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Energy SMART: Invest in Electrified Steel Interstate for economic, security, and environmental reasons

October 27th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Let me give Alan Drake one of the highest compliments that I know of: he makes me think.

I got to know Alan due to some pretty acerbic criticism from him about the viability of aspects of the 2006 Energize America plan. He (rightfully) argued that it gave rail (especially electrified rail) short shrift and questioned other aspects. While that was a consensus document/plan in which I had a hand, but certainly not control, Alan’s critiques strengthened the discussions and improved my understanding of his domains of expertise. While I won’t state that we always agree, when Alan speaks, I listen.

Alan is working on a book on entitled An American Citizen’s Guide to an Oil-Free Economy. A significant extract (the forward and chapter 1) has gone up at Energy Bulletin. Alan begins:

A society that does not plan or prepare, that does not consider the consequences of the present and contingencies of the future, a society that lives only for today, the next quarter or the next election is doomed.

With an election just a few days away, it is worth examining what it means to have a plan that deals with the future and not just the latest poll.

Alan’s first chapter focuses on rail. In short, Alan is proposing a significant national investment (both public and private) to shift a significant portion of American’s transportation requirements from road (especially trucks) to rail. For a total investment of about $650 billion over a decade or so, Alan sees an ability to reduce US oil demand by about 4 million barrels a day (a $350 million or so value, per day, or perhaps $10 billion per month — e.g., oil savings alone would pay for this entire effort in five years). This move wouldn’t just cut into oil imports, but provide the United States significant insurance against the looming threat of Peak Oil, a hedge against higher future oil costs, and a path to significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs and boosting overall economic performance.

As Americans head to the polls, a question to ponder: Do we have the national will to embrace such public-private partnership win-win-win opportunities that will improve our security, improve our economy, and improve our environment?

Alan’s work merits a deeper look … which I’ll provide in the coming weeks.

NOTE: For a serious review, see Bit Tooth Energy.

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Tags: Energy · rail

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