China's Fast Trains to Nowhere -- President Obama Learns the Wrong Policy Lesson From Abroad Again

Exhibit One: President Obama has cited Spain's "successful" efforts at centralized solar planning:

"[T]hink of what’s happening in countries like Spain ... where they’re making real investments in renewable energy. They’re surging ahead of us, poised to take the lead in these new industries," declared then-President-elect Barack Obama back in January 16, 2009.

Spain's solar power fiasco has now gone bust.

Exhibit Two: In his most recent State of the Union speech, the president promised:

China is building faster trains and newer airports. ... Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. 

With regard to high speed passenger rail, a wonderful op/ed in Sunday's Washington Post explains that the president is once again advocating a centralized top/down that has massively failed. As Post editorial page staffer Charles Lane reports China's railroad ministry ...

... has run up $271 billion in debt — roughly five times the level that bankrupted General Motors. But ticket sales can’t cover debt service that will total $27.7 billion in 2011 alone. Safety concerns also are cropping up.

[Deposed railroad minister] Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a “moon shot” and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.

Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow — without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.

The fact is that China’s train wreck was eminently foreseeable. High-speed rail is a capital-intensive undertaking that requires huge borrowing upfront to finance tracks, locomotives and cars, followed by years in which ticket revenue covers debt service — if all goes well. “Any . . . shortfall in ridership or yield, can quickly create financial stress,” warns a 2010 World Bank staff report.

Such “shortfalls” are all too common. Japan’s bullet trains needed a bailout in 1987. Taiwan’s line opened in 2007 and needed a government rescue in 2009. In France, only the Paris-Lyon high-speed line is in the black. ...

Meanwhile, in the United States, Obama’s high-speed rail plan, originally set at $53 billion over six years, has gotten a thorough democratic vetting. Three freshly elected Republican governors spurned federal dollars for high-speed rail, fearing a long-term burden on their budgets; homeowners in liberal Northern California are fighting construction through their neighborhoods; and the president agreed with Congress to trim current-year spending as part of a budget deal.

On the whole, I’d say China should envy us.

And the New York Times (home of fast rail pusher Tom Friedman) piles on. In an op/ed Stanford historian Richard White explains how subsidizing the transcontinental railroad was a financial flop requiring taxpayer bailouts in the 19th century. (Obama SOTU soundbite: "America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad....")

As White reports:

In his State of the Union address, President Obama compared high-speed rail to the 19th-century transcontinental railroads as parallel examples of American innovation. I fear he may be right.

For the country as a whole, the Pacific Railway Act of 1864 and subsequent legislation subsidizing the transcontinental railroads — the lines that crossed the continent from the 98th meridian to the Pacific Coast — were the worst laws money could buy. By encouraging dumb growth, those laws sacrificed public good for private gain, and Americans came to regret it. ...

Proponents of the transcontinental railroads promised all kinds of benefits they did not deliver. They claimed that the railroads were needed to save the Union, but the Union was already saved before the first line was completed. The best Western farmlands would have been settled without the railroads; their impact on other lands was often environmentally disastrous. For three decades California commodities could move more cheaply, and virtually as quickly, by sea. The subsidies the railroads received enriched contractors and financiers, but nearly all the railroads went into receivership, some multiple times; the government rescued others.

As more astute members of Congress came to recognize, the subsidies were a mistake. One described the major drawback of a proposal for the government to guarantee bonds: “If there be profit, the corporations may take it; if there be loss, the government must bear it.”

After 1872, the country turned against the subsidizing of large corporations. It was a little late. Fraud and failure left a legacy that would lead to four decades of government attempts to get back what had so carelessly been given away. In the 1890s, Congress was still trying to recover money from the Pacific Railway.

Yet here we are again.

Yes, indeed.

Of course, my Reason colleagues have explaining for some time just how stupid centralized government rail planning is, here, here [video], and here.

And then there's nationalizing health care.

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  • Fluffy||

    But The Truth told me that China will BURY us!

    This CAN'T be right!

  • The Truth||

    Naw, I was jus' playin.

  • Fluffy||

    I think this is one time it's appropriate to look at the sociology of US liberal perception of overseas rail program "successes".

    We will never convince liberals that rail is a loser because:

    1. Rail helps unions.
    2. Rail helps cities.
    3. Rail helps Rick Steeves - style asshole tourists.
    4. Rail helps punk college kids who want to aimlessly wander the countryside.

    With those four constituencies lining up behind rail, liberals will never turn on it.

    I have some pro-rail tendencies myself, but that's only because I still believe that in the absence of ALL state transportation subsidies and controls, rail would end up winning in the market competition for certain types of intercity travel. But the left loves rail whether it's the right idea or not.

  • waffles||

    I'd rather aimlessly wander in a car. But I like to go where I want to go when I want to go there. This baffles the choo-choo-crowd.

  • omg||

    One of my German co-workers told me about how he had to get a hotel the day before on a trip to Munich because the train from his town didn't run early enough for him to make an early-morning appointment for some paperwork. But he still argued that a train is superior to a car in terms of transportation.

  • ||

    In regards to number 4 fluffy, can't little bastards just buy a van like punk college kids of yore?

  • Fluffy||

    No, because it's not sufficient that one kid be able to actually bum his way around.

    All the other asshole kids have to be able to sit around and talk about how they MIGHT go bum around.

    "Yeah, man, you can, like, go to Europe and buy a Eurorail pass, and like you can go wherever you want ALL SUMMER and NEVER SHOWER!"

    "Wow, dude, that would totally be the shit. Yeah man!"

    "Yeah, if the corporations didn't keep us from having high speed rail here in the US, we could do that here, too, man. We could, like, go to San Francisco to go to that hippie jam festival."

    "Yeah, man. Damn corporations. Hey, pass me those Doritos."

    (Kids pass out and never take any trip to Europe or San Francisco or anything of the kind.)

    You'd have to give every kid in the US a van to get rid of conversations like this.

  • ||

    That is just sad. And even more sad that it is exactly true.

  • AU H20||

    Wait, are you asking American college kids to get off their asses and, y'know, do something?

    Seriously, I love how I always hear them bitch about the plight of the homeless in my town, but when I press them on what they do about it, it's often nothing. I volunteer at a soup kitchen Sunday mornings about once a month. I should go more, but it is always nice to be able to reply, "Yeah, shut the fuck up, I work at a soup kitchen."

