Yet Another Strong Defense of HSR From the LA Times Editorial Board

Jan 7th, 2012 | Posted by

One of the most important signs that the California high speed rail project is still viable is that its supporters remain, well, supportive. Among them is the Los Angeles Times, whose editorial board came out today with a very strong editorial backing the project. They refer to the Peer Review Report and other “expert analysis” and explain why the project still ought to be backed anyway:

The trouble with this kind of expert analysis, though, is that it seldom takes politics into account. Planners didn’t have much choice but to place the initial segment where they did, because to qualify for federal stimulus money they had to guarantee that construction would begin quickly, and the Central Valley portion was thought to be the only part of the line that would be ready to meet Washington’s deadline. No source of future funding, such as a higher gasoline tax, has been proposed because the economy is rotten and voters would be unlikely to approve it right now. So does that mean the whole thing should be scrapped?

As they explain, the answer is clearly “no,” but their explanation of the politics matters a lot here. I know that the more technical-minded folks out there get driven crazy by these political factors, but there has yet to be a human society without politics of some kind. And so far, in my view, the political factors have not compromised the value, benefits, or operational sense of the HSR project.

The LA Times continues in their defense of the project, making some interesting comparisons that aren’t exactly the first ones that come to my mind – but then again, maybe comparisons to the Interstates, the California Aqueduct, Shasta and Boulder Dams, and the Bay bridges are getting old:

The project’s current political ills remind us of the firestorm that erupted over L.A.’s subway, when sinkholes appeared on Hollywood Boulevard, construction mismanagement led to cost overruns, and voters became so disillusioned with subways that they approved a measure in 1998 forbidding the expenditure of county sales tax money to pay for them ever again. A decade later, they realized how shortsighted they had been; failure to complete a subway to the sea contributed to worsening gridlock on the Westside, and the subway had such clear benefits for riders that its construction troubles were largely forgotten. The result: County voters approved a new measure in 2008 to raise the sales tax to pay for, among other things, more subway construction.

Well, OK, this comparison is actually a pretty good one. Even after voters had approved Metro Rail in 1980, there was a great deal of debate about whether it was a good solution for a famously car-dependent metropolis. As construction began, as sinkholes appeared, and as stores exploded momentum began to halt. Even after the first segments of rail opened in 1993, controversy led to the infamous 1998 vote. Today, support for rail is virtually unanimous in LA County, with only a few scattered groups of NIMBYs and deniers left to try and hold back the pro-rail tide.

Of course, we hope HSR won’t face the same kind of problems that plagued the Wilshire subway (and one way to ensure it doesn’t – build fewer tunnels in urban areas!). But as we found with Metro Rail, delays don’t solve anything. They just drive the price up and generate greater costs and inconveniences in the short term.

One of the common comparisons for HSR is to Boston’s Big Dig. Normally it’s a derisive comparison meant to signify that HSR would be some sort of “boondoggle.” But the Times recognizes that, on the whole, the Big Dig has been a boon for Boston:

The same phenomenon is already happening in Boston, home of the nation’s most expensive transportation project. The Big Dig highway tunneling scheme was a political catastrophe a few years ago, what with mistakes that prompted severe delays and caused the price tag to skyrocket. Although the Big Dig is nobody’s idea of the right way to build infrastructure, Bostonians are now reveling in a downtown park built on what used to be an expressway, and a tangled traffic mess has been unsnarled. In a few more years, the headaches will probably have been forgotten.

They’re certainly right about the big picture. And one of the reasons for the Big Dig’s high costs was poor planning – constant delays and politically-motivated changes to the design being the main culprits.

The Times even reaches back into ancient history:

Worthwhile things seldom come without cost or sacrifice. That was as true in ancient times as it is now; pharaoh Sneferu, builder of Egypt’s first pyramids, had to try three times before he got it right, with the first two either collapsing under their own weight or leaning precipitously. But who remembers that now? Not many people have heard of Sneferu, but his pyramids and those of his successors are wonders of the world.

Well, at least we can be assured that California’s HSR system won’t suffer the same fate, given that HSR has been built countless times around the globe. And rather than being built by slave labor, it will be built by well-paid, unionized workers, providing a significant economic boost to a state that could really use it.

Their conclusion is excellent:

The point is, you can take the long view or the short view toward the bullet train. The expert panels are taking a short view; we prefer the long. In the end, if Californians have the patience and the political will to stick with it, they’ll have a project with extraordinary environmental, economic and transportation benefits. If they don’t, they’ll have worsening congestion, rising pollution and soaring transit expenses as gasoline prices continue their inevitable rise. We like the first vision of the future better.

