Why HSR Is a Good Use of Cap-and-Trade Funds

Jan 7th, 2014 | Posted by

News that Governor Jerry Brown is planning to spend $250 million this year on high speed rail from cap-and-trade funds, presumably the floor for an annual amount of funding from that source, should be welcomed by California environmentalists and everyone concerned about climate change. But there are some strange criticisms being made:

“Inherent in AB 32 is that we need to act sooner rather than later,” said Kathryn Phillips, the Sierra Club’s California director. “The problem with taking that [cap-and-trade] money and applying it to high-speed rail is that we don’t anticipate that we’re going to get those benefits — reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — in the short-term. Given how urgent the problem is and has become, and how much we’re seeing the effects of climate change in this state, especially in water availability, it feels irresponsible to not apply that money to those programs that will get you greenhouse gas emissions reductions now.”

Bill Magavern, policy director at the Coalition for Clean Air, concurred. “We don’t think that high-speed rail should be getting a large proportion of the revenues,” he said, and suggested that “there are probably a number of legislators” who would agree with his group’s opposition to any sizable high-speed rail allocation.

Magevern and Phillips both cited other programs as more worthy of the cap-and-trade revenue due to their more immediate anticipated emissions reductions, with both mentioning electric vehicle subsidies as one area they expect to have more of an impact. Phillips also mentioned diesel emissions at the state’s ports and rail yards, as well as water efficiency measures. Magevern suggested weatherizing homes and operating assistance to local transit agencies across the state.

This is a really shortsighted view. It does nobody any good for carbon emissions to be lowered through 2020 only to rise again because short-term solutions have run their course. AB 32 was intended to be the start of a long-term, lasting reduction in California’s carbon emissions. With transportation being one of the primary contributors to those carbon emissions, California needs to prioritize the development of new transportation infrastructure that can dramatically reduce carbon emissions in a long-term way. High speed rail does that.

I’m all for electric vehicles, but environmentalists should not see them as a panacea. Electric cars have a maximum range these days of 100 miles. Adding in charging time, it would take perhaps as much as seven hours to drive a typical electric car from San Francisco to Los Angeles, if not more. For the foreseeable future, electric cars aren’t going to be a solution for those who want to drive across California. They are a useful tool within metropolitan areas, but not between them. HSR is the only option that can provide big carbon savings for intercity travel in California. It also helps address the serious air pollution problems in the Central Valley, which are largely driven by transportation. That’s something I would expect Magavern in particular to be excited about.

I would agree with these criticisms if Governor Brown were pledging to use all the cap-and-trade revenues for HSR. I love bullet trains but even I don’t think that would be appropriate. The Governor’s proposal would direct just 17% of the current $1.4 billion annual cap-and-trade revenues to HSR, leaving over a billion dollars available each year to invest in other forms of carbon reduction. It makes a lot of sense to take 17% of those revenues to invest in infrastructure that can provide carbon-free travel for the rest of the 21st century.

HSR is exactly the sort of thing that cap-and-trade was envisioned to fund. After all, it’s been in the California Air Resources Board’s AB 32 scoping plan for years. It still has it in its draft plan update from October 2013. CARB includes HSR as part of its ongoing measures to ensure that the reductions achieved by 2020 are lasting – the entire point of AB 32:

California’s regulatory programs and planning efforts provide a basic foundation to build lasting markets where automakers, suppliers, and fuel providers who make large, smart investments are handsomely rewarded for developing leading technologies, and where standards drive technologies to higher volumes, lower prices, and ultimately, to become market-winning solutions, rather than compliance approaches.

But additional, targeted financial and policy support and investment—including continued ZEV purchase incentives for electric and fuel cell vehicles—is needed to help during the transition, and to help local communities plan and build the active transportation and public transit alternatives (including integrated public transit and high-speed rail) that are increasingly in demand and necessary to meet ongoing emissions targets. The State has existing funding programs for many of these activities, but funding is limited, and will need to be enhanced or extended beyond currently allocated resources.

Governor Brown’s proposal fits with that approach. The notion that AB 32 and cap-and-trade is all about getting to the 2020 targets and nothing more is a gross misrepresentation of the intentions of the law and the overall approach to solving the climate crisis. The Governor’s proposal, then, is a good start that deserves strong support from California environmentalists and transit advocates.

This line of attack is being picked up in familiar and expected quarters. Rounding up the usual suspects, starting with Dan Walters of the Sac Bee:

While creating the new revenue stream might – emphasis, might – help persuade the court that there is a legally sufficient financial plan for the initial bullet train segment from the San Joaquin Valley into Southern California, as the law requires, the legality of such a shift is itself legally suspect.

The cap-and-trade law says that proceeds are to be used specifically to lower California’s greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, but the Legislature’s budget analyst, Mac Taylor, says bullet train construction would actually increase emissions “for many years” and a decrease, if any, would not occur until decades later.

Mac Taylor also opposes bullet train construction and his claim is based on a study he didn’t bother to cite. This is a specious claim that he makes, assuming that there’s no actual benefit to providing an electric train powered by renewables that has been proven to shift riders away from carbon emitting methods of travel everywhere else it operates. And if HSR wasn’t going to help meet the AB 32 goals, why did CARB include it in its scoping plan? I will take CARB’s analysis over the LAO’s any day when it comes to climate.