  • alan||

    I do pretty much the exact same. "Shut the fuck up, I'm a bum fight promoter" some how doesn't go over so well with the mamby pamby crowd.

    You'd be surprised at the crazy ass fight moves they learn on the streets. If boxing is ballet, than bum fighting is modern dance.

  • ||

    Hobo Capoeira.

  • Paul||

    You'd have to give every kid in the US a van to get rid of conversations like this.

    It would be cheaper.

  • Bingo||

    I too have pro-rail tendencies, mostly as a result of trying to avoid air travel in the foreseeable future.

  • Greer||

    And why do you think that the train will have less of a TSA presence?

    Same shit, different station.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I have to hand it to the Amtrak police for actually banning TSA intrusion on their ground.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    That won't last long. Napolitano's been making noise about integrating the TSA for train travel for some time.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/ad.....the-metro-

  • ||

    What, exactly, is a Rick Steeves-style asshole tourist?

  • Fluffy||

    Rick Steeves makes a point, in every city or region in Europe he visits, of highlighting how great the rail system is, how great the urban mass transit is, how convenient it is if you want to visit the main tourist sites, etc.

    And when he does so, you can just hear in his voice the "I watch PBS and I also like everything else on Stuff White People Like" style disdain he has for the fact that the US doesn't duplicate the European system.

    Because, after all, who cares if it wastes money? The important thing is making sure that affluent white tourists can ride on trains to go to museums and can nod to each other on the train and say, "Isn't this great? Isn't this convenient?"

  • ||

    Ah, thank you for the explanation. I was blissfully unaware of this weeping sore until now.

    While getting ready for work this morning, I had the Science Channel on in the background and they had some engineering show on about about this insanely long rail tunnel in Switzerland and the painstaking and astronomically expensive measures they were taking to avoid another Gotthard tunnel style disaster.

    All I could think was "Is this suddenly 1879? Why the fuck are we still tunneling through mountains for choo-choos, when we have jets?"

  • ||

    "Is this suddenly 1879? Why the fuck are we still tunneling through mountains for choo-choos, when we have jets?"

    So the planes can crash into the same mountain? No thx. MAGIC RAIL FTW!

  • roystgnr||

    Jets just need better marketing. They're "Trains... that FLY!"

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Bulk freight isn't very cheap to ship by air. The tunnel is basically a subsidy for passenger autos by forcing trucks off the road (by law) and taxing the freight harder, which is mostly bridge traffic that has no choice but to go through the Alps.

  • ||

    Bulk freight isn't very cheap to ship by air...

    Yes but since the internets are a series of tubes.....

  • Ice Nine||


    Rick Steeves makes a point, in every city or region in Europe he visits, of highlighting how great the rail system is, how great the urban mass transit is, how convenient it is if you want to visit the main tourist sites, etc.
    And when he does so, you can just hear in his voice the "I watch PBS and

    Ah, thank you for the explanation. I was blissfully unaware of this weeping sore until now.

    LOL. Yeah, what a load of bullshit that was - assigning someone's political views to him and then castigating him for those! What, Steves is supposed to write travel guides for Europe without mentioning one of the primary modes of transportation there? And, ya know, his job is to write travel guides - not political commentary. (Incidentally, I think Rick Steves is a big weiner also, FWIW.)

  • Fluffy||

    Look, the guy has no complaint, since I watch his motherfucking show and know who he is, which is more than you can say for 99% of the population.

    I am absolutely, 100% entitled to listen to the guy perform his self-written show and then draw conclusions about his personality from the words, context and manner of delivery he uses.

  • Ice Nine||

    Hey, what can I say to address that kind of logic? I'll let it go at simply conceding that you are supremely - and near-solely, I guess - qualified to decide for Steves what his political views are.

  • ||

    True story: Al Franken modeled Stuart Smalley after Rick Steeves.

  • ||

    Good job describing Rick Steeves. I was trying to come up with something, but couldn't nail down what I wanted to say. Your description works well.

    You forgot his annoying lisp though.

  • ||

    Oops. Bringing up the lisp means you are nothing but an ideological homophobe, and thus discredits every point made in this entire article. The Liberals win another debate.

  • alan||

    The most annoying type of lisp comes from female television commercial voice overs usually done when they are trying to convey gooey sentiments about how much kids love the product they are pitching. Ten times more annoying than any gay gay I've ever heard with a lisp. Even defending the gays, I went full on misogynist with that one, so still not out of the dog house.

  • ||

    For the record, I don't think that Steeves is actually gay, but he does have something weird going on with his voice.

    @alan:

    I know what you mean, I have heard that. Choosy moms choose SHUT THE FUCK UP!

  • Jim in Denver||

    So in your estimation he's gay because he has a lisp?

  • ||

    They never talk about how high the taxes are and how subsidized those systems are. One of the things that drives me the most crazy about the type of people you are talking about is that they have no idea how every day Europeans live. My neighbors are right out of a Rick Steves film. And none of them will believe me when I tell them about my various German friends and how much lower their standard of living was compared to the US and how most of them would kill for a green card.

  • ||

    You should have them check out the show House Hunters: International.

    On the show they have people trying to find places to live in other countries. The European episodes always feature tiny, unaccommodating, really expensive apartments.

    "Here we have a nice flat, it's 450,000 pounds. It's 100 square metres, there's no heat, but there is a spot on the floor for a campfire.If you want electricity you can apply for a generator permit. Oh, and it has a tarpaulin roof."

  • Trespassers Yorkshireman||

    Tarpaulin roof?! We'd have killed for a tarpaulin roof!

  • ||

    Yup. I've seen it because my wife is drawn to lame TV shows like some sort of voodoo curse. The money these people put up for something half the size of my mediocre townhouse yet with nowhere to park their one tiny car (if they have a car at all) within walking distance of a subway (or Tube...wtf?) stop ("Only two kilometres in the never ending rain. Yay!") is beyond me. I lived better in college with 3 other people than these urban professionals live in their early 40's in Europe.

    The best thing about America? It's not everywhere else.

  • ||

    It's 100 square metres, there's no heat, but there is a spot on the floor for a campfire.

    "You just have to move the bidet out of the way."

  • ||

    Start fire in bidet.

