Funny Thing About High Water…

Dec 10th, 2013 | Posted by

And by “funny” I actually mean “not remotely funny at all.”

Dennis Wyatt of the Manteca Bulletin has criticized the high speed rail project before, and this blog has pointed out the numerous flaws with those criticisms. He’s at it again this week with an op-ed that I could not resist reading, especially with the title of “High speed rail business plan: Hell or high water”.

Anytime “high water” and the Central Valley are discussed together, it should only mean one thing – the impact of global warming on inland sea levels:

Now I can see why someone in Manteca might welcome this – having Manteca become a waterfront city would certainly boost property values. But it would also come at a staggering cost, as farms, water delivery systems, and cities would be inundated by the Pacific Ocean.

So whenever someone talks about “high water” and high speed rail, it’s worth keeping in mind that building high speed rail and reducing the state’s carbon emissions will help keep the high water away.

Wyatt opens his article by painting Kings County farmers as the sensible types who would never do anything quite so crazy as propose an HSR project:

Dairy farmers in these parts – and the rest of California for that matter – do not operate in a fantasy world.

They have bills to pay, families to feed. They’ve got to constantly worry about delivering a product on time and adhere to stringent regulations. Shortcuts are a cardinal sin and can put you out of business.

They also have to have a thorough understanding of their customer, which explains why dairy cooperatives strive to produce milk-related product that reflect what consumers want and not what they think they need.

And they can ill-afford to go out on a financial limb making improvements without having a secure source of financing. And they certainly never would start building an expensive new milking barn if they only had the financial means at their disposal to complete just a third of the foundation.

On the other hand, would they jeopardize their fellow farmers a few miles to the north by putting them at greater risk of having their land rendered useless by rising sea levels? Would they jeopardize the economic prospects of their neighbors by cutting them off from the rest of the state and denying them new job opportunities that a bullet train would bring? Would they even risk their own farms by stopping reduction of carbon emissions that, along with raising the sea levels, threaten to bring prolonged drought to their lands?

Wyatt never mentions any of these concerns, instead focusing on a deeply flawed conception of cost analysis that excludes the actual costs that would come with not building HSR:

To get people out of cars, trains have to be more cost effective and take you where you want to go. High-speed rail is neither for people in Kings County or much of California for that matter. As the system stands now, it only practical for business travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco who don’t have to venture far into the suburbs of those metro areas.

Having high-speed rail stations in Merced, Fresno, Kings/Tulare and Bakersfield makes about as much sense as United Airlines scheduling jumbo jet service at airports in Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, and Bakersfield.

High-speed rail makes no sense for the San Joaquin Valley, financial or otherwise. And with each passing day it seems like the same argument can be made for California as a whole.

Wyatt’s definition of “cost effective” does not include the cost of rising oil prices, the savings that come from using electric power over fossil fuel power, the rising cost of flying and driving, or the time savings one has on a bullet train over sitting unproductively behind the wheel of a car. For most of his life flying and driving have been cheap. They’re much more expensive now than they used to be, and it’s only getting worse.

HSR stations in the Central Valley make perfect sense, of course, because bullet trains aren’t jumbo jets. They can stop and pick up new passengers quite quickly, without losing much time, unlike airplanes. And all those millions of Valley residents represent paying customers that will help the HSR system generate more revenue.

And oh yeah – building HSR can help reduce the threat that rising sea levels pose to the Manteca region, itself a huge savings. Surely that ought to be included in his calculations too.

  1. Paul Druce
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 03:56

    Why are we playing a chicken little game of a 7m rise when the science indicates we are looking at an upper range of 200cm by 2100?

    joe Reply:

    For thermal expansion alone, IPCC has estimated a rise by between 60 and 200 cm over the next thousand years if global warming is stabilized between 2 and 4 ºC above present temperatures. However, the bulk of long-term sea level rise may be expected to come from ice melt.
    — Rahmstorf, S. (2012) Modeling sea level rise. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):4

    Eric Reply:

    That’s compatible with what Paul said.

    Derek Reply:

    Hurricane Katrina brought an 8m storm surge. So 7m during a hurricane at high tide seems entirely plausible.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Storm surges and sea levels are two very different concepts.

    Derek Reply:

    Yes, and tidal waves also. But the results are remarkably similar.

    VBobier Reply:

    Don’t you mean Tsunamis? Tidal wave is an obsolete term, since that wave type has nothing to do with the tides…

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    There are waves caused by the tides, only they’re called “tidal bores.” I’ve seen them in Truro, Nova Scotia. They require a funnel to reach a respectable height. I think that if global warming raises sea levels by several feet, you can see them in Carquinez Strait (I think that in the first centuries after the end of the Ice Age raised sea levels to their present levels, there was a reversing falls there).

    The Western World first called tsunamis “tidal waves” because the first thing you see is the water going out before the wave comes in.

    Joe Reply:

    The same concept is flooding.

    The risk of flooding increases with every mm rise in sea level. Flooding risk increases with precipitation intensity increases – more water vapor in a warmer atmosphere. Flooding risk rises with storm intensity that is caused by warmer oceans.

    Rivers flow slower with every mm increase in sea level rise. Lesser gradient from land to sea.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Don’t forget the impact of sprawl and urbanization on run off. Less precipitation is absorbed as we pave over the planet, increasing flood risk downstream.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. That’s right. There was an emphasis, incorrectly, on getting water into the streams rather than slowing it down for reabsorption, bioremediation, for ground water recharge. Monterey Co. has been trying to undue the trend to route water into stream networks quickly. They encourage farmers to slow water down and allow it to pond and reabsorb.