All in all, another solid and strong op-ed from a newspaper that has been a key supporter of the project since at least 2008.

At least, their editorial pages have been supportive. Maybe one of them can have a talk with their HSR reporter, Ralph Vartabedian, the shockingly anti-HSR biased reporter who is using the LA Times’ pages to spin misleading stories and sow misinformation about the project. Their reporting shouldn’t have to follow the dictates of the editorial pages, of course, but their reporting should also be honest, focused on facts and evidence, and not characterized by a clear and obvious bias. That’s not happening right now, and it’s a serious problem for the LA Times.

  1. J. Wong
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 19:59
    #1

    They are right. You either take the long view or the short view. Strange how conservatives so often take the short view. The naysayers are going to be hit pretty hard this year and I’d hope the final nail in their coffin would be the start of construction, but I know I’m too optimistic there.

    The likes of @morris brown, @peninsula, @Sobering Reality, etc. are grasping at straws. No one including those who have any power has any traction to cancel the project.

    1) Gov. Brown will request release of Prop 1A funds along with the plan for the ICS after Dept. of Finance completes its review.
    2) The Legislature will vote to release Prop 1A funds.
    3) The Legislature will not vote to resubmit a proposition to the electorate. There’s no way a revote will occur unless someone funds a signature drive to put it on the ballot, and even if they do, they won’t get it on the ballot before construction starts and additional funding is found, meaning even passing the initiative is not the slam-dunk the naysayers assume today.
    4) The Authority will request bids for the ICS. (And I’m optimistic in saying that I believe that they will come in under bid.)
    5) Any and all lawsuits to stop HSR will be thrown out of court.
    6) Groundbreaking and construction starts.

    There it is. I dare you. Tell me how I’m wrong.

    VBobier Reply:

    I also take the long view, It’s like in any good game of Chess or maybe some Asian game I can’t remember the name of, Victory is many moves off, We need to keep our eyes on the prize. The ICS will get HSR closer to being a part of the IOS, but that won’t be until after 2013 and the CHSRA has enough DOT and potential CA funding for now. If CA had enough funding for SF to LA, someone would want to try and redirect(steal) It for something else, somewhere, somehow. So we’re better off without the temptation.

    jim Reply:

    As long as 1) and 2) happen, then 3) to 6) will happen. I am optimistic that the first two will happen, but:

    “I do not know anything about boat races,” Sam says, “and the Yales may figure as you say, but nothing between human beings is one-to-three. In fact,” Sam the Gonoph says,
    “I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is six-to-five against.”

  2. Joseph Melendrez
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 20:07
    #2

    Nice that the L.A. Times would get behind HSR here in California. I wrote to Ralph Vartabedian and he said that he specializes in reporting on large government projects with huge expenditures. Fair enough, but I don’t think he’s been fair in his reporting. And he may not understand all that is involved in building such a system.

    Good deal and fingers crossed till next September’s start date!

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    This is what you need to know about Mr. Vartabedian:

    Ralph Vartabedian, a national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, joined the newspaper in 1981. He covered aerospace and defense issues for 10 years at the Times, covering the military buildup that preceded the end of the Cold War and its decline afterward. He spent five years as a Washington, D.C. reporter for the paper and then four years as deputy business editor. In his many reporting assignments, he has written on presidential candidates, environmental contamination, nuclear weapons, immigration, airliner crashes, tax collection abuse, levee failures and space shuttle accidents, among much else.

    He won a Loeb in 1987 and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2010, among other recognitions. He previously worked at the Minneapolis Star and the Kalamazoo Gazette as a business writer. He was born in Detroit, Mich., and graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in economics and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x32643.xml

    He’s one of those journalists at the LA Times who has managed to convince his master not to fire him for someone younger and cheaper. He must, therefore, have some sort of connection/pull/gravity to stick around given who else was culled. But noticeably absent is any coverage on transportation issues…

  3. Jerry
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 21:12
    #3

    Even the SF Chronicle editorial on Fri., Jan 6, (Get the Rail Plan on Track) said in reference to CAHSR, “it would be a mistake to walk away from the project because of the challenges.”
    It added, “High-speed rail is not without risk, but even riskier would be a future without a fast, green mode of transit between population centers.”

