The U.S. is behind many countries in building high speed rail. Japan, most of western Europe, especially Spain. Behind South Africa. Taiwan. China. But Obama's SOU speech and then federal hand-outs today show there is more than rhetoric behind America's laggard move toward more efficient ground transport.
Eight billion federal dollars will be granted to high speed rail projects around the country. The Stimulus Plan money will go to California, Florida and Illinois. Here you can find more information on the specific grants.
As high speed rail goes beyond planning in the U.S., expect much opposition. There'll be the subtle, back-room lobbying from airlines and the oil industry. And there'll be well-funded NIMBY movements, sorta anti-train tea parties. Those are happening right now in France and Spain where a proposed high speed line is being battled. Incidentally, that single short-run line is slated to cost over $20 billion, far more than the entire, current U.S. high speed rail budget. Gives you an idea how paltry the U.S. commitment to revived rail travel really is. The American loyalty is still to one person, one car.
NUCS AND JOBS
In the SOU Obama called for more offshore drilling for gas and oil That will definitely affect how investors look at alternative energy plans. He also asked for another jobs bill, saying he did not want the U.S. to play for second place in clean energy. Green jobs got several mentions. Obama also paid lip service to clean coal. The previous administration pulled the plug on a demo clean-coal plant planned for Mattoon, Illinois.
Does Obama know how far back we already are in wind and solar? Anyway, Obama urged more money and tax credits for clean energy jobs and investment. So the plan seems to be to pay people to clean up the energy system. No mention of carbon trading or taxes or even a higher gasoline tax. At one point, Obama did mention doing away with tax breaks for oil companies. If that were to somehow get through this Senate--unlikely--it would raise the pump price of gasoline. Nobody should expect Exxon and Chevron to voluntarily take lesser profits. That's not their job.
Once again there was White House verbal support for new nucs. Nucs produce no greenhouse gas emissions. That "support" began back with Bush II. Still no action. I recently blogged about how much federal money will be handed to the nuclear industry this year. Here's a look at how the Obama Admin is showing its support of new nuc plants. So far, not one project is "shovel ready."
Obama even dealt with the global warming skepticism by saying he didn't care whether everybody believed the science, he didn't think anybody should want the U.S. to lag other nations in clean energy. Don't settle for second place, he urged. Let's ask, "How about even trying to finish in the top ten?" Perhaps try for a bronze medal?
Serious clean energy investment would challenge the American status quo that has the U.S. importing over $400-billion worth of oil annually. That will meet strong opposition from those who profit most from the current system and a Senate that is frozen in place.