the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Silly Money, Green Stew

Posted by Jeff Id on June 25, 2011

The mindless will do anything to go green.  It doesn’t matter one bit how little financial sense it makes.  It doesn’t matter that peoples lives are destroyed, its for the better, because they say it is.  The article linked is actually about destroying farmers in favor of disrupting birds, but the end of the article has this little quote:

It is estimated that it will cost $45 billion to connect San Francisco to San Diego by high-speed rail. State and federal taxpayers will be footing most of the bill. Advocates of the high-speed rail argue that it will create thousands of jobs and will make California businesses more successful, thereby stimulating the economy.

45 billion is a lot of money for a train that can only turn left but that is what we get today.   I have an alternative plan.  Let’s just give one million dollars tax free to 45 thousand random employed people and then they won’t have to work anymore, thereby directly creating “thousands of open jobs” for others to take.  Alternatively, they will blow it buying stuff from actually profitable California businesses rather than trains that won’t make money.  We know the train plan isn’t profitable because of the recent history of rail elsewhere in the US, and the fact that if they were planning a true profit, 45 billion dollars of government money wouldn’t be required. I suppose the beneficiaries of my plan will be disappointed in a few years though because it is near certain that someone else in California will vote to take their money later on and give it to different people for the latest green stew.

Oh well.

The billboard is on I-94 westbound between Milwaukee and Madison just before Lake Mills. Sent by anonymous reader. I'm glad I'm not alone!

17 Responses to “Silly Money, Green Stew”

  1. gallopingcamel said

    Here in Florida we had a much less expensive high speed rail project and when Governor Scott vetoed it a couple of months ago, a bunch of legislators tried to sue him.

    Here in Florida we have “Tax and Spend” Republicans like Thad Altman.

  2. Mescalero said

    Rather than jump head first into the shallow end while blindfolded, can someone point me in the
    direction of a study that provides details on costs & benefits of this proposed rail line?

  3. timetochooseagain said

    2-considering that Amtrak loses substantial amounts of money every year I just don’t think demand exists for rail-based transit on a level to cover even the costs of maintaining current lines, never mind creating a bunch of new lines. I don’t think one needs a study to figure that out. But I would also be interested in such a study if it has been done.

    One other point: if there is a substantial benefit to be expected in excess of the costs, then why is government investment necessary to get this to happen? If there is money to be made, private investors will come.

  4. Mescalero said

    3-You have a interesting point, in fact a point on which I’m trying to get some information. I live in the Los Angeles metro area, and I can
    remember when people were against the metro gold, blue, green and red lines for all kinds of reasons. That was then, but if I have to go
    to downtown LA now, given what I’d have to pay for parking and gas, give me the Metro any day (which in today’s world of commute traffic
    during the week means standing room only). If I had a lot of business in the SF Bay Area and lived in LA, I would seriously consider
    high-speed rail instead of air travel. That line of thinking doesn’t make me a greenie or a AGW alarmist, it’s just my practical side showing.

    Your second point is interesting. Consider space travel — commercial companies in the space travel business were literally unthinkable twenty
    years ago. Now look what’s happening. As the government blazed the trail for commercial companies to pick up the ball for travel to LEO in
    space, why can’t the government do the same for high speed rail? I wonder what the Japanese have to say about all this.

  5. Brian Hall said

    The justification is at base simply that automobiles are bad, and anything whatsoever that discourages or substitutes for them is good, regardless of cost. So if you find any “cost-benefit” analysis, it is sure to contain heavy reliance on hand-waving about cutting the indirect costs of car travel.

  6. Frank K. said

    “Advocates of the high-speed rail argue that it will create thousands of jobs and will make California businesses more successful, thereby stimulating the economy.”

    What a total bunch of BS!

    We’ve already seen that the $800 Billion stimulus went to stimulating unions and government workers (like the $180,000 man – Jim Hansen). The climate industry got lots of climate ca$h out of it.

    Meanwhile, our mountain debt grows high and higher…

  7. Brian Hall said

    #4, Mescalero;
    If ” the government blazed the trail for commercial companies to pick up the ball for travel to LEO in
    space” then it did so inadvertently. There was never any intent to yield the field to private enterprise, and in fact there were heavy roadblocks placed in the way of any such attempt, until economics and the inevitable consequences of poli-bureau dithering caught up with them.
    In the meantime, many decades and untold benefits were lost.

