Tag: Energy Independence

It Need Not Be a Calamity

Betwixt and Between, I find myself. I observe the validity of D00m.P0rn shrill warnings about the future … when seen as possible outcomes rather than when seen as certainties. Yet I also see the potential for better outcomes.

And with respect to the strategy of sitting on the sidelines, weighing the likelihood of one versus the other … I’m against it. Simply the decision to sit on the sidelines makes the calamity more likely as a result. So I am for getting into the fray and trying to make the calamity less likely and the hopeful outcome more likely.

The Calamity Cavalcade

As far as potential calamities, we do not have to look far for those.

We are on track to have a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere than at any other time in the Holocene. We are engaged in this experiments with absolutely no serious evidence to suggest that it is known to be safe. Indeed, those benefiting in the short term from the reckless experiment will even try to reverse the sane burden of proof and place it on those who do not approve of undertaking the reckless experiment.

The argument being, in essence, that if you are driving through a thick fog, then as long as you don’t see any cars coming, its OK to speed.

And of course, before the peril of climate chaos came to our attention, there was already the risk of ecosystem collapse hanging over our head, as more and more populations on the planet rely on an industrial technology that is quite clearly ecologically unsustainable and therefore certain to collapse sooner or later, unless we restructure our technological base to approach sustainability faster than we approach ecosystem collapse.

And then of course, even before the risk of ecosystem collapse was widely understood, the threat of nuclear holocaust.

Flood, Nuclear fire followed by Nuclear Winter, Famine and Plague … and all three involved in or certainly leading to War … surely rather than Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there is a whole Cavalry Unit.

Against that backdrop, it may seem provincial to worry about a mere collapse of a single national economy from first world to banana republic status, but that is the specific calamity that I am focusing on here.

The Bad News and the Worse News on Unemployment.

The April employment numbers are out. The Broad Based (U6) unemployment figures … the best measure of the “total people available to take on more work” … give, on the one hand, bad news, and on the other hand, worse news. This is, of course, treated as “good news”, because the expectation was that it would be on the one hand worse news and on the other hand catastrophic news.





2008 9.0% 8.9% 9.1% 9.2% 9.7% 9.9% 10.3% 10.9% 11.2% 12.0% 12.6% 13.5%
2009 13.9% 14.8% 15.6% 15.8%

This is not the “headline” rate, or U3, which takes everyone working any hours at all as “employed”, even if they want more work, and anyone who has not actively sought work in the last four weeks is dropped out altogether.

Instead, its the “broad” or “U6” rate, where those who express an interest in working who have looked for work in the past year are included, as well as those who are “involuntary part-time” employees. So the U6 series is the best measure of the “total people available to take on more work”.

Also note that BLS unemployment statistics are not determined by the numbers of people drawing unemployment … it includes a broad range of data sources, including an ongoing telephone survey.

In terms of changes in the “U6” unemployment rate, this is:

2008 -0.1% +0.2% +0.1% +0.5% +0.2% +0.4% +0.6% +0.3% +0.8% +0.6% +0.9%
2009 +0.4% +0.9% +0.8% +0.2%

The bad news is, of course broad based unemployment is still rising. The worse news is that it is more than halfway to the “depths of the Great Depression” benchmark of around 1 in 4 out of work.

Even more, the populace has been trained to accept as “normal” unemployment rates what would have been considered an economic emergency back in the 1960’s.

What’s in SUPERTRAINS for Small Town and Rural America?

Crossposted from Hilbilly Report

This last weekend I wrote up a small diary, cross-posted to various places … which even stumbled into being wrecklisted at Agent Orange … about the High Speed Rail plan released by the Obama administration.

That diary focused on laying out the three “tiers” of HSR in the announced plan. “Express HSR” is one of the bullet train systems, like they are planning for California. But between that tier and conventional rail, are two more tiers:

  • “Regional HSR”, with a top speed of around 125mph, able to provide trips at average speeds in the range of 100mph, operating in existing rail rights of way, but mostly on its own track, with upgraded signaling and substantial investment in grade separation and/or the top level of “hardened” level crossings, normally with electrified lines; and
  • “Emerging HSR”, with a top speed of 110mph, able provide trips at average speed in excess of 80mph, operating on existing rail right of way with improved capacity, but sometimes sharing track with freight rail, the 110mph standard of quad gate, speed sensitive level crossings, and provided by either electric or diesel 110mph tilt-trains

The bullet trains are the show ponies … but for small town and rural America, the genuine seat at the table for Emerging and Regional HSR is the real good news from the announcement.

A Train Station Grows At Transbay … (pt. 1)

… Hopefully its not a Bonsai

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I was able to get an interesting look into the proposed future of Intercity Travel in the Bay at the Transbay Terminal (TBT) in San Francisco.

Senate Info Heairing on High Speed Rail in California

Note that I am not trying to give “objective reporting” on this issue but rather to give vent to my reaction to watching the hearing online … see The Troubling Discord Between Transbay and High Speed Rail Authorities for a less hot under the collar reaction.

One piece of information is that in California, when one public authority has the funding for sufficient staff and another doesn’t, and it comes to a fight, it is considered fair game for the staffed up authority to toss up spin and red herrings and biased analyses, confident that the other authority does not have the capacity to answer promptly.

Transport Stimulus: You’re Doing It Wrong

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence (crosspost links at the blog)

There is this big emphasis on “shovel ready projects” in the Stimulus Bill … but now that the details are coming out, we can see that in transport, its just a load of horseshit used as an excuse for supporting business as usual.

