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Why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs?
American Thinker Blog
Why is the current administration so obsessed with the delusion of high speed rail for America, and at staggering costs?
American Thinker Blog
2011 NCAA Tournament: Florida, Kentucky Advance to Different Fates
Team Speed Kills
by Year2 on Mar 20, 2011 10:09 AM EDT in SEC Basketball Yesterday Florida and Kentucky earned hard-fought victories over UCLA and West Virginia, respectively. They both get the honor of saying they're Sweet 16 teams, which does matter. …
UCLA loses but better days are in sight
Erving Walker's hot shooting helps Gators into Sweet 16
Still Far From Title, Florida Beats UCLA Anyway
Well they’ve gone and done it. The Republican Florida cabinet has abolished automatic restoration of rights, reviving the Jim Crow practice of putting up roadblocks to the resumption of the right to vote and to obtain certain professional certifications. Also, it turns out someone wasn’t telling the truth when it come to high speed rail […]
The Reid Report
The Obama administration got a well-deserved rebuke today from Judge Roger Vinson in the Florida lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare (aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as big government types insist). Judge Vinson issued a new order in response to a bizarre and obtuse “motion to clarify” that the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed on February 17.
Vinson’s original order on January 31 could not have been clearer: He declared the entire law unconstitutional and specifically said that because he presumed that officials of the executive branch would adhere to the law as declared by a court, his declaratory judgment striking the law down was the functional equivalent of an injunction. Judge Vinson wrote then that he presumed that the executive branch would follow his order, which any lawyer (including a lawyer President) would know requires them to cease implementing Obamacare with respect to the 26 states that are plaintiffs and the National Federation of Independent Business. That turned out to be a faulty presumption, indeed.
After waiting more than two weeks, the Obama Administration filed an insulting motion that essentially said that the federal government would not comply with the judgment unless Judge Vinson issued another order “clarifying” that he really meant what he said – that the executive branch was enjoined from implementing this unconstitutional law. This was a political motion, not a legal motion that any serious litigator would file. In fact, Judge Vinson said that if the government was really unable to understand his original order, “[i]t was not expected that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then filed a belated motion to ‘clarify.’”
Vinson indirectly pointed out the Administration’s bad faith when he noted that DOJ lawyers said in their reply brief that the reason for the delay was because Vinson’s order needed “careful analysis.” Yet this was “contrary to media reports that the White House declared within hours after entry of [Vinson’s] order that ‘implementation will proceed apace’ regardless of the ruling.” Judge Vinson also wrote that the governments citations in their must recent motion “borders on misrepresntaion.”
So today, Judge Vinson reaffirmed that he meant it when he said the law was unconstitutional and that he had expected the executive branch to abide by his decision. Judge Vinson said the language in his original order “seems to be plain and unambiguous. Even though I expressly declared that the entire Act was ‘void,’ and even though I emphasized that ‘separate injunctive relief is not necessary’ only because it must be presumed that ‘the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court,’ which means that ‘declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction,’ the defendants have indicated that they ‘do not interpret the Court’s order as requiring them to immediately cease [implementing and enforcing the act].’” The judge was obviously annoyed that the government has “reportedly continued with full implementation.” He went on to “clarify” his order that he expected his declaratory judgment to “be treated as the ‘practical’ and ‘functional equivalent of an injunction.’”
The plaintiffs had asked the judge to treat the DOJ’s motion to “clarify” as a motion for a stay and to deny the motion. Judge Vinson did treat the motion to clarify as a motion to stay his earlier judgment but then offered a clever compromise to the Obama Administration: He granted a stay for seven days but only on the condition that the Administration file an appeal within that period that requests expedited appellate review, either in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court. Judge Vinson also noted that the appeal could be expedited because the briefing on the underlying legal issues was already submitted in his court.
This is a serious strategic loss for the government. Judge Vinson has challenged the federal government to speed up the appeals process, which would normally take much longer, forcing the hand of the Administration, which would like to slow down the litigation through questionably legal tactics if it can get away with it so it can implement as much of Obamacare as possible before it gets to the Supreme Court. And it is also a clever suggestion to the appellate courts that will next hear these claims: The Administration’s dilatory tactics should not trump the rule of law. As Judge Vinson correctly observed, “[i]t is very important to everyone in this country that this case move forward as soon as practically possible.” Important to everyone except the Obama Administration.