  • ||

    Start fire in bidet.

    *insert link to youtube clip of Zoidberg's undersea house burnt-down*

  • ||

    The Flaming Bidet, a public house

  • I Don't Wipe||

    That really burns my ass.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "It's only 60 square meters, but look at the open floor plan."

    That's because it's a fucking box. I especially like the ones with the "nice size master bedroom" where "nice size" means "the same size as the closet in my first apartment."

    On the flip side, HH: I did go to the city to which I am going to expatriate.

  • Fluffy||

    What I can't understand is when they're in places like Panama and Nicaragua and everything costs that much.

    I guess it makes sense that everyone there lives in a shack made of corrugated tin, when it costs 400,000 US dollars to buy some 8 room bungalow that looks like it was built by a crooked and incompetent Florida builder going through a difficult divorce.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    $251 per square foot in the last Panama City one I saw. And 6 months after buying it while under construction they had boxes theoretically containing the rest of the necessary building materials stacked around the place. I think I'll pass.

  • Rrabbit||

    my various German friends and how much lower their standard of living was compared to the US and how most of them would kill for a green card.

    Must have been a long time ago, John. The percentage of Germans who would want a Green Card currently is pretty low.

  • ||

    five years ago before the 08 bust. But now, that is probably true.

  • ||

    I watch his shows, but I agree--he does push mass transit a little hard. He's probably crazy NW liberal, anyway.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    As a libertarian travel writer I'm not above praising a city's mass transit. But I always add "Thank God I'm not paying for it."

  • ||

    Come to Lexington... I show you buses painted to look like trolleys that everyone calls trolleys despite them being painted buses... and other crimes against the English language.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I was just in Frankfort a couple of weeks ago.

    Bourbon Trail. Woo Hoo!

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I also added the Frankfort Convention Center/Capital Plaza to my list of ugliest buildings in America.

  • ||

    Frankfort is a shithole. It looks like the 90% of the state that makes Kentucky a laughingstock.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    The two biggest industries are government and bourbon. What could possibly go wrong?

  • prolefeed||

    The two biggest industries are government and bourbon. What could possibly go wrong?

    The government part of that?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    My impression of Frankfort was that it was like a rather ugly (but much cleaner) American city. Not sure if that's true any more, though, it's been a while.

  • ||

    Uglier than 1st Mariner Arena?

  • ||

  • robc||

    Frankforters (at least the rim dwellers) get upset when you refer to them as Morlocks and Elois.

    But that is what Frankfort is, a big hole in the ground.

  • robc||

    Louisville also has the faux-trolley buses. Stupid.

  • Octothorpe||

    Chicago had them also, until they ran out of money to operate them.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Huh. I always liked Rick Steves, mainly because he pushes people to get out of the guided tours and the beaten path and find something actually interesting. I can see what you mean, though.

  •  ||

    Rail makes much more sense for European countries when you consider the fact that the continent is half the size of the U.S.

    http://goeurope.about.com/od/e.....on-map.htm

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "3. Rail helps Rick Steeves - style asshole tourists."

    Why does Rick Steeves never go anywhere but Europe? One would think that Europe is the center of the Universe from watching his shows.

    He never goes to Asia or Australia, or New Zealand or South or Central America.

  • ||

    That's his schtick, so what?

    Besides, that is where most American tourist go when they leave North America.

  • ||

    I believe he focuses on Europe so he can give inside information for his tour business. And, of course, the simple fact is that Europe is the U.S.'s Disney World.

  • Rick Steves = racist||

    Europe = the white man's view of the rest of the world.

  • ||

    I once survived for a week in a South France wine cellar, living on guana droppings and cork. I would kill to go somewhere by train.

  • ||

    never anywhere else. There is a guy named Rudy something or other who goes around the world. His shows are like a much less douchy Steves.

  • ||

    Samantha Brown is cute. And she goes everywhere.

  • Grummun||

    Samantha Brown is cute.

    And hi-larious.

  • cynical||

    Samantha Brown is cute. And she goes everywhere.

    It sounds so dirty when you put it like that.

  • ||

    I have no idea why, since I normally don't go in for mousy, blonde 40 year olds, but in her case, I'll make a definite exception.

  • ||

  • ||

    That's the frame you freeze on to work up a good orgasm, just for facialing the screen. C'mon, admit it.

  • ||

    A) I know better than to shellac my flat screen and B) I only beat off to Animal Planet After Dark.

  • ||

    Rick has visted Iran recently...

    The trains are for people too scared to drive in Europe.

  • Octothorpe||

    It's too expensive to drive in Europe,especially if you rent a car.

  • Paul||

    Why does Rick Steeves never go anywhere but Europe? One would think that Europe is the center of the Universe from watching his shows.

    He never goes to Asia or Australia, or New Zealand or South or Central America.

    FWIW, he's had other people on his shows to talk about travel elsewhere.

    He did a show on which touched on gay travels in the middle east (I shit you not).

    MP3 podcast link.

  • ||

    Actually he has done "specials" to a few other places. The one thing Steeves has going for him is he is pretty aggressive on his stance of legalizing pot.

  • ||

    Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.

    What a fucking moron.

    That's pretty much the only response I can muster.

  • ||

    Why?

    From his perspective spewing this happy talk and nonsense will probably convince a sufficient number of slack jawed American voters (Tony...this means you you) to give him 4 more years in government housing.

    It makes perfect economic sense....for him!

  • Invisible FInger||

    Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.

    Maybe he means "access" like a social darwinist troll. Like, you will have access to a high-sped train if you are willing to drive 200 miles to get to one.

    Of course, 95% of the country doesn't give a flying fuck about high speed rail.

  • KPres||

    They'll care even less once Google gives us a self-driving car (which I bet happens before Obama's "goal"). The only advantage to the train being you don't have to drive.

  • ||

    The history of the transcontinental railroads is an interesting one. They were chony capitalists of the worst sort. They got Congress to give them huge subsidies. They then threw together as much cheap track as possible since the more track the built the more land they got. All of the tracks that were built in the great race to Utah had to later be rebuilt. They were just made of cheap crap.

    The Union Pacific of course had the great Credit Mobilier scandal. Basically what they did was form a shell contracting company, Credit Mobilier. CP then hired Credit Mobilier as a contractor to build all the track. CM then billed all the expenses back to CP. A few insiders owned all the stock in CM. CM showed all the profit. Meanwhile all the stockholders in CP got screwed.

