Friday, October 22, 2010

Highway Advocate Judging Rail Is Like Having the East Germans Score America’s Gymnastics Team

Some of us remember how the Cold War played out in the Olympics. Our side boycotted their side’s games (Afghanistan again), then their side boycotted ours. The Olympics were all about politics, right down to disparities in how the events were judged – Soviet bloc vs. the West.

The latest assessment of Honolulu rail by the University’s resident highway expert reminds us that nobody took the East Germans seriously in the Olympics. Their athletes pumped themselves up, and their judges disparaged the “opposition.”

To nobody’s surprise, UH’s highway expert scores rail poorly compared to his favorite transportation alternative, toll roads. Let’s look at his analysis.

Hawaii’s ‘Green’ Revolution

Unlike Olympic competition, which often lasts a matter of seconds, Honolulu rail will be built to last a century, or more. Basing one’s anti-rail arguments on a relatively short-term view can’t possibly appreciate the big picture, and that’s why the expert’s latest article is easily derailed.

Most people in Hawaii appreciate what’s happening here. Government, corporations, small businesses and individuals are working together to eliminate the state’s dependence on imported energy sources.

You don’t have to be a futurist to predict the elimination of fossil fuels from Hawaii’s energy diet someday. It’ll happen – out of necessity – and will be replaced by renewable energy technologies already coming into wide use (solar, wind, refuse, biofuels) and some under development and others possibly decades away (wave power, ocean thermal energy conversion, unknowns).

Knowing that, you can pretty much discount the UH expert’s judging of rail as anti-energy and environmental policy, because rail’s source of electricity production will switch over the decades from fossil fuel to green power.

Solar energy stored in the ocean will likely provide the vast majority of Hawaii’s electricity at some point, possibly during our children’s lifetimes and certainly during our grandchildren’s.

So the good doctor’s perspective is much too short to provide a balanced assessment of rail’s pro-energy and pro-environment contributions to our society. And if you're still not convinced, just remember the underlying principle of his toll roads – pricing the lanes high enough to keep everyone off his road except those who can afford the steep tolls.

What’s “green” about that?

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