HSR as an Energy Lifeline

Jul 17th, 2012 | Posted by

As we continue to examine the future of the high speed rail project, it’s worth taking a moment to look at its impact on California’s energy needs. As it turns out, HSR will provide significant savings in terms of both energy usage as well as in the amount of money Californians send out of state every year for oil. A recent article by Chris Nelder provides some key insights along those lines:

Since its halcyon days of producing almost as much oil as it consumed in 1960, a widening gap has opened between production and consumption. As of 2010 (the latest state data the EIA has), California had a nearly 451 million barrel annual oil deficit. At today’s $86 a barrel (for WTI), that’s a $39 billion annual cash outflow, just to buy oil.

Now, it’s true that the oil producers are private companies participating in a global market, so the state’s oil production has a much more complex interaction with the state budget than this simple math suggests. But it’s also true that nearly three straight decades of declining oil production have exerted a heavy drag on the state’s economy in the form of declining tax revenues and lost jobs, and has contributed greatly to the state’s chronic budget problems. Now, the ever-growing amount of energy the state must import has dramatic implications for its fiscal future.

In fact, California’s energy production as a whole, from all sources, is now at a 50-year low. In 2007, according to EIA data, the state’s total energy production dropped below its 1960 level of 2,630 trillion BTU, and has continued to decline. Most of the drop owes to oil production, which fell from a peak of 2,285 trillion BTU in 1985 to 1,168 trillion BTU in 2010, and to natural gas, which fell from a peak of 815 trillion BTU in 1968 to 318 trillion BTU in 2010. Non-biofuel renewable energy has only grown from 270 trillion BTU in 1960 to 692 trillion BTU in 2010, less than the post-peak loss of natural gas BTUs alone.

It’s worth noting that the opponents and critics of high speed rail, so quick to cry “boondoggle” when they see the project’s costs, never discuss this issue. It’s as if it doesn’t exist in their minds. The true boondoggle, as clearly demonstrated above, is California’s wasteful dependence on oil. Wasting $39 billion a year on buying oil, money that leaves the state never to return (unless you’re a wealthy Chevron or Oxy exec), is totally absurd. Californians might as well just light that money on fire. Hell, doing so might actually have less of a negative environmental impact than lighting oil on fire, which is what happens with what that $39 billion buys.

Californians are broadly supportive of alternative energy sources, as well they should be. Governor Jerry Brown played a key role in making California an early leader of wind power, as anyone driving through the Altamont, Tehachapi, or San Gorgonio passes knows. And yet building HSR saved the equivalent of the entire amount of electricity generated by wind power in the state:

A 2008 study by Navigant Consulting found that the California HSR could cut state oil demand by 12.7 million barrels per year through displaced air and car travel. That’s roughly two percent of the state’s 2010 oil consumption of 653 million barrels, or about 74 trillion BTU, more than the 59 trillion BTU the state produced from wind that year.

In other words, the energy savings from building the HSR system is equivalent to more than the state’s entire wind generation.

It’s been nearly 40 years since Californians first learned of the need to develop alternative energy sources. The 1973 oil crisis was a key turning point as Californians, including a young Jerry Brown who was elected governor the next year, embraced solar and wind power. The 1979 oil crisis merely reinforced the point. The next 20 years of cheap oil prices lulled too many into complacency but many Californians never forgot and never abandoned their interest in developing sustainable energy sources. And as the price of oil began its relentless, long-term upward climb early in the ’00s, that interest grew and deepened. As Californians build more wind farms and install more solar panels, they’ve also shown a clear interest in reducing consumption as well. High speed rail, then, is a crucial element of that strategy.

Reducing the amount of oil purchased produces a green dividend that has been estimated to be as much as $10 billion a year for the state. Even if that estimate is way high, savings in the low billions or even in the hundreds of millions is still a big economic boost for a state that needs every sort of boost it can get.

  1. wu ming
    Jul 17th, 2012 at 23:16

    this is especially important because with our current transportation infrastructure, there is nothing that can replace gasoline as a liquid fuel, even if we make electricity out of all kinds of carbon-free sources. only if we rebuild our transport architecture in a way that relies upon electricity (through electrified transit and rail, and short range battery-powered vehicles) do we get out of the liquid fuel trap that peak oil is sending us into.