Co-authored by Todd Gaziano.
Greenland’s glaciers double in speed (with video)
The contribution of Greenland to global sea level change and the mapping of previously unknown basins and mountains beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet are highlighted in a new film released by Cambridge University this morning.
The work of glaciologist Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, is the focus of This Icy World, the latest film in the University’s Cambridge Ideas series.
A frequent visitor to both the Arctic and Antarctic, Dowdeswell’s research has found that the glaciers around Greenland are the fastest flowing in the world.
He said: “There is evidence that some part of the ice sheet have doubled in speed up to 10 km per year in the last decade. That means the contribution of Greenland to global sea level change is increasing.”
“The numbers of icebergs released into the seas around Greenland is also increasing. We need to know just how fast these changes are taking place.
“Things are changing very rapidly here because the Arctic is the most sensitive part of the global climate system. Over the coming century, temperatures are likely to rise at double the global average here.”… “Glacier and ice-sheet change is a reality at both poles. The ice is thinning and retreating and that means water is flowing back into the global ocean. Today, sea level is rising 3mm per year; over the coming century, sea level is likely to rise by up to about 1m and it’s actually that rise – with the worst storm waves you can imagine – that could cause real damage.
“In those circumstances, sea defences can be breached and low lying areas of the world can be flooded. That has serious implications for humankind.”
Cuts threaten green energy growth, says Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young will on Monday release the latest analysis of global renewable energy markets with a warning that government spending cuts are threatening to undermine the industry’s continued expansion.
The latest update of the consultancy giant’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices confirms that overall investment in clean energy hit record levels during 2010, rising 30 per cent year-on-year to $ 243bn, according to figures from analyst firm Bloomberg Energy Finance.
However, the report, which rates countries based on their renewable energy policies, technologies and infrastructure, found significant country-to-country variations in the level of support available to renewable energy projects.
For example, China again cemented its position as the most attractive market for renewable energy investment with total wind energy capacity soaring 64 per cent year-on-year to 42GW, while the US market continued to expand after the Obama administration extended its high-profile Treasury Grant Program and announced plans for new clean energy targets.
However, the outlook was mixed for many other countries as governments sought to tackle budget deficits by trimming renewable energy incentives. For example, feed-in tariff incentives were cut in Spain, Germany and Italy, while France imposed a three-month ban on new projects, and the Netherlands and Australia also scaled back incentives.
Mass. company making diesel with sun, water, CO2
A Massachusetts biotechnology company says it can produce the fuel that runs Jaguars and jet engines using the same ingredients that make grass grow.
Joule Unlimited has invented a genetically-engineered organism that it says simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.
What can it mean? No less than “energy independence,” Joule’s web site tells the world, even if the world’s not quite convinced.
“We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all which we’ve validated, all of which we’ve shown to investors,” said Joule chief executive Bill Sims.
“If we’re half right, this revolutionizes the world’s largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry,” he said. “And if we’re right, there’s no reason why this technology can’t change the world.”
The doing, though, isn’t quite done, and there’s skepticism Joule can live up to its promises.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Philip Pienkos said Joule’s technology is exciting but unproven, and their claims of efficiency are undercut by difficulties they could have just collecting the fuel their organism is producing.
Timothy Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Joule must demonstrate its technology on a broad scale.
Perhaps it can work, but “the four letter word that’s the biggest stumbling block is whether it ‘will’ work,” Donohue said. “There are really good ideas that fail during scale up.”
Sims said he knows “there’s always skeptics for breakthrough technologies.”
“And they can ride home on their horse and use their abacus to calculate their checkbook balance,” he said.
Solar ‘Gold Rush’ in U.K. May Die With Incentive Roll-Back
Cornwall, the poorest county in England, said five months ago it expected a “gold rush” of $ 1.6 billion in solar energy investments. Now, the U.K. government may get in the way.
The central government said this month it’s considering cutting incentives and reducing the size of projects, concerned that the above-market rates it promised through April 2012 may lead to too many solar farms.
