Latest Hare-Brained Scheme: Use Cap-n-Trade Loot to Pay for High-Speed Rail

As California’s high-speed rail project runs out of steam, you’d expect a savvy politician to shunt the thing onto a siding and earn points with the voters for making a tough-but-necessary decision. 

Not Gov. Jerry Brown. 

Taking a page out of President Obama’s green-loan-guarantee playbook, Brown only fights harder to keep the California High-Speed Rail Authority doing whatever it is that the authority does. Most recently, Brown took to the airwaves to say that his own team’s estimate of the project’s projected cost is “way off.” 

In an interview with ABC 7 News in Los Angeles, Brown laid out a new plan for funding a project whose projected cost has more than doubled since voters approved a rail bond offering in 2008. "Phase 1, I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment," Brown said. "We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees - that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail…It's going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying."

To recap: The high-speed rail authority recently lost its top brass and has been panned in reviews by the state auditor, the legislative analyst’s office, the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley and the state inspector general. The state is facing a September deadline to break ground or lose more than $2 billion in federal funds for the project. 

Brown has responded by shutting down the inspector general’s office and accusing rail skeptics of calling for the decline of California. When Brown refers to Phase 1, he means what is now optimistically named the Bakersfield-to-Fresno (formerly Corcoran-to-Borden) line, a route selected by Washington rather than Sacramento. When he refers to cap-and-trade Brown means a piece of legislation called AB 32, the signature achievement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which made California the first and only state requiring generators of carbon to pay hefty taxes.  

At his inestimable CalWhine blog, Chris Reed follows the money, only to find that the money is both reelin’ in the years and out where the woodbine twineth: 

I’ve been waiting for years to see what Sacramento did with the billions of dollars in cap-and-trade fees that will roll in if AB 32 is allowed to proceed even though its original rationale is now preposterous and demonstrably false. (No, it didn’t inspire the rest of the world to copy California by forcing residents to accept a broad switch to cleaner but costlier energy.)

I remember a discussion with former Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane and other fans of AB 32 about the fact that higher energy costs are going to be much harder on poor people than the middle class or rich. I was told, no, the cap-and-trade fees would be used to insulate them from the economic pain caused by the regressive effects of higher energy costs.

And I snickered. Yeah, sure, that’s who is going to benefit. Yeah, sure.

I always assumed cap-and-trade billions would be diverted to government employees’ compensation instead of to poor people. Now, hilariously enough, the governor wants the billions to go for a boondoggle transportation project of the sort favored by wealthy suburbanites and rail cultists.

A point I have tried to emphasize in my own Calwhining about Jerry Brown’s proposed budget [pdf] is that its revenue assumptions do not appear to have accounted for the depressive effects of cap-and-trade. But Reed points out an equally dangerous assumption: the budget refers to "potentially $1 billion" in annual revenues from this new exhalation tax. Is there any reason to believe this revenue estimate is accurate? 

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  • Fyodor Kuzmich||

    Am I the only one who looked at that picture and tried to figure out why Jerry Brown was posing in front of a Banana Republic flag?

  • cathrine||

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  • Colonel_Angus||

    Good answer.

  • ||

    It appears as if Cuffy the Bear is noshing on Jerry's brain. Nom nom nom. But apparently, we're just talking empty calories here. Or maybe just inert roughage, and perhaps that is just as well: a bear has to do his business in the woods, too.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Cuffy's gonna starve.

  • V.I. Lenin||

    yes

  • ||

    "Phase 1, I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment," Brown said. "We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees - that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail…It's going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying."

    At this point in Jerry Brown's personal growth cycle, I think it's important for him to return to Zen Economics.

    It's deja zen all over again!

  • ChrisO||

    Let the hard-working Mexicans in and instead build the wall around California.

  • ||

    DHS at their finest.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2.....portation/

    A couple of Brits were unceremoniously ejected from the US last week after one of them ill-advisedly tweeted he was off to "destroy America".

    Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and pal Emily Bunting, 24, jetted into Los Angeles last Monday ahead of what they hoped would be a lively Stateside holiday. Their shorter-than-expected trip certainly delivered, although the pair weren't expecting to be arrested, internally probed and thrown in a cell for 12 hours with hungry Mexican narcos.

