Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
also Agent Orange
Let construction or upgrade of a rail corridor be proposed, and almost immediately the cry goes up, “but we can’t afford it! It costs too much!”.
Confusing the response to this cry is that there are two quite different types of “cost too much” – real, and financial.
There first “cost of rail” question is the real cost question: what is the full economic benefit, including all material and energy impacts saved versus other alternative, versus the full economic cost.
Note: The first kind of “cost versus benefit” question is the kind that Ed Gleaser fumbled so badly when he assumed Zero Population Growth in east Texas, no congestion today between Houston and Dallas on the intercity road network, either deliberately or through negligence bypassed important intercity transport demands along the route of his corridor, and presumed that the only available option was the most capital-intensive type of rail corridor, the all-new, all-grade separated, Express High Speed Rail corridor.
The second “cost of rail” question is the financial cost – given the complex, sometimes ad hoc, and often inconsistent sets of rules we have established for allocating resources for both investment in transport infrastructure and paying for transport operations, how do we “pay for” construction or upgrade of those rail corridors that our best analysis of cost and benefit indicate are wise investments.
That second question is what I am looking at today.