Californians will find themselves riding down rails at 215 miles an hour in the near future. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has created a $43 billion dollar plan to link San Francisco to San Diego by high-speed rail. Helping to get this plan on track is the $2.24 billion dollars allocated to the project in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A route has been set and a bidding war is currently under way for who will lay the track. A recent New York Times article places the Chinese government as the front runner in who will provide the bulk of the technology. This assessment is understandable considering the fact that China is so experienced in building high speed rail lines both domestically and internationally: with 4,000 miles of high-speed rail built domestically and projects currently underway in several foreign countries.
I am excited about the idea of high-speed rail in the United States. No matter where the technology originates, I think it is a step in the right direction for our national infrastructure to have more energy for transportation being electricity rather than petroleum. What is even more exciting is the ambitious proposal by the Chinese government to create vast high-speed rail network spanning Europe and Asia. If all works according to plan it will be possible to travel from Beijing to London in two days once the track is laid!
High speed rail will change the way we travel. I hope that it will change the way we use energy to travel, in particular. In the United States as of 2008 95% of our transportation energy comes from petroleum. If high-speed rail catches on as a popular way to make long trips and transport goods this number could shift, being out-weighed by the increased use of renewable energy and nuclear power (in the best case scenario) for transportation. High-trains use electric motors which would ultimately increase the demand for electricity in California – an increase which will not likely be met with new Coal power plants in the clean air loving Sunshine State. As far as the powering the tracks planned to stretch from London to Beijing, here’s to hoping that the current rate of China’s investment in renewable energy ($34.6 billion in 2009) continues to satisfy the increase in demand that these lines will create.