One could easily envision that bullet train opponents who have successfully challenged the project in court would make common legal and political cause with environmental groups, which have pledged to hold Brown accountable for spending the cap-and-trade fees as the underlying law requires.

This would be cynical in the extreme, and environmental groups should be very strongly dissuaded from doing anything so crazy. You don’t solve the climate crisis in drips and drops. You will also need major infrastructure projects that provide huge and permanent reductions in carbon emissions. HSR fits that bill perfectly.

The Press-Enterprise, which has editorialized against HSR in the past, takes up a similar line of thinking:

Raiding the state’s greenhouse gas receipts is not a feasible solution to the rail line’s funding gaps. The governor should already know this: The state’s legislative analyst reported in 2012 that using the greenhouse gas money for the rail line would be legally risky. Money from the cap-and-trade program is supposed to help reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The “bullet train,” however, would not even begin operating until at least 2021, which deprives the state of a rationale for using the greenhouse gas money for the train. The state cannot credibly justify spending the cap-and-trade fee receipts on a project that cannot possibly help California meet the greenhouse gas law’s 2020 goal.

Again we see the LAO cited, again CARB, which actually knows what it’s talking about, is ignored.

There’s a deeper point here. AB 32 was not meant to simply reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and then declare the climate crisis solved. We don’t just walk away from carbon reduction once the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2021. AB 32’s basic purpose is to achieve a lasting and ongoing reduction in carbon emissions. HSR does that in ways that the smaller but still valuable things like electric charging stations and weatherization don’t match.

  1. Tony D.
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 09:16

    At this point I’m just hoping this new revenue will free up bond sales for Caltrain electrification to proceed, even if it means we still wind up with a line to nowhere in the CV. Yes, I’m thinking selfishly on this one, but oh well..

    VBobier Reply:

    Just like the Golden Gate Bridge is a bridge to no interstates…

  2. Observer
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 09:26

    I find it strange that there is a debate between HSR and electric cars; I love both. Also, when it comes to infrastructure, people think in incredibly short term ways. This reminded of what I read as to what they are doing in Spain. They are starting to use their HSR rail network to put in charging stations for electric cars, making maximum use of it. I would think that so called environmentalists would think like this also. We seem to have a total inability to think long term in such matters; we are stuck in a stagnated rut and can not get started on anything, while meanwhile in Spain, China and other countries, they are light years ahead of us.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    we are actually skipping transportation altogether. We are leading on tele-commuting which reduces the need for transport at all. So dont give up on the US yet

    Joe Reply:

    You don’t work at yahoo do you?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It is strange. And sad.

  3. John Nachtigall
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 09:37

    you are missing the point here. While it may be a laubale goal to continue to reduce the CO2 emmisions beyond 2020, that is not the purpose of this law. the primary purpose of this law is to reduce emissions by 2020, which HSR will only increase due to construction.

    Derek Reply:

    Maybe it’s time to replace or supplement AB 32 with a law that sets emissions goals for 2030.

    Joe Reply:

    AB32 Scope Plan has 30 pages, aka Section V, which cover post 2020. So post 2030 is in scope for AB32.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    so we ignore things like what is written and just count pages now??

    I dont think “page count” is the definative data on the intent of a law. The LAO (and every other relevent organization” states


    From the 2nd paragraph

    The bill would require the state board to
    adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to
    the statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be
    achieved by 2020, as specified.

    Why do the proponents of HSR have such trouble reading and following the laws of the state of CA?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    John N: You have the same problem arguing this as with HSR funding. We all really know what the law is, but the HSR fanatics and those imbibing from the gravy train will ignore, fudge, certify the moon is made of cream cheese, do whatever it takes to keep up the pretense that we are building what the voters wanted. We all know that the voters will not get what they voted for. They’ll end up with half of that at twice the price. But HSR is “profitable” and beneficial and solves mankind’s problems, so a few white lies and gray areas are small price to pay.

    joe Reply:

    HSR fanatics include the Gov, Head of CA Assembly, CA Senate endorsement and fanatical support from Obama, Joe BFD Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Haaaaarry Reid.

    Thank God we have rail advocates to stand up to the powerful, democratically elected politicians and tell them what the voters really want.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …right…because more services on legacy track too remote to be electrified or putting catenary on top pf Metrolink is a better idea….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I note that you haven’t contradicted my statement.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Even Prop 13 didn’t turn out as planned. If you want to be cynical and only see the bad, you can. Ultimately, I prefer a more patient approach.

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    If, as Robert states, only 17 percent of C and T revenues (as proposed) would go to HSR, by doing this, and with the remaining 83 percent still available for other greenhouse gas emissions-reduction efforts this go-around, by HSR getting funding, would action on this order significantly compromise our ability to meet 2020 targets?

    By comparison, look at SB 375 with respect to GHG reduction for the eight Valley counties which is a 5 percent reduction by 2020. Imagine, a whole 5 percent.

    Meanwhile, in the International Union of Railways’ (UIC) “High Speed Rail and Sustainability” report it is pointed out that “transport energy-related” carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise 1.7 percent per year from 2004 to 2030.

    Moreover, whereas GHG from other sectors is in decline, GHG from transportation isn’t. Transportation, according to the UIC report, contributes 23 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, the second largest contributor of anthropogenic carbon dioxide behind energy.