    YesonHSR Reply:

    HSR..nothing like the Trillon dollar war….maby this blog after Nov wiil be Pro-HSR unlike todays NEGS that post here at will…

  4. Drunk Engineer
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 22:06
    #4

    pharaoh Sneferu, builder of Egypt’s first pyramids, had to try three times before he got it right, with the first two either collapsing under their own weight or leaning precipitously.

    Must have been a Parsons Brinckerhoff project.

    (And in an amazing bit of engineering, the new Transbay Terminal will have worse passenger circulation than the ancient pyramids.)

    Joey Reply:

    Would my reading of the floorplans be correct if I concluded that there is no connection between the lower concourse and the MUNI stops other than a pair of elevators?

    Clem Reply:

    Don’t get me started on elevators in US transportation infrastructure. Finding the elevator will be a scavenger hunt involving several way-finding signs, to discover its convenient location around a corner behind a four-foot concrete pillar. The call button will look like the agent button, and someone (probably an agent) will have pasted a paper sign to say “press there, not here”. The floor buttons will have an alphabet soup of number and letter codes (labeled next to them, not on them, so you try to press the label first) with nonsensical colors, and lots and lots of braille, and will be arranged in two columns no less confusing than a Palm Beach butterfly ballot. A well-meaning soul will have used a sharpie to write “buses” and “street” and “trains”. There will be an overpowering smell of disinfectant, covering a faint note of urine.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s what happens when you put the elevator through through CSS processing.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Trolling again?

    BART has been so adamant against any community input on elevators, resulting in multiple lawsuits.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It could have been worse:

    Had they opted for escalators like WMATA, riders could see the apocalyptic view of a half-mile tall escalator broken and disappearing into the abyss…

    Joey Reply:

    I mean, most people will probably just cross the street to the main hall and go down there but it’s like why should that be necessary?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Name the station:

    http://www.calhsr.com/?attachment_id=1948
    http://www.calhsr.com/?attachment_id=1946
    http://www.calhsr.com/?attachment_id=1947
    http://www.calhsr.com/?attachment_id=1950

    Elizabeth Reply:

    My personal favorite is the third one. First, they had to make a sign that indicated that the elevator button was, well, an elevator button. Then, they didn’t actual measure the size so they had to cut out a piece to make it fit around another button.

    Clem Reply:

    Those are some awesomely retarded examples. Finding more is like shooting fish in a barrel.

  5. Alon Levy
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 23:12
    #5

    Comparing HSR to the Pyramids reads like trolling. Cap’n Transit writes tongue-in-cheek posts proposing to turn active rapid transit lines into rail-trails; HSR opponents write letters to the editor saying it should be built because it’s like a monument to the Pharaoh.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That said, I’d rather have a feed-the-poor Pharoah than the demented starve-the-poor government we’ve had since, oh, Reagan. But that’s another matter.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are supposed to go out and get a job. That solution worked was during the Clinton Administration.

    VBobier Reply:

    Not everyone who lives can work and others who are too old to work can work. But their few in number, yet some would cut their throats out of spite and jealousy…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That particular Pharaoh spent all of the kingdom’s money on his own tomb – of the three main pyramids, the later ones are the smaller ones, because the kingdom had run out of money. I suppose it beats the standard royal practice of spending all money on the military, but to the locals it’s not any better.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But their descendants got a tourist attraction that will be attracting tourists for eons. Literally.
    Nobody will be going to visit the ruins of ancient missile silos 2000 years from now.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lots of people visit old castles, ramparts, and other remnants of the medieval way of running society.

    (P.S. It says a lot about the quality of government of a totalitarian state that the guy who wanted to build monuments that would leave nice ruins was the most competent person around.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …but there’s nothing to see at a missile silo. They dig a big hole in the ground and bury it all… very Keynesian on some level….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Forget missile silos – tanks and airplanes are really popular. In Israel they used to have a tank show at Tel Aviv’s main city square every Independence Day. It was really popular with kids.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …. yeah, well long hard things that can spew stuff has a certain fascination factor….

    Andy M. Reply:

    One of the Belgian kings said, that if you want to be remembered in history you must either fight a war or build something that’s totally ludicrous. He then proceeded to flatten and rebuild much of Brussels. It’s still better than starting a war I suppose.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is it the same guy responsible to one of history’s biggest holocausts, or another guy?

