Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Student Author Nicholas Hoffman of the University of Missouri-Kansas City has published COMMENT: A DON QUIXOTE TALE OF MODERN RENEWABLE ENERGY: COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES FIGHT TO BAN COMMERCIAL WIND POWER ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
From the introduction:
This comment explores the legal nature of claims brought by landowners against zoning ordinances or other entities attempting to limit the use of private wind rights. Part II provides a discussion of the legal issues surrounding commercial wind energy and formulating wind as a property right connected to a fee simple interest in one's land. Part III discusses and explores recent cases furthering, stretching, and defining the legal issues. Finally, Part IV looks to the future implications and the horizon for wind energy in terms of its impacts on the surrounding world and how those impacts might shape the legal policies governing and defining wind rights. If wind energy is going to continue to grow, the interplay of incentive programs, tax credits, local government and community support, technological feasibility, and general unity in the law will need to interact on similar bases.
I find this article particulary interesting because the UGA Land Use Clinic recently worked with the Georgia Wind Working Group and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to create a guidebook and model wind ordinance for local governments wishing to faciliate, rather than ban, small scale wind facilities. Perhaps it's a matter of scope and scale - large scale wind facilities aren't particularly feasible in Georgia, and so we haven't had as much controversy over wind as other states.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Vermont Law professor and former Yale Forestry dean Gus Speth spent 48 hours in a DC jail over the weekend, protesting the plan for a 1,700 mile pipeline from Canada's tar sands to Texas.
According to this article from the Rutland Herald, Speth issued a statement from jail:
We the prisoners being held in the Central Cell Block of the D.C. Jail need company and encourage the continuation of the protests against the tar sands pipeline. … I've held numerous positions and public office in Washington but my current position feels like one of the most important.
There's a chance to join the Vermonters in their protest next week, if you're so inclined.
Thanks to Lora Lucero, land use prof at UNM for the tip on this story.
Jamie Baker Roskie
UPDATE: As it turns out, Lora herself was arrested Sunday as well...
Monday, August 22, 2011
Joshua P. Fershee (North Dakota) has posted Reliably Unreliable: The Problems with Piecemeal Federal Transmission and Grid Reliability Policies, Center for Energy and Environmental Law, University of Connecticut School of Law Policy Paper, July 2011. The abstract:
In the past, electricity was considered a local concern, but over time major portions of the electrical grid have become regional, national, and even international in scope. Electricity regulation has evolved into a complex web of multijurisdictional oversight, and this evolution has created both tensions and opportunities. National legislation and regulation have helped increase reliability, diversify the fuel mix for electricity generation, and create a more open market for electricity. However, national regulation designed to enhance open markets also created opportunities for abuse. In addition, the increasing level of federal oversight has led to conflicts between state and federal entities as the traditional sense of local control over siting and delivery of electricity has been eroded.
A large portion of the current U.S. transmission system is between thirty and fifty years old. As the transmission grid ages, reliability concerns increase; an old grid is simply more likely to fail. Still, new transmission infrastructure is expensive, laborintensive, and complex. Further, there are significant concerns about whether upgraded and expanded transmission lines are the best way to improve safety and reliability.Certainly, with the advent of microgrids and other technologies, transmission lines are not the sole option. A multi-faceted approach that considers local and regional needs, as well as those of the nation as a whole, is necessary.
There are several areas in need of consideration. Recent federal legislation designed to address transmission siting has been well intended, but limited in scope. Further, recent court decisions have all but eliminated the potential effectiveness of the federal siting authority. In addition, cost allocation issues for new energy facilities have emerged as paramount in the relatively new era of competitive markets for power generation, and these issues have been exacerbated by recent energy policy developments. Finally, policies designed to address public safety and environmental concerns have impeded (or run the risk of impeding) broader policy goals, because the policies are often limited in scope and not part of a comprehensive package then ensures necessary synergies to improve grid reliability.