    See: http://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2013/12/31/thoughtful-a-hopefully-motivational-new-year-message

    Derek Reply:

    How can we expect to reduce GHG from transportation if we keep building and expanding facilities to burn fossil fuels, i.e. roads?

    joe Reply:

    I want to power drive my electric Ford Fusion Energi efficiently so be sure to build more roads and get those pedestrians, bikes and buses out of the way – breaking wastes energy. Electric cars like the Energi have a MSRP of 43K. Thank god you all subsidized my purchase with thousands in tax credits. It’s fully effective by 2020.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And electric cars like the LEAF have an MSRP of 28K, below the new car average, so what is the point you’re trying to make?

    Travis Reply:

    The 75-mile range limits the Leaf to second-car status.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Average American commute is only 12 miles, there’s no such “second-car status” limitation.

    Travis Reply:

    Listing the “average American commute” doesn’t particularly reflect what people want their car to be able to do.

    Travis Reply:

    To put a finer point on it:

    If you’re going to spend ~$30,000 on a car, you can get a Prius plug-in hybrid. The Prius can run battery-only for 11 miles – just about your “average American commute” – and does not have a battery-based range limitation. It’s significantly more versatile for an insignificant amount of money.

    StevieB Reply:

    California is expected to easily meet the 2020 target. Electric High Speed Rail would continue to make reductions for the 100 plus year operating life of the system.

    Observer Reply:

    Short term thinking.

    Observer Reply:

    That is – what project does not increase CO2 in the short term. From repaving my neighborhood street, expanding a business, digging a new well, whatever. Sometimes it is simply necessary to think and fund long term projects for eventual and better benefits; HSR is one. If cap and trade can not be used , then some other funding source should be figured out. But I think HSR is well worth it; and once built, it will be proven.

    Joe Reply:

    Or research and development which will not all payoff in 2020.

    If those investments were optimized for short term objectives we’d have free CFC light bulbs which eventually burn out and provide no benefit, and no long term climate science program and no knowledge base to prioritize and mitigate climate impacts going forward.

    Observer Reply:


    John Nachtigall Reply:

    no one is saying HSR is not an investment in lowering CO2 emmisions (although I think that is a viable argument, but not one I am trying to make).

    Its simple, AB32 (cap and trade) money is supposed to go to things that reduce CO2 by 2020. longer term thinking is great, but not the primary objective of this law. And to spend 15-20% of the money on something that is not the primary objective when there are other projects that are both on task and more importantly more cost effective is a better choice.

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    John, do you know of anything that states it definitively? A lot of what I see states the 2020 goal, but wouldn’t prohibit spending on HSR. Not necessarily saying that’s a wise choice, just wondering if it is indeed illegal. Especially if you could show the rest of the money was spent on things that met the 1990 reduction requirement.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i dont know if I would call it illegal per sea, but certainly not the intent of the law. as i said above


    From the 2nd paragraph
    The bill would require the state board to
    adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to
    the statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be
    achieved by 2020, as specified.

    joe Reply:

    The SCOPING PLAN 2013 Draft has Section V: 30 pages long out of a total of 111 dedicated to post 2020. One would see discussions of 2020, 2030 and 2050 if one were curious and looked.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Really..counting pages…that’s your big proof that it’s ok? I give you a direct quote from the law itself on intent and you quote pages.

    Can’t argue with that

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know if an Ostrich does hide it’s head in a hole when confronted. it is apparently a feature of the conservative mind. What’s on FoxNews tonight?

    “One would see discussions of 2020, 2030 and 2050 if one were curious and looked.”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    First counting pages, now calling names, Your sharp wit and deadly insight have me at a disadvantage sir, I retire from the field.

    joe Reply:

    Looking at the Table Of Contents put you at a disadvantage.
    The Executive Summary and Introduction tell the reader AB32 has milestones for 2020, with more aggressive targets for 30 and 50.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, it is absolutely part of the law. AB 32 was designed to produce long-term and permanent reductions in CO2 emissions with the 2020 goals as a starting point, not the endpoint.

  4. synonymouse
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 10:12

    Enabling building another LA in the high desert will increase CO2 emissions plenty.

    Use food stamp money to build TehaVegaSkyRail.

  5. David M
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 10:29

    Also refer to Executive Order S-3-05, which establishes 80% reduction target by 2050.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks for the heads up.

  6. J. Wong
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 13:13

    Why Japan won’t be able to build Maglev between D.C. and Baltimore for $8bn

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Matt needs to realize HSR will happen once enough major players see it as part of their strategy. AT&T, Unied Airlines, Marriott, Disney…someone is going to figure it out and build it. CA is different than much of the US and has a long history of public goods. Nobody calls UC merced a “stranded asset” or the State Water Project a “boondoogle”. We are like the French that way, except we don’t have our own airline….

  7. datacruncher
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 13:52

    Along with the ARB scoping plan, HSR is in ARB’s “Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan: Fiscal Years 2013-14 through 2015-16”. I believe this is the plan adopted in May 2013.

    Besides potential spending on HSR, the ARB adopted investment plan also puts goals of 25% of auction proceed spending to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and 10% of proceed spending must be done in those disadvantaged communities. Those goals also follow guidelines in AB32.