  •  ||

    Huh. That's not what I learned in school. That's not it at all.

  • History||

    “If there be profit, the corporations may take it; if there be loss, the government must bear it.”

    Move along. Nothing to learn here.

  • ||

    They were chony capitalists of the worst sort.

    RC'z Law FTMFW!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Chony capitalists.

    Love that.

  • Ivan||

    There was one that wasn't : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.....n_Railway_(U.S.)

  • SIMPLE IS BEST||

    TRAINS ARE AWESOME. YOUR POINT IS INVALID.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    Pretty much the only argument left for HSR proponents is, "We waste money subsidizing roads, so we should waste money subsidizing HSR, too." Although, someone the other day told me that the new Lynchburg-Washington, D.C. line had surpassed ridership estimates, so obviously America is ready for HSR.

  • ||

    MSL: It would be churlishly ungrateful of me to refuse the nice subsidy that the American taxpayers offer me to ride that train to DC and back. Just $54.00 round trip with discount. Parking in downtown DC goes for around $25 per day.

  • ||

    You spend $54 a day going back and forth to work?

  • ||

    Welcome to the lucrative world of a Kochtopu$ minion.

  • ||

    I spend a $1 a day to park and I still think it's insanely expensive.

  • ||

    All: Nope. I basically telecommute from home and go to DC about once a month to hang out with my colleagues.

  • ||

    Elitist bastard.....

  • ||

    "We waste money subsidizing roads, so we should waste money subsidizing HSR, too."

    I could be convinced if it were an either-or proposition. I don't drive, so if the choice was between more highways and a nifty train I'd probably choose the train.*

    *Libertarian disclaimer applies

  • P B||

    If memory serves, trains across China will probably empty due to the fact that personal travel is frowned upon if not out-rightly banned. I knew some people from Ürümqi and it was impossible for them to travel outside the region due to these travel restrictions.

  • Colin||

    But . . . but Thomas Friedman can't be wrong.

    We must listen to him.

    And obey.

  • Ted S.||

    For the love of god, please size the photos down to the box you're putting them in. If you hard-code a picture to be in a ~250px box, don't use a 2400 x 2000 pixel photo!

    (There's reasons why I generally visit reason with only cached images, and the insistence on needlessly using oversize images is one of them.)

  • Squirrels||

    [fingers in ears]
    Lalalalalalalalalala!

  • ||

    Thumbnails are hard!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Squirrels are hard to catch.

    But one of these days...

  • In media res||

    There was a woman kneeling in the center of the circle. Her
    back was facing towards Gregory Smith. She was jerking off two
    zombies. Drool dripped from their lips as she stroked their
    cocks. Her head was moving forward and back quickly. She
    was obviously performing fellatio on the zombie in front of her.
    The other zombies stood around in a circle masturbating.
    Some of the zombie’s cocks had rotted off right into their
    hands. Still they shook it back and forth, kind of like mixing a
    baby’s bottle. The zombie she was giving head to arched his
    back. A rib poked out of his chest and black fluid began to spill
    out. At the same time he groaned. Foley could see the
    zombie’s dead cock begin to squirt. “Arrghhhhh”, the zombie
    moaned as he began dousing her with semen. Thick jets of
    spooge bounced all over her. Some landed in her hair, some
    shot all the way over her head. The two zombies she was
    jerking off also began to ejaculate, as did a few of the ones
    that were pleasuring themselves. It was like a fire hydrant
    going off as the dead shot life all over her face and body.
    Foley noticed that some of the semen was moving, crawling.
    He was horrified as he realized that some of the more
    decomposed bodies weren’t ejaculating semen. They were
    cumming maggots. The woman let go of the zombie cocks she
    had just drained and turned completely around facing Greg and
    smiled. Greg’s lip began to quiver and he felt on the verge of
    passing out. She was a mess. Cum and maggots covered her
    from head to toe. Her left eye was completely spooged shut.
    She reached up with her left hand and wiped cum out of her
    eyes and down into her mouth. She greedily gobbled it up.
    Another zombie began to ejaculate and she turned to face them
    taking their entire load into her mouth. She flicked her tongue
    back and forth licking her lips. She reached out and grabbed a
    zombie dick in each hand and began to yank on them. The
    zombies moaned. The woman’s eyes sparkled as she looked
    up at Greg. They were alive as can be. She was enjoying
    every minute of the zombie bukkake. Greg stood and looked
    at his cum covered wife and threw up. rather only smiled
    wider.

  • Squirrels||

    [fingers in eyes]
    Lalalalalalalalalala!

  • The Truth||

    Exactly, finally someone in this cesspool understands the reality of the train gap.

  • yonemoto||

    you, sir, are no sugarfree.

  •  ||

    Who also sucks.

  • The Gobbler||

    ^^Asshole^^

  • ||

    You'd have to give every kid in the US a van to get rid of conversations like this.

    It would be cost effective, though.

    People out here don't like it when I interrupt their agony aunt moaning about the lack of government-funded passenger service on Montana's southern route with, "It would be cheaper to just give everybody in the state a new pickup truck and 1000 gallons of gas."

  • ||

    Proponents of the transcontinental railroads promised all kinds of benefits they did not deliver....

    So, Ron, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I hear you saying is that it was the prime example of a massive success story and that we need to encourage more of this type of funding, at much higher levels than historical levels?

  • ||

    They’re surging ahead of us [in developing solar energy] poised to take the lead in these new industries...

    I guess Obama thinks this is persuasive for macho reasons, but sometimes it makes sense to let the other guy take the risks and find out what does not work before investing time and money yourself. And its not as if Europeans would be averse to selling us super-awesome solar panels, if they ever came up with them.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    What he leaves out is that China doesn't have an environmentalist lobby preventing the mining of the materials and the industrial development to produce it.

    If progressives really wanted to encourage the return of industry to this country, particularly solar panel development and high-speed rail production, they'd have to lock environmentalists in Supermax for about ten years just to get the infrastructure in place.

  • Jason||

    Spain's solar industry is so advanced, they can produce solar energy at night.

  • ||

    Moonshine energy!

  • ||

    Spain's solar power fiasco has now gone bust.