Britain is moving faster than any other European country to contain a surge in solar power and prevent the boom-and-bust seen in Spain and predicted for the Czech Republic. The risk is scaring off the investors who would create the “green jobs” Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to revive the economy.
“It’s going to completely kill the market,” said Tim German, renewable energy manager for the local government in Cornwall at the U.K.’s southwest tip. “Investors are starting to get cold feet.”
Sharp Corp., the Osaka-based electronics maker which employs 1,100 U.K. workers after doubling the size of its panel factory in Wales, says the government may cripple the industry. Already, companies are scaling back. Matrix Group Ltd. and Ingenious Media Holdings Plc suspended solar funds seeking 55 million pounds ($ 89 million). Low Carbon Solar Ltd. says it can’t spend the 70 million pounds it secured from pension funds.
At Good Energy Group Plc, a clean electricity retailer based in Chippenham, England, Chief Executive Officer Juliet Davenport says she may only get 4 percent of the 100 megawatts of solar power-purchase agreements she wanted.
Saudi Arabia signs solar deal with South Korea
Saudi-based Polysilicon Technology Co (PTC) has signed a $ 380 million deal to build a polysilicon plant in the kingdom, it said on Sunday, as the leading oil exporter seeks to shift toward solar power.
Polysilicon is used in solar power to transform sunlight into electricity.
PTC a joint venture between Saudi Mutajadedah Energy Co (MEC) and South Korea’s KCC Corp (002380.KS: Quote) signed the engineering, procurement and construction contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering Co [HYENG.UL] and KCC Engineering and Construction Corp.
The plant will be located in Jubail, on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia and will have an initial production capacity of 3,350 tonnes of solar grade polysilicon.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its energy resources, turning to solar and eventually nuclear to reduce its need to burn fuel oil for electricity and so preserve its oil for lucrative export markets.
If per capita carbon emissions in China and India rose to car-happy U.S. levels, global emissions would increase by 127%, according to the International Energy Agency. If their emissions stopped at the levels found in hyper-dense Hong Kong, world emissions would go up less than 24%. As the Asian economies prosper, the United States should hope that they embrace the skyscraper more than the car, and we should reform our own policies that subsidize sprawl.
China, a manufacturing powerhouse, is already the world’s biggest carbon emitter, but ordinary Chinese remain remarkably parsimonious in their energy use. Matthew Kahn, Rui Weng, Siqi Zeng and I, in a study published in 2010, estimated carbon emissions for urban households in China, measuring only household emissions and personal transportation. In our sample, the average Chinese household emitted less than 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is less than 1/17th of the levels that Kahn and I found in an earlier study of U.S. cities. Even the greenest U.S. metro areas, such as San Jose and San Francisco, emitted almost 12 times as much as carbon as the Chinese metropolitan areas.
Our American households typically used more than 1,000 gallons of gasoline a year driving; the Chinese used about 1/100th as much gasoline. In many American cities, carbon emissions from household electricity use can top 10 tons annually, but in China, the norm was slightly more than 1 ton per year. Poor countries heat before they cool, and China heats with particularly dirty energy sources, but even there, we found that the coldest Chinese cities were emitting about as much carbon in their home heating as Los Angeles, and far less than in the parts of America with real winters.
Iceland Wants Volcanoes to Power Europe’s Homes Through Longest Ever Cable
Europeans left stranded at airports last year as an Icelandic volcano spewed ash across the continent may soon benefit from the power that seethes beneath the remote north Atlantic island.
Iceland is doing a feasibility study into building a 1,170- kilometer (727-mile) power cable to Scotland to transport as much as 18 terawatt-hours of geothermal and hydropower a year — that’s enough to fuel as many as 5 million European homes. The project has the full backing of the government, Industry Minister Katrin Juliusdottir said in an interview.
“Icelanders live with earthquakes and volcanic activity but the benefits are that now we can monetize these powers,” said Valdimar Armann, an economist at Reykjavik-based asset manager GAMMA, who estimates annual clean-energy exports could reach about a tenth of the island’s $ 12 billion economy.
