Friday, February 08, 2019

At least the Green New Deal takes climate change seriously

In a description of her Green New Deal released yesterday, Ocasio-Cortez advocates that we “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” This is far more ambitious than Obama’s high-speed rail plan, which was only about 12,000 route miles in five separate, disconnected systems.

Anyone who thinks that replacing air travel with high-speed rail is a reasonable goal fails the high-speed rail intelligence test. First, in accordance with her goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Ocasio-Cortez assumes that high-speed rail emits significantly less greenhouse gases than flying. That’s simply not true: the difference is minor and is more than made up for by the huge greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the construction of high-speed rail infrastructure. Since trains require far more infrastructure than planes, the emissions required to produce that infrastructure are far greater.

Second, Ocasio-Cortez ignores the cost of building such a high-speed rail system. The United States has more than 500 commercial airports. Not counting Alaska and Hawaii, a route system serving all of those regions would be at least 40,000 miles long. 

California is spending $90 million a mile building high-speed rail in the flat Central Valley, and building through the mountains will cost much more. So the system conceived by Ocasio-Cortez will cost at least $4 trillion — and probably much more — none of which is likely to be recovered by high-speed rail fares.

Third, the fastest high-speed trains only go about half as fast as planes, a difference that is increasingly significant over longer distances. It is fine for a U.S. Representative from New York to talk about high-speed rail to Washington, but what about people traveling from Los Angeles to Washington, San Francisco to Charlotte, Portland to Boston, and Seattle to Miami? Ocasio-Cortez’s vision would more than double their travel times...

Rob's comment:
Though I'm a liberal Democrat, I agree with O'Toole on the dumb high-speed rail idea. But it's worth pointing out that it's more or less buried on page 5 of the six-page Green New Deal document, though even an attempt to implement the high-speed rail idea will waste a lot of money.

The stupid California high-speed rail project has already wasted billions on a project that was poorly conceived and never had a realistic financial plan. The project has rightly been called the Democrats' "Bridge to Nowhere."

O'Toole gives Ocasio-Cortez all the credit/blame for these proposals, but Senator Markey was with her at yesterday's launch. And the document itself lists prominent Democrats who support the Green New Deal:

Nearly every major Democratic Presidential contender say they back the Green New deal including: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkeley, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jay Inslee.

It's reasonable to predict that these people will walk back their blanket support for these proposals. Republicans are already pouncing, but then they deny the reality of climate change.

At least the Green New Deal takes climate change seriously as an existential threat to the planet.

Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail

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