Friday, September 24, 2010

Why high speed rail is needed

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 12:53 PM

After listening to the debate on WMNF last week over High Speed rail and light rail I decided to write a message regarding the 9/12 forums.

For the past two years I've been traveling around the Tampa bay area involved in the growing green movement. On the internet, you can find lots of "information" on how the green movement is a secret plot to take over the world or that the green movement is for population control — you get the idea.

I come here to tell you that the people in the green movement are the same people in your own movement. They are people who deeply care about their families, their friends and love ones. They love their country and want it to go in a better direction. They're striving for a unified effort to live on this planet in a better way than we have been. I've read some comments on the 9/12 boards from around Tampa Bay area and repeat attempts at putting 'greenies' down is disappointing and uncalled for.

So why is high speed light rail needed?

Primarily because oil is a finite resource. At some point in the near future oil production will hit a threshold and decline year after year. With demand rising in developing countries the price of oil will exceed the cheap cost that is necessary for our society to function, much like we saw in 2008 when the gasoline prices rose to $5 a gallon and oil prices were over $147 a barrel.

Peak oil is a mathematical and scientific reality. The peak production for the US was in 1970. Ever since that year, each oil well in America has hit peak and production has been declining ever since.

I recently considered three major energy reports published so far in 2010 which take a number of different views on the issue:

The Oil Crunch: a Wake-up Call for the UK Economy (published by UK Industry Task Force on Peak Oil & Energy Security in February) suggests oil is currently at or near peak and so output “cannot rise significantly above 92 million barrels per day;”

The Joint Operating Environment 2010 (United States Joint Forces Command, published a little later in February)states that the world has vast reserves but has not invested enough to keep increasing supplies;

Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business (published by insurers Lloyds with Chatham House, June) manages to take both sides, stating: “Even before we reach peak oil, we could witness an oil supply crunch because of increased Asian demand.”

We live in a society built around cheap oil: our food systems, manufacturing, transportation, and energy sources depend on it (Florida tops the country in oil powered power plants). All of this needs to be transitioned away from oil in order for our society to function in the future.

One of the main issues that the 9/12ers often talk about, such as immigration, also have to do with peak oil. Mexico is a prime exporter of oil for America. Mexico's oil field named Cantrell is in terminal decline. This implication has caused serious economic instability in Mexico resulting in movement towards criminal activities.

What implications are there for the Tampa Bay area? We are one of the most highly populated regions in Florida that and our transportation centers around personal vehicles. High oil prices will result in higher gasoline prices for consumers. Investment now in options to move away from cars and towards walkable communities must be undertaken. In 2005, the United States government released the Hirsch Report about peak oil. It stated that our economy would need 20 years preparation time to fully transition away from oil.

If we were to begin investing now in a relayed system of high speed light rail followed by a bus network and walkable communities, we could transition away from a car centric society into more locally oriented, sustainable societies. We should do this while the oil prices are still stable and we have the financial capability to invest in such a long term project.

I know I'll get heat for saying this on this forum, but another reason to move away from oil is climate change. I don't think many people understand the debate. The planet is heating and has been for over 60 years. Regardless of its anthropogenic nature, scientists have been observing and recording the ice melting off Greenland and the Arctic/Antarctic ice sheets. Their observations are showing greater than anticipated melting rates. The amount of water melting is even faster then the climate models have predicted under normal business as usual circumstances.

We really need a conversation based upon reality. We need to learn to be united and adapt to a changing climate. We as a society need to grow up, stop being infantile, pull up our working pants and put our country to work retrofitting away from fossil fuels. If we don't , if we keep having debates about separate issues that are all really interlinked (immigration/climate change/rail systems/wars in Iraq/etc.) without even questioning the prime source of this issue which is our country's over reliance on fossil fuels.

We need high speed and light rail. We the people of the United States of America need to kick our cheap, dirty fossil fuel habit. I've become fully aware of our country's dirty addiction. Accepting that we have an addiction is the first step in moving towards fixing that addiction.

If  you would like more information on the Transition Initiative model, join the website I created for environmental action: www.codegreencommunity.org

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