A Georgia oil company executive, Tex Pitfield (really, with a name like that, how do you NOT go into the oil business?!), has an op-ed in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling for a massive national investment in alternatives to oil. And of course, high speed rail figures centrally in his argument:
History provides wonderful insight. Could we possibly reinvent the Eisenhower interstate system in the form of a nationwide high-speed rail system like they have in Europe? Needless to say, it would be powered by electricity or hydrogen, fossil fuel being a thing of the past. Not only do we create a huge beneficial infrastructure, but we put likely hundreds of thousands of people to work. The economy desperately needs jobs and a base to support them.
Way too many Californians have forgotten the role of massive infrastructure investment in the prosperity we enjoy today. Without the bay bridges built during the Depression, the State Water Project that was approved during a budget crisis in 1960, Eisenhower's foresighted (if ultimately flawed) Interstate Highway System, the construction of and paying the operating costs for schools and colleges - all those were acts of government that without which California would never have enjoyed the prosperity it did.
But those investments either need to be renewed, or in the case of transportation, remade. The era of cheap oil is over and instead of wasting money on trying to prolong our oil dependency - at a huge cost to our environment and therefore to our lives - why not do what our predecessors did, and invest in our future?
Those who attack the high speed rail project, those who say we should not build it, are saying we should do nothing at all to plan for our future. They offer no solution to high gas prices. No solution to the airline crisis. They have no plan for addressing climate change. They believe, against all evidence, that the status quo can continue indefinitely.
We need a new investment in our nation's infrastructure - to build a sustainable America. It begins here in California. We can show the rest of the country the way forward - or we can stick our heads in the sand and deny reality. The choice is ours and ours alone - if we don't make the right one this year, we're not going to get another chance to put it right. We've already squandered too many of those opportunities.