    The ARB public hearing process on the investment plan identified the most disadvantaged zip codes in California and used these maps that put the majority of those zip codes in the state on or near HSRs route in the Valley.

  8. Keith Saggers
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 15:32

    Over the last year Crossrail has made significant progress with tunnelling now 65% complete and work advancing on the new Crossrail stations in central London and Docklands. Our first tunnelling machine has completed its journey between Royal Oak and Farringdon, with a further six tunnelling machines below the streets of London and around 10,000 people working on the project. The surface works delivered by Network Rail continue to progress and are 20% complete.

    One million tonnes of excavated material has now been transported from London by rail and water to Wallasea Island in Essex to help create a new RSPB nature reserve. The UK’s largest archaeological programme is underway on Crossrail with more than 10,000 artefacts uncovered so far along with the discovery of Medieval burials sites at Farringdon and Roman remains at Liverpool Street.

    With an unprecedented level of tunnelling and underground construction work due to take place in the UK, we are helping to deliver a new generation of workers with the right engineering skills and expertise. The £13M Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Ilford plays a leading role in supporting the Crossrail project, but will also support future projects such as Thames Tideway and High Speed 2. So far 270 apprenticeships have been created, with over 100 in the last 12 months alone, and we are on target to deliver at least 400 apprenticeships during the life of the programme.

    New Civil Engineer

  9. Brian_FL
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 18:38

    Off Topic: article I. The New York Times today about CA HSR and it’s recent issues with lawsuits and funding plan. A quote from the article:

    Mr. Richard, the rail authority chairman, said officials would present a revised financing plan in the next two weeks that would answer the concerns expressed in the ruling. He said the state would be able to make up the shortfall by bringing in private entities to run portions of the line once it was completed, based on the assumption that it would generate significant revenue.

    “The rulings were significant, there’s no question about it,” Mr. Richard said. “But a lot of the dire predictions about how they would affect us are dramatically overblown. While we would have preferred not to have gone back to some of the issues the rulings raise, I do believe we can find a way to comply.”

    So we will find out by the end of January how the authority plans to finance the IOS.

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/us/high-speed-train-in-california-is-caught-in-a-political-storm.html?_r=1&

    synonymouse Reply:

    “He said the state would be able to make up the shortfall by bringing in private entities to run portions of the line once it was completed, based on the assumption that it would generate significant revenue.”

    Balderdash. Jerry’s pet unions would never allow a non-union op and on government owned track it would be a militant one with BART level bloated compensation and featherbedded work rules

    Nowhere to nowhere generating significant revenue – boonies commute runs? Please don’t insult our intelligence.

    Travis Reply:

    Where do you get “non-union op” from that discussion? Railroads remain a heavily-unionized industry, but most of the “featherbedding” is long gone and two-man operation has been in place for decades.

    synonymouse Reply:

    13 undocumented no-shows

    Observer Reply:

    It will be an interesting presentation. I hope that it is viable.

  10. michael allen
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 21:44

    Excellent Analysis Robert! And, even more impressive considering you are caring for a 7 day old newborn. Bravo! Let me add a few other points.

    Bullet Train opponents argue that the Bullet Train cannot be built because it is underfunded. This underfunding is not from a lack of available funds. The underfunding is a political decision by the Republican Congress to defund rail infrastructure, and a political decision by Bullet Train opponents in California to sue to stop construction until alternative (non-federal) funding sources are identified. This strategy by Bullet Train opponents to stop the Bullet Train by defunding it will fail because there is strong political support for the Bullet Train in California. California is a deeply Democratic state that supports infrastructure spending. Even the business community in California supports the Bullet Train. The opponents of the Bullet Train also fail to realize that the Republican Party is becoming a minor party in California. (There are more registered Independents than Republicans in California.) And extremely conservative positions such as defunding the Bullet Train (or Obamacare) are not popular in California. Three key points:

    1. The debate over whether revenues from AB32 can or cannot be shifted to the Bullet Train ignores the fact that AB32 is very popular in California. Both the legislature and the voters support this initiative. I doubt much political effort would be needed to amend AB32 to shift some monies to the Bullet Train if these funds cannot be shifted by the Governor Brown and the Democratic Legislature unilaterally.
    2. Some opponents have argued that Governor Brown and the Democratic Legislature are too afraid of expending political capital to fund the Bullet Train because this entails asking the voters for some type of tax increase. And conventional wisdom is that the Democrats will never want to associate themselves with a tax increase. The problem with this line of reasoning is that ignores the last election when California Democratic politicians asked the voters to vote for tax increases to fund education and state government. And the voters supported the tax increase and the Democrats.
    3. Has anyone considered what happens if California exceeds (or is projected to exceed) required GHG emission reductions in AB32 by 2020? The president of the Sierra Club has a speech (reprinted in the Jan 2014 issue of Sierra Magazine) in which he states “California is pushing to get at least a third of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and most people think it will be closer to 40 percent”. I realize GHG emissions include transportation not just electric utilities, but it is possible (maybe not probable from today’s viewpoint) that the state will EXCEED the 2020 emission reductions targets of AB32. If so, this debate about whether or not the state can use cap and trade monies to fund the Bullet Train which won’t come online until after 2020 would be irrelevant.

