactors, backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a way to combat climate change and replace older stations. Atomic plants may generate power more cheaply than coal-fed units, in part because they aren’t required to buy emission permits for carbon dioxide.

  3. Because greenhouse gases are now said to be a threat in line with the Clean Air Act, the EPA could move in future to control their emission. However, a 60-day public comment period must follow the announcement, made on 17 April, and the EPA would only set new legislation after "an appropriate process" and considering "stakeholder input."

    "This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations," said EPA head Lisa Jackson. She added that, "Fortunately, it follows President Barack Obama's call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation."

    The EPA considered six greenhouse gases in its analysis: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. The origin of the study was a Supreme Court decision in April 2007 that greenhouse gases were air pollutants under the Clean Air Act after a challenge to the EPA from the state of Massachusetts over the role that car emissions play in public health.
    Threat to America

  4. From L.A. to Las Vegas the idea is mildly interesting. From anywhere else, to anywhere else, not so much. Pass the popcorn.

  5. Intrestin things them greenhouse gases. They keep going up, and the Temp keeps going down. 1998 was still the hottest year, you know.

  6. Thanks for educating me, Ruf.


    Great stuff.

  7. Here's a new "Red Meat" site for global warming Skeptics. Climate Depot

  8. You're welcome, Sam. This is still the best weather/climate site, day in and day out. Wattsupwiththat

  9. Our cities are just too big, and Spread Out for high speed rail, I think. You're just going to have to rent a car when you get there.

    If the destination is New Orleans, I think I might "ride the rail." Especially if we were talking 2 hrs.

    To St. Louis, for work, or to visit family, nah. Chicago in 3 hrs. Maybe. Would depend on how easy it was to rent the car once I got there.

    I tell ya, the more I think about it 200 MPH makes a difference. Flying's a mess. It would depend on the "convenience" factor.

  10. Maybe we should try a couple and just see.

  11. Drill here. Drill now. Drill ANWR.
    The Geological Survey and Congressional Research Service say it's 95% likely that there are 15.6 billion barrels of oil beneath ANWR. With today's prices and technology, 60 percent of that is recoverable. At $135 a barrel, that represents $1.3 trillion that we would not have to send to Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. It means lower prices and reduced risks of oil spills from tankers carrying foreign crude. ----

    From Rufus' link to Climate Depot.

    'Nuf said. Short and to the point. Nice and tidy.

  12. Thanks for the links, Rufus. Seriously.

    Climate Audit is another good one, but kind dense with statistics.

  13. I agree, but they're not going to do it. Oh well, we'll need it more later, I guess.

    In the meantime, the oil market is a mess. I don't think there are more than a handful of living human beings that know what's going on. Prices "Should Be" dropping, but they're not.

    You see various conspiracy theories, theories of "double-counting," due to the oil that's in "floating" storage. Paper barrels, reported as inventory, that don't exist. It's a freakin' mess.

    It's going to "Break Hard" one way, or the other. Or, Not. Sheesh.

  14. I agree, LT. Their math is way beyond my meager capabilities. I just can't slog through it.

  15. YES!

    This is exactly what our government ought to be doing with our tax dollars, blowing eight billion bucks on a high speed rail from LA to Vegas!


    This is government at its best, taking money out of my pocket and yours, and building a rail line to get people hooked on gambling, so the profits therefrom go into the pockets of a bunch of crappy people, who have paid off the politicians, and get a big pay back.


    This is a meaningful government expenditure, to get people hooked on gambling, drugs, liquor and Vegas hookers.


    We'll have more dudes walking about with gold chains on their necks, and easy women to be had for a price.


    This is the way to bring up our children.

    Your government at work.


  16. Brought to you by Senator Reid, and that slug of a man, President Ogamble, who wants to kill children that survive abortions.


  17. I know what I would wish would happen, but I'm not supposed to say what I would wish would happen, you know.

    We've got an abolute prick for President at this time.

  18. Off the gamblers go, on the Desert Debtor, o so speedy fast across the sands, to get their pocket picked by the government and those in the know.

    Have we hit bottom yet?

    What a bunch of shit.