    HSR isn’t the only part, but an electrified trunk line for the state is one critical link for the whole system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You could, it you wanted to, make liquid fuel out of air and electricity. Mature industrial scale technology exists to do that. It would be very very expensive liquid fuel but it could be done.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Wwhy does everyone keep forgetting where the electricity comes from?

    In CA it is mostly natgas, which is not pollution free (53+%).


    And thanks to the fraking haters 88% of that comes from out of state (see above link). So how is switching to an “electric” future any different with respect to exporting dollars out of CA?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    CAHSRA is planning on 100% renewable, which would be in-state. Also, electricity, even from natural gas, is cheaper than oil based prime movers, so it’s less of a drain.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    as I mentioned below, how do they plan to sort the electrons by source? Is it a filter or do you have to do a visual sort?

    They will be connected to the main supply. Saying that there was enough put into the main supply from renewable sorces is a purly academic argument. 50% of the electrons they use will be made from natgas unless they use lines directly from the renewable sources (which they won’t)

    VBobier Reply:

    A TSA strip search maybe? ;) Looking for them Terrorist electrons… ;)

    John Nachtigall Reply:


    joe Reply:


    “The state Department of Water Resources will stop buying electricity from a coal-burning power plant in Nevada next year as part of a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

    To replace that, it will buy more energy from the California Independent System Operator, which gets more than half its supply from natural gas sources. Natural gas also contributes carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but about 45 percent less than coal.
    In total, the plan aims to reduce DWR’s carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. The department’s emissions in 1990 were 3.4 million metric tons.

    Here’s how you can run CAHSR on green energy without strip searching electrons.

    CAHSRA agrees to buy power from a green source at a negotiated rate. That power is put into the grid from which CAHSRA draws power.

    joe Reply:

    I hope this was a satirical comment.

    Maybe someone should get out there and evangelize about the benefits of earthquakes and contaminated ground water.

    Meanwhile – the state will continue to forge ahead with solar power research and other alternative energy sources.

    My expectation is we will see a renewed push to install solar panes on homes using tax credits and low interest loans.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you may hate fracking….where do you think your electricity is coming from right now (today)?

    If you live in CA it is fracked natgas. If you live outside CA it is either natgas or coal.

    forge ahead all you want (solar has been “forging” for 40+ years) electricity today is linked to pollution just as much as the oil in gas

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t know about Joe’s electricity usage, but mine is low enough it could come 100% from existing installed nuclear and hydro capacity.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    How do you sort the electrons by source? Is it a filter or do you have to do a visual sort?

    When you turn on your air conditioning at night I am 100% sure it is not solar and there are going to be plenty of times it is not wind.

    If it makes you feel better then you can pretend all your electricity only comes from the non-pollution sources, but here in the real world we know that 50+% of it is from natgas because it is not sorted and the lines that run to your house are the ones that run to my house also

    Paul H. Reply:

    Unless you live within a few miles of either a Nuclear plant or Hydro facility. Electricity goes to the closes users first.

    Paul H. Reply:

    *closest, obviously

    Nathanael Reply:

    Not actually true, since we use alternating current; the formulas are a lot more complicated than that, but I’ll spare you a course in electromagnetism.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t sort the electrons. Just, my residential consumption is a little less than one quarter the per capita residential average in the US. As it happens, nuclear and hydro between them are a bit more than a quarter of electric generation in the US. Add renewables and you get about 30%.

    There are ways to generate power that do not make water supplies too polluted to drink.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Blah blah blah. Here in the real world, I pay to have enough renewables injected into the grid to cover my usage.

    If you don’t, why aren’t you? Does your state not allow that? If your state allows that and you don’t do it, you’re a bad person, Mr. Nachtigall.

    (And my residential consumption is also miniscule compared to my neighbors.)

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Actually I am doing everyone a favor. Since 53% of the overall consumption is “bad” generation in CA (my state) then someone has to use all the “dirty” electrons. So I specifically requested that all the electrons I use (including those to chill my gold ice cream bowls) be from evil electricity sources so that someone else can have all the good electrons. And as a bonus I try to keep my consuption higher than average so I soak up that many more evil electrons. i double wash my “My carbon footprint is higher than yours” t-shirt many times before I wear it just to waste both energy and water also.


