Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama plots huge railroad expansion (or not)

First up, Politico:
Railroads made Chicago, and now a Chicago-rich White House wants to return the favor: remaking rail with a huge new federal investment in high-speed passenger trains.

The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

It’s a sum that far surpasses anything before attempted in the United States — and more is coming. Administration officials told Politico that when Obama outlines his 2010 budget next week, it will ask for $1 billion more for high-speed rail in each of the next five years.

Yet for all the high stakes, the pieces didn’t fall into place until the end of deliberations on the recovery bill. And the way in which they did is revealing of the often late-breaking decisions — and politics — that shaped the final package....MORE
A reality check from Environmental Capital's post "Train in Vain: More Cash for High-Speed Rail?":
...In practical terms, the stimulus money set aside to make rail travel faster will probably just clear up existing congestion on inter-city lines where passengers and freight compete for space on crowded rail lines. That may lead to faster travel, but it’s not a bullet train.

Second, high-speed rail is really expensive, and not even $8 billion will go very far. How far? Some back of the envelope calculations from Spain, which just added several new high-speed lines from Madrid to all corners of the peninsula suggest it costs about $22 million a mile for modern high-speed rail. (That’s actually smack in the middle of the $2 million to $50 million per mile cost estimate proffered to Congress in 1997.)

At that pace, even the juiced-up stimulus package will only provide funding for about 363 miles of high-speed rail—or about the distance from Los Angeles to Napa, California...

Back in May of 2007 Energy Roundup (Environmental Capital's predecessor) had a noticeable number of references to Napa, including two in one afternoon. I figured it was either cabin fever or acute alcohol withdrawal and offered up "Story Tips for the WSJ Energy Roundup":

As a thank-you for yesterday's mention in the ER Blogroll.
Hey, if Oak Ridge National Laboratory can issue their monthly "Story Tips" (April: Climate-"Thirstier Trees on the Horizon") I see no reason Climateer Investing shouldn't.

Maybe one reason. Oak Ridge has this hog of a supercomputer, number ten in the world. Okay maybe two reasons: an average I.Q. up around the median U.S. area code.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln.

Here are some stories I think would be worthy of the ER's expertise, resources and known interests. (Napa. Twice. Both Written in the afternoon. Hmmm.)

Premier Power Delivers Solar Power To Chateau Montelena Winery

California Hotels Go Green With Low-Flow Toilets, Solar Lights:
Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth," former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming....
...and depending on your tastes:

City of Napa Dedicates Solar Power System at Lake Hennessey Pump Station.
Or, Auberge du Soleil (Nancy and Paul Pelosi's place)

Which is reminiscent of the choice just offered by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative.

April 27................................................May 2
Napa Solar Wine Tour ........................NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE

This type of in-depth, on-the-ground reporting would of course require a team approach, a black card and a no-later-than early August departure from The City.