|A major global issue
is the "behind the scenes" positioning for oil/energy supplies. We must do
better for our young people. The United States can proudly point to a group of
citizens comfortable with a rail oriented, and sustainable, economy. Each
of us must be able and willing to encourage planners, civic and corporate
leadership, and social contacts that the US railway network is part of the
solution. Rail MUST be on the table in each and every discussion of Energy
Conservation, Homeland Security, Global Warming, Environmental Preservation, and
The remaining small railway operators are an example of what must be done,
but on a larger scale. Where possible, renewable power must be incorporated with
railway operations. The general public needs to understand that railways are a
permanent fixture and a required component of commercial and societal COHESION
in the Post Carbon (fossil fuel) Era.
Railways in the US are of "IMMENSE INTRINSIC VALUE". Here's why: The
two largest oilfields in the world are "Ghawar" in Saudi Arabia, "Cantarell" in
Mexico's Gulf of Campeche. Both of which are in decline. As depletion
accelerates in these notable fields, it will not be possible to replace them
quickly, by any known or operable energy (in comparable volume of energy units):
Bottom line- we face a period of economic stress unlike any in our national
history! We are in an "Energy Overshoot" mode, using greater per-capita energy
units of consumption, than can be made up by replacement in the depletion regime
now facing the world's oil fields over this decade. Railways can help the US
make the transition. We must maintain commercial cohesion during the shift to
If miracles occur, and huge fields are discovered, it would take many to
cover the total rate of world depletion and decades to fully develop. The next
several decades must be bridged, whether or not new oilfields are put on line
and/or the shift to alternative sources of energy are put in operation. This is
not a sure bet. It is a safer bet to enable the US to stay mobile with a more
comprehensive rail net. The steam railway/electric interurban railway footprint
of the WWII era is required, lacking real breakthrough in substitute energy
supply. I, for one am not willing to bet the future of this country on the hopes
of just-in-time "techno fix". Even if that were that to occur, there are still
obvious benefits in a more comprehensive railway network. Rolling efficiency
alone justifies rail over much long-haul trucking now in vogue.
Exit with an action plan:
Develop region by region mapping of
historic railway footprint- see old Thomas Bros, De Lorme' maps. See how the
rails came downtown for warehousing. See Boardman's Maintenance of Way
Cyclopedias- some examples of elevated railways had midtown victuals warehousing
for night freight handling on the same rail. Isn't standard gauge wonderful!
ENERGY INDEPENDENCE BONDS (EIB)-
liken them to WWII War Bonds (This Is No Drill) for raising part of capital. The
EIB can be a voluntary account in a Social Security rework. EIB should be used
for actual construction of renewable energy/ linked transport, at a minimum.
Develop programs for employment
shifts- long haul truckers can become bus drivers, we'll need great shift to
buses in urban commute, along with the electric rails.
WWII auto plant shift to war
production. Likewise shift now- making the stuff of renewable energy and buses
and railway equipment.
Mass produced electric and fuel cell
railcars: see Budd RDC and
Streetcars on the web.
Carpooling and Technology RandD.
Obvious- but not enough without the "Second Dimension Surface Transport
Logistics Platform of Railway Matrix."
Pick one and start, write a letter,
talk to a school board, club members or environmental or business or church
group. A few hours a week, a couple of meetings a month. Adopt a local planner
down at City Hall- Do it, please.
Very important, get the younger
generation interested and informed about the ramifications of Peaking Oil. They
will endure the change, AND fight the oil wars... peakoil.net is a good reference source for
Written by Gunnar
Photo by Jim O'Connor
About the Author:
My hands on steam engine credentials are limited to some work with Hal
Wilmunder's Antelope & Western in 1960. On a dare, I stole a ride on SP 4460
from Palo Alto to 3rd & Townsend in July 1957. Only cab ride on big steam at
speed. Got in trouble...After that I was with CalDWR- Water Resources. Then
Aviation Maintenance, Pupil Transportation, and some railway experience, passed
the Railway Rules Test (GCOR) and am presently working on rail transportation
planning issues on the US50 Corridor between Sacramento, CA and Reno NV. Please
see "Tahoe Valley Lines Mission Statement" in MASS TRANSIT MAGAZINE, 11-04,
P.70. (Cygnus Publications). Former member High Speed Rail Association, American
Public Transit Association.