    BTW the authors did a study, using similar estimation techniques, on impermebale surface area. For the lower 48 it totals to about the size of Ohio.

    joe Reply:

    As calculated by the researchers, the total impervious surface area of the 48 states and District of Columbia is approximately 112,610 square kilometers (43,480 square miles), and, for comparison, the total area of the state of Ohio is 116,534 square kilometers (44,994 square miles).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Interesting. Thanks joe. It’s the concentrations of impermeable area that cause the problems, and probably also the lack of full utilization of the permeable ones. I’m just an old river boatman that learned by observation but I figured someone somewhere must be taking the measurements and making the calculations

    joe Reply:

    @Paul Then look at this discipline. urban ecology

    National Science Foundation selected Baltimore as one of their original cities (old urban) and the other was Phoenix, new urban. These are NSF LTER – Long term ecosystem research program.

    The Baltimore Ecosystem Study project is supported by the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research program.

    We looked at adapting our geographic water flow models to urban areas where the topography is over ridden by human engineering.,0,82215.story
    Chicago’s deep tunnel is an attempt to buffer runoff during storms so the lake stays clean and the water can be filtered and saved for recharging the lake.

    joe Reply:

    And this comment on behavior changes – route rain gutter water to the yard, not street.

    The $4 billion dollar Deep Tunnel project began in 1975 to combat water pollution by collecting Cook County’s storm water and sewage overflow. Construction continues including building more reservoirs. When completed in 2015, the massive Thornton reservoir with will hold nearly 8 billion gallons of water. But along with that, St Pierre says, the long term solution is a cultural one, a concerted effort by each homeowner to use, for example, rain barrels or simply unhooking your downspout.

    Read more:

  2. joe
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 06:23

    In 2101 sea level will continue to rise.

    Here’s 3M map,-101.6015&z=13&m=7
    Not much different.

    Here’s a rational for 3M

    In 5 years I suspect the rate of rise and future projections will worsen. As you know, the IPCC is inherently conservative in it’s consensus estimates.

    joe Reply:

    … Overall, the IPCC report (IPCC 2007) projected a sea level contribution from the ice sheets that is close to zero, due to Greenland losing some mass (roughly between 5 and 10 cm sea level equivalent) and Antarctica gaining a similar amount.

    This is at odds with the observed accelerating mass loss from both Greenland and Antarctica (Rignot et al. 2011), and the IPCC report explicitly stated that its estimates “exclude future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow”. With this caveat, the IPCC projected an overall rise between 18-59 cm for the time span 1990 to 2095.

  3. nbluth
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 06:33

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t farming in the Central Valley ridiculously water intensive? As in, an acre of farmland uses an order of magnitude more than an acre of suburbs?

    Joe Reply:

    Nov 5, 2008

    More lawns irrigated than corn.

    Irrigation efficiency for lawns is poor – most over water. Watering rate set to summer needs and not adjusted down for the fall, winter spring demands.

    Estimated that we use 200 gallons of fresh water per day per person. To keep the US lawn surface area watered.

    Derek Reply:

    And lawns are almost always highly unproductive. Water is better spent on making food.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes. lawns can dry out in the summer and come back in fall winter spring rains but people complain. Best to replace them.

    I native garden in the front..very low maintenance if you pick local species. They ship and it works well surprisingly.

    We have a strip of fruit trees along the side running front to back. Mostly prunus, pitted fruit,with an Apple and pear thrown in.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    More lawns irrigated than corn.

    More irrigated lawn than irrigated corn. Lots of corn isn’t irrigated. East of the Mississippi if you don’t hack back the lawn fairly often it turns into trees. without irrigation. Or corn if thats what you are growing instead of lawn or trees.
    I haven’t watered lawn in decades. Ya put down a mixture of seed instead of a single kind and after a few years the stuff that likes being in your backyard with little more than regular mowing takes over. It’s thought about turning brown a few times but as soon as a torrential thunderstorm moves through it greens back up. And usually needs to be hacked back down a few days later. Don’t look at it too close. Organic dandelion greens are really expensive and if I can get a few weeks worth out of the lawn every spring I don’t get terribly upset because there’s dandelion in my lawn. Turning the leaves into compost that then gets spread on the lawn is a lot cheaper than buying fertilizer. And easier than disposing of the leaves otherwise.

    I’ll water the vegetables if it’s unusually dry and the new plants until they establish themselves. If I don’t hack it back fairly often I end up with trees. The back half of the lot is too steep to mow and it’s all trees. Which gives me lots of leaves to make compost out of….

  4. Brian_FL
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 06:45

    O/T Thanks to Stephen J. Smith (The Works column he writes)

    He links to an interesting article from Der Spiegel in regards to the new HSR route between Berlin and Munich. From the Der Spiegel article:

    “The segment is primarily designed to connect Munich and Berlin, two major transportation hubs, and the new travel time by rail will still be too long to completely eliminate air travel between the two cities. As experiences with France’s TGV high-speed rail system have shown, to do so, the train would have to complete the trip in three hours.

    French express trains travel distances of 750 kilometers within this amount of time, while even the fastest German trains can’t break 500 kilometers. There are too few continuous high-speed segments in Germany and too many stops — a fundamental problem for railroads in federalist systems. Officials from states and larger cities responsible for regional matters tend to have an inhibiting effect on transportation-project planning.”

    Seems like the same argument about adding too many stops and not using the most direct route could be made in regards to the CA HSR proposed system. Here in Florida, All Aboard Florida (AAF) is coming under pressure from politicians to add stops to their new route. But since they are private, AAF can tell the cities to go pack sand. AAF says that their revenue model is built on having a 3 hour trip – adding stops would break that model and result in it not being as profitable.