There is no shortage of effort at the state, regional, and federal levels to improve electricity grid reliability and safety. Unfortunately, in many cases, the efforts have been competitive with other energy-related policies (such as climate change initiatives and renewable energy mandates), and jurisdictional conflicts have obstructed, rather than facilitated, many such efforts. It is time for Congress to provide clear authority to someone to make and coordinate changes. A failure to act to preserve and improve the safety and reliability of our electric system would be a costly and avoidable failure. And that is something no one can afford.
Prof. Fershee had a very interesting presentation at SEALS last month too; check out this timely paper.
I'm a bit tardy in getting this out, but over the summer the folks at Lewis & Clark's Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center won a big victory against Portland General Electric, effectively making Oregon a coal free state. LC law students were integrally involved in this case, making for one of the most fantastic clinical experiences ever (in my opinion).
Read more about it on the LC website. (Full disclosure: If it seems like I'm bursting with price, perhaps it's because I am an LC [undergraduate] alumna.)
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sean Nolon (Vermont) has posted Negotiating the Wind: A Framework to Engage Citizens in Siting Wind Turbines, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 12, p. 327, 2011. The abstract:
Electricity generated from wind turbines must be a central part of any renewable energy regime. The build out of any wind energy infrastructure policy relies on facility siting decisions at the local and state level. Local opposition in some areas has created an implementation impasse that is best addressed from a systematic perspective, recognizing that citizens play a central role in making significant land use decisions. Through this article, the author explores the nature of citizen opposition to locally unwanted land uses like wind turbines and proposes a suite of collaborative mechanisms to address concerns through effective citizen engagement in policy development and during local siting decisions. The author proposes a federal structure that provides incentives to encourage collaborative governance at the state and local level. The framework leaves state siting structures in place and provides resources to improve decision-making processes and the outcomes. By involving citizens effectively at the policy and siting level, the hope is that wind turbine siting decisions will be more effective. Instead of encouraging divisions among the levels of government, this model builds on their strengths and supports their weaknesses.
August 15, 2011 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Check out the main story on public radio's "This American Life." Entitled "The Game Changer," the piece is about the controversial practice of extracting natural gas by "fracking," but it goes beyond the usual coverage of the economics and the environmental cost to discuss the involvement of academics in the controversy:
A professor in Pennsylvania makes a calculation, to discover that his state is sitting atop a massive reserve of natural gas—enough to revolutionize how America gets its energy. But another professor in Pennsylvania does a different calculation and reaches a troubling conclusion: that getting natural gas out of the ground poses a risk to public health. Two men, two calculations, and two very different consequences.
The professor with the "revolutionary" calculation is getting rich and famous. The one with the "troubing conclusion" recently lost his job. Fascinating, if not completely surprising, stuff.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sara C. Bronin (Connecticut) has posted Solar Rights for Texas Property Owners, Texas Law Review See Also, Vol. 89, p. 79, 2011. The abstract:
In response to Jamie France's note, "A Proposed Solar Access Law for the State of Texas," Professor Bronin urges future commentators to focus on three additional areas of inquiry related to proposed solar rights regimes. Bronin argues that such proposals would be strengthened by discussion of potential legal challenges to the proposals, related political issues, and renewable energy microgrids.
Ms. France’s proposal for the State of Texas includes the elimination of preexisting private property restrictions that negatively affect solar access. Bronin argues that this proposal would be strengthened by a discussion of potential challenges under federal and state takings clauses. Additionally, Ms. France's suggestion that zoning ordinances protect homeowners' solar access would benefit from a discussion of challenges that might be raised by home rule cities in Texas. Furthermore, to provide a full perspective, a discussion of possible alternative rules for Houston, which lacks a zoning ordinance, might add to Ms. France's proposal, according to Bronin.
Bronin also emphasizes that proposals for solar rights regimes, such as that of Ms. France, often affect various interest groups, and commentators should address the political issues that this creates. Specifically, in discussing Ms. France's proposal for the State of Texas, Bronin identifies the lack of political support for small-scale renewable energy installations as opposed to large-scale projects, Texas's current budget shortfall, and powerful interests groups that are affected by the proposal.