    Ron, I'm no fan of subsidized energy projects, but I couldn't see in that article where the Spainish Solar Power initiative had "gone bust".

    The article says investment, subsidies and share values in "clean energy" have all fallen, but there is a big difference between that and "going bust."

    ---

    From my own experience travelling in Andalusia, I can say that windmills create incredible noise pollution: There is a constant, annoying buzz that can be heard for kilometers.

  • ||

    Aresen: The Guardian explains how well centralized solar is going in Spain.

    The solar pv industry alone received subsidies last year of €2.6bn (£2.28bn), a sum neither the country – nor the utilities – can afford. The utilities have paid out €20bn to subsidise solar and wind projects, and are still waiting for the government to pay them back.

    Credit rating agencies threatened to downgrade the companies if something was not done to address the "tariff deficit". Salle recalled: "The situation was horrible a year ago – €20bn for three companies was an amount comparable to an entire budget for some countries."

    The utilities also complain that their coal and gas plants, which the government wanted them to build a decade ago after several black-outs, are losing money because they are now only needed for half the time. But the Spanish regulator forces the firms to keep them on standby for times when the wind stops blowing or at night when solar does not generate.

    More links here.

  • ||

    Sorry, it was more a quibble about the specific Bloomberg link, not an argument that the Solar Power racket was anything but an expensive fiasco.

    Personally, I am a fan of fusion power, which I think will ultimately be the main power source. My guess is that, if governments had dumped as much money into fusion as they have into "Green" energy over the last 30 years, the ITER reactor would have been built by 2000 and the first commercial reactors would be under construction right now.

  • ||

    Agreed about fusion. We'll crack that nut eventually. I'm curious to see how a fusion industry will be received by the public, particularly the parts of it that want centralized bullshit.

  • ||

    The "Greens" will have a hissy fit about how "it's all nuclear and that sort of stuff".

    There will also be Hollywood movies about how fusion reactors can become thermonuclear bombs.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    No, the greens will primarily have a hissy fit because REALLY cheap energy will enable us to to a whole lot more of all the other sorts of things that they despise - build more developments, manufacture all sorts of things.

    Pretty much the opposite of their view of forcing us all to live in giant hippie communes.

  • ||

    No, the greens will primarily have a hissy fit because REALLY cheap energy will enable us to to a whole lot more of all the other sorts of things that they despise - build more developments, manufacture all sorts of things.

    A few will, but I think you are overestimating the sophistication of the majority of "greens". We're talking about people who think that C12H22O11 is "good" when it comes from honey and "bad" when it comes from a refinery.

  • ||

    There will also be Hollywood movies about how fusion reactors can become thermonuclear bombs.

    Thanks for the warning. Now I can avoid their moviescience far in advance. (turning a fusion reactor into a bomb would take some serious torturing of physics.)

  • ||

    Uh, just what Hollywood disaster film (particularly 'eco-disaster' films) DOESN'T involve serious torturing of one or more of physics, biology, chemistry, geology, astrophysics, meteorology, evolutionary biology, ballistics, orbital mechanics, etc?

  • ||

    just what Hollywood disaster film (particularly 'eco-disaster' films) DOESN'T involve serious torturing

    That was my point. However turning a tokamak into a bomb would be the most egregious example to date, IMO.

  • ||

    Hollywood turns good books into bombs all the time. Why not a tokamak?

  • ||

    Hollywood turns good books into bombs all the time. Why not a tokamak?

    Most egregious pun of the day...

  • The Gobbler||

    Godzilla was both straightforward and believable.

  • ||

    Just the solutions that Hollywood promotes for every other problem tortures logic and sanity!

  • The Truth||

    Fusion power? What are you, 12 years old? You may as well try to build a perpetual motion machine, or turn lead into gold.

  • Da Troof||

    Besides, I have it on good authority the Chinese will bury us with their Perpetual Motion Machines, where they already have a huge technological lead.

  • Arcaster||

    http://www.iter.org/

    I don't know if it will work, but they're trying.

  • Ray||

    It's being funded by a committee of governments, so you know they'll make rapid progress.

  • cynical||

    But we can actually do two of those things...

  • ||

    The only reaction out of fusion power that looks any good to me is proton-boron-11 fusion. Which is very hard to burn - even compared to other fusion reactions.

    D-T makes too many neutrons that activate too many things and makes it too hard to recover the output products into useful energy. D-D has the same problem as it branches D-T 50% of the reactions. The other fusion reactions available make either potent little radionuclides or involve fuels not readily accessible on planet earth.

    So I'm a fan of fusion, but its going to take a very unorthodox approach to recovering the reaction power, or its going to take exotic processes to burn more sophisticated fuels than are envisioned today.

  • ||

    So I'm a fan of fusion, but its going to take a very unorthodox approach to recovering the reaction power

    Which is one of the main focuses at ITER, as well as reducing activation of the structure.

  • ||

    No one's burning proton-boron in ITER. And recovering the energy of the neutrons as kinetic heat is going to lead to lots and lots of the same activation and high-flux-short-term wastes you see in current fission plants (though the long-term radioactivity is decidedly less). For the same capital, you could build a fast-neutron fission reactor and repro hot-cell onsite that gets you damn near the same long-term waste output, lower short-term waste-output, same activation of the structure, and net-power output and do that today. ITER is academic/corporate welfare on a vast, lush scale and little else.

  • ||

    Hey, no arguments from me about using fast-neutron fission.

    (also, by "main focuses" i was not addressing the coolness that would be proton-boron fusion. correct, they aren't doing that, but hey, let's crack one tough nut at a time, unlike Balko.)

  • ||

    Definitely a hard nut to crack with the current state of the art. But we'll get there.

  • Brian||

    The problem with fusion is one of stability not fuel. Magnetic confinement is inherently unstable. Its like trying to uniformly compress a balloon. As soon as you push in one place, it pops out somewhere else. I would be surprised if it were ever made economical. Now, inertial confinement fusion shows promise at least on paper but commercializing it will again be problematic. Like it or not, what we have for commercial energy technology now is probably what we will have for a long while.

  • ||

    Same problem with maglev. Seems like fusion is still trying to contain with a static field. With the proper feedback controls, psuedo-stability should be possible.

  • Brian||

    Sure, and that is basically what modern tokamaks do. Problem is the measures required to achieve some sort of stability incur more and more losses. That is why net power production is so hard to achieve.