    In the real world you can’t buy enough green electricity to power the whole grid. And without those bad electrical sources the entire grid collapes. So you can go hug your tree, sit in the dark, and reduce your carbon footprint as much as you want, but when you recharge your electric car or print out your “No Carbon” protest flyers you are using 50% dirty electricity because paying the electric company does not change the LAWS OF PHYSICS. The whole system has to be balanced and mixed and that system incles 50+% dirty electrons.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    but when you recharge your electric car or print out your “No Carbon” protest flyers you are using 50% dirty electricity

    You are completely correct, and also completely missing Nathanael’s point. Let’s look at that quote again on the instant replay:

    Here in the real world, I pay to have enough renewables injected into the grid to cover my usage.

    As we all know, the times when ‘green’ energy is able to be generated rarely match up with times of peak energy consumption. So for those of us who tick the ‘I want to pay for green energy’ box on our power bills, we have no expectation that the electrons we use were actually generated by ‘green’ sources. We do have the expectation that the power company, at some point in time, is going to purchase an amount of ‘green’ energy equal to the amount that we consumed.

    If everyone ticked that box, then you would have a point; there isn’t enough current ‘green’ capacity to power the entire grid 24/7. Otherwise, you’re just trying to introduce FUD into a well-understood situation.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Thanks for getting the argument. You are right also, if you think PG&E is actually buying green energy when you check the box. I don’t. There is not enough green energy, especially when you exclude nuclear. Now I am curious and I am going to go read the agreement to see if they actually have to buy the energy if you check the box.

    But my original pooint stands, electricity is not 100% green right now, and arguments otherwise are wrong

    Marc Reply:

    you may hate fracking….where do you think your electricity is coming from right now (today)?

    FWIW, the vast majority of natural gas consumed in California is pipelined in from traditional land and offshore production fields in the southwest (including ~14% from inside California) and Canada. Fracked natural gas primarily goes to east coast supplies, and only accounts for a fraction of overall production.

  2. Nathanael
    Jul 17th, 2012 at 23:20

    Particularly since electric cars are going to be short-range for quite a long time, getting electrified long-distance transportation started now is key. And that means electric rail.

    Andy M. Reply:

    I read an article just recently about installing induction loops on sections of highway so that cars can recharge while actually driving.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Andy M.:

    Inductive loops under the road?
    Far more cost-effective to propose inductive loops in parking spots, where vehicles spend most of their time. Or to recharge electric cars using liquid zinc-bromine (wait, that would require standardized battery technologies).

    voting4rail Reply:

    Amtrak should completely invest in electrifying the california zephyr…..o wait I forgot about bnsf and union pacific hmmm amtrak needs more miles of their own track

    VBobier Reply:

    A Repugnican dominated rail hating house is in the way of that.

  3. Paul Druce
    Jul 17th, 2012 at 23:44

    If you really give a rat’s ass about saving oil, you’d look at increasing freight capacity, commuter rail, and mass transit (also proper residential insulation in the Northeast but that’s not a CA issue). HSR’s low down on the list. It might actually have a decent effect if you did LA-SD first. But of course, the Authority decides to go in ascending order from “least useful” to “most useful” starting with that ridiculous CV segment.

    Incidentally, the Authority itself pegs the monetary value of lowered oil imports at $546 million (as an aside, given the 220mph middle of the city viaducts the Authority wants to build, I find the monetary figure attached to noise reduction hilarious).

    Even at a best case scenario, with numbers that simply do not make any sense whatsoever, you’re looking at a hair under 6.5 million barrels per year.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Also changing regs and industrial subsidies (which we can offset with taxes on low MPG vehicles) to get high MPG vehicles like the diesel Fiesta out here. The new one gets 71.3mpg and emits only 87g of CO2 per km. Of course there’s also the Jevon’s paradox that will occur, but that would happen with HSR if it made any appreciable dent in fuel consumption and therefore price.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    CA doesn’t need heating, but it does need cooling, and so passive solar design and insulation remain important.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Geothermal cooling is highly efficient also.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Keep in mind, about all of us here have said HSR is a PART of the solution, not the whole solution. It also doesn’t take away from your arguments for shifting freight to rail, or commuter service, or general transit service; truth is, we need all of that, and HSR, too.