    The French definitely know how to design a HSR system to make it efficient and fast. The gist of the article is that Germany being a federalist type of government, the transportation planning is not done with regards to what is best for the system. It is designed to satisfy local politicians and governments along the route.

    jonathan Reply:

    In fact, it doesn’t “seems [sic] like the same argument [….]” could be made in regards to the CA HSR proposed system”. That exact point has been made here for years: comparing CA route-selection to the German process, where state and city politics lead to meandering routes, lots of stops, and not enough actual high-speed lines to dominate air travel — with the French decision-making process, were Paris calls the shots.

    StevieB Reply:

    The difference is a system that maximizes profit for the operator by eliminating stops to speed trips between the end points and a system that maximizes economic benefit to regions between the end points by increasing transportation options. The choice is between a system designed for corporate benefit or public benefit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The greatest public benefit is derived from “a system that maximizes profit for the operator”.

    “Increasing transportation options”? You have to match the services to the actual demand with a view to efficiency and lowest cost. In a lot of cases this means buses. And then you have Geary Street which needs rail but cannot get it due to incompetence and languor of local transit officials and pols.

    StevieB Reply:

    To provide the greatest public benefit you service regions with less profit from fewer passengers in order to encourage economic development. Commerce follows increased transportation.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Or you relocate them to areas with already expanding economic development. Contain the contagion – that is saving the environment.

    Forget “increased” – it is time to stabilize.

    StevieB Reply:

    Rounding people up and sending them to labor camps is no longer practical.

    wdobner Reply:

    Is there some sort of mental disability on the part of the anti-transit bloggers which requires them to take any and all press releases at face value with zero critical thinking? How does Amtrak’s short term rolling stock plans have any bearing on their long term plans? This hysteria in desperately searching for some split between Amtrak and the CHSRA only makes them look that much more foolish than they did before they tarted flogging it.

  5. Tony D.
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 07:40

    Just for the sake of argument, but wouldn’t building out regional/commuter HSR in SoCal and NorCal FIRST! do more to combat global warming then building a line in the Central Valley? You know, removing thousands of smog-belching cars/commuters from our freeways FIRST with Metrolink, Caltrain and ACE. Just saying…

    jonathan Reply:

    Yes, better urban transit would make far more difference to global warming than HSR. Numbers matter. But Robert is deeply anti-science. To Robert, numbers don’t matter.

    Derek Reply:

    Urban transit does not help cure traffic congestion, so it would also make no difference to global warming, unless you also remove road lanes.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Congestion doesn’t matter. Tons of CO2 does.

    Derek Reply:

    CO2 doesn’t matter. Global warming does.

    Jonathan Reply:

    How can anyone in this century be so *dumb* as to say that?

    Derek Reply:

    What I wrote was as absurd as what Richard wrote, for the same reason.

    Eric Reply:

    Global warming doesn’t matter. Economic development does.

    (It will save orders of magnitude more lives than global warming will cost.)

    Jonathan Reply:

    Who is this ignoramus who repeatedly cites *one* flawed study, and ignores contradictory results?
    Oh, it’s Derek.

    Derek, another for the list you need to learn before anyone will take you seriously:
    *Post hoc, ergo propter hoc*.

    The link you love so much says that adding more highway lanes doesn’t ease congestion. (The paper itself is paywalled). That is not, repeat *not* the same thing as saying that taking lanes away will *reduce* congestion. Is that really so hard for you to grasp?

    Derek Reply:

    When you find yourself insulting your opponent, you’ve already lost the argument.

    VBobier Reply:

    Then where is the incentive to complete the CV once the endpoints in HSR are built?



    You build at first in the least expensive area and the CV cities is mentioned as an area to be served by HSR, of course right now the CHSRA is using Federal Funds and really doesn’t need the state bonds for the moment, it will probably need them after 2017, but that’s just a guess. If I’m wrong, so be it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Why would there need to be an “incentive” if the case for HSR is truly compelling?

    Eric Reply:

    The case can be compelling even if those in power don’t realize it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It isn’t compelling if people aren’t compelled. A case that is compelling to Robert Cruickshank is not a criterion that I would use to drop tens of billions…

    VBobier Reply:

    Population is rising in California and the states highways are ill equipped to handle the increased load and expansion of existing highways will only buy maybe a year at most, before one is back at square one, as has been show whenever a freeway/interstate is built, as interstate highways can not move enough people fast enough to do the job, so unless someone has a better idea, HSR is the solution…

    Eric Reply:

    If it’s compelling all over Europe and East Asia, then it’s compelling in the US. The only thing different here is the politics.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the question is “why is the private sector not doing it if it’s so profitable?” then the Jewish answering-with-a-question is “why did the private sector not do it in France despite the 10-15% rate of return?”. HSR is extremely capital-intensive and usually requires interfacing with public rail operators or owners and sometimes also a new set of regulations.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I want to know how you would remove that many passengers using commuter rail. The issue that Commuter rail is limited as far as capacity goes. There isn’t much of an option there. If you really want to reduce emissions how about completing the subway to the sea?

  6. Rob Dawg
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 08:28

    The energy analysis presented in the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIR was based on the best available data at the time of the analysis. The current analysis reflects the various operational, design and analysis refinements that have occurred since the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIR was published. These 2012 refinements resulted in an 16.55 GWh per day, 2035 total system usage compared to a 8.74 GWh per day 2030 total system usage in the 2008 Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIR.