    Andy M. Reply:

    Same guy

    William Reply:

    OT on HSR but about the Pyramids:

    Somewhere I read that there were evidences indicated that the workers who built the Pyramids were not slave workers, just that building the Pyramids to honor their Pharaoh were an important lifetime work to them to devote non-farming time to building Pyramids…

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    According to the Egyptologist Tom Lehner:

    “People were not atomized, separate, individuals with the political and economic freedom that we take for granted. Obligatory labor ranges from slavery all the way to, say, the Amish, where you have elders and a strong sense of community obligations, and a barn raising is a religious event and a feasting event. If you are a young man in a traditional setting like that, you may not have a choice.” Plug that into the pyramid context, says Lehner, “and you have to say, ‘This is a hell of a barn!’”

    Lehner currently thinks Egyptian society was organized somewhat like a feudal system, in which almost everyone owed service to a lord. The Egyptians called this “bak.” Everybody owed bak of some kind to people above them in the social hierarchy. “But it doesn’t really work as a word for slavery,” he says. “Even the highest officials owed bak.”

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids?page=all

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I’m not a fan of George Carlin–I’m of the old school that doesn’t go in for profanity–but he had some good quotes about politics. This bit about the Egyptians and their requirements for what we would call “public service” reminded me of this quote from Carlin:

    “Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.”

    Hmm, a few others I can agree with:

    “Conservatives say if you don’t give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they’ve lost all incentive because we’ve given them too much money.”

    “The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ and ‘Thou shalt not lie’ in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.”

    “In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”

    Why did he use profanity? He didn’t need it.

    For those who are bigger fans of Carlin than I am:

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/funnyquotes/a/george-carlin.htm

    synonymouse Reply:

    All bak to Queen Nancytiti.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Isn’t Queen Nancytiti a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence?

  6. morris brown
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 06:02
    #6

    The LA editorial cleanly continues the Times support for the project. However, this editorial and the examples it cites for continuing, are really without substance, and break down under any kind of real analysis.

    Robert realizes this when he writes:


    The LA Times continues in their defense of the project, making some interesting comparisons that aren’t exactly the first ones that come to my mind ..

    I should also say that the Times Editorial board certainly picked some losers to support the project.

    The Boston Big Dig is the prime example of a large infra-structure project that went completely amok. Pure BS that the Times would try to paint that PIG with lipstick. Deaths, liability awards the result. If there was a project that Parson Brinkerhof would like to forget, the Big Dig is it.

    Here are 3 links to the reality of the Big Dig:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=boston%20big%20dig%20fatility&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.boston.com%2Fnews%2Fspecials%2Fbig_dig_ceiling_collapse%2F&ei=35gJT7CdFLCOigL5t5C-CQ&usg=AFQjCNFwcSQVxnzbmBwEeDi7I0b_Yksr_A&cad=rja

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=boston%20big%20dig%20fatility&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDcQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftopics.nytimes.com%2Ftopics%2Freference%2Ftimestopics%2Fsubjects%2Fb%2Fbig_dig_project_boston%2Findex.html&ei=35gJT7CdFLCOigL5t5C-CQ&usg=AFQjCNFVwbTgcResEFhkXJtvoMlmGVF5JA&cad=rja

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=boston%20big%20dig%20fatility&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CFIQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.csmonitor.com%2F2006%2F0712%2Fp03s03-usgn.html&ei=35gJT7CdFLCOigL5t5C-CQ&usg=AFQjCNHtAFEhMXjHclQiJDFwTXQsyjg0gQ&cad=rja

    Then we have comparing this project to the building of the pyramids. There slave labor of tens of thousands, many of whom lost their lives, was used to build a structure to honor the Pharaoh.

    One might well wonder if Gov Brown’s real objective is to have this project become his legacy, a monument to himself, regardless of the now all too evident ridiculous cost to build and cost-benefit analysis.

    Maybe the grand plan is to replace the current yellow-blue coloring scheme on the train to include a huge (Russian or Chinese Style), full face picture of our Governor.

    We can then all bow down to him as the train passes.

    Using the LA Times rational, in 100 years, who will remember this outrageous cost, the lost social services that were sacrificed etc. We will all be bowing down to the train as it passes.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Maybe the grand plan is to replace the current yellow-blue coloring scheme on the train to include a huge (Russian or Chinese Style), full face picture of our Governor.

    “We can then all bow down to him as the train passes.”

    Morris, not you too? Have you fallen into that goofy age group that thinks this is a Communist plot? Or is this what you’ve been all along?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’d be okay if it was Saint Ronnie.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Of course, I might mention something I brought up once before, and that is how so many elements–symbols–of the Flag of California are shared with those in the former Soviet Union. They include a RED stripe, a RED STAR, and a GREAT BEAR:

    http://www.library.ca.gov/history/images/bearflag.jpg

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A71wdsTqkfM&feature=related

    Clem Reply:

    Ask any Bostonian today what they think about the tunnels today. Couldn’t live without them!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not a real Bostonian, but personally I’d be a lot happier if the Central Artery had been torn down and the billions spent on burying it had instead been spent on improving MBTA service. $14 billion ought to buy you at least hourly off-peak commuter trains.