    I’m not so sure heating is a big oil user today. I understand new houses with oil heat died after 1973. What has been sold in the way of oil heating systems since has been replacement boilers that are much more efficient than the old ones, cutting fuel consumption in half. I’d spring for one in my own house if I could cough up the $5,000 it would cost–it would pay for itself in two or three years–but my wife has been out of work for three years, has not been able to get a job, and this house was meant to be paid for with two paychecks, and we have only one. . .

    Nathanael Reply:

    Oil-based heating is restricted mostly to a zone in the Northeast, old buildings. It’s so outrageously expensive to operate now that people are ripping it out pretty much as fast as they can afford to.

    Methane (natural gas) heating is still quite common, however.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Natural gas isn’t available where I am, although it is in a couple of other towns near my own.

    There are a few here who still use coal, and it is cheap compared with the alternatives, but this is still manual firing and handling of ashes involved. I joked with my wife about going that route, and her comment was simply, “No! No! Ahhhh!”

    It still wouldn’t work for me, because we would still be looking at a new heating plant, and $5,000.00 that I don’t have in one place. Paying some other bills, including some medical stuff, doesn’t help either, and I have a decent insurance program.

    Reedman Reply:

    Oh, man, bringing up memories from decades ago …

    My grandmother had a coal burning furnace (in Detroit). She could heat her house all year
    for $35, with one big truck load (there were enough coal burning furnaces at the time that coal
    was cheaper in the spring and summer when demand was low compared to fall and winter.).

    Rather than solar panels on my house, I want a 10kilowatt PNR (Personal Nuclear Reactor).
    HSR should generate it’s own power, and sell any excess

    VBobier Reply:

    The PNR idea is ridiculous as it would cost more than anyone could afford, even if Ya were a multi-billionaire…

    Now on the train, how can HSR sell power? Seems like a really dumb idea, as HSR is just a user of electric power, I doubt there would be all that much left…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That may not be as wild as you think, V., or at least wasn’t in the past. Recall that quite a number of electric companies got their starts as trolley lines, and they sold excess power as a byproduct. Later, the electric business would dwarf the railroad business, but the public utility nature of the service kept at least some of these trolley lines running for years after they would have otherwise gone away.

    It’s interesting, but a bit of legislation called the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 forced the electric companies to sell their trolley lines; this had been in the interest of breaking up trusts. As it was though, many of the trolley lines wound up in the National City Lines orbit, and they got converted to bus operation. One must admit that many of these lines were uneconomic at the time, but we still have to wonder if the change was handled properly; the Court System of the United States did not think so in the National City Lines case.

    Interestingly, this Public Utility Holding Company Act was abolished in the last year or so.



    VBobier Reply:

    I’d heard only vague info about that, mostly before I was born. Today the descendents of the Red Car are owned by Local Government, so hopefully this unwise divestiture won’t happen again.

    Nathanael Reply:

    We can certainly hope. Local governments have made bad divestitures in the past, too, however.

    I’m having trouble thinking of an example. I can think of federal examples (Conrail) and state examples (Pennsylvania sold the PRR!) but I guess I just don’t know enough local history to think of local examples.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The city of Hagerstown, Md., used to have its own “Municipal Electric Light Plant” which included a large diesel power station. I don’t know the circumstances under which it was shut down and sold, but it remains today, unused and in ruins, and an occasional nuisance.




    I’m afraid we have idiots in the east, too.

    The city still has a “Light Department,” but it essentially is just a distributor today:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not sure it can be used to generate useful power, but I want a nuclear bomb. The Second Amendment says I’m entitled to.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There is no idea sufficiently insane that it was not seriously studied in the Cold War. Behold, Project PACER: Electricity from detonating nuclear weapons. Here’s a cost analysis.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They were going to use nuclear weapons to flatten mountains to facilitate Interstate construction until that was banned by treaty.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There was a proposal for a new Suez Canal too.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    They did use it for a version of fracking actually. Soviets did rather more on nuking for oil. They also put out some well fires and natural gas fountains with nukes.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ahhhh, Project Plowshare!

    VBobier Reply:

    Sorry, but Military weapons owned by individuals is against Federal Law, it’s a matter of National Security, otherwise every yahoo around would nuke the people they don’t agree with.