  7. JB in PA
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 09:13

    Part of a long term trend.

    “Twenty thousand years ago there was no bay”

  8. JB in PA
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 11:39

    “building high speed rail and reducing the state’s carbon emissions will help keep the high water away”

    The statement is flawed because it implies a guarantee which is not possible.

    We are talking about changes on a global scale that set in motion tremendous amounts of energy. All of human activity is a small percentage of the energy involved. The ocean is a 10,000 mile wide lung which can absorb or release gas. As I understand it, it is quite possible that if you took every human off the planet and stopped all human activity the water levels might still rise the predicted amount.

    Yet climate change is a chaotic process. It is also quite possible that global -warming- could trigger a chaotic response and cause the onset of a new ice-age. Yes, warming can cause an ice age. Much ink is spilled arguing global warming when the chaotic nature of the process which we do no completely understand makes it difficult to draw conclusions on varying time-scales, short or long.

    ‘X’ data supports global warming.
    ‘Y’ data shows ice is increasing.
    Both can be true and both can be false but more reasonably both are interrelated in complex ways.
    Rising oceans will have a greater impact on cities and lowering oceans and we should take steps to prepare. But building one more electric train is lost in the noise and will have not effect such as to “keep the high water away”.

    We should increase efficiency and lower environmental impact because it is good for the planet. Do not get confused that there are any guarantees that ‘Z’ human activity will or will not prevent high water.

    Soot is collecting in pools on Greenland and literally drilling holes in the ice. If we scrub power plant exhaust (China has taken steps and needs to do more) we can reduce the levels of soot. (One volcano can wipe out our efforts but cleaning up our act can reduce the impact we do have.)

    Catalytic converters have had an impact on smog in my lifetime. There are many affordable things humans can do, should do, and are doing. HSR will help. We have not yet found a cure.

    JB in PA Reply:

    “We have not yet found a cure.”

    We have not yet (achieved comprehensive understanding of climate dynamics and developed methods to adjust climate processes that would) cure (us from the threat of rising oceans.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Oh, so nothing to worry about then! Continue to consume away until some far future century when somebody provides “comprehensive understanding”! Excellent!

    JB in PA Reply:

    Sorry for the confusion.
    I was trying to say that we cannot make statements like:
    “reducing the state’s carbon emissions will help keep the high water away.”
    until we have a “comprehensive understanding of climate dynamics”.
    Which is not going to happen any time soon.
    I have heard, not a few times, such statements that we have to take action to stop the rise of ocean levels. We are just beginning to figure out a crude understanding of climate dynamics much less determine the effect of saving a few thousand tons of carbon here and there.

    jonathan Reply:

    Silly JB. By the time we have accurate quantitative predictions (call it 2xxx) atmospheric CO2 will have risen much higher than it is now. And by 2xxx, we’ll already have *baked in* the climate-change implications of unfettered increases in CO2 emissions between now and 2xxx. And those consequences are likely to be very, very bad.

    Look. Suppose you’re a smoker, and someone tells you that smoking cigarettes significantly increases your chance of lung cancer. Do you quit, or cut back, now; or do you wait until you have a reliable statistical model giving you a quantitative shortening-of-life vs. daily-consumption? Hmm?

    Be honest with yourself, if not with me.

    JB in PA Reply:

    That is not what I said. Blog comments are a crappy way to have a conversation.

    I agree we should do all we can reasonable afford to reduce carbon and reduce environmental impact.
    But the momentum of climate change may already be unstoppable with respect to rising oceans.
    HSR is the right thing to do, but not because it will -stop- the rising oceans.
    The ocean can rise 5cm in 100 years or it can drop 5 cm. Rising looks to be more likely but we do not know for sure.

    Scientists just this year gained understanding about a grand-canyon size valley under Greenland and about water flow under Antarctic ice shelves and about the distribution of mountains under Antarctica. We are still discovering significant parts of our ecosystem that have a far bigger than the carbon saved by HSR.

    joe Reply:

    We know. We know Oceans will not drop 5cm. We make very conservative estimates like 200cm rise by 2100 due to THERMAL expansion of water alone. Not adding water – that assumes a net change in sea water of 0.0. 200 cm rise just water expanding was it warms.

    We know that until the past 10,000 years, climate variability – seasonal variability and irregular weather has been severe with respect to current very stable variations we know and expect in our civilized experiences since 10,000 BP.

    We think, with some scientiifc underpinnings, that a increase beyond 3C will put the climate system into a unsteady state and that means crop failures and massive unrest.

    jonathan Reply:

    But that *is* *exactly* what you said. Is your post missing a line or a double-quote, or something?
    Other than that we seem to be in violent agreement:

    I hadn’t heard about Greenland, but I only stopped getting occasional pre-publication information on Antarctic ice sheet research a couple of years ago.

    wdobner Reply:

    And what happens when the rest of the world is elevated to US and European levels of per-capita energy consumption? As you’re so fond of saying, yet so loath to do yourself, do the math!

    We could reduce our energy consumption to just 10% of what it is today and it will result in an insignificant reduction in worldwide energy consumption when the remaining 6 to 10 billion people around the world see their consumption increase by two or even three orders of magnitude to meet our greatly reduced energy consumption. You think absent a viable alternative those nations are going to shy away from fossil fuels to feed their burgeoning middle classes because we ask them nicely to abide by our own energy restrictions?

    That’s not to say conservation efforts don’t have their place, it’s beyond debate that they do. But to preach an energy conservation-only approach is simply foolish. We need to adapt technologies which allow us fuel consumption with far less impact than our current approach. Only then can any of our own conservation efforts show a meaningful impact against the rest of the world.

    joe Reply:

    “That’s not to say conservation efforts don’t have their place, it’s beyond debate that they do. But to preach an energy conservation-only approach is simply foolish.”