    If the government wants to be a trail-blazer and heavy first adopter with the intent to pass the torch, let it say so and make explicit provision for that up front. But that is NOT the vision of the left, the Democrats, or the bureaucracy.

  8. timetochooseagain said

    4-You’d prefer to take the rail because the rates are low compared to gas prices, at least for you apparently. But this is not the same thing as the rail being cost effective! The problem is that these rates are (generally) too low to cover the costs, which is why they tend to run deficits every year. Believe me I’m not against people making the economic decision to take the train-I myself have done so quite a bit as I don’t have a car-I take Tri-Rail. But these relatively small scale projects are not nearly as bad of a deal as federal government coming in and creating unnecessary “super trains” to go longer distances faster. Heck, their slow long distance trains are big wastes of money (the aforementioned Amtrak).

    As for the “trail-blazing” efforts of the government in Aerospace…I’m not sure why anyone thinks that NASA’s efforts to go to the moon decades ago relates to the fact that we finally have private space flight today, but the comparison is not that great, since NASA didn’t try to provide an unnecessary service at great cost and low return, their role, if any, was essentially R&D with respect to modern private spaceflight, if they had any at all. They tested the technology, and proved it could work. The market only got involved in trying to provide it as a service when it was starting to make some economic sense. If the government wants to somehow “research” and “test” high-speed rail, that’s one thing. Building lines for commercial use across the country before the technology is ready for prime time, represents an enormous undertaking and irresponsible risk with the tax payers money, to be generous. Most likely we will be footing the bill in taxes for these lines indefinitely, which is not a risk but a guaranteed permanent, persistent loss.

    Incidentally, I hate to bad mouth my own future profession, but we haven’t come even close to making back the money “invested” by the federal government in space flight.

  9. Ecoeng said

    Yes, Jeff, you are absolutely right that under the prevailing green ideology any sort of outrageous nuttiness is possible.

    Here in Australia the ruling Labor (aka Democrat) Party which was able to form government after the last election only by entering into an agreement with 4 independents, proposes now to levy a carbon tax of about $26/tonne C on all coal fired power stations, blast furnaces, cement kilns etc.

    However, rather than using that revenue to fund taxation reduction incentives for solar, wind, wave power, deep geothermal and natural gas companies, carbon sequestration projects etc., (which would at least have had some logic to it) they propose instead to pour it into:

    (a) providing tax cuts and increased welfare payments ‘targeted at those who need it most’ to individual families to offset the increased charges for power which the power utilities will now have to ask; and

    (b) creating an even larger Federal bureaucracy to administer the new tax on the power utilities and the new ‘electricity hardship welfare payments’ system their proposal will require.

    The amazing thing is that the government doesn’t even hide the ridiculously irrational item (b) above, proudly proclaiming it as socially positive (choke) and acting as though it is a brilliant scheme! Not a word of course about how long these new style energy cost-based welfare payments are meant to last!

    Meanwhile they have also been steadily winding down tax incentives for solar, wind power etc ever since the the 08/09 crash as well as engaging in disastrously wasteful projects ruin by bureaucrats (who can usually barely manage to wipe their own bottoms in my experience) such as a $1.5 billion dollar home ceiling insulation scheme – simply abandoned after too many houses burnt down and people died due to electrical wiring ruptures and short circuits via the aluminum foil and to many fits had to be done over again.

    Australia is very fortunate at being (still) in an economically and socially healthy position with a middle class comprising about 90 – 95% of the population, thanks largely to the economic prudence of previous governments, a great wealth of natural mineral and agricultural resources, technologically sophisticated mining and agroindustry and a massive client nation called China. Our dollar is now worth ~US$1.05 – having been worth ~US$0.50 10 years ago.

    But if it now all now turns to s**t we (and you) will know exactly why!

  10. sherro1 said

    Ecoeng, While mostly in agreement, we are not “fortunate” in in having “a great wealth of natural mineral resources”. More correctly, we are fortunate in having skilled people who were able to discover the mineral resources, some of which were detective jobs far harder than anything Sherlock Holmes solved. I also take timetochooseagain & Jeff’s point that it was private enterprise that did most of the finding, though early Government regional surveys were most helpful in the pre 1970 period.