    Spokker Reply:

    Man, talk about strawmans.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon has pretty much accurately described the implications of the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.

    The correct conclusion from this is that the NRA leadership is insane.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If you ever get the money, most of the rural people in our area are switching straight to electric heating. It’s cost-competitive now. If you install a heat pump rather than resistive heating, and insulate your housel well, you get really excellent results, very low cost of operation.

    But it’s still $5000 you don’t have. :-(

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’ve come to realize that the impoverishment of the middle classes — the fact that very few people have even $5000 in capital — is one of the main reasons this country can’t get its housing stock retrofitted.

    Insulation is quite cheap compared to most home renovations, but really good insulation can still run you $1000.l

    Andy M. Reply:

    If people had more significant capital savings, the sub-prime crisis would not have happened and the economy wouldn’t be in the pits it is now.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thankfully, the previous owner of the house did insulate it well, and it can stay quite warm in the winter with the heat shut off, once you get the temperature up.

    The heating system itself is hot water, by the way, with radiators. I have to say, it’s the best heat I’ve known. Quiet, no drafts, no dust, and things don’t dry out as badly as happens with forced hot air.

    The big problem is the loss of income. My wife had a job that paid an additional $21,000.00 per year. She was fired, wrongly we think, but it didn’t involve absolute corruption or discrimination or any other thing you could take into court, and she hasn’t been able to find other work since, in spite of applying for jobs she could do.

    A lot of people say younger persons lack ambition, that they are a bunch of slackers. Considering how you may work and work and work and get little or nothing out of it these days, I’m afraid I can’t blame them too much.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If I did my arithmetic correctly ground sourced heat pump at my electricity rates comes out to the equivalent of $2.00 a gallon. And yes, insulating my house with blown in cellulose would cost about $1,000 in materials. And $10,000 in labor. Not including rewiring the whole house before we blow in the insulation…. and a few thousand to upgrade the electric service to be able to run a heat pump
    Or digging up the septic field to place the ground loop. Guesstimate to insulate and put in a ground sourced heat pump is $20,000…. assuming that we don’t have to replace the septic tank too. ‘noth 2000 if we have to do that along with the rest.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Oil heat was cheaper than gas up until a few years ago. As DP points out there are places without natural gas service. Oil is still cheaper than propane.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yer forgetting the Doppler effect, but then it’s not convenient to have it around…

    Paul Druce Reply:

    What in the world does the doppler effect have to do with anything?

    VBobier Reply:

    Missed that, My bad.

  4. Matthew F.
    Jul 17th, 2012 at 23:52

    I love the heady rhetoric as much as the next person, but to say that we “might as well just light that money on fire” is to claim that there is absolutely no economic benefit from how we use oil.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Given the current situation, where every ounce of oil we burn worsens global warming, lighting money on fire would probably actually be *better* than burning oil. Less CO2-intensive.

    Rene S. Reply:

    It is not rhetoric. It is arithmetic.

    Money spent on petroleum leaves the state’s economy.

    It also applies at the city level as well.

    A lot of gas is wasted idling at traffic lights. Start/stop hybrids would keep that money in your city’s economy.

    Someone else mentioned geothermal energy. If you produce your own energy, money stays in your city instead of leaving to pay a utility.



    The author is trying to get you to think about where the money goes after it leaves your pocket (often out of your local economy (neighborhood, city, state, country)).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Pretty much any purchase you make other than an iPhone or Android boils down to money leaving the state’ economy. (With iPhones and such, a trivial amount of the money you pay goes to pay Chinese workers, and the rest stays in California.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which then lets people in those other places buy lettuce and almonds from the Central Valley, movies from Hollywood and iPhones from Silicon Valley.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Except the recirculation from another part of the United States is quite a bit higher than the recirculation from Nigeria or Venezuela.

    joe Reply:

    “Pretty much any purchase you make other than an iPhone or Android boils down to money leaving the state’ economy.” Ridiculously pedantic and irrelevant.