Finally, Bronin encourages other commentators to consider advocating for renewable energy microgrids. Bronin has described these as "small-scale, low-voltage distributed generation between neighbors for energy derived from sources such as solar collectors, wind power systems, microturbines, geothermal wells, and fuel cells, which have minimal negative impact on the environment." Bronin believes that renewable energy microgrids "should be a key part of solar access regimes in any state."
Monday, May 16, 2011
The Kansas Department of Wildlife is asking a wind energy developer to spend an extra $567 million to route its project’s power lines away from “lesser prairie chicken” mating areas.
According to a Kansas City Star article published yesterday, the Department’s revised power transmission route would spare about 140 of the 20,000 to 40,000 lesser prairie chickens estimated to live in Kansas. Based on those figures, the developer is being asked to spend about $4 million per prairie chicken saved. An ordinary Kansas hunter can purchase a license to kill up to 40 of the birds for less than $21.
Usually, conflicts between bird conservationists and wind energy developers center around the risk that birds or bats will suffer fatal collisions with turbines and towers. Developers now tend to install wind turbines outside of migratory bird paths to help limit bird fatalities on wind farms.
In contrast, wind turbines and transmission systems threaten prairie chickens by inhibiting the birds’ breeding activities. A Bloomberg article from 2009 states that the species’ mating rituals involve an “elaborate dance” and suggests that “the chickens have learned to avoid such mating displays around structures like wind turbines or utility poles where predators may perch.”
Based on the available information, revising the transmission route to steer clear of the chickens’ breeding grounds seemingly isn’t cost-justified in this case. It will be interesting to see whether the Kansas Corporation Commission, which is deciding this dispute, reaches the same conclusion.
Monday, May 9, 2011
A recent proposal from two federal agencies recommends using zoning to encourage and coordinate utility-scale solar energy development on public lands.
Last December, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which summarizes a two-year study of the potential environmental impacts of industrial-scale solar energy development on BLM land in six western states. Based on the study, the DOE and BLM want to designate 24 specific areas covering more than 1,000 square miles of land in those states as Solar Energy Zones—areas where the BLM would prioritize its solar energy siting activities.
The PEIS is intriguing from an academic perspective in that it evidences the DOE’s and BLM’s deliberate effort to direct solar energy development only to those specific geographic areas that can accommodate the development for the lowest environmental cost. As Professor Sara Bronin recently emphasized in her article, Curbing Energy Sprawl with Microgrids, siting renewable energy projects in remote areas often requires expansive transmission infrastructure and other improvements that can intrude upon habitats and pristine wilderness. For those reasons, some conservation and wildlife protection groups have expressed dissatisfaction over the new PEIS and continue to oppose solar energy projects on federal lands (for example, Colorado-based Solar Done Right released a report last month sharply criticizing the document). On the other hand, the PEIS does attempt to address environmental concerns and should facilitate more cost-justified solar energy development on BLM property. And markets seem poised to move more of these projects forward: Google recently announced its commitment to invest $168 million in Brightsource’s Ivanpah Solar Project on BLM land in California’s Mojave Desert.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Land Use Prof Blog is delighted to welcome its newest guest blogger, Professor Troy A. Rule. Prof. Rule is an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. He teaches land use, secured transactions, and sales & leases, and his research focuses on renewable energy and property law. He's an alum of BYU and Chicago and worked in the finance industry before a law practice in Seattle focused on commercial real estate and wind energy.
We've featured his scholarship several times on the blog, including Shadows on the Cathedral: Solar Access Laws in a Different Light; Renewable Energy and the Neighbors; and, most recently, Sharing the Wind. His next piece is Airspace in a Green Economy, forthcoming in the UCLA Law Review. He was also recently on a well-received panel at ALPS with some of our regular Land Use bloggers.