    VBobier Reply:

    That may be, but the tunnels are popular and what’s done is done.

    Matthew Reply:

    I don’t use the tunnels much myself, since I don’t own a car. My main problem is that we spent $15 (or $22 inc. interest) billion dollars to bury the highways, but then built another set of highways on the surface anyway. Either we should have just kept the roads at-grade, or developed something real above ground.

    The “Greenway” is a crock, and it hurts this guy’s credibility to point to it. It’s a median strip for a 6 lane highway.

  7. Ben
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 06:22
    #7

    I suppose the Kings County Supervisors and the Peninsula NIMBYs are fine with the Central Valley continuing to have the nation’s worst air quality.

    Central Valley sees worst pollution levels in 12 years

    Modesto Bee
    http://www.modbee.com/2012/01/07/2016410/bad-air-hammers-ag-heartland.html

    Ben Reply:

    Although the Modesto Bee article lists several sources of pollution and particulate matter, there should be no doubt about the health consequences of automobiles.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/14/local/la-me-freeway-pollution14-2010feb14

    morris brown Reply:

    @Ben:

    Just wait until construction starts, with all the dirt moving, cement pouring and curing. Talk about degradation of air quality.

    You have really drunk the Authority’s Kool Aid if you believe the HSR project will have any noticeable benefit on air quality. No electrification on the ICS. Figure 20 or more years before any possibility of electrified passenger service can possibility start.

    Time to wake up and smell the roses.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Hmm, construction might take a while, but that will be only temporary. Overall, we do need to get away from oil, and to not drive quite so much. This is part of that (though obviously not all of it).

    Morris, I know something of the questions you have, some are legitimate, some come from a perspective that I may consider dated, but this is, well, desperate-sounding. You know better than this. So why do you take this option, this argument that’s not so good, that doesn’t make you look good?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Morris is correct. If you look at the numbers from the air quality district, automobile exhaust ranks near the bottom (I was quite surprised by this). Even the Modesto Bee article notes that closing down Highways 99 and I5 would have little effect on the air quality problems.

    The big contributors to CV particulate pollution are wood burning, diesel exhaust, agriculture, and…construction. Oh, and, pollution that blows in from the Bay Area.

    Jack Reply:

    Are you acknowledging the constructions will start Morris? Development!!

  8. Ben
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 06:26
    #8

    Dan Walters has another editorial in the Sacramento Bee today critical of the investment in better mobility, jobs, and improved air quality that California’s high speed rail will bring.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/08/4170890/dan-walters-its-time-to-kill-californias.html#mi_rss=Dan%20Walters

  9. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 06:44
    #9

    This just turned up at Think Progress, from the Rocky Mountain Institute:

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/01/08/398210/iran-electric-cars-and-our-stuck-narrative-gas-powered-vehicles-catch-fire-180000-times-a-year/#comment-363948

    I’ve submitted the following response, which was awaiting moderation as I write here:

    This is a wonderful editorial.

    I am 56, and I remember the oil shortages and the effects of the oil embargo as well. Your story sounds so familiar to me.

    Let me add that electric cars sound great (and Chevy’s Volt is a pretty little thing), but I would add that it’s note quite enough by itself. We need to bring back passenger rail in all its forms–local trolley lines, suburban or light rail lines, intercity rail, high-speed rail, and even some of the interubans. Cars in general are great, but even the best have limitations in terms of comfort on longer trips, and also limitations in performance, most of which are related to the driver.

    (Hey, how long do you think it will be before we see a T-shirt with “Macular Degenerate” printed on it for the Baby Boomers?)

    A related thing that needs to be addressed: highway finance. Currently, gas taxes only pay perhaps half of what the highway system costs in terms of cash flow, and there are those who suggest even that is generous. Electric cars, since they don’t burn fuel as such and thus don’t pay fuel taxes, exaberate the problem. We need a new road finance model, and like it or not, electric cars or not, it’s going to make at least routine driving more expensive (and as it turns out, it also makes rail more attractive economically).