    “The exports of goods made in California totaled $134 billion in 2007. $48 billion of that total was computers and electronics, followed by transportation, non-electrical machinery, agriculture, and chemicals. ”

    The state’s agricultural sales first exceeded $30 billion in 2004,making it more than twice the size of any other state’s agriculture industry.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 17th, 2012 at 23:57

    The comments on what I would guess is a normally “liberal” site are interesting in that almost all are against rail–and they are equally interesting for totally–totally!–ignoring the oil argument, which is the bulk of the article! It’s as if the commentors never read it! Not some of them, not most of them, but ALL of them, including the few who are supportive! As for the complainers, the same old non-arguments–about how you get around at the destination (same as you do at an airport), about the money question (but no mention of the cost of the status quo), about how it won’t help commuter traffic or congestion (it does by being an alternative to congestion, as does local or commuter rail).

    There were also comments about how self-driving cars are the future, and that the big, bad government is keeping these off the market. Man, that guy is really confident in the Google car, even more than Google!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A corollary to the above comment: Why, why, WHY do the advocates of HSR and electric rail in general so rarely bring up this very argument? Why don’t the advocates of HSR and electric rail in general bring up that this oil dependency is a matter of economic security, and even of national security? Why is this so? Are they afraid of the reaction they’ll get? Or, as I fear, are they afraid of the truth? Is this something like the evil wizard Voldemort of the Henry Potter books, something so dreadful that it is forbidden to speak even of its name?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Because it would offend Saint Ronnie of Reagan. and they don’t want to be accused of being wimpy hippies.

    VBobier Reply:

    Cause they don’t know much about oil?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, they must be SV liberals…

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 04:20

    Slightly off topic, at least for today (but on-topic recently)–how to raise gas taxes and still elect Democrats (or anybody else):


  7. Tony D.
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 09:15

    At the least, this thread proves that Cap and Trade revenue would be legal for funding HSR. GOOD STUFF!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Doesn’t actually, cap and trade deals with CO2, not oil. And since CAHSRA is estimating a reduction of only 3 million tons per year, it isn’t eligible for terribly much.

    VBobier Reply:

    Cap & Trade is legislation, so that could be changed.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    With a 2/3rds majority vote.

    VBobier Reply:

    Doubt it, as that applies to New taxes or Fees Prop 25 since Cap & Trade already exists, it’s a budget/legislation item as it’s not New.

    Proposition 25 amended Section 12 of Article IV of the California Constitution.

    The primary change to Section 12 of Article IV was the addition of a new subsection (e) that says:

    (e) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of this Constitution, the budget bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill may be passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, a majority of the membership concurring, to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation. Nothing in this subdivision shall affect the vote requirement for appropriations for the public schools contained in subdivision (d) of this section and in subdivision (b) of Section 8 of this article.

    (2) For purposes of this section, “other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill” shall consist only of bills identified as related to the budget in the budget bill passed by the Legislature.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Because you’d be changing it from a fee to a revenue. Category change is going to require that 2/3rds vote.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “not terribly much” could still be the crucial lifeline funding to keep things going between the “feast or famine” funding from federal, bond, and private sources.

  8. francis
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 09:49

    Build baby build!

    Jack Reply:


  9. VBobier
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 12:13

    Governor Brown flanked by the Mayor of Los Angeles and others, signed the bill to fund HSR Construction on the ICS and for the local rail projects down at LA Union Station today, It was on KABC 7 TV, so that is that…

  10. egk
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 14:58

    Saving oil means nothing in terms of carbon, pollution, or any of that. But keeping oil $ in state means lots economically. Every HSR trip from SF to LA will keep something like $20-$30 in State that would otherwise – as money spent to buy oil – have left it. That is something like half a billion dollars annually in economic activity that HSR will generate from energy savings.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …I just love it when people in Manhattan buy electricity from Hydro Quebec, means the people in Quebec have more money to spend in places like Lake George….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I was under the impression people in Manhattan only got their hydro power from Niagara.

    I’m not Canadian or anything (well, at least not for the next 4 days), but I promise I’ll spend time in Lake George and such as soon as there are reasonable transportation options out of New York.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They get their hydro from lots of places. We can tell when it’s hot in the City because the Sacandaga is up and the Hudson is down. The hydro plants are running at full tilt.

    The cheapest way to heat your house in Quebec is with electricity. They don’t need to heat the house in summer. Hydro Quebec makes it possible to air condition the DC Metro. They ship the power south which then lets the downstate plants ship their power south etc. This time of year you are probably getting some from Hydro Quebec in Rhode Island.