It's a great privilege to introduce Troy and to add him to the list of outstanding new voices in land use law that we've been lucky enough to host here. It's fantastic that he has volunteered to guest-blog during May, which is the month that most of us love to procrastinate by reading blogs, but are too busy grading to write very much. So thanks to him for signing up! On top of all of his scholarly accomplishments, Troy Rule might just have the single greatest name of any junior scholar in the legal academy. We look forward to reading.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
I've previously blogged about litigation in Georgia against new coal-fired power plants. Today I received news from my friends at GreenLaw, the Atlanta-based public interest law firm handling this cases. Their media release:
Court Rules Against LS Power's Longleaf Coal-fired Power Plant
The Earth received a present, just in time for Earth Day. A Georgia administrative law court handed a victory to opponents of a proposed 1200 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Blakely, Georgia. According to the ruling issued on April 19, the state permit did not sufficiently limit harmful air pollution that will be emitted by the plant.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) must now reconsider its permit after the court found flaws in provisions for measuring toxic air pollutants.
EPD’s permit was to allow New Jersey-based LS Power to build the largest coal plant in the nation to be classified as a “minor” source of pollution--a strategy that would circumvent the stricter pollution controls required for a “major” source of pollution under the law.
The court found that the permit’s monitoring and reporting scheme could “miss” many tons of toxic air emissions each year, including emissions of known carcinogens like formaldehyde. The court also found that the permit did not account for toxic air emissions from the entire facility.
GreenLaw represented two citizen groups, Friends of the Chattahoochee (FOC) and the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, in their challenge to the EPD decision to approve construction of the largest new coal-fired power plant in Georgia in over 25 years.
“We are pleased that we were able to make progress on this complex case, which arbitrarily classifies a massive plant as a minor rather than major source of air pollution,” stated GreenLaw Executive Director Justine Thompson.”
Longleaf is designed to be a 1200 megawatt (MW) plant that would emit millions of tons of pollutants each year in Early County along the Chattahoochee River. LS Power can sell the power to buyers anywhere in the U.S. without being subject to any regulation by Georgia’s Public Service Commission.
Recently, plans to construct coal plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana have all been canceled. Other states are showing rising concern about the financial risks, high water consumption, and air pollution caused by coal plants. Georgia already has 10 coal-fired power plants, leading to public health costs of over six billion dollars each year from health problems such as respiratory illness and premature deaths attributed to the pollution emitted by these coal plants.
Congratulations to GreenLaw attorneys Kurt Ebersbach and George Hays, who labored valiently to win this case. A copy of the court's decision can be found here.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, April 11, 2011
Troy Rule (Missouri) has posted another interesting paper: Sharing the Wind, from The Environmental Forum, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 30-33, September/October 2010. The abstract:
Landowners today are increasingly selling or leasing to others the right to use the wind flowing across their land to generate electric power. For the first time in history, the right to capture wind in some areas of the country has become marketable and highly lucrative. This article describes landowner conflicts over the wind turbine wake interference in the context of commercial wind energy development. The article contrasts wind currents with water, oil, and wild animals and ultimately advocates an “option approach” to govern situations when neighbors compete with each other over scarce wind resources.
Great title, too. We hope to hear more from Prof. Rule soon.
Friday, March 25, 2011
This Article explores the role of the public trust doctrine in current efforts to site large-scale wind and solar projects on public and private lands. Notably, both proponents and opponents of such renewable energy projects have looked to the public trust doctrine to advance their goals. Proponents of large-scale renewable energy projects point to the environmental and climate change benefits associated with renewable energy development and argue that the use of public lands and large tracts of private lands to facilitate such projects are both in the public interest and consistent with the public trust doctrine. At the same time, parties opposed to particular renewable energy projects have argued that the land-intensive nature of these projects as well as their potential adverse impacts on endangered species, open space, aesthetic values, and pristine landscapes will result in a violation of the public trust doctrine. Which side is right? How do we balance the benefits and harms of large-scale renewable energy projects and what role should the public trust doctrine play in setting that balance? In addressing these questions, this Article discusses the extent to which the public trust doctrine applies to on-shore and off-shore renewable energy projects on private, state, and federal lands and waters. It then discusses the potential role state and federal legislation can play in codifying or expanding the application of the public trust doctrine with regard to state and federal lands and waters. It concludes by suggesting ways in which existing statutes and new, renewable energy-specific statutes can attempt to build on the public trust doctrine to encourage renewable energy development on public lands without compromising competing public trust values.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Troy A. Rule (Missouri) has posted Airspace in a Green Economy. The abstract:
The recent surge of interest in renewable energy and sustainable land use has made the airspace above land more valuable than ever before. However, a growing number of policies aimed at promoting sustainability disregard landowners‘ airspace rights in ways that can cause airspace to be underutilized. This article analyzes several land use conflicts emerging in the context of renewable energy development by framing them as disputes over airspace. The article suggests that incorporating options or liability rules into laws regulating airspace is a useful way to promote wind and solar energy while still respecting landowners‘ existing airspace rights. If properly tailored, such policies can facilitate renewable energy development without compromising landowners‘ incentives and capacity make optimal use of the space above their land. The article also introduces a new abstract model to argue that policymakers should weigh the likely impacts on both rival and non-rival airspace uses when deciding whether to modify airspace restrictions to encourage sustainability.
