Tag Archive: Midnight Oil

Oct 01 2012

Sunday Train: Trains and Not Destroying Civilization

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

When one first thinks about it, one  would think the politics of not destroying civilization should be simple. It seems that “Not destroy civilization, Yes/No” would get a very high “Yes” vote.

In the immediate future in US political, however, its far more complicated than that, given that one party’s position is “No”, and the other party’s position is “Maybe, a little bit of not destroying civilization, if its not too inconvenient”.

So, how would we go about not destroying civilization, why is the politics of not destroying civilization so messy, and what in the hell can we do about it?

Jul 09 2012

Sunday Train: California Senate Approves High Speed Rail Construction

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Crossposted from its home station at Voices on the Square

Passed!

Firedog Lake: California Legislature Passes High Speed Rail Bond Issue, Moving Project Forward ~ David Dayen



In a closely watched vote of the California state Senate, a bill to issue the first $5.8 billion in bonds for the construction of high speed rail lines passed 21-16. It needed all 21 votes to pass. Four Democrats voted no – including Allen Lowenthal, the Democratic candidate for Congress in CA-47, and Fran Pavley, the author of the state’s historic global warming law – but ultimately, just enough Democrats voted in favor of the bonds for them to pass. Joe Simitian and Mark DeSaulnier were the other Democrats who opposed the bill.



This does not end the battle for high speed rail. Between the bond issue and the federal money, that covers only about 1/5 of the total funding needed for the full project, which would connect Sacramento and San Diego and all points in between by high speed rail. But if this died today, you can be certain that nothing would ever get built. The federal government was prepared to take away the $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars earmarked for this stage of the project. And faith in the future of high speed rail in California – and indeed the nation – would have been sapped.

So … what now?

May 20 2012

Sunday Train: Driving Ohio on Lake Erie

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Note: a reprint of a Daily Kos diary from Jan, 2007

There is a common trend in my part of the Great Lakes States (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan) for discussion of sustainable energy to focus on commercial exploitation of the Wind Resource of the Great Lakes.

And why the Great Lakes? Because that’s where the wind blows, as shown on the trimmed down version of the 2004 50m wind speed map for Ohio to the right. The pink, purple and red are the highest quality wind resources. (jpg) And this is just 50 metres … at 100 metres it gets better still.

So what does this have to do with driving? Well, sometimes the wind blows harder, and sometimes the wind blows softer … and on this point wind power and driving snuggle right together with a whole bunch of Energy Independence posts I have already made. How things link together … is after the fold.

May 14 2012

Sunday Train: Faster Trains Yields More Services Per Day

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Back in the 29 Nov 2009 Sunday Train, Frequency and Waiting on a Train, I reacted to a point made in John McCommon’s book, Waiting on a Train:

“Once those intermodal trains can go through Stampede Pass, it will take some traffic off the main line and free up more room for additional passenger trains,” said Uznanski.

By bringing the number of trains up to eight a day between Vancouver and Portland, ridership and ticket revenue will increase significantly. Currently ticket sales – what is known as farebox – cover 43% of the Amtrak Cascades’ operating expenses; the state subsidizes the remainder. Run eight trains daily, however, the farebox recovery goes up to 70%.

It’s all about frequency. When trains are frequency and convenient, ridership – particularly business travel – grows dramatically, said Uznanski.

It was a mantra I was to hear from experts all across the country – frequency builds ridership and only frequency significantly builds farebox recovery. Sure its great to have trains running more than 100mph in a corridor, but if there are only a couple of trains a day, they just aren’t convenient enough to move people off the highway or away from the airport.

– John McCommons, Waiting on a Train, Chelsea Green Publishing: Vermont, p. 51

This came back to mind when I was thinking last week about the “Cornhusker Rocket” proposal to reintroduce regular corridor service between Omaha and Chicago via Des Moines, Iowa City and the Quad Cities. Often times, a substantial benefit in getting train speeds up is that ability to operate more services per day with the same number of trains.