    Moderately pleasant to get to Saratoga Springs from New York City. Pity it’s not faster or more frequent. Then there’s always the retro experience on the same platform. The fall color ride is spectacular.


    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, the transmission lines from Niagara to NYC are quite “narrow”. The transmission lines from Quebec to NYC are much beefier. There was a big fight over proposed new transmission lines from Niagara to NYC not long ago…

    Niagara Falls supplies a very large proportion of the electricity west of the Hudson in NY, and close to all of the electricity in the heavily populated parts of Ontario (the Canadians have way more turbines on Niagara than we do). It supplies relatively little to NYC.

  11. Spokker
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 16:16

    Stockton, Mammoth Lakes, San Bernardino and now Compton?


    That bullet train cannot be built soon enough to save all these California cities.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is meant to save Palmdale from itself – drive out the “desert rats” and replace them with yuppies.

  12. Reality Check
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 18:19

    Long Wait for the Arrival of Transit Upgrades

    The $4.7 billion approved by the California legislature for construction of the state’s high-speed rail system included more than $900 million for Bay Area transit investments. But it will likely be years before the region’s commuters and economy get much of a lift.

    The biggest share of the funds approved this month, $700 million, is to go to Caltrain, the rail line connecting 42,000 commuters each weekday from Gilroy and San Jose to San Francisco. According to state plans, the funds would be spent on new and safer signaling systems and on converting the diesel-powered line to run on faster and cleaner electric power, a $1.5 billion project in total. This would enable the future high-speed trains to use the same tracks, according to Caltrain.


    Gary Patton, a Santa Cruz-based lawyer representing the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, a group of private citizens in Bay Area cities who oppose the rail project, says the coalition has also been closely watching Caltrain’s plans to use Prop 1A funds for electrification. “We’re going to do everything we can to stop that,” says Mr. Patton.

    What lawsuits don’t slow down, government red tape might. At Caltrain, construction depends on getting environmental clearance, a long and unpredictable process. “It’ll be at least a year before it [a construction contract for Caltrain electrification] goes to bid,” says Seamus Murphy, Caltrain’s director of government and community affairs.

  13. Reality Check
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 18:23

    “Where Do We Go Re: High Speed Rail?”
    Atherton Rail Committee Member Greg Conlon suggests addressing the worst case scenario.

    My suggestion would be to compare the total cost of elevated or depressed below-ground grade crossings versus the cost of building an open trench below ground for four tracks the entire length of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. This trench could be covered through the most congested portions of residential and downtown areas in the three cities.

    This cost difference between the two scenarios would put a cost box around the magnitude of solving the environmental problem for these three cities. The covered trenches or tunnels for the BART System from San Bruno, South San Francisco and Colma are examples of what has been done to accommodate similar concerns in those three cities.

    Once this cost difference is determined a negotiation between HSR, Caltrain and the three cities could be conducted to see if a solution as to who would pay for what could be developed that would allow the HSR trains to be “built right” and save the three cities from being destroyed environmentally when ultimately a four-track system is required for the entire length of the Peninsula.

    VBobier Reply:

    If pampa wants to pay for a 4 track wide trench I’m sure the CHSRA would work with them, otherwise NO deal & NO negotiations, not for what Rich people consider something they don’t want to see, unless it’s plated in 24K of Gold…

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB would be ideologically opposed even if PAMPA were to pay for it all themelves.

    It is blasphemous to Brutalism.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Both of you guys chill for heavens sake. The idea of towns partnering and being open to contribute resources to improve the corridor in their communities should be welcomed. They may be able to raise money, as Berkeley did, and some match funds may be available. Hold your fire for half a second.

  14. synonymouse
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 20:24

    Central Suxway stumbles along:


    They should just leave the mining machine in the ground – a sacrificial offering to the gods of stupidity.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Only four stations?

  15. voting4rail
    Jul 18th, 2012 at 20:59

    as the price of foreign oil rises, we should really invest in high speed rail….also electric cars and airplanes.

    Peter Reply:

    Electric airplanes? I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is about as far as we’ve gotten with electric airplanes. As airliners they’ll pretty much never be feasible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …really really long extension cords…

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