Troy was on a very good land use panel at ALPS with some of our blog friends, and we might be fortunate enough to hear more from him later this year (hint, hint).
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Patricia Salkin (Albany) and John Nolon (Pace) have posted Integrating Sustainable Development Planning and Climate Change Management: A Challenge to Planners and Land Use Attorneys, published in Planning and Environmental Law, Vol. 63, p. 3, March 2011. The abstract:
This essay is based on our new book, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell (West 2011) which describes the close relationship between sustainable development and climate change management. It begins with a discussion of recent discussions and agreements at the international level and it provides a brief history of sustainable development and climate change policy. The article then explores national and local strategies to address sustainable development goals. Local planning and zoning, transit oriented development, energy efficiency and green infrastructure issues are also addressed.
The book, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell, is really helpful for lawyers, planners, and students in getting an orientation to this very hot topic. The article provides some great examples and pushes us to think about the federal/state/local/sublocal legal divides that land users have to face.
March 10, 2011 in Books, Clean Energy, Climate, Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Property, Scholarship, Smart Growth, State Government, Sustainability, Transportation, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
It was great to have the chance at ALPS to get a preview of a work-in-progress by Ezra Rosser (American). In his talk, "The Limits of (Progressive) Property," Ezra articulated the reasons for his pessimism about property law as a vehicle for progressive social change, responding to the views expressed by several leading neo-Aristotelian property scholars in a 2009 special issue of the Cornell Law Review. I am looking forward to seeing Ezra's work in print.
Recently Ezra has posted his forthcoming article, Offsetting and the Consumption of Social Responsibility, 89 Wash. L. Rev. ___ (2011). Here's the abstract:
This Article examines the relationship between individual consumption and consumption-based harms by focusing on the rise in consumption offsetting. Carbon offsets are but the leading edge of a rise in consumer options for offsetting externalities associated with consumption. Moving from examples of quasi offsetting to environmental offsetting and the possibility of poverty offset institutions, I argue that offsetting provides a valuable mechanism for individuals to correct for the harms associated with consumption. This article makes two major contributions to how we understand the relationship between consumption and social responsibility. First, it identifies an emerging offsetting phenomenon in seemingly discrete market practices and gives suggestions for improving upon them. Second, it suggests that by taking seriously both consumption and externalities, progress can be made on everything from the environment to global poverty. Offsetting, while not getting at all moral or societal obligations, does root such obligations in the shared activity, and perhaps belief, of Americans: consumption.
March 9, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
NPR this evening featured a story about a dispute in West Virginia over the preservation of Blair Mountain, site of a 1921 miner uprising that claimed the lives of 100 men. Massey Energy, owner of the mine in which 29 workers died nearby last April, is one of two companies that owns land adjacent to the site. After being placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Blair Mountain's protection was removed by state officials thereby eliminating a barrier to the leveling of the site through mountain top removal of the coal within.
March 5, 2011 in Clean Energy, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Historic Preservation, History, Industrial Regulation, Oil & Gas, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, February 7, 2011
We've got a lot of exciting things going on here in Buffalo these days. At the end of March, we'll be holding a symposium and community forum on fracking. I hope to see some of you there!
- Jessica Owley
Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy
March 28-29, 2011 at University at Buffalo School of Law
Buffalo, New York
On March 28-29, 2011 the University at Buffalo Environmental Law Program and the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy will host the conference: Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy.