The headline numbers are $30b highway spending, $10b for public transport and rail:

  • Transit Capital Assistance, $15.9b in shovel ready projects, $6b in funding
  • Amtrak, more than $10b in capital backlog, $0.8b in funding
  • Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment, $50b capital backlog, $2b in funding
  • Capital Investment Grants, $2.4b in already approved projects, $1b in funding

I got a “shovel-ready” project for you … shoveling out the bullshit from the Bush Administration Department of Transport and replacing the pandering to the oil companies with a concern for America’s Economic Future.

Midnight Oil Spill for Christmas … Happy Holidays!

Burning the Midnight Oil is the evolution of the Midnight Oil series that evolved on Daily Kos earlier in the year.

Burning the Midnight Oil is a place for me to compose diaries that normally end up crossposted hither and yon, normally including Docudharma. It also has an eclectic RSS sidebar of some interesting blogs, but there are more interesting examples elsewhere on the Intertubes.

It also has a regular series of “New Oil” posts of links encountered on my way around the blogosphere, which then becomes “Burning Fires” as the next lantern is opened up to get its New Oil.

Since there’s only been one visitor to the Midnight Oil that I am aware of, I thought as a Christmas pressie, I’d share the New Oil for the last two months.

Action: Green Transport for Christmas (2009, 2010, etc.)

I have had a number of “I’d Like For Christmas” essays over the past three weeks … now its your turn.

To say you’d like Pedestrian/Cyclists transport infrastructure in the Infrastructure Stimulus Package, sign the Rails to Trails Infrastructure Petition and share it with your friends (as I’m doing here).

To say you’d like Rail and other Public Transport infrastructure investment, sign the Transportation for America Petition and pass it along.

To say you’d like a Green Stimulus Package, sign the Sierra Club Green Stimulus Package Petition and pass it along.

My Christmas List, below the fold.

Dear Barack, I want an Exurban Cycleway for Christmas

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence and My Left Wing

Twin Cities Streets for People present The Future (result) of Freeway Expansion:

A little bit optimistic and a little bit pessimistic at one and the same time, I’d say … but, they really do have a very solid point.

Follow me over the fold for talks of an Exurban Cycle Commuter, and reflections on the risk of a Road Widening Stimulus Package.

Yglesias: Taking the Bus to a Public Transport Stimulus

Xposted to Agent Orange, My Left Wing, …

I have been following a “problem” with the stimulus, involving the “break ground in 3 months” guideline. That is, since we have had an eight year assault against public transport from the White House, with special focus on rail projects, we don’t have a lot of energy-saving public transport projects that can break ground in 3 months.

Robert Cruickshank discusses this on the California HSR blog: Obama and Congress to Screw Up the Stimulus.

However, Matthew Yglesias has a smart answer to this: Fast-Acting Transit.

More detail, after the fold.

Dear Joe, I want a Sustainable High Speed Electric Train for Christmas (Part 3)

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence, also available in Orange

This series started with the following clip:

And I have asked for Electric Trains (Part 1) and High Speed Electric Trains (Part 2). But I am greedy, so I want it all. What I really want is SUSTAINABLE High Speed Electric Trains.

First, it appears that Electric Trains, and Electric High Speed Trains, offer an important step in that direction already, since they offer substantial energy efficiencies … the most sustainable Watt is intelligent design that eliminates the need for that Watt.

Second, the foundation of the nationwide Electric Train system, the electrification of STRACNET, could be the “donkey that carries its own lunch” … there may be an opportunity to use the program to cost effectively accelerate harvesting of our nation’s sustainable renewable energy resources.

So, yes, I want a coast to coast, 100mph, electric freight and passenger train system. Yes, I want the break through the bottlenecks for the Acela in the NEC, establishment of the Empire Corridor, Keystone Corridor, Ohio Hub, Midwest Hub, Southeast Corridor, Gulf Corridor, T-Bone Corridor, Front Range Corridor, Cascadia Corridor, and the CA-HSR.

And, being greedy, powered sustainably.

Dear Joe, I want a High Speed Electric Train for Christmas (Pt. II).

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence also in Orange

For the last eight years, development of Energy Independent transport has been faced with a dog-in-the-manger administration fighting furiously to move forward into Cartopian vision of endless crude oil fueling endless road works so people can drive endless hours to actually get wherever they need to go to do whatever it is they need to do.

However, there is hope. This year, the Amtrak funding bill included substantial funding for restoring the North East Corridor to an adequate state of repair. On November 4, California passed Proposition 1A, providing $9.95b in bonds for the California High Speed Rail (HSR) and connecting infrastructure. And then, on November 19, John Kerry and Arlen Specter introduced the a bill for funding High Speed Rail projects:

Titled the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008, the bill would provide money for tax-exempt bonds to finance long-stalled high-speed rail projects.

So let’s look at the projects that are on the drawing boards.

Dear Joe, I want an Electric Train for Christmas (Pt. 1)

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence (also in Orange)

Joe talks about trains to the National Governors Association:

(h/t Ryan Avent, Matthew Yglesias)

Three special Federal tasks are the provision of a coast to coast system of electric trains, support for a nationwide “Rapid Rail” network, and support for inter-regional corridors providing true High Speed Rail.

If we pursue the opportunities available to use now, using existing, well tested technology, we can have a big chunk of this job finished within eight years, and can have set things in motion to see an absolute Energy Revolution in inter-regional transport in this nations by 2024.

So it may not be this Christmas, but if we hit hard on this issue, its possible for us to say, “New York, you get an electric train. Boise, you get an electric train. Detroit, you get an electric train. Atlanta, you get an electric train. Amarillo, you get an electric train. …”

More, including maps, after the fold

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