    For Brian Hall “The justification is at base simply that automobiles are bad”, maybe, but are you ever going to have the fun of driving a multi-billion dollar train? Think of the horsepower, what you could do if you tweaked the engine, lowered the suspension, sniffed the nitro .. nah, it’s not yours to play with, only to pay subsidy taxes for it. In my State of Victoria, Governments have spent over a billion dollars on a public transport ticketing sysyem and it is not working yet. We were not asked if we wanted one and we were not told it would cost a billion with no result.

    The central argument is whether scarce funds are best entrusted to those who generate them, or those who take them by taxation. History shows about 90:10, at least in my non-neutral mind. Unfortunately, people are making an art form or gaming the tax income system, so that for example an unnamed woman made a fortune out of placing people in employment, with no subsequent audit to show if they are still in employement – thus demonstrating if it was tax money well spent.

  11. Ecoeng said

    Hi Sherro1

    As an immigrant earth scientist into Australia long ago (mid 1970s) I agree entirely. We have many clever forebears to thank – not only in mineral exploration, but also inventors of advances in mineral processing and aids to mineral exploration – let’s not forget that froth flotation and atomic absorption spectrometry were invented in Australia – but also in agriculture e.g. the stump jump plow, myxomatosis etc. Pity about the cane toads. More recently I’ve done my own little bit – inventing a hydromet process allowing pyrometallurgical manufacture of magnesium metal out of waste Latrobe Valley fly ashes (or any other lignite Class C fly ash) at 90 – 95% recovery, at a time when China controls 89% of the world’s magnesium production.

    I also agree with your central argument. History shows governments of all persuasions do things poorly 90% of the time. Something I find particularly nasty is the way bureaucrats consider themselves to be the arbiters of political correctness, thus leading them to interfere directly and disastrously in the various processes of commercial innovation. We need look no further than to the current cynical efforts by green-hued bureaucrats to sink coal seam gas and shale gas exploration, much less its production. I am currently involved in a project to better define useful gas reserves in old coal mine workings, where it’s extraction doesn’t even require fraccing yet the bureacratic opposition becomes more and more Kakkaesque by the day!

  12. Alan Esworthy said

    11 – Ecoeng, “Kakkaesque” is a delightful coinage! If it was accidental, you should go ahead and lie and take credit.

    As for the govt not doing things poorly 10% of the time (I prefer to put it negatively), we can never know, ceteris paribus, how that tax money would have been spent had it been left in the pockets of the taxpayers.

  13. Brian H said

    Clue1 — my reference to “handwaving” about the costs of permitting car travel. Clue2 — the hyperbolic “anything whosoever” “regardless of cost”. Clue3 — any and all of my other comments.
    Conclusion: I was being contemptuous when I used the word “justification”; it was in the sense of “rationalization”, “excuse”.

    So your critique and blast are aimed 180° off target.

  14. Brian H said

    The rationale (see, Sherro?) for suppressing any form of cheap energy is explicitly that it empowers humanity.

    To quote the (unfortunately) indomitable Stanford Über-Green Paul Ehrlich, “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

  15. Geoff Sherrington said

    14 Brian H Wait on, I think we are on the same side here. I was cracking a bit of fun, not having a blast at you. I’ve helped provide the world with an enormous supply of cheap energy (through uranium). I’m afraid that at 70 I don’t give a rat’s about empowering humanity. I don’t even know what that Newspeak means.We used to Rubbish Paul E. and his Missus and still do. Mixed signals somewhere? This idiot child writing here, while a teenager or soon after, often fired a Vickers machine gun, a Thompson sub-machine gun, a .30 cal, a .50 cal, a Bren gun, an Owen gun and last but not least a pink plastic repeating water pistol. The only near harm I did was a near miss with Vickers .303 tracer, aimed at a line of pelicans about 1,000 yards away. Normally I would have hit. Those were fun days. These present days are full of misery guts getting all the attention.

  16. Geoff Sherrington said

    12 Alan Esworthy “Kakkaesque” is normal talk for a coalie. They are different.

    Ecoeng, what happened to that Magnesite deposit near Rockhampton?

  17. Brian Hall said

    #15, Geoff S.;
    Yeah, I know. I was agreeing and reinforcing your point. As for “empowering”, I was using it in the plain, naive sense of giving capability and energy and options. None of which are available in the Grand Green Scheme of things.

    Plus I was making a subtle jab at buzzspeak, turning it back on its usual purveyors (AKA the post-modern, progressive, Watermelonismists).

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