  • ||

    Net power is long-ways off. They're still trying to get a fusion burn going that puts off more heat than the equivalent consumed. Even if that's achieved, recovering that as 'power' for lights and the washing machine is still another whole technological mess to contend with.

  • ||

    Why not start little mini suns in orbit? Screw all that controlled reaction nonsense.

  • ||

    Why not start little mini suns in orbit? Screw all that controlled reaction nonsense.

    My StarTrek-inspired idea is to pursue artificial singularities with jets. Feed it any matter, collect power from the jets. Better conversion efficiency than fusion even, simple "fuel" requirements.

    We just need ~300years worth of scientific advances in the next few decades.

  • The Ogre||

    NERDS!!!

  • ||

    Or ship minisuns to people who deserve one?

  • ||

    and that is basically what modern tokamaks do

    Ahhhhh. They seemed very static, but I'm no nuclear physicist. Hell, I don't even play one on TV. I'm more like a waiter-who-wishes-he-played-a-nuclear-physicist-on-TV.

  • yonemoto||

    My guess is that, if governments had dumped as much money into fusion as they have into "Green" energy over the last 30 years, the ITER reactor would have been built by 2000 and the first commercial reactors would be under construction right now.

    Fusion is one of those things that scales inversely with government money dumpage. I'm betting on this guy:

    http://prometheusfusionperfection.com/
    (not the focardi and rossi stuff that's the most recent blogpost)

  • ||

    Fusion is one of those things that scales inversely with government money dumpage.

    I have no data on that, but it wouldn't surprise me for a several reasons:

    1) Government research projects require long development times with specific goals and methodologies in mind. Huge amounts of money are wasted just in the approval process.
    2) The bigger the government project, the more pork has to be spread around at a resulting cost to efficiency. (When they had to throw a bone to Morton-Thiokil (sp?) to get the votes of the Utah senators to support the shuttle, the Challenger disaster was inevitable.)
    3) Because of 1), workers are discouraged from following up promissing research sidelines that turn up.
    4) Outlier ideas are discouraged, only 'mainstream' ideas are considered. (I am not talking about wackos who think they can build a fusion reactor with a zippo lighter and a rechargeable battery, I am talking about researchers in the "less promissing" lines of conventional science.)

    However, just as the Russians achieved the Vostok launch by simply building a bigger rocket (aka the "get a bigger hammer" approach), I think that a concerted effort to achieve fusion, had it been pursued with funding equivalent to the "Green Energy" funding over the last 40 years, would have reached its goal by now.

  • ||

    There's one caveat to your rules: If there's a war on and the effort is for a weapon. Governments are always keen to through the normal bureaucratic playbook out the window if they think they've discovered some techno-talisman that will kill the other government.

    When there's no war on though, myopia ensues even with killing machines (battleships in the 30's, aircraft carriers today).

  • Ice Nine||

    I can say that windmills create incredible noise pollution: There is a constant, annoying buzz that can be heard for kilometers.

    Yeah, true - but at least they are visually pleasing.

  • Warty||

    This can't be true. Governments know how to allocate resources correctly, especially China's.

  • Scott66||

    Obama doesn't learn anything. The facts contradict with his memorized position. That’s what it means to be an ideologue.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Scott66,

    Obama doesn't learn anything. The facts contradict with his memorized position. That's what it means to be an ideologue.


    That's calumny! He wrote two books... and he wrote them himself! He said so, thereby it must be true! The man has told no lies!

    http://www.cashill.com/natl_ge.....rite_1.htm

  • The Truth||

    Who cares if they lose money in the short term?

    Long-term investments, not short-term profits, is what we should be looking for. Think of the Interstate Highway System.

    Those trains in China may be losing money now, but in 30 years and after Peak Oil with the rising Chinese middle class, they'll be looked back on as a very smart long-term investment.

    There's more toe success that mere short-term profit. Sometimes short-term gain has to be sacrificed for long-term goals.

    Thanks to the Transcontinental Railroad, for example, we have one of the best freight rail systems in the world.

  • ||

    No, we have one of the best frieght systems in the world because we have a private sector that built it and made it profitable.

    And if trains were efficient and profitable someone would build them and the government wouldn't have to help. Saying "don't worry there is a pony in there somewhere" is just dodging the question.

  • The Truth||

    The government in the 19th Century gave generous subsidies that built the rail system we have now. You even admit as much upthread.

  • ||

    That's true as a result of what I am sure you consider the imperialist policies of a government looking to both consolidate its holds over native lands from coast-to-coast and keep the encroaching British at bay from Canada.

    And its also worth pointing out that we built trains because no one knew what a car was back in those days. Or an internal combustion engine (steam engines not same thing).

    Once the technology got better that way, trains started losing to cars. Once the technology got good enough to fly long-distances, passenger trains in the USA started going into the sunset of history. The government took passenger-train business over in the 70's precisely because it couldn't support itself anymore...because people voted with their feet for wings instead of tracks for long-distance travel. Freight trains are still around today not because of some deep foresight, but because that's the last place trains are still economically viable for moving things both in terms of time and money.

    And we can talk about how awesome Europe's trains are, or Japan's trains are, but fact is they are same way: They pay lots of taxes (much of it levied from the airline business) so the trains don't go under.

  • James J. Hill||

    "The government in the 19th Century gave generous subsidies that built the rail system we have now."

    Bullshit.

  • ||

    They gave away lots of free Indian land in territories and such.

    To this day, there is still some stipulation regarding the RR owning such-and-such land extending either way from a track.

    But it wasn't for free, the government locked in generous bennies and cheap rates for shipping government things (military logistics is good example) at heavily-discounted prices. Those deals are still in force today. In that sense, the Transcontinental Railroad was the original Autobahn, at least as Hitler envisioned it and what it would primarily enable him to do.

    All the rest though was private effort and finance. And success.

  • ||

    But it wasn't for free, the government locked in generous bennies and cheap rates for shipping government things (military logistics is good example) at heavily-discounted prices. Those deals are still in force today.

    Actually, the land-grant railroads' obligation to civilian government civilian traffic and mail for sharply reduced rates was removed in 1940, and their obligation to carry military personnel and property at similarly reduced rate expired in 1946. At that time, Congress said that "through the years the government has gotten all and more than it bargained for in the original land grant transaction...the time has come for the government to close its books on this transaction [and] ... relieve the land grant railroads of the injustice of being required to continue to make payments on a debt that has long been extinguished."