    And finally, I attended a CHSR open house in Escondido a few years ago and was able to chat with the lead engineer who was overseeing all the engineers working on the design of the Bullet Train. And I asked her, “If you had all the money, how quickly could you build the entire train system from San Diego to Sacramento?” And she replied that it in addition to money; she also needed the required permits for environmental conversions, eminent domain, etc. But if she had those two items in hand, she said the entire system could be built in about 5 years. So if we begin construction in 2014, it is possible that construction of the Initial Operating Segment could be accelerated in the years ahead. This seems unlikely from today’s economic perspective, but the California economy may experience a very sharp rebound between now and 2020. A sharp rebound would provide more tax receipts to fund the Bullet Train. And more importantly, a sharp rebound would put more stress on existing highways and airports which would greatly increase political pressure to get the Initial Operating Segment open and running ASAP.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. Fewer than 1/2 of CA voters now support HSR
    2. AB32 is very popular for the moment. Popular because it provides revenue to pet liberal projects. Those people are not willing to give up the money to HSR. See how the Sierra Club is already lobbying to get the money instead of HSR. To get the cap and trade money they will have to fight a 2 front war with conservative on the right trying to kill and liberal environmentalists on the left wanting to prevent funding using cap and trade
    2b. The EU cap and trade law lasted a decade before it imploded and that was across several countries. We will see how well this works in CA with no barriers for companies to move to other states with no tax.

    Travis D Reply:

    Regarding point #1

    So what? All it shows is that if opponents shove lies down our throats for long enough people will start to think there is something to it all. Heck that is straight out the Goebbels playbook.

    And, yes, I brought up Nazis who, at this point, I actually like more than HSR opponents.

    joe Reply:

    “Poll: Obama’s Approval Rating Sinks More Than 10 Points During 2013”

    Polling indicates that President Barack Obama’s approval rating decreased from 52 percentage points to 41 percentage points during the course of 2013.

    I suppose it’s just a matter of days until Obama resigns. Like Bush did when he went sub 30% in favorability.

    John Burrows Reply:

    For what it’s worth—

    Rasmussen has Obama’s approval rating for today at 48% (50% disapprove); approval rating up 5 points from a month ago.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i invoke Godwin’s law

    i win


    Alon Levy Reply:

    “And, yes, I brought up Nazis who, at this point, I actually like more than HSR opponents.” Please tell me that you do the world a courtesy and show up to vote only on the wrong dates.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Sorry, hit submit too soon.

    3. If the state hits the target what happens? Nothing, because 1 state cutting back, even a big state like CA will have no effect on the overall environment. It is all political.

    And finally 4. It is true CA passed a tax increase in the last election. After Jerry threatened to close schools if voters rejected it. So he proved that they can be blackmailed into raising taxes if you threaten schools. However, if he threatens to kill HSR the voters will say “go ahead” and he knows it. That is why he threatened schools in the last elections, because he knew if he told the, what it would really be spent on (general fund and pensions) they would have said go away.

    4b. If tax recipts do go up so what, none of those taxes are tied to HSR and the liberals have a list a mile long of programs that got cut they want to refund…and none are HSR.

    joe Reply:

    3. If the state hits the target what happens? Nothing, because 1 state cutting back, even a big state like CA will have no effect on the overall environment. It is all political.

    And finally 4. It is true CA passed a tax increase in the last election. After Jerry threatened to close schools if voters rejected it.

    3. A market as a large as CA that sets energy standards for appliances and automobiles and energy generation and build the first HSR system influences the entire US market. It’s a market-based solution which is what conservatives like when it’s an excuse to do nothing. market based solutions that help the environment are political. Like opposing HSR – political.

    Since Jerry is a shoe-in for a re-election, this cariacture tells me you learned nothing.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Jerry is a shoe in for re-election. He bet everything on his strategy and it worked. The tax passed, it had little effect except on the 1% so is broadly liked, and he sold everyone on it helping education. As a bonus the budget is in surplus now and everyone is glad to be out of the deficit hole so that is a big win for him. It was a brilliant political move and he deserves to reap the rewards.

    That does not mean I agree with Jerry’s politics or tactics. It was wrong to fake threaten schools (we all know he was not really going to cut them back, he would have found the money in other areas of government) and I dont agree with where he places the priorities of government programs. That said, he is a fiscal conservative that actually tries to live within the means of the government and I am willing to live with the other stuff because he has me convinved he really intends to have a realistic budget (even if I dont agree with what he spends a lot of the money on).

    As for AB32 being political instead of practical. Every important country in the world sign up for Kyoto except the US and China and they had no effect, CA alone has no chance. Plus the cap and trade market will implode just like the EU and in the end it will all come to naught except for some pocket change for some pet liberal enviromental projects.

    JOE Reply:

    Opinion for a guy that does NOT read.

    You opine about AB32 yet refuse to look at the scoping plan. Even the showing that table of contents has a large section on Post 2020 is mocked.

    You claim schools would not have been cut yet attended no school meeting – I did. They had a budget if Prop30 failed and a larger budget if it passed. You claim otherwise. fantastic. It’s amazing to know these cuts were elaborate lies.