    VBobier Reply:

    I’m only 51 and yes I do remember the Arab oil embargo, rationing of gas, even number license plates could buy on even days and odd on odd numbered days, gas was so cheap before that, there was price controls that failed(another idea brought to You by Repugs), I think Gulf Oil before the embargo was selling gas for $0.52 a gallon…

    Afterwards gasoline prices as well as oil prices went up and It hasn’t stopped yet.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    V, I remember when gas was thought expensive in West Virginia at $0.35 per gallon; of course, our pay was miserable then, too–and for me, it still is. I was just looking at my pay as reported to my unemployment agency in preparation for calculating my retirement benefit, and was amazed at how long I’ve gone with no raises at all. Of course, nothing else has stayed down, and my wife lost her job two years ago and hasn’t been able to find other work (she’s 58, and we both think age bias may be a factor, but it can’t be proven); I haven’t had much luck in getting other work myself.

    StevieB Reply:

    From 1921 until 1947 gasoline was under $0.25 per gallon and did not reach $0.35 until 1969. The price continued to rise to $1 in 1990. Prices have tripled in the last 20 years. The United States continues to use more oil than any other nation at around 19 million barrels a day. About half of the oil is imported and there are not enough proven reserves in the country for full domestic supply if drilling were done wherever possible.

    The next five oil consuming countries: China; Japan; India; Russia; and Brasil were using much less oil 20 years ago. The consumption of oil outside the country continues to rise at a quickening rate. As world demand increases supply has not been able to keep pace and the price at the pump goes up. There does not seem to be an end to this trend. It will not be so long before gasoline is $4 and then $5 a gallon.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “From 1921 until 1947 gasoline was under $0.25 per gallon and did not reach $0.35 until 1969. The price continued to rise to $1 in 1990.”–Stevie B.

    I recall that at the time of the oil embargo in 1973, we had the price of gas double to $0.70 in a short time. I recall the inflation and all that followed that, and the chronic shortages that came after that, as if in either imitation or in a cascade as the price of oil for transport and other things worked its way through the economy. How many remember “shortages” of coffee, and at one point, toilet paper?

    “The next five oil consuming countries: China; Japan; India; Russia; and Brasil were using much less oil 20 years ago. The consumption of oil outside the country continues to rise at a quickening rate. As world demand increases supply has not been able to keep pace and the price at the pump goes up. There does not seem to be an end to this trend. It will not be so long before gasoline is $4 and then $5 a gallon.”

    This is peak oil. We won’t run out of oil completely, but the easy and cheap stuff has already been got, and the demand is higher than what can be obtained. Eventually, we will find that oil is unaffordable, at least as we use it today.

    “About half of the oil is imported and there are not enough proven reserves in the country for full domestic supply if drilling were done wherever possible.”

    The situation, as I understand it, is worse than you describe. The import level is more like 65%, not about 50%. It’s also an item to note that the oil consumption share for all transportation is about that same 65%. It’s true; our driving habit drives what has been called that “oil addiction.” It’s part of why we need rail transit back, not only for HSR, but local and regional services, too.

    StevieB Reply:

    Dependence on Net Petroleum Imports is 49% according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Share of U.S. Oil Consumption for Transportation is
    72% (2009).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m only 23 and I remember getting a reverse sticker shock when I first visited the US (outside New York) and calculated how little gas cost, in 2003. Of course now it’s about twice what it cost then, and still less than half the price I see at the pump when I go back to France. Like the US, provincial France is very auto-oriented, with just a few walkable centers like Nice. The difference: people drive smaller cars, shorter distances, so while they pay the same per year as Americans, most of what they pay goes to the national government rather than to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And the French also have a much denser rail network, including secondary routes that are often just hiking paths today.

    We have an awful lot of rebuilding to do, plus the new stuff in HSR.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “most of what they pay goes to the national government rather than to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela”
    Unfortunately, it’s the most unjust of all taxes and that’s how it is felt in France. It’s actually a flat tax equally paid by everyone whatever their income. Rich Parisians can boast not even owning a car. You don’t need a car in Paris but the rest of France is car-dependent. It’s no car, no job, and families with modest incomes really feel the pinch.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 16:21
    #10
  11. peninsula
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 17:24
    #11

    http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/downtown-fresno-high-speed-rail-plans-cause-little-stir-14360

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    That looks just a wee bit corrupt there

  12. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 8th, 2012 at 20:00
    #12

    James Repass’ “Destinatin Freedom” newsletter is always interesting, and that includes this one, with several stories on how to improve Amtrak with almost no money, and a proposal that Amtrak should be reorganized as a 501-c-3 (non-profit) corporation!

    http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df3/df01092012.shtml

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