  • Ivan||

    To James J Hill,
    You tell em Mr Empire Builder.

  • AU H20||

    DEM CHINKS GONNA GIT US!!!

  • Trespassers W||

    That's why I got my first mortgage when I was six years old.

  • ||

    Actually, I think kids get their first mortgage at birth:

    http://www.davemanuel.com/us-n.....-clock.php

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Truth,

    Who cares if they lose money in the short term?


    Not the economics illiterate, it would seem....

    Those trains in China may be losing money now, but in 30 years and after Peak Oil with the rising Chinese middle class, they'll be looked back on as a very smart long-term investment.


    Yeah! And imagine just how foolish every naysayer would look when,30 days from now, the Earth gets hit with a meteor!

    Thanks to the Transcontinental Railroad, for example, we have one of the best freight rail systems in the world.


    So?

  • Restoras||

    Give it up. High speed rail will NEVER happen here. Too much freedom, property rights, and other stuff clowns like you abhor.

  • Fluffy||

    Wait a second.

    If the Chinese are going to crush us in 30 years because they have trains, how exactly is the Interstate Highway System a great long-term investment?

    If "Peak Oil" means that trainz iz teh zhit and carz suckz, then investing in the Interstate Highway System and redeveloping the entire continent AROUND that system was a colossal misallocation of resources and essentially a system-wide suicide attempt.

    So why would you offer that as your example of a great way the state can allocate resources in defiance of the market's silly focus on trivial things like profits and losses?

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Long-term investments, not short-term profits, is what we should be looking for. Think of the Interstate Highway System.

    The problem is that the Chinese long-term investment in trains could end up in complete collapse. Why? Because so many of their trains are empty. But empty or not, the lines still need maintenance. Capital costs + no ridership + maintenance costs = massive losses.

  • ||

    Free trains, free health care, free education.

    That's the price you pay to live in a civilized society.

  • ||

    When you use that line on yer favorite liberal, please describe to us the blank, cocker spaniel-like look you get in return, or in the alternate, the clueless hosannas heaped upon you for your brave anti-teafucking ratbagger wisdom.

  • Old Mexican||

    Speaking of failed energy rent-seeking policies...

    Washington State to charge flat fee on electric cars to compensate the fact that they do not create revenue from (wait for it...): Gasoline Tax

    OLYMPIA, Wash. – Drivers of electric cars may have left the gas pump behind, but there's one expense they may not be able to shake: paying to maintain the roads.

    After years of urging residents to buy fuel-efficient cars and giving them tax breaks to do it, Washington state lawmakers are considering a measure to charge them a $100 annual fee — what would be the nation's first electric car fee.

    State lawmakers grappling with a $5 billion deficit are facing declining gas tax revenue, which means less money to maintain or improve roads.

    "Electric vehicles put just as much wear and tear on our roads as gas vehicles," said Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the bill's lead sponsor. "This simply ensures that they contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads."

    Other states are trying to find solutions to the same problem, as cars become more fuel-efficient and, now, don't use any gas at all.
  • Amakudari||

    Eh, somewhat valid. Hybrids use the road the same amount as their non-hybrid versions but pay less for its upkeep via gasoline taxes. As is, it's non-hybrid drivers picking up the tab. If people are going to be taxed, it might as well be in proportion to the services they consume.

    Now, regular drivers are taxed too highly as much of the damage to roads is done by large trucks, but that's another issue.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    All drivers are taxed too highly when you consider that about 25% of highway trust fund money is siphoned off to pay for mass transit boodoggles, greenways, bike paths and all sorts of other crap that has nothing to do with building or maintaining the roads.

  • Amakudari||

    IIRC, although highways are by far still the closest thing to transportation that's paid for entirely by user fees, in recent years (mid-2000s?) the funding ratio is below 100%, even accounting for the subsidy problem you've mentioned. Ultimately, road upkeep is being fueled by debt.

  • Pip||

    But hybrid drivers are saving Mother Earth. They should get a tax break for their effort.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Honestly, in a case like this it would make more sense to tack on a surcharge to an electric car user's monthly electric bill, rather than this flat fee nonsense. Not everyone is going to have the same amount of time on the road, and hence will not need to charge their vehicles up as much.

    Plus, it would add another layer of bureaucracy to Washington's government, which I know the lefties would love (cough). Truthfully, I'd want to see what their reaction would be if the DMV and the electric company collaborated to take more money from their pocket, "for the earth."

  • Lt Col Andrew Tanner||

    China's railroad ministry has run up $271 billion in debt

    That's $451 apiece!

  • AU H20||

    I am always amazed how many of my fellow countrymen continuously bemoan the fact that the United States, is, in fact, not Europe, when a simple perusal of a globe would enlighten them to that fact.

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[o][n]gt[o]rs[o]||

    And now to get a horrible 80s song stuck in everyone's head:

    My baby takes the morning train
    He works from nine till five and then
    He takes another home again
    To find me waiting for him....

  • ||

    Same singer did "Sugar Walls." How do you reconcile these two songs?

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[o][n]gt[o]rs[o]||

    Before and after she banged Prince?

  • ||

    That is correct. I knew the answer all along.

  • T||

    Crazy Scottish bitches aren't expected to be consistent?

  • Ted S.||

    Nations go to war
    Over women like her
    It's just a form of appreciation

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[o][n]gt[o]rs[o]||

    "We've got tonite
    Who needs tomorrow?
    We've got tonite, babe
    Why don't you stay?"

  • Pip||

    You're motoring.
    What's your price for flight?
    In finding mister right?

  • ||

    I am a fan of fusion power, which I think will ultimately be the main power source.

    I think it has been our main source of energy for quite a while.

  • ||

    I have this vision of physicists and engineers who specialize in fusion research waking up each morning and shaking their fists at the sun. I mean, if that's not a giant "Eat it, losers!" from Mother Nature, I don't know what else is.

  • ||

    As a guy who dabbled in the nuclear side of things in college via internships and so forth, I can admit I have cursed the Sun from time-to-time. You are right on the money there.