The island is trying to emerge from Europe’s biggest banking meltdown this century to restyle itself as one of the European Union’s main sources of renewable energy. The power cable, which would be the longest of its kind ever built, would come as the EU strives to reach its target of 20 percent clean energy by 2020. In about 20 years, Iceland’s energy revenue per capita may rival that in Norway, where oil income has made its $ 540 billion sovereign wealth fund the world’s second-biggest, Armann said.
The U.K. day-ahead spot price values 18 terawatt hours at 828 million pounds ($ 1.33 billion), according to data available on Bloomberg. Landsvirkjun, a state-owned utility that produces 75 percent of Iceland’s electricity, is driving the feasibility study for the $ 2.1 billion power-cable project.
Nearly every governor in America is wrestling with budget issues, making unenviable choices on which services, programs or salaries to reduce or eliminate, and deciding whether higher taxes and fees are viable. Most governors are hemmed in by state requirements that the budget be balanced without deficit spending. And I know how daunting — and all-consuming — the task can be. What I hope does not get lost in this effort is the governors’ responsibility to help develop a clean energy economy in America, one that will help create jobs, wean us off foreign oil and protect the environment.
Building this new economy starts with understanding how clean energy legislation can create jobs. During my four-year term in Colorado, I signed 57 pieces of clean energy legislation. In 2007, for example, we doubled the proportion of energy in the state that is required to come from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, we increased that to 30 percent for our biggest utility. As a result, Colorado now ranks fourth among the 50 states in its number of clean energy workers per capita, and 1,500 clean energy companies call our state home — an 18 percent increase since 2004. Wind- and solar-energy companies that have built factories and opened offices in Colorado have brought in thousands of new jobs.
Greenland’s glaciers double in speed
by Javier Manjarres
Following Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to scuttle the proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) project, Congressman Allen West has come out in support of the Governor’s decision to kill the project. West answered a constituent’s question regarding the HSR project by saying, ” I don’t see a need for High Speed rail here in the state Florida.”
West’s reasoning is that since 41 of 44 Amtrack lines lose money, “it’s a train to nowhere.”
Roger Stone Calls Rick Scotts Position on High Speed Rail ” Courageous”
by Javier Manjarres
Longtime politico Roger Stone, is in full support of Governor Rick Scott’s decision to refuse Government dollars for the proposed High Speed rail in Florida. Stone says the Governor shows ” uncommon political courage” by refusing to accept ‘stimulus’ funds for a rail system that will in no doubt turn out to be a bust for taxpayers- ” a sink whole, a money loser, a train that could never make money”, as Stone puts it.
Stone however, feels that a speed rail route between Orlando and Miami would be a better choice than the already proposed Orlando-Tampa. Stone then goes on to give ” Stoney’ advise to Congressman Allen West about mastering being a Congressman before seeking higher office.
**Written by Doug Powers
Florida’s governor is as uneasy as many Americans about getting on board with the “conductor of the train to the future” for a fast ride to economic disaster.
Gov. Rick Scott’s “thanks, but no thanks” press release by way of The Florida Independent:
Moments ago I spoke with u.s. transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to inform him of my decision. I appreciate the secretary’s efforts to work with us and I look forward to working with him in the future.
My decision to reject the project comes down to three main economic realities:
•First – capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $ 3 billion.
•Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $ 300 million – $ 575 million over 10 years) – Note: The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $ 34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $ 10.4 million of the $ 64 million annual operating budget.
•Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $ 2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.
The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits.
That sound you hear is other governors clamoring for Florida’s share of the federal cash, but hopefully some stand their ground and understand that they’re merely drowning states being thrown hugely expensive anvils.
- The folly of high-speed rail, redux; Plus: Did Obama consult J-Nap on “no pat-down” promise?