    You say CA emission reductions will not matter – we ALREADY use half the energy per capital that the rest of the US adjusted for weather. We’re 1/9 of the US population and the US is the second most (absolute) CO2 emitter. Statistically, that’s impossible. And we create markets for clean technology due to the GHG cap and trade.

  11. Donk
    Jan 7th, 2014 at 22:33

    1. CA cap & trade funds need to mostly stay in CA. Subsidizing electric cars to move that industry forward is a national issue. Why do we always have to spend our money on things (like $3B stem cell research) that benefit the whole country (and world) when the federal government should be paying for it? I’m tired of CA bailing out the rest of the world, especially when nobody appreciates it.

    2. Are electric cars really going to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020? You need to power electric cars with electricity, which mostly comes from fossil fuels, and the net efficiency of going from gas/coal to electric to mechanical is still lower than going straight from gas to mechanical…so with electric cars you are INCREASING rather than decreasing net greenhouse gas emissions.

    agb5 Reply:

    Manufacturing a Li-ion vehicle battery emits roughly 13.5 metric tonnes of CO2, but the CO2 is emitted in Chile and Japan, so it doesn’t count.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Usually the greenhouse gas reductions are thought of as wedges – changes in the way we do things that yield small benefits in 2020, but expand over time so that by 2050, the cumulative reduction in CO2 is huge. Replacing fossil fuel power plants, over time, with non-CO2-emitting power plants is an example. Fleets of electric trains and cars will be users of that electricity, and will make their own wedges, starting small in 2020 and getting wider as time goes on.
    I think that’s what California has in mind. Though when an aspirational goal gets written into law, lawyers often interpret the wording in a way that makes working towards that goal, in the real world, a criminal act.

    joe Reply:

    “Are electric cars really going to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020? ”

    “Fleets of electric trains and cars will be users of that electricity, and will make their own wedges, starting small in 2020 and getting wider as time goes on.”

    You’re right. I just don’t like the electric car solution as a long term fix.

    Electric cars help but are like CFC light bulbs – they wear out. The benefit ends when the car is retired unless it is replaced by another electric car.

    It’s a consumer choice which we subsidize, such as 7500+1500 in CA plus Car Pool Access for a Ford Electric Hybrid that goes 20 miles on a 7 hour charge. That’s 1/2 a gallon of gasoline. I have that car. I don’t see them as an answer.

    The CFC Lightbulb subsidy helped bring costs down and now incandescent light bulbs, which still cost less, are being phased out – legally banned.

    We’re going to have gasoline engines in 2020 and 2030. There’s less assurance the gains with subsidized Nissan Leafs in 2012 will continue into 2020. Remove the car pool and tax subsidy and you have a non-competitive car.

    It helps to have electric cars as a stop gap but we need to make biking and walking much, much safer.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I had a CFC bulb burn out this morning. The whole house is still reeking of it.

    therealist Reply:


    Paul Druce Reply:

    2. Are electric cars really going to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020? You need to power electric cars with electricity, which mostly comes from fossil fuels, and the net efficiency of going from gas/coal to electric to mechanical is still lower than going straight from gas to mechanical…so with electric cars you are INCREASING rather than decreasing net greenhouse gas emissions.

    That’s not true at all. Internal combustion engine is about 25-30% efficient while a combined cycle plant is about twice that; even with conversions you’re better off with electric. Gasoline emits 19.64 pounds per gallon, or 0.39 pounds per mile with a 50mpg vehicle such as the Prius. A Nissan LEAF is rated at .34 kWh per mile and California emits 317.68g/kWh as of 2011, or 0.7 pounds per kWh, which means a Nissan LEAF emits 0.238 pounds of CO2 per mile or about one metric ton less per year.

    I should also note that if you want to bring up transmission losses, you’ll also need to factor them in for getting oil to the gas stations.

    Donk Reply:

    You may be right about the facts here – my facts come from an engineering class I took back in 1998 or so. But the point that electrical energy is not free is one that is usually overlooked by people who support electric cars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Electric energy can come from sources that don’t emit carbon.


    Travis Reply:

    Sure, it can, but most of it doesn’t – and even with rapid growth in renewables, most of it will continue to come from hydrocarbons for years to come.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    In 2011, 44% of California’s electricity came from carbon neutral sources (renewables, hydroelectric, and nuclear). Source

    Travis Reply:

    And that admits that 56% of our power doesn’t come from carbon-neutral sources, which is “most.”

    datacruncher Reply:

    “Are electric cars really going to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020?”
    Older vehicles are still a more significant polluter than newer vehicles. Typically older vehicles are operated by households with lower incomes who probably cannot afford to replace their current older car.

    Electric vehicles due to the price as a new vehicle, even with subsidies, are more likely to be purchased by households with higher incomes.

    For electric vehicles to make a significant impact there would need to be a multiple subsidy approach. Apply subsidies to the purchase of an electric vehicle THEN an additional program to use the late model vehicles traded-in to replace much older cars still on the road.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Electric vehicles due to the price as a new vehicle, even with subsidies, are more likely to be purchased by households with higher incomes.

    Honestly, the lease wars with some of the EVs make that a bit questionable. At $199/month, a LEAF or Spark EV could effectively be free given the reduction in fuel expense. The problem is getting chargers in places like apartment complexes to help low income families justify it.

    joe Reply:

    $199 leases are like $59 air fares.