  • ||

    I mean, it's just sitting there, fusing, mocking your puny pretensions. And you can't get away from the insult by only going out at night, because then there are thousands of other fusion generators in the sky, laughing like little Tinkerbells. If you hide in your house, you still have to deal with the fact that your very body is made up of many elements created by a fusion reactor (though I don't think the supernovae are as offensive as the day-to-day fusion).

    The nearest equivalent I can think of is the situation we had before flight. "Yep, there goes another fucking bird again. Flying."

  • ||

    many elements created by a fusion reactor (though I don't think the supernovae are as offensive as the day-to-day fusion)

    Iron or lighter from fusion, heaver elements from the supernovae are produced from capture processes.

  • ||

    oh, my point being that fusion researchers shouldn't be offended by supernovae.

  • ||

    That's what I was thinking. In fact, we probably don't want our reactors to nova.

  • ||

    Are fusion reactors today are like heavy-nuclei-producing supernova: They consume far more power than the reactions they produce.

    Lol.

  • ||

    I get what you're going for, but I'm not sure if the analogy really works. Saying that a supernova "consumes" energy doesn't jibe well in my mind.

  • ||

    Please tell me it was a "Curse your Sunshiny Goodness" kind of curse!

  • ||

    Here, have some more sunshine to curse.

  • ||

    Here's the appropriate fusion researcher song.

  • ||

    Fuckin A

  • Brett L||

    I pay the bitch back by creating plastics that don't biodegrade.

  • ||

    Slow-to-degrade != non-biodegradable

  • Brett L||

    No, you misunderstand. I am working on permanent plastics. Things that won't become brittle due to weathering and UV exposure. Mother Nature can suck it. I'm making abominations that mutant fiddler crabs will be wearing as shells for millenia.

  • ||

    Fuckin A!

    wait...no

  • ||

    There was interesting article in MSNBC this past Sunday about China's angst to get frack wells going on in a big way.

    China has big shale-gas reserves, but they don't know how to extract them like the dirty Yankees do. But they are anxious to the extreme on getting that going given the strategic implications of having a (real) energy resource within their borders.

    Its interesting to read about how so far behind China is vis-a-vis the USA on this front. They only have maybe a tenth the plumbed infrastructure for moving and storing CH4 for example. They don't know how to frack, they don't know how to efficiently clean sulphides out of the assays from the local ground.

    But we're tripping over ourselves now - with shit-studies from Cornell and pooh-poohing from the rainbows n' windmills crowd - to put the kabosh on fracking, or at least tie it down in the same regulatory nightmare as nuclear reactors, offshore drilling, or refineries. All while anxiously buying Brazil's oil apparently, and dreaming of China's financially-disastrous train-sets. Even as the Chinese ditch trains, bicycles, whatever fast as they can for a set of wheels.

    We're fucked.

  • ||

    What we need is for Carl Weathers to come to us and tell us that we need to regain the "eye of the tiger."

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[o][n]gt[o]rs[o]||

    Sheena Easton didn't sing that.

  • [J[o]h[nn]y] L[o][n]gt[o]rs[o]||

    Who is more manly, Sheena Easton or the entire band Survivor?

  • T||

    I'm gonna have to go with Sheena.

  • AU H20||

    In the US' case, it wouldn't be Carl, it'd be England. Which would be awesome to have England telling us, "You had that eye when you beat me. You need to get back that eye. The eye of the Tiger."

  • ||

    So I'm picturing the Queen coming out of the shadows in the Capitol and reciting Apollo's speech (more or less) to a bunch of surprised Congress members. Who would be inspired by her and would go with her to Birmingham to train with rough-edged industrial workers. Who are working to become M.P.s through trial combat.

    The breakthrough moment for the U.S. would be when the Congress all finally outran Queen Elizabeth II on the beach.

  • Brett L||

    See, I would think it would be when any member of the US Congress could hold his own in a Commons or Lords speech.

  • ||

    Okay, but on a beach.

  • AU H20||

    See, if you're going to do that, we need to structure it as a teen comedy, with the American Congressmen as the "Slobs" at an international conference, and the British MPs as the "Snobs". The big scene would be the one where, after cramming all night for the big treaty signing, the American Congress oversleeps the treaty and have to show up disheveled and out of sorts. The MPs object to this, but Paul Ryan, the nerdy one, cites an obscure rule that we saw him studying and which was briefly mentioned earlier in the film. The UN allows the Americans into the conference, but the British have this thing sown up- until the charismatic but troublemaking leader of the group, Charles Rangel, and the dopey everyman "new guy" Rand Paul overcome the differences that held them back earlier in the story to deliver an impassioned speech extolling the virtues of the U.S. The conference cheers for the Americans, and the film is concluded with the following:

    1. Barney Frank finally gets together with the British MP he's been eying all film.
    2. As they leave the conference dejected, the remaining MPs are met by Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus, armed to the teeth, angry at the British for being racist earlier in the film.
    3. Rand Paul and the spunky everygirl get together... FINALLY, and the girl is revealed to be the queen.
    4. Charlie Rangel decides to finally graduate and get a real job.
    5. John Boehner cries.

  • ||

    Rand Paul seduces/taps Kate Middleton in strange Buddha-bong rite known only to the Slobs. You'd call it Atlas Scores.

  • ||

    Randtric sex?

  • ||

    Obama SOTU soundbite: "America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad...."

    I think that was China too actually....

  • ||

    +1

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Win.

  • KPres||

    Russia tried to build one across Siberia, not because it was necessary or even wanted, but just to show everybody that they were as great as America (sound familiar?).

    It was a catastrophic failure. It was also the last public works project the Czars were around to attempt.

  • Fluffy||

    They also hoped to ultimately conquer northern China. The military applications of the line trumped economic considerations.

    Of course, building it encouraged them to think they could smack around the Japanese, and that didn't work out too well for them.

    "Hey, we're semicompetent drunken asswipes who have to project power across thousands of miles in order to even show up and fight. But let's go fight those unbelievably focused and disciplined Japanese guys whose base of supply is a one-day boatride away. That'll turn out great!"

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I believe the "Berlin to Baghdad" railway was another one of those efforts.

  • cynical||

    +1

  • Robert||

    You can probably guess where my mind ran instantly on reading above that Spain was undertaking "centralized solar planning", can't you? Let's just say I had in mind something much more grandiose than what it turned out to be about.

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