Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Meet the Enemy

This story has nothing to do about trains, but I blew into the office and all the regular employees were doing productive tasks and following TFA policy. Therefore, it is my God-ordained right to go off on a tangent.

While the item I am going to highlight has no transportation component, it has plenty to do with the situation in which we find ourselves with regard to available affordable energy. This is the kind of first order issue that has a direct bearing on how transportation policy is made. 

Down in Texas, a bastion of common sense and good government, there is a major fight concerning the relative merits of wind driven power. Guess who doesn’t want it to happen? The Dallas Morning News has an extensive and informative report.

Paul Sadler, executive director of advocacy group the Wind Coalition, said wind must be accommodated fairly, and technology exists to do so.

“Integration of wind is not sending a man to the moon,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having the will to do it.”

The answer depends on the extent to which a person is invested in wind power.

Ned Ross, director of regulatory affairs for FPL Energy, a Florida company investing in West Texas wind farms, says there’s no such thing as too much wind.

Other wind advocates say 30 percent of Texas’ power could be supplied by wind. The Department of Energy, citing the Bush administration’s support of renewable energy, says the country could get 20 percent of its power from wind by 2030.

Major generation companies in Texas that operate coal and natural gas plants say 10 to 15 percent is about all the state could handle.

Of course, oil and gas companies would never lie, would they? And if their officers were called to testify before congress, they would cheerfully raise their right hands and swear to tell the truth, right? And it’s OK to let them make energy policy (just like airlines and truckers make transportation policy), right?

Sleep tight, all is well.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Air France considering entering HSR business

File this one under ‘Woah.’ Air France, France’s national air carrier and one of the world’s largest airlines, is considering replacing some of its connecting flights with high-speed rail service in conjunction with Veolia Transport, also of France. According to the International Herald Tribune:

“More than half of all flights are connections, and in effect long-haul is where the value is. Short haul is just way for Air France to get passengers to Charles de Gaulle” airport in Paris, Van den Brul said.

Shifting passengers onto trains from planes would result in “significant” cost savings, a particular concern for airlines struggling to cope with record high oil prices.

Energy accounts for about 40 percent of an airline’s total costs, against only around 10-15 percent for rail.

This is pretty nutty stuff. In the US at least, airlines have been suppressing passenger rail for decades. Hence, it’s more than a little ironic that at least one of them is turning to the efficiencies of HSR to save their collapsing business model.

And this is exactly the market high-speed rail can appeal to. Planes are always going to dominate the long-haul routes. New York-Los Angeles, Miami-Seattle, any overseas travel for obvious reasons… some routes are too far for even fast trains to really compete with air travel. But Minneapolis-Chicago, Boston-Washington, Los Angeles-San Francisco, these are the lengths where high-speed trains are eminently more practical than planes. With fuel costs for airlines rising, particularly on these short trips, we can only hope that more airlines like Air France will see that HSR can benefit them as well as us.

This is what we want: More transportation options.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, , , , ,

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July 2008