- Obama Transportation Sec’y Ray LaHood’s high-speed rail slush fund
- Harry Reid’s stimulating rail to Vegas
(h/t Free Republic)
**Written by Doug Powers
A California appellate court has handed down a fascinating opinion today in State v. Xinos on whether and how the Fourth Amendment regulates government access to data stored in a car’s internal computer that controls the airbags and seatbelts. After a fatal car accident, the police downloaded the data from the impounded car and used it to help reconstruct the accident and convict the driver of vehicular manslaughter. The information from the computer “showed information captured during the five seconds before defendant’s vehicle experienced a change in velocity. It disclosed the vehicle’s speed during the five seconds before the incident” and showed that the brakes had been activated at that time. Held: The data was protected by the Fourth Amendment, the retrieval of the data was unconstitutional, and the conviction had to be overturned. From the opinion:
We do not accept the Attorney General’s argument that defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the data contained in his vehicle’s SDM. The precision data recorded by the SDM was generated by his own vehicle for its systems operations. While a person’s driving on public roads is observable, that highly precise, digital data is not being exposed to public view or being conveyed to anyone else. . . . We conclude that a motorist’s subjective and reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to her or his own vehicle encompasses the digital data held in the vehicle’s SDM.
The Court also concludes that the computer data is in the car, not outside the car, so the legal standard that governs access to the data probable cause but not a warrant.
Thanks to Fourth Amendment.com for the link.
High Speed Funding in President’s Budget Means More Waste of Taxpayer Dollars
Elected officials in Washington finally seem to get it that something must be done to reduce federal spending. Last week, House Republicans unveiled a plan to cut $ 74 billion from President Obama’s budget request for this year, and members of the Republican Study Committee have proposed an even more ambitious plan to cut $ 2.5 trillion over the next decade. Members of both parties in the Senate are eyeing plans for long-term deficit reduction.
Even President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, confessed that “we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” The big question left is whether the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget, which he will release next week, will embody the fiscally responsible choices he admits we need.
So far, it doesn’t look like it. Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled the President’s plan to invest an additional $ 53 billion in high-speed rail over the next six years. The stimulus already provided $ 8 billion in funding, followed by $ 2.5 billion added by Secretary LaHood. According to The Washington Post, the total price tag of the scheme would weigh in at $ 600 billion over 20 years.
The President’s obstinate commitment to high-speed rail reflects a complete and utter neglect to take deficit reduction seriously. Heritage’s Ronald Utt writes that a high-speed rail program would create “perpetual massive government subsidies and larger budget deficits” and “additional burdens imposed on hard-pressed state governments, which will be required to match the perpetual federal subsidies to build the system.”
Funding has already been rejected by new governors in Wisconsin and Ohio, who campaigned against the costly projects, which would initially receive partial funding from Washington but would ultimately place a heavy burden on both federal and state taxpayers. Said Florida Governor Rick Scott:
“Over the last few years, Florida accepted one time hand-outs from the federal government. Those temporary resources allowed state and local governments to spend beyond their means. … There was never any reason to think that Florida taxpayers could afford to continue that higher level of spending once the federal hand-outs were gone.”
Despite its cost, high-speed rail will be ineffective at achieving its goals, if Europe’s experiences are any indicator. High-speed rail is expected to reduce auto and air travel, but in Europe, the trend is actually the opposite: Despite huge government subsidies, travelers are opting more and more to take non-subsidized and less expensive forms of travel.
Per capita spending on rail alone in six European countries was comparable to the United States’ entire transportation budget, yet, says Utt, “these countries received a poor return on their money given that more than 90 percent of passengers in these countries chose other travel modes—mostly auto—despite the subsidies.” Moreover, Utt cites the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s finding that reducing travel time between major East Coast cities by 30 minutes would cost $ 14 billion but only reduce auto transportation by less than 1 percent.
Experiences around the globe show that high-speed rail is unsustainable and requires large and perpetual government subsidies. The gains of high-speed rail would be minimal, affecting only a small portion of the population. The United States simply cannot afford such a project right now. If President Obama is serious about investing in America’s future, he should focus on cutting existing programs that are unaffordable and inefficient rather than adding another to their ranks.
|Not so fast there|
“That’s why I’ve proposed that we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.” President Obama to the US Chamber of Commerce, Februry 7, 2011.
But in that same speech, President Obama called for more “investment,” including spending on what he is calling high-speed rail. Today we know how much investment he wants on those trains, which AP says will achieve speeds of up to 250 miles per hour-$ 53 billion. But Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute discovered that these trains won’t even go faster than cars.
Does the White House say where the $ 53 billion will come from? Of course not.
Technorati tags: economy stimulus hsr transportation high speed rail trains politicsstimulus government boondoggle