Apr 23 2012

Sunday Train: Should Cap&Trade Funds finance the California HSR?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

One element of the recent California HSR “revised” draft 2012 Business Plan (which we shall call the Other, Other Plan) involves looking to one particular means of finance in addition to general fund bond finance and Federal transport grant funding:

Cap-and-Trade Program Funds

Assembly Bill 32 (Statutes, 2006, Chapter 488) mandates a reduction of statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In accordance with that law, California will implement a market-based cap-and-trade program. Funds from the program can be used to further the purposes of AB 32, including for development and construction of the high-speed rail system.

This has led to the current controversy in which the California Legislative Analysts Office, the LAO, has argued that the Cap and Trade funds might not be usable for HSR (pdf: p. 8).

One of their points, “Other GHG Reduction Strategies Likely to Be More Cost Effective,” involves a serious and common misframing of the question of the use of funds dedicated to reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: when reducing GHG emissions in a project that serves multiple purposes, the cost effectiveness of the GHG emissions spending depends on what share of the project funding is represented by that GHG emissions spending.

So more on transport, Green House Gas emissions, and the peculiar analytical weaknesses that crop up whenever the California LAO turns its attention to HSR, over the fold.

Apr 16 2012

Sunday Train: The Miami/Orlando Passenger Rail Project

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I saw this story a couple of weeks ago, but between the happenings in California and some unanswered questions I had, I haven’t mentioned it yet. Florida East Coast Industries plans Miami-Orlando passenger service by 2014:

Passenger train service between Miami and Orlando could begin as early as 2014 under a plan announced Thursday by Florida East Coast Industries.

The new “All Aboard Florida” service, which would be privately owned and operated, would offer frequent, regularly scheduled daily trains geared to business travelers and tourists. The Miami-Orlando trip by rail would take three hours, about the same time it takes by car via Florida’s Turnpike.

There would be four stops: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, each with connections to airports, seaports and existing rail systems such as Tri-Rail and Metrorail. The trains would run on existing FEC tracks that stretch along the east coast from Miami to Cocoa. Forty miles of new track would link Cocoa to Orlando.

Well, waddya know ~ a Passenger Train that Rick Scott can’t kill. More about the Miami/Orlando Train, below the fold.

Apr 08 2012

Sunday Train: Did Governor Brown Save California’s HSR?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

As I mentioned in last week’s Sunday Train, the California HSR Authority came out with a revised draft Business Plan.

And why do you revise a draft Business Plan? Because some people suggested some modifications to your previous draft Business Plan might be in order … for instance, if there’s a possibility that you cannot get bonds authorized to start work on the part of the corridor where the Federal Government has already put some funding on the table.

The new, revised, draft Business Plan seems to mark the final passing of the baton from the Judge Kopp absolutist vision of the what an HSR “simply has to be” to the more grounded, realistic vision of Governor Brown …

… and in the process of dragging the HSR Authority back into touch with reality, it is quite possible that Governor Brown has saved the California HSR project.

There are two qualifiers here. The first is that without an account of someone privy to the details of the Governor’s intervention, we won’t know what changes were things the California HSR was on track to doing anyway, and what changes were pushed upon them. But even there, what “the HSR Authority wanted to do” was likely heavily influenced by the changing of the guard from Schwarzenegger appointees to Brown appointees at the Authority.

The second is that getting to work is not yet a done deal. Supporters of the project ~ whether ongoing supporters or those won over by the newly revised plan ~ still need to work to help see the project through to construction of the first construction segment.

The devil is in the details, so we go chasing the devil below the fold.

Jul 04 2011

Sunday Train: Steel Interstates, Fast Freight, and Brawny Recovery

Burning the Midnight Oil

(Right: Liberty Line) The Steel Interstate proposal is an effort to build Rapid Electric Freight Rail Tollways across the country ~ east to west and north to south ~ to:

  • Take a substantial slice our of our oil imports
  • Insure our national economy and national defense against disruptions of our oil supply
  • Increase the productivity of our manufacturing and logistics sectors,
  • Overcome decades of neglect of our national electricity transmission infrastructure, and
  • Protect our legacy investment in our Interstate Highway system from the battering it receives at the hands of long haul trucks.

The point of the Steel Interstate system is that it is a system: it consists of several parts that work together to give more bang for the buck than any one could provide on its own.