    The Department of Homeland Security had already earmarked Van Bryan and Bunting for a warm welcome before they even touched down at LAX. The agency had picked up on a couple of Van Bryan's tweets, which suggested they intended to wipe out the US and disinter Marilyn Monroe.

    The first, posted on 3 January, said: "3 weeks today, we're totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!"

    The second, written on 16 January, declared: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America."

    Van Bryan and Bunting had their collars felt after clearing passport control. They were first quizzed for five hours, during which they failed to convince the authorities of the innocent nature of the tweets.

    According to the Daily Mail, Bunting said: "The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh's tweet. They wanted to know what we were going to do. They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party.

    "I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh's lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. I couldn't believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show."

    She added: "It got even more ridiculous because the officials searched our suitcases and said they were looking for spades and shovels. They did a full body search on me too."

    Van Bryan described the ordeal as "almost funny" but "really scary". He said: "The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist. I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me 'you've really fucked up with that tweet boy'."

    The two then spent the night in jail, where the Mexican drug cartels put Van Bryan on involuntary hunger strike. He explained: "When we arrived at the prison I was shoved in a cell on my own but after an hour two huge Mexican men covered in tattoos came in and started asking me who I was.

    "They told me they'd been arrested for taking cocaine over the border. When the food arrived on the tray they took it all and just left me with a carton of apple juice."

    Van Bryan and Bunting were deported back to the UK the next day. Van Bryan's rap sheet, explaining why he was refused entry, says: "Mr Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter [sic] website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America." ®

  • Jeff||

    Sadly, this kind of thing is pretty commonplace in George Bush's America. I'm sure that Obama chap will put an end to this kind of nonsense once he takes office.

  • Sevo||

    True. Why by summer, 2009, everything will be.........
    What?

  • Obama Voters||

    We fell for it. *slumps shoulders as a group and shuffles back to bed*

  • ||

    They're our ambassadors to the world. No wonder everyone hates us.

  • ||

    An update from Forbes:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ka.....g-america/

    Update: A spokesperson from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, tells me that Bryan and Bunting were reported by a concerned citizen. Could they have been on the wrong end of a prank (or “taking the piss” as they would say on the other side of the pond)?

    “ Based on information provided by the LAX Port Authority Infoline – a suspicious activity tipline – CBP conducted a secondary interview of two subjects presenting for entry into the United States,” says the spokesperson, who notes that the CBP “denies entry to thousands of individuals” each year. “Information gathered during this interview revealed that both individuals were inadmissible to the United States and were returned to their country of residence.”

    I haven’t been able to find out yet exactly what the tipster reported to LAX. But according to the Department of Homeland Security charging sheet that Bryan provided to the media, the information gathered during the interview seems to primarily concern his Twitter, or in DHS parlance, “Tweeter” account: “Mr. Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter [sic] website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter [sic] account, Mr. Bryan tweeted that he was coming to destroy America.”

    After a twelve hour detention, the two were put on a plane back out of the country. Worst vacation ever. As Boing Boing notes, Bryan has since made his Twitter account private, ostensibly to avoid future vacation-ruining monitoring by authorities.

    DHS is fairly new to this whole social media monitoring thing. Let’s hope that, with time, the folks doing this develop an appreciation for context.

  • ||

    As Bruce Schneier points out in regards to the "see something, say something" program, if you outsource your security to amateurs, don't be surprised when you get amateur results.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Well, he *did* say he was coming here to destroy America... best to err on the side of caution.

    Wait, I thought we were talking about Galactus, not some mere single unarmed human.

  • Brett L||

    What was he gonna do? Run for office?

  • ChrisO||

    Thank god our dedicated DHS agents kept those dangerous limey terrorists out of our precious America.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...you’d expect a savvy politician to shunt the thing onto a siding and earn points with the voters for making a tough-but-necessary decision.

    Did Denzel Washington and Bill Shatner, Jr., park their train in a siding while Unstoppable flew by on its way to disaster and mayhem? No, they did not, because it was just too big to get out of the way. And so it is with Inca's high speed rail plan. It's an idea Gingrichian in size and scope, to be sure, but Jerry Brown (pictured here on the verge of a Tebow) knows you go big or go home. He plans to go big very