Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Rail and the Pickens Plan… why the environment needs more trains

Yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend, while CNN was quietly playing on the TV in the background. All of a sudden the conversation stops and we both find ourselves staring at the current commercial, which was tersely presenting the rather gloomy facts behind US oil importation. This wasn’t some typical oil company “we’re trying to solve this transportation crisis that’s milking you dry and making us rich… really.” It was an ad paid for by a former oil executive looking to redeem himself and address America’s fuel crisis: T. Boone Pickens. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. I watched his longer video online:

It’s certainly good that someone is taking up the crusade to encourage renewable energy development and domestic alternatives to oil such as natural gas, but I was disappointed that his plan failed to discuss another big step is reducing America’s dependence on foreign energy: stop using so much of it.

Switching to cleaner energy will be beneficial for both [new] automobiles and [new] trains, but renewable energy isn’t the “magic bullet” politicians are always looking for when it comes to solving problems. What’s also important is to ensure that our avaricious consumption doesn’t negate this new production of clean energy. Investing in passenger rail can be a crucial element towards achieving this goal.

Even if everyone in America switched to a zero-emissions car (that’s a bit misleading considering that they still use electricity.. still mostly generated by fossil fuels), we still have to deal with the fact that most people in this country continue to be glued to their automobiles. Environmental problems associated with driving such as urban sprawl and habitat destruction won’t be affected at all.

The air/auto/oil industries have gotten us into a huge pickle, and we have to recognize that we can’t depend on them to fix it. Vehicles such as the Chevy Volt can be part of the solution, but they’re not the solution. We need to be promoting energy efficient alternatives to driving such as walking, biking, and yes, trains.

A look at the relevant blogs should tell you that environmentalists and rail advocates on the grassroots level are quickly joining forces, but it just seems like the higher-ups haven’t quite caught on yet.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Travel Woes, , , , , ,

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July 2008