    No one’s suggesting conservation is the only solution. 10% of our energy use is a bit more than what a person in Mexico uses.

    And it’s fossil fuel consumption, not energy that matters. Iceland’s the largest energy user per person by far but uses less fossil fuel than warmer, conservation loving, solar happy Germany.

    wdobner Reply:

    And it’s fossil fuel consumption, not energy that matters. Iceland’s the largest energy user per person by far

    And 65% of Iceland’s electrical energy comes from geothermal sources. That’s a nuclear fuel source, powered by the thorium decay in the Earth’s core. Except that unlike a nuclear reactor geothermal power has a significant environmental impacts in terms of emissions. And of course there are few places in California, or even the contiguous US where you can take advantage of geothermal power, so it’s not exactly an alternative. Iceland just happens to be very lucky. A very small population sited perfectly to utilize geothermal and hydro power, which together account for 85% of national electrical energy consumption. Unfortunately it’s not a lesson which can be applied elsewhere.

    but uses less fossil fuel than warmer, conservation loving, solar happy Germany.

    Yes, Germany keeps throwing up the massive lignite coal plants because those solar panels are virtually useless for most of the year. Nameplate capacity means nothing when there’s 6 inches of snow on the roof. And unfortunately the Germans aren’t going to turn off the heat just because those vaunted panels on the roof have turned themselves into expensive snow guards. So every kilowatt of power which can be sourced from a solar panel must also be capable of being sourced from some more reliable source. Given the difficulties the EU has encountered with natural gas deliveries from Russia it’s little wonder they haven’t gone for the US solution of natural gas turbines, but their brown coal plants effectively negate whatever positive the solar panel or wind turbine was intended to have. That’s especially true when they’re using the solar panel/wind turbine + coal plant to replace a nuclear plant.

    wdobner Reply:

    Well technically we did find a cure, back in the 1950s. We have the ability produce as much carbon-free energy as the world could need, and keep that output up for more than a millennium even with runaway growth in consumption. We only have ourselves to blame for our decline to turn of the last century energy sources.

    jonathan Reply:

    Such a shame that we don’t like actinides in our water-table and drinking-water and food-chain….

    wdobner Reply:

    … which are already there courtesy our coal power plants and the natural erosion of uranium and thorium rich deposits. The amount of groundwater contaminated by artificial nuclear reactions is truly insignificant.

    Even with our ancient nuclear power plants they’re far cleaner than almost all the alternatives. Nothing else combines the low environmental impact of a small site with the lack of gaseous emissions and the ability to operate reliably at nameplate capacity. It’s going to end up being a choice between nuclear, coal, or gas. I’ll gladly take nuclear over the emissions of coal, or the uncertainty of gas.

    joe Reply:

    “Even with our ancient nuclear power plants they’re far cleaner than almost all the alternatives. ”

    Define clean

    There are contaminated areas in Japan and and still uncontrolled radiation leakage from their crippled plant.

    wdobner Reply:

    Clean should include a quantification of site size and the impact on the area around the plant. Dispersed energy sources have a greater direct impact on local wildlife than more concentrated power plants, particularly when there are concentrated plants which release no gaseous emissions. Now that Yucca Mountain appears to be on hold there should be the impetus for waste annihilating reactors capable of burning up the unused U235 our light water reactors convert to high level waste.

    The clear lesson that can be drawn from the Tōhoku Earthquake is the need for new nuclear power plants. The Onagawa NPP, with its oldest reactor dating to the 1980s, survived the quake intact despite being closer to the epicenter than Fukushima Daiichi. The same is true of the Fukushima Daini plant, also constructed in the 1980s. Our unwillingness to replace our obsolete second generation nuclear power plants places us at a greater risk than an energy policy which replaces older units as their useful lives come to an end.

  9. Lewellan
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 17:57

    Dennis Wyatt’s full article wades into blather territory.
    His opposition to HSR is truly laughable, but,
    ask yourself, Who is feeding him the misinformation?
    Follow the money. Wherever costs can be cut,
    build a slower system, say, 5hrs LA-to-SF, 4.5hrs LA-to-Sacramento.
    ACE Altamont corridor electrified.
    Non-electrification Stockton south through the mostly rural valley.
    Talgo XXI hybrid/pantagraph trainset models.
    MADE IN USA circa 1940’s-50’s.
    World’s 1st true HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But that is not what the electorate voted for in Prop 1A.

    Vote no on the water bond to punish Jerry Brown for his treachery and pandering to the Tejon Ranch Co.

    Rob Dawg Reply:

    It isn’t a “water bond”. It is the Peripheral Canal rebadged as the Peripheral Covered Canal. As soon as the public reads the details it is over. The only way it passes is if the CV farmers currently being held hostage are bribed enough to not only fight but to support.

    wdobner Reply:

    I seriously doubt Mr. Wyatt or his sources, if he has sources, are particularly interested in seeing a different form of the CHSRA built.

    But you do raise a good point. If private investment is to be had then their primary concern will be the commencement of revenue operations between LA and SF at the earliest opportunity. Constructing the Central Valley alignment, the Southern mountain crossing, and the Caltrain electrification, and then using diesel locomotives to haul trainsets from San Jose to Tracy, and from Palmdale to Los Angeles could create a 5 hour one way trip. 5 hours may not be what was envisioned, but it is a marketable product which can still attract a sizable market share and potentially generate an operating surplus. The completion of other segments would reduce travel times until it meets the 2 hr 40 min requirement.

