Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rebuilding the Railroad System for Higher Speed -TRANSPORTATION REDEVLOPMENT AUTHORITY

Land transport in the US faces severe capacity constraints by 2030, both highway and rail.

Land transport in the US is based upon oil.

Land transport in the US is imbalanced toward the highway mode.

Anthony Gilbert and Anthony Perl in their book, "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil," advocate for the electrification of the railroad system. They characterize the need to overcome a transport system that relies upon oil, facing capacity constraints and imbalanced towards highways as requiring a revolution in applying established technology to accomplish.

They recommend that to launch the rebuilding of the railroad system for higher speed requires a transport redevelopment agency.  They note that "no good candidate for such a role among the myriad government agencies and private firms that contribute to America's current transport planning. They include industyr associations and several government departments, not only those concerned mostly with transport but also, for example, the armed forces, which have often been concerned with the capacity and technology of America's civilian transport and have recently focused on oil depletion as a strtegic challenge. This will all need to be involved in developing the plan for a redesigned transport syste. However, this restructuring will best be facilitated by a new entity that leaves aside much of the baggage of existing in and approaches to moving people and freight in the U.S. The new agency should be constituted as a transparent, inclusive and fair enabler of the considerable efforts that lie ahead.'

'The mandate for an agency to guide the redesign will need to come from the top, meaning the U.S. president. We propose a name such as the 'Transportation Redevelopment Administration' (TRA),  which signals what the organization will be about and provides a relevant and unambiguous acronym. TRA would have a board charied by the U.S. vice-president whose emebers include the secretaaries of Defense, Energy, Treasury and Transportation. As well, state, county and city governments sshould be represented on TRA's board TRA should draw upon the expertise associated with the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and affiliate of the NAtional Academy of Sciences that assembles America's analytical and technological expertise in over 200 standing committies involved in every aspect of mobility.'

'TRA would draw on past U.S. experience in creating public agencies to develop innovative solutions to serious challenges. Earlier organizations overseeing considerable social and economic redesign efforts include the Reconstruction Finance Corporation established by President Hoover in 1932, the Tennessee Valley Authority inaugarated by President Roosevelt in 1933, the United States Railway Association created by President Nixon in 1973, and the Air Stabilization Board signed into law by Presidnet G.W. Bush on 22 September 2001. The last organization had the job of using loan guarantees to sustain the U.S. airline industry, hurt by terrorist attacks 11 days earlier and their aftermath. TRA would combine elements of each of these agencies' structure to serve four key functions.'

'First, TRA would provide a forum for consultation with industry, organized labour and interested citizens on changes that would create considerable new benefits, as well as impose real burdens.. Second, TRA would become a repository of manageral and technical expertise in enerrgy-efficieient transport redesign.
Third, TRA would serve as a banker and broker  for financing deployment of the technology and infrastructure needed to make electric traction the prime mover in the U.S. *
Fourth, TRA would become an assessor and evaluator of the work in progress to redesign American mobility. TRA could thus be seen as a 'superagency' along the lines of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which grew quickly and assumed wide-ranging responsibilities in its mission to keep AMericans secure on the home front.'

'DHS grew through the rapid transfer and adaptation of pre-existing government programmes, from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. So could TRA gain momentum rapidly through staff and resource transfers from agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), which has some 55,000 employees and has proposed a $67-billion budget for 2008. Among agencies wothin the US DOT umbrella are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Higway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. Many employees of US DOT and its agencies, and many from among the tens of thousands working on transport issues in state and local governments, could quickly migrate to TRA's planning, design and finance departments..." ( See pages 279 and 280 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil.")

* The major source of funding for rebuilding railroads and electrification:

"Countries facing balance of payment difficulty may apply import restrictions under provisions in the GATT 1994 agreement and under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)." SEE World Trade Organization website for details : http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/bop_e/bop_e.htm

Alan Drake in "A Citizen's Guide to an Oil Free Economy," notes the following:
"World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow a nation with a long term structural trade deficit (And the USA certainly qualifies!) to place a unilateral tariff on all "non-essential" imports so long as the proceeds from the tariff are used exclusively to reduce the structural trade deficit and there is no preferential treatment in the application of the tariff."

"Oil imports are a major part of the "long term structural trade deficit" of the United States of America. This plan (electrification) will reduce US oil imports by substantial amounts. Therefore, a substantial fraction of the governmental costs to implement this plan could be financed by a 1% to 2% tariff on a broad range of imports."

"The initial reaction from foreign governments may not be positive, but our diplomats can assure them that this new tariff:

1.) is according to WTO rules. In fact, this is precisely why this exemption exists.

2.) will be effective in reducing US competition for available oil exports, which is very much in the self interest of oil importers and even oil exporters.
3.) will be effective in reducing US carbon emissions, which is in everyone's interest."

And furthermore, it is the only politically possible way that the US will do anything meaningful about either oil consumption or Climate Change. Thus, it is in their enlightened self interest to not object to the US financing part of the program with a broad but small tariff on imports. And, if the tariff is implemented according to WTO rules, they have no other recourse under international law."

See Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas - USA, Alan S. Drake:

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