Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oil, Auto, and Airline Companies vs Prop 1A?

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

For several months we kept hearing there was "no funded opposition" to Proposition 1A. There are several committees spending money FOR Prop 1A, including Californians for High Speed Trains, funded by a cross-section of Californians but definitely including labor unions and engineering companies that may benefit from Prop 1A. There's nothing illegal or unethical about that - these contributions are publicly disclosed for everyone to see.

There is no committee registered with the state of California to oppose Prop 1A. But there are two groups that have been rather active in opposing Prop 1A - the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Reason Foundation. Both are right-wing think tanks determined to undermine government in the state of California through tax cuts that force reductions in government spending and other government programs. The Reason Foundation in particular promotes privatization of government services and less regulation on business, which of course worked out brilliantly with the financial industry.

Both groups were behind the thoroughly discredited Cox-Vranich report on high speed rail. The Reason Foundation in particular has been using its staffers to flood the state media with misleading claims and outright lies that find their way to both opinion pages and even news articles about Prop 1A.

Neither group discloses its donors on its website and only a few details about Reason's funders have emerged over the last few years. But what we do know suggests that the Reason Foundation's campaign against sustainable transportation is being funded by the very companies that oppose sustainable transportation - oil companies, automakers, and airlines.

Some of the most reliable information about the Reason Foundation's funding comes from Media Transparency, a watchdog on the conservative media movement. Their reports show that long-time right-wing organizations such as the Koch Foundation, founded by oil and gas billionaires, alongside groups like the Castle Rock Foundation, a project of the far-right Coors family.

The Reason Foundation also receives corporate contributions. A list of these has not been made public since the year 2000. But the most recent list, compiled by Source Watch, shows that oil, auto, and airline companies figured prominently in their funding, such as:

American Petroleum Institute
Continental Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Ford Motor Company
Shell Oil
Western States Petroleum Association

We don't know if that money has continued over the last 8 years, but that money has continued to seed ongoing program operations for the Reason Foundation. Right-wing foundations and oil, auto and airline companies have been paying for Reason's attack on high speed rail.

Given current campaign finance laws Reason does not have to disclose any of this as a campaign expenditure. And so the public doesn't realize that when they see misleading anti-transit propaganda spread by the Reason Foundation, that it's coming from the far-right and from the very companies whose business model depends on prolonging our dependence on oil - even when that dependence destroys our economic prosperity.

By contrast we at this blog have nothing to hide. This blog is hosted free of charge by, which offers free blogs to pretty much anyone who wants one. I work on this in my spare time and neither this blog or my time on it are funded by anyone. Yet we manage to get the facts right, instead of the Reason Foundation's constant misleading of voters. Funny how that works.


Anonymous said...

About the only person who thinks the Due Diligence report has been dis-credited is Robert. Certainly the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee does not take that position.

Robert Cruickshank said...

That's the same committee that put out an equally flawed report back in June that made some of the same mistakes as Cox-Vranich. Ashburn is a longtime HSR denier. I don't know wtf is up with Alan Lowenthal, who ought to know better.

Anonymous said...

Morris and the rest of the anti-rail crowd are the only ones to think that none of that report
was not just made up...

Anonymous said...

Nice new HSR ad from the California Alliance for Jobs

Hits all the important points.

Brandon in California said...

Because 2 out of 13 members of the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee scheduled an informational item and heard testimony from Vranich does not mean the committee endorses that position. No position was made at all.

Really! That is a stretch to think that.

In reality, it's more telling that ONLY 2 members attended. AND, those 2 members are anti-HSR.

What the scheduled testimony was... was recognition or honoring the Jarvis group as having a voice. Nothing more. No endorsement at all.

Rafael said...

We don't really know who funds the Reason Foundation and frankly, I don't think it matters all that much. What does matter is the extent to which their FUD actually influences voters.

IMHO, the real issue isn't the price tag or the budget or even the quality of CHSRA planning. It's more fundamental: are California voters still wedded to the idea that car plus plane equals freedom?

After all, trains offer a great many advantages, but using them frequently does require a lifestyle adjustment. Some people are just set in their ways and cannot see themselves ever getting on a train. To them, HSR may be fine for other countries but not for the US of A.

Hopefully, the majority will take a broader and longer view. The price of oil has come down sharply since the summer, but that's because of demand destruction in response to the anticipated global recession. Prices will rise again once growth returns, whenever that may be. Plus, the economic cost of climate change and/or efforts to curtail it will rise dramatically in coming decades.

Blindly perpetuating a 20th century transportation philosophy that is predicated on abundant and cheap oil will hurt California's competitive position in the global economy. Private industry will have to cut back R&D into alternatives due to falling sales unless governments pick up the slack.

Battery electric cars will take quite a long time to win significant market share, because operating range is short and the up-front cost very high. Plus, once the various variations on the EV theme achieve large enough market share, lawmakers will tax them to compensate for lost revenue from gasoline taxes.

Aircraft can be operated on synthetic fuels using a variety of feedstocks including biomass. The initial applications will be military. Later on, long-haul civilian aviation will have to use these fuels as well.

In-between electric cars and designer jet fuels there is a need for intercity transportation. High speed rail is ideally suited to the task, especially if connecting local services are developed in parallel efforts. HSR technology already has an excellent record of safety and efficiency. Innovations in mobile internet access are already boosting productivity and/or alleviating boredom in transit. Plus, the required electricity can be generated from renewable sources.

A vote for prop 1A on Nov. 4th is an investment the future of California. In the short term, it will permit ROW purchases and create a vast number of construction jobs. In the long run, it will transform not just how people move around the state but where they choose to live and work. Encouraging new arrivals to settle in the Central Valley will reduce the cost of future water projects, keep traffic moving and lessen the state's exposure to earthquake damage.

Voting no on prop 1A solves neither the budget crisis nor the state's long-term transportation, energy and environmental problems. Nor will it buy time to improve on the HSR proposal, as some have suggested. It's now or never.

bossyman15 said...

Robert are you going to write full detail on what went on at UC Santa Cruz forum?

Anonymous said...

Robert dismisses the Cox-Vranich Due Diligence report and says he has demolished it. He dismissed the 40 page report from the State Senate T&H committee as without value also.

Yet today we see an article from Vranich explaining how he has come to oppose this project with vigor:

He writes:

And for nearly 40 years I’ve supported high-speed train systems in writing, in speeches here and abroad and in testimony before Congress.

But last week I testified against California’s high-speed rail plan before a state Senate committee, causing my surprised friends to ask, “How can you oppose something you’ve believed in for so long?”

and he concluded with:

Now my railroad friends understand why I’m voting “No” on California’s Proposition 1A, the bond measure that would pour billions of dollars into an incredibly deficient high-speed rail project.

This is a lousy project, plain and simple. It has been corrupted by politics.

There is nothing wrong with HSR as a concept. But when the leadership, the CHSRA, planned the project to support local power groups, rather than plan a project that was to be the most efficient at doing the task it was supposed to do, you get garbage.

Rafael, I don't agree at all with your statement:

Voting no on prop 1A solves neither the budget crisis nor the state's long-term transportation, energy and environmental problems. Nor will it buy time to improve on the HSR proposal, as some have suggested. It's now or never.

Why is it now or never?

Now is the wrong time and this is certainly also the wrong project.

Brandon in California said...

I think the project is quite fine, and I voted yes on 1A 3 weeks ago.

I have also gotten no less than 15 commitments from friends and family to do the same.

Although, I wish money were no object and we could have a more direct line between San Diego and LA... and LA to Bakersfield... but the plan is good enough for me.

And, Pacheco was alignment was saved... which will save millions each year in operating costs!