    EJ Reply:

    Five hours LA-SF isn’t really “marketable.” I mean, it’s marketable to me, because I’m kind of a foamer. But for the general public, a 5 hour train journey doesn’t really replace a 1 hour flight.

    (OK, a 1 hour flight involves an hour at each end, so it’s really three hours, whereas a train journey involves no last mile transit at all – we’ll accept that fiction for the sake of argument. Still, it’s not competitive)

    wdobner Reply:

    Sure it is. It’s still faster than driving and much faster than the bus. That service iteration is not going to capture the same market share as the eventual 220mph operation from Fremont to Burbank, but it gets the public along the eventual route a usable service perhaps a decade earlier than if we’d waited for full build out.

    It’s also a way for SNCF’s cost plus contract proposals to sneak in the back door. California can always write laws which clarify that Prop 1A specifically referred to the final Phase 1 build-out, while they’re free to subsidize this initial operation with a cost plus contract to whoever should be selected. It allows both sides a convenient approach to build ridership without forcing the private operator to face all the uncertainties of the service alone.

    jonathan Reply:

    220 mi/hr from Fremont to Burbank? Ignoring the Altamont issue, are you fantasizing about base-tunnels into both the Bay Area and the LA Basin??

    wdobner Reply:

    The SETEC alignment report claims trains will be able to operate at 170mph in cut and cover tunnels next to the SF aqueduct, and at 217mph from Fremont to Tracy. No base tunnel required, and relatively little post-construction impact on the suburban community through which the HSL passes.

    And yes, IMHO Altamont is the best solution to the problem posed by Transbay’s lack of capacity. Constructing the Dumbarton crossing and making San José a third northern terminal reduces the demand for HSR slots on the Caltrain corridor and into Transbay while allowing a variety of services to be operated at short head ways along the HSR trunk through the Central Valley.

    Tony D. Reply:

    “making San Jose a third northern terminal.” Along with Caltrain electrification, that’ll work for me ;)..

    Lewellan Reply:

    The 5-hour LA-to-SF and the 4.5-hour LA-to-Sacramento route option
    rests on building the Altamont corridor, not the Gilroy.
    A 5-hour trip encourages stops in Bakersfield & Fresno.
    Ahem, thus adding ridership to the market.
    From Bakersfield, the spur to LasVegas notion works well for “BOTH” LA & Bay Area market.
    Thus, favors Tejon instead of Tehachapi, and adds ridership to the market.
    Faster is NOT necessarily better. Travellers LA-to-SF will spend the night for sure, like duh.

    wdobner Reply:

    No, faster is better. But then I’m looking at a 5 hr travel time as an initial offering, while you appear to see it as the best performance to be delivered by the final build out of Phase 1. Not only is this not compatible with Prop 1A, but the lower speed through the CV requires expensive improvements to be constructed over both the northern and southern mountain crossings to deliver that inadequate travel time.

    On the other hand, building for 220mph operation and maintaining the design speed as currently contemplated from Palmdale to Tracy you can achieve a 5 hour travel time with the mountain crossings, other than Tehachapi, remaining largely unimproved. It also allows the actual decisions about the mountain crossings to be deferred. Just because the HSTs are towed across Altamont by some GE, EMD, OR Wabtec diesel does not rule out Pacheco if that turns out to be the superior route. Similarly, Tejon could still be constructed and the HSL from Bakersfield to Palmdale over Tehachapi would become the spur to Vegas you mentioned. And of course everything to be constructed for this 5 hour service would be completely compatible with Prop 1A.

    Clem Reply:

    It also allows the actual decisions about the mountain crossings to be deferred.

    Why defer the most important decisions? Building HSR in California is almost entirely about the mountain crossings. Solve that problem and the rest of the system will practically build itself.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they made the decisions about which mountain crossings to make.

    Clem Reply:

    They sure did, and look where it got them… I think you might be surprised in coming months.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I agree, Clem. PB-CHSRA is going to have to present a complete, cogent route plan that guarantees 2:40. Anything that is tentative, sketchy, vacillating is not going to sit well with the Judge, IMHO. After Prop 1A does not say 2:40 or thereabout.

    And I would offer that PB will want to present the alignment least likely to fail a challenge. You know Kopp and the other litigants are going to cross-examine, counter, and rebut PB’s claims on or about 2:40, because PB has been repeatedly so full of mierda on this issue and has left quite a paper trail of obfuscation and coverrup.

    So it is either lose the case or take on Barry Zoeller and Disney flat out. They don’t seem to have any problem today going after the little people with eminent domain.

    synonymouse Reply:

    After all

    synonymouse Reply:

    Put it this way: the purpose of those concrete provisos in Prop 1A is to prevent the people of California from being played.

    And of course we are being played with this nonsensical joint Amtrak NEC-CHSRA trainset bid. The equipment is clearly being built to and optimized for 160mph. Otherwise why even change the specs? California, should they continue with this fiasco, will be stuck with 160mph rolling stock.

    At 160mph I suggest recourse to I-5 in the Valley will be necessary to achieve 2:40.

    wdobner Reply:

    What makes it the most important decision? Especially the Northern Mountain crossing? Fine the southern crossing going via Tejon means Bakersfield gets a sprawl-tastic greenfield station as opposed to a city center station. But on the northern end you just build the provisions for the Chowchilla Wye, and keep going from Merced up to Tracy or Modesto to intersect the UP. Either way whatever is built will be utilized for the eventual Phase 1 and 2 build-out, so the actual decision of which mountain crossing is to be eventually constructed is fairly immaterial to the operation of the Central Valley trunk with a 5 hour travel time.