Horizontal-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, and its potential effects is an important environmental and energy concern for the nation. This conference provides an opportunity for a scholarly exchange of ideas regarding the issue as well as a forum for community discussion.
We welcome submissions on any related topic, including the following:
- Hydrofracking and Nuisance Law
- Impacts on Tribal Lands
- Administrative law and the EPA Rulemakings
- Environmental Review Processes
- Application of federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act
- Energy issues, in including the Energy Policy Act and DOE policy
- Endocrine Disruption and Human Health Impacts
Authors will have an opportunity to publish their work in the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal. You are invited to submit a paper or presentation proposal for of no more than 250 words by Monday, February 21st to email@example.com.
For more information, contact Jessica Owley [firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-645-8182] or Kim Diana Connolly [email@example.com or 716-645-2092]
February 7, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Exurbs, Federal Government, Local Government, New York, NIMBY, Nuisance, Oil & Gas, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, January 28, 2011
Hannah J. Wiseman (Tulsa) has posted Expanding Regional Renewable Governance, forthcoming in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 35 (2011). The abstract:
Energy drives economies and quality of life, yet accessible traditional fuels are increasingly scarce. Federal, state, and local governments have thus determined that renewable energy development is essential and have passed substantial requirements for its use. These lofty goals will fail, however, if policymakers rely upon existing institutions to govern renewable development. Renewable fuels are fugitive resources, and ideal property for renewable technology is defined by the strength of the sunlight or wind that flows over it. When a renewable parcel is identified, a new piece of property is superimposed upon existing boundaries and jurisdictional lines. The entities within these boundaries all possess rights to exclude, and this creates a tragedy with strong anticommons and regulatory commons elements, which hinder renewable development. This Article argues that the many exclusion rights within renewable parcels must be consolidated and governed by a regional agency to address the governance challenges in renewable development, and it analyzes elements of existing regional institutions to suggest the ideal structure of this agency. Once formed, the regional framework should be applied to other areas of energy planning. States and municipalities share oil and gas reservoirs, electricity transmission constraints, and energy generation needs, and collaborative governance in these areas is necessary for a secure future.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I didn't have time to watch it last night, so I asked my students this morning to identify the land use issues in the President's speech. They mentioned two things: high-speed rail, and clean energy. From the Associated Press report, here's the key quote on HSR:
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying - without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already under way.
Potentially faster than flying, and they won't touch your junk! And here are two early responses. First, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fastlane blog, America has a Future to Win; DOT stands ready to help:
As the President said last night, American businesses and workers are now competing in a global economy. If we are to thrive in competitive markets, we must be able to move goods and people faster and more reliably than ever.
At DOT we have been working hard to help do just that. And the projects we are supporting to rebuild America's transportation infrastructure are creating good jobs for American workers.
But the Reason Foundation's Samuel Staley is not so sanguine. Noting that the President cited China's massive investments in HSR, Staley argues that historical, economic, and geographic factors will render a similar HSR program impractical in the U.S. From President Obama, China, High-Speed Rail and the Sputnik Moment:
A key factor in ensuring high-speed rail's success is the closeness of employment and population centers. The largest Chinese cities aren't nearly as spread out as U.S. cities in terms of distance and the high speed rail lines are connecting larger urban cities.
China has 120 cities with populations of one million or more, and its cities are expected to add the equivalent of another United States - 300 million people - by 2025. The high-speed rail line will connect to most cities with populations greater than 500,000. Given existing levels of very low mobility and income, rail would be a natural beneficiary of rising travel demand as the travel market matures.
It will be interesting to see where the debate over HSR goes from here, particularly in light of the new fiscal and political constraints. I'm also curious about how many people out there may not have thought very much about the HSR issue before the President gave it a mention in the State of the Union.
UPDATE: I was planning on posting this anyway, but then as I was preparing for my afternoon Property I class, I realized it's a great tie-in to the famous INS v. Associated Press case that was assigned for today: If INS can't report the news it learns from AP's public bulletin, how come it's OK for me to blog about information I got from the AP's website? Discuss! Fun stuff.