    There’s a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery in a Fusion Plug in Hybrid. That will take you ~20 miles. Keep the heater off. That’s 2.6 Miles per kWh.

    Charging at home with CA electric rates will push electrify usage into Their III or 0.35 kWh. That’s $2.5 per charge.

    A plug-in hybrid Fusion gets an amazing 40 MPG running as a hybrid – 100% gasoline. 0.34 kWh is $5.00 gasoline. At today’s $3.50 per gallon it costs more to run on electricity.

    One can be billed off peak – an overnight charge 11PM to 9 AM which takes 7+ hours @ 0.10 per kWh. Now it’s better than gasoline but you’re paying 0.35 kWh during the day (7 days a week) for the rest of your electric use.

    If you want a pure electric like a Leaf, 24 kWh battery, then you need 220 power, not an outlet. Now you’re paying a few grand to have one of those chargers installed in the garage which requires an electrician and possibly an upgrade to 200 amp.

    Oh and you better have a garage. And don’t forget to plug in.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Charging at home with CA electric rates will push electrify usage into Their III or 0.35 kWh. That’s $2.5 per charge.

    Which is why the non-idiots among us use TOU EV rates instead of putting it with the rest of the home.

    If you want a pure electric like a Leaf, 24 kWh battery, then you need 220 power, not an outlet. Now you’re paying a few grand to have one of those chargers installed in the garage which requires an electrician and possibly an upgrade to 200 amp.

    If and only if you want a complete charge every night. If you only need a half charge or less, either due to commute length or because there is a charger available at work, a 110 line is all you need.

    Travis Reply:

    That’s a ton of ifs.

    joe Reply:

    Time Of Use Rates EV rates (I’m on PG&Es) increases the cost of household use during the day over what would be paid on the tiered plan. This Fall 2013 peak was 0.35 kWh 2pm-9pm.

    Cost savings = (savings using electric over gasoline) – (increase cost for daytime electric household service).

    @110V it takes just over 7 hours to charge a 7.6 kWh battery which fits in the 8 hours of off peak time PG& offers. A 24 kWh Leaf @110V would, I assume, charge in just about 22-24 hours. 110V is not economical to charge the vehicle at home since you’d use peak rate electricity.

    Partial charge 8 hours off peak gives 24 miles highway. It also requires 100% assured access to a charging station at work. Maybe CEO’s get this service at work but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Donk Reply:

    So the whole point in my argument is that the Sierra Club is arguing that we should use Cap & Trade funds for electric cars since there will be an immediate greenhouse gas reduction in 2020 whereas this is not the case for HSR. However this argument is clearly flawed. There will probably be a net increase in greenhouse gases from both electric cars and HSR in 2020.

    The benefits from both will come later. And the benefits of both will not have any measurable impact on the world if only limited to CA. The rest of the country and world needs to step up as well.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I think it still doesn’t hold, particularly for cars like the Volt which are likely to emerge as the mass market alternative. These cars have smaller batteries, are built lighter and use a lawnmower gas engine as the range extender. This dramatically lowers the environmental impact differential of the plug-in car to something pretty small.

    Yes – a largely electric vehicle has to overcome this differential but it doesn’t have to overcome the carbon footprint of $70 billion worth of civil infrastructure (think concrete and steel) of HSR, which won’t even really have any real impact until it connects SF to LA in another 20+ years.

    The Sierra Club is right on this one.

    BTW using cap and trade to accelerate caltrain electrification is an easy positive.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    So your position is that the expenditure of $68 billion for HSR will not reduce road building in CA one mile, airport expansion one runway or terminal. Nor will it redirect growth from one ranchette, strip mall, or exurban office park towards infill. Interesting.

    Further you assume no CO2 emissions reductions from operations “until it connects SF to LA” even more interesting.

    What real world experience, modeling, or other evidence do you have to back up this position?

    Elizabeth Reply:


    To go through the conversation again –

    HSR uses a LOT of electricity. If it has high ridership, it is relatively little on a per person basis. If ridership is low (as it will be like many spanish routes – some of which have been cut because they had literally 8 people on per train), this is not true.

    The vast majority of the freeways that are highly congested are in the urban areas – where the issue is rush hour commute traffic – where HSR will not make one iota of difference.

    Because we (as a state) are morons, even though theoretically it would make sense to train service in lieu of highways, that it is not what we do. By the time the first train runs, highway 99 will be more or less fully expanded and the 152 which has gradually been expanded will be freeway. I’ve noticed that as part of the Fresno hsr project, Caltrans is taking the opportunity to do some of that expanding already. There is a new expanded Caltrans 99 bridge over the San Joaquin river being built literally adjacent to where the high speed rail bridge will go.

    In my neck of the woods, Caltrans is expanding 101 by building “auxiliary” lanes which somehow avoid environmental review and I just got an invitation to help plan the expansion of the Santa Clara County expressways.

    As far as airports go, most of the regional trips are out of oakland and Sjc, which have already done their expansions. Long haul flights would replace any savings for short haul ones out of SFO.

    The one airport which might really benefit would be San Diego, which is now at the back of the queue.

    We have looked very, very carefully at ridership of international lines. It is mostly people who flew and people who weren’t going to travel (induced ridership).