    And IMHO it’s best to defer the decision because if they pick an answer now and stick with it, you won’t like that decision. But if they defer that decision, especially as the northern mountain crossing may well be the very last segment of Phase I completed, there’s more than a decade to lobby the logic of Altamont Pass. In the meantime an initial SF-LA service can be hauled over Altamont by diesel locomotives and that alone could have a tremendous impact on fixing Altamont as the location of the northern crossing.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I dunno if 5 hours is going to capture any sizable market share, but it’s likely the best we can hope for over the next twenty years. FWIW it’s an improvement on the current 6 hour rail travel time between Oakland and Bako (Bako!). Coast Starlight, ugh…. Basically intercity rail service between LA and SF is a joke now, something that Bulgaria would be ashamed of.

  10. Rob Dawg
    Dec 11th, 2013 at 19:36

    Everyone realizes that the map above shows the Bay Area circa 4100 C.E. right?

    Joey Reply:

    All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

    joe Reply:

    The RATE of co2 release and warming is unprecedented in earth history. What is happening never has occurred this quickly ever. Not human but earth history.

    That’s why we are expected to have one of the largest extinction events ever, on par with the massive events in the fossil record.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    We don’t have any accurate way of measuring the rate of CO2 release in Earth’s prehistory in the relevant timespans. It’s quite possible that events such as the Deccan traps eruption and the global firestorms of Chicxulub resulted in far higher rates of CO2 emissions.

    Joe Reply:

    We do have ways to estimate and infer rate of change.

    One could ask a skeptic to offer a geologic scenario that matches the current rates and mechanisms.

    So have at it. How and where does this co2 enter the atmosphere?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The same way billion year old fossils get embedded in rocks on a 6,000 year old Earth.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I don’t believe we have core samples or such which show us on the decade or even century level that far back. Certainly open to correction however.

    And again, I remind you of the Deccan traps and the Chicxulub impact (and ensuing global firestorm) for plausible means of similar or higher rates of CO2 emissions. The other stuff that they toss out would mitigate climactic CO2 effects however.

    joe Reply:

    What you believe isn’t relevant at all.

    And the asteroid impact that resulted in a major extinction event would be a bad place to start counter argument.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Colloquial speech, do you grok it? And I’m not arguing against the need to reduce CO2 emissions, but rather taking issue with your statement that the rise is unprecedented in all of Earth’s history.

    Joe Reply:


    Systematic combustion of carbon by billions of people – carbon that is geologic, not in soil and biomass pools. Global deforestation, soil erosion and degradation which loses carbon. Oil and coal accumulated in geological periods like the Carboniferous era and we say there’s enough for only 500 years use.

    Permian extinction event – would be a good candidate.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    CE=AD. One of the more annoying politically correct ideas.

  11. Rob Dawg
    Dec 12th, 2013 at 08:46

    “The RATE of co2 release and warming is unprecedented in earth history. What is happening never has occurred this quickly ever. Not human but earth history. ” ~ Joe

    There is absolutely no way to tell if this is true. None. There just would not be any evidence of such an event. That said there are lots of inferences that in prehistory that cataclysmic events occurred that would undoubtably have vastly increased atmospheric CO2. It’s just that those conclusions are derived rather than evidenced. A realm of scince the warmistas seem to have skipped in school. We do know a lot about sea level rise however and the current rate is essentially zero on geologic time scales.


    “CE=AD. One of the more annoying politically correct ideas.” ~ Paul Druce

    Agreed. This is about climate politics so it is unfortunately necessary to be politically correct.

    Joe Reply:

    Your intentional confusion and out right lying doesn’t change the science.

    Amazing that you make up contradictory claims;there is no way to tell about AND you argue it’s happened before.

    We scientists have carefully and conservatively studied the climate system and it’s unprecedented.

    If the rate if change has happened then a reasonable person would ask what was the source of the CO2? How did massive million year old carbon stores reach the surface to combust and form co2 in the prehistory? What mechanism ?

    Rob Dawg Reply:

    “Your intentional confusion and out right lying doesn’t change the science. ”

    And… the discussion is over. It is a shame that you cannot accept from two people that your claim of unprecedented CO2 increases is unsupportable.


    During the last glacial period atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature in Antarctica varied in a similar fashion on millennial time scales, but previous work indicates that these changes were gradual. In a detailed analysis of one event we now find that approximately half of the CO2 increase that occurred during the 1500-year cold period between Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) events 8 and 9 happened rapidly, over less than two centuries. This rise in CO2 was synchronous with, or slightly later than, a rapid increase of Antarctic temperature inferred from stable isotopes.

    Received 6 July 2012; accepted 23 August 2012.

    Citation: Ahn, J., E. Brook, A. Schmittner, and K. J. Kreutz (2012), Abrupt change in atmospheric CO2 during the last ice age, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL053018, in press.


    Pending further confirmation it may well turn out that not only is your claim unsupportable but flat out incorrect.

  12. Reedman
    Dec 12th, 2013 at 13:42

    (because methane is 15 to 20 times the greehouse gas that CO2 is):

    “… livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport.”

    United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, 2006/Nov/29

    Joe Reply:

    Methane is short lived. It reacts with oxygen.
    Co2 is stable. It comes from vast stores if buried carbon we extract from the earth.

    Methane is from organic activity which is cycling carbon from active pools.

    fossil fuel co2 is going deep in the earth and releasing Millions of years of natural carbon sequestration in a few years time.

