Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Americas Future & The Electric Train Are Inherently Linked

The electric train represents a significant factor in the "greening" and self sufficiency of America. With much of the country connected to rail networks freight can be moved with great ease and far more importantly by electric locomotives. Electric trains have all their torque available all of this time, one of the primary advantages of the electric motor, therefore they can pull more cargo per motor. All the necessary rolling stock already exists, much of the track is in place and therefore the only intial cost for freight would be new engines. If the power for these trains is generated by wind farms and solar power plants you will see a rapid reduction in emissions and gasoline usage.

High speed rail links connecting downtown Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington at 200-250mph is a very real and exciting prospect... San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas are similarly connectable. Mass transit systems moving the major distances allow true electric cars of limited range to be practical. A car rental and Taxicab company could keep fleet of vehicles that have a 2-300 mile range without difficulty and seeing as little travel would be by freeway. There is significantly more cost involved in creating these high speed lines as existing track is often not of good enough quality or designed for high speed. However France, Japan and many other companies have found their investment in high speed trains an incredible long term investment. However compared to the cost of a plane, gas, maintenance and new runways and terminals it really might not be that expensive. Especially when you consider how much quicker the entire journey time would be on such short distances when compared to flying in the modern era with enhanced security and commute times into major cities from outlying airports.

Significant alternative energy generation facilities and railroads represent large capital projects, employ large workforces and help the current fiscal crisis as they are infrastructure/ capital intensive but very low risk. With gas prices potentially increasing due to drilling and exploration costs as well as increased demand airlines will become increasingly costly to operate. Personal vehicles will again see operating costs rising but the true suffering will again fall on the transport industry that was crippled by the burden of high fuel prices. Transport and trucking companies failed at an incredible pace from 2007-2008. Short haul became the backbone of the industry with companies hauling within state or loadsharing.

Energy independence for the United States is not just based on finding more domestic oil, the sources are finite, it is not based on running multi billion dollar pipelines from Alaska - it is about rethinking the system. The current system is not working, it is broken and it needs to be fixed. Some of the solutions may be quite radical..... but so was the Panama and Suez canals, the cross continental railroad, even the Great Wall of China and other such grand ventures and visions when they were proposed. Yet those projects made nations great, they allowed nations to prosper and they did so by changing the way freight was moved and people interacted and connected.

One major power project that will change the world will be a spiders web of power lines connection Alaska, Siberia, Finland and North Eastern Canada. The distances are great yet the cross sharing of alternatively generated power to countries based upon varying demand due to time of day could solve many of the existing problems. Plus cables travelling in deep cold water will be far more efficient and conductive - plate techtonics should play a more limited impact too.

Copyright Jonathan Rose 2009 - Creative Commons License

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