    HSR has a lot going for it – it is a civilized, comfortable way to travel that could knit regions together. Any carbon savings will only be achieved over decades – and more we are successful at increasing fuel efficiency of cars/planes, the further out the breakeven gets.

    If you are serious about carbon – and we should be – we need to do things that change the equation today.

    datacruncher Reply:

    The 99 bridge project near Fresno you bring up is not connected to HSR.

    That bridge would be widened with or without HSR (I understand some of 99’s traffic lanes were using the original 1928 bridge). The project was in the plan for 2006’s Prop 1B funds, $1 Billion of which was dedicated to Highway 99 projects.

    See item 10 on this 2007 list of CTC adopted projects on 99 funded by Prop 1B.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    that is exactly my point.

    PB did this analysis showing all the highways that would have to be built if hsr wasn’t –

    we went back to the first one – something like 75% are already built or will be buit.

    in the case of the san joaquin bridge, the widening (to 8 lanes, striped now for 6) was done because of projected traffic in 2025.

    When i see brown start to cancel these types of projects which are parallel or adjacent to the proposed route, then we can talk about the brian’s argument.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Morons? You do realize that happens because we have alternating political priorities, right? California is a politically volatile place compared to even the Middle East. CA politics is about watering down your opponent’s grand vision of the future, not perfecting your own. The tenor of even this blog reflects that perfectly.

    The core decision CA voters have to make about the future is if new frontiers will be controlled in public or in private. HSR is just one element of what will come.

    datacruncher Reply:

    That is a different position than the implication I got from your wording of “I’ve noticed that as part of the Fresno hsr project, Caltrans is taking the opportunity…”. The Caltrans work is not due to HSR.

    But an analysis of shutting down highway projects along HSR would then need to look at future intraregional and interregional needs (how much is traffic not going between HSR station capture areas), current and future freight traffic (99 has the highest percentage of semi trucks outside the port area highways), age/condition/built to current standards of the existing infrastructure (as I said I understand part of the existing bridge dates to 1928), etc.

    And of course if Brown were to start to wholesale cancel projects someone would start squawking about the money wasted planning highway projects that aren’t going to be built.

    Travis Reply:

    You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think Oakland and San Jose won’t be asking to expand their airports again in the next 15-25 years.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Oh, I would never doubt San Jose’s ability to shoot themselves in the foot and build unneeded capacity


    The irony of all this is that if HSR turned on tomorrow, it would probably bankrupt San Jose airport

    synonymouse Reply:

    San Jose 49’ers.

    joe Reply:

    Capacity at SJC and HSR is sized for anticipated population and travel 10+ years from now – 2030 to 2050. Turning HSR on now would indeed create excess capacity for 2013.

    It says: “San Jose and Silicon Valley, with its large population, tech economy and wealthy enclaves, is in a strong position to attract more flights once the economy and airline industry have fully recovered.”

    I think of Chicago O’Hare and Midway, SJC is a nicer airport and that’s where the Bay Area air traffic will expand as the economy recovers. Or maybe San Carlos Airport.

    Donk Reply:

    SJC is much better than SFO. I am probably delayed more than 50% of the time I fly into SFO. Plus it is 20 min closer to SoCal than SFO, so it is a shorter flight. Only problem is that it usually costs more. They seriously need to start up California Pacific Airlines for direct flights between Carlsbad and SJC.

    Donk Reply:

    California Pacific Airlines


    Ted Judah Reply:

    So I am working on a post that basically confirms Elizabeth’s assumption. HSR is going to all but eliminate regional airport service in CA. But it will increase demand for air travel at major hubs, especially SFO.

    Donk Reply:


    You make great points. These make sense for the long term. But whoever it is at the Sierra Club that claims that any investment in electric cars now will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 sounds just as foolish as a HSR supporter who says HSR will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

    But I also revert to my other point that it is not CA taxpayers’ jobs to stimulate the development of electric cars for the rest of the country and world. For this reason alone I prefer spending the funds on HSR (or local/regional transit), despite the dubious claims of greenhouse gas reduction by HSR.

    BTW I never claimed that HSR will reduce greenhouse gases or traffic, or that we should build HSR just because it creates jobs. The reason we should build HSR is because it make CA a better place that is more connected and prosperous.

    joe Reply:

    In 2050 we’ll need to cut emissions by 80% of the baseline. We’re going to need more than electric cars. We’ll need the HSR ROW and infill around public transit systems.

    The Volt goes 35 miles on a charge and then gives only 32 MPG on gasoline. A Fusion Energi gets 40 MPG as a hybrid after it runs only 15-20 miles on a charge. These are complex and costly stop gaps.

    I would convert roads to multiple use. Put BRT on El Camino Real between San Jose and SF and make roads more accommodating and safe for pedestrians and bikes. We don’t walk away from the road investment – we shift the focus to multiple use, give up some space to people and slow down cars.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    and the bay bridge

  12. agb5
    Jan 8th, 2014 at 01:47

    It appears that the ET3 Global Alliance has failed to gather the $23,000 they wanted to pay a lawyer to draft a ballot proposition called The Transport Innovation Act.
    The act would have suspended bond spending on HSR for 8 years while ET3 and others build demonstrator vacuum tube trains on a right of way provided by the state.

    Travis D Reply:

    Ha ha. That is too funny.

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