  13. morris brown
    Dec 12th, 2013 at 15:04

    More Setbacks for California’s Embattled High-Speed Rail Project

    note this from the article:

    Railroad Subcommittee Sets Hearing

    Nor was this the end of the project’s tribulations. The administration of the federal grants to the California HSR project will be the subject of a hearing by the House Railroad Subcommittee according to unofficial sources. Initially scheduled for December 12, the hearing has been postponed to January 14.

    Among the issues Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) is expected to explore will be:

    Why did FRA and the Authority amend an existing grant agreement to provide the Authority with money in advance of the state’s matching funds? (This is a departure from standard federal/local cost-sharing agreements which require funds to be spent concurrently).
    How does the Authority propose to match the federal contribution now that the Court has barred access to Proposition 1A bond funds?
    And where will the $31.5 billion needed to complete the 300-mile Initial Operating Segment (IOS) between Merced and San Fernando Valley come from? (So far the Authority has only $6 billion — $3.25 billion in federal funds and $2.7 billion in Proposition 1A funds appropriated to match the federal funds). Authority chairman Dan Richard and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo are expected to testify along with other expert witnesses.

    Should be a very interesting hearing

    Joe Reply:

    Jeff Denham !

    The man whose last congressional act produced a favorable GAo report and whose request for STB involvement resulted in the federalizations of the entire project that will free CA HSR from CEQA oversight.

    I am looking forward to this new opportunity.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, from a party who lacking real evidence likes to make up evidence to fit the charges, the EIR for Fresno to Bakersfield just has to be completed, but then considering that the party allows criminal nutjobs to be members of Congress, namely one Darrell Issa, who I hope after the 2014 election will be expelled from the House for malfeasance and evidence tampering(aka doctoring emails), oh and Repubs shouldn’t count on winning in 2014, Millennials are not voting Republican, they are voting Democratic and Progressive, 2012 was just the opening act in a much superior Democratic ground game that Repubs just can’t match, 2010 was a fluke, as Democrats stayed home that time and Repubs won by default, if Democrats hadn’t stayed home, HSR in CA I expect would have been fully funded on the IOS. In any case the CHSRA will possibly in the Spring of 2014 get the EIR finalized. Oh and I wouldn’t count on Jeff Denham for much longer, He won by a mere thread last time, in November 2014, I think He won’t be a Congressman anymore, cause a thread ain’t enough, not in that district…

    Despite STB and court rulings, Ca. High-Speed Rail Chairman vows to move forward

    The HSR Authority Board Meeting:

    At the very end of the meeting, Authority CEO, Jeff Morales said the STB action was “misunderstood, misreported or misrepresented” and there was “no basis or credence” that the STB decision was a major blow to the project. Here is an eight minute discussion of the decision and countering the Kings County letter.

    He stated the Authority was not trying to be secretive since it was posted on the STB site and there was an invitation for interested parties to submit comments by December 24, 2013. Morales also said they expect a decision in the Spring, no doubt hoping the environmental work for the Fresno to Bakersfield segment is completed by then.

    So as usual, this will not stop the project, don’t like that? Too damn bad…

  14. trentbridge
    Dec 12th, 2013 at 16:34

    Well I’m flabbergasted!

    “They (Dairy Farmers) also have to have a thorough understanding of their customer, which explains why dairy cooperatives strive to produce milk-related product that reflect what consumers want and not what they think they need.”

    And I thought the country-bumpkins were unaware that cows produced milk and that there were edible products that could be produced from that milk that people like!

    Clearly farmers this smart must be equally versed in the nuances of modern surface transportation projects and the needs of milk-consuming city folks to get from one end of the state to the other without stepping in manure..

    Perhaps the audience of this editorial are sufficiently flattered by the reference to their innate intelligence derived from watching cows that they swallowed the “manured-based product” that was the rest of this editorial.

    In all fairness, I’m a milk and cheese consumer.

    StevieB Reply:

    California dairy farmers are not as sensible as the article pretends. Over one hundred California dairies closed in 2012 and over three hundred closed in the last five years. California dairies on aggregate are operating at a loss mainly due to their not growing their own feed and have asked for increased milk prices.

  15. synonymouse
    Dec 12th, 2013 at 18:28

    “Opponents of the plan contend that using shared tracks on the San Francisco Peninsula — a concession to Bay Area communities that did not want a second set of high-speed tracks along with the Caltrain line — will mean that the high-speed trains will not be able to achieve Prop. 1A’s requirement of a 2-hour 40-minute nonstop trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

    This is claptrap – as Clem has highlighted repeatedly. The blend was the default from the get-go and even then the time differential is quite small. The real penalty is at the egregious Palmdale-Tehachapi detour. Morris, why are your guys not flailing PB in court on this gross pandering to the Tejon Ranch Co.?

    Tony D. Reply:

    Well, if HSR going Tejon means we get Caltrain electrification GUARANTEED, then I’m all for it! Perhaps as a consolation prize Palmdale could get an upgraded Metrolink, which in theory could entail a future HSR link to Vegas via Palmdale.

    synonymouse Reply:

    An upgraded Metrolink commute op much better serves Palmdale’s basal needs, as once again Clem has elaborated and enumerated in his excellent pro bono study.

    You guys have not been giving Clem proper credit for moving the Tejon issue from kvetching by myself and others to a legitimate position that PB and eventually Brown will have to straightforward address. Until Clem got it down on paper and numbers PB had been able to get away with its patent jedi mind tricks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And give some credit to Van Ark for having the stones to tell Richards and Brown just where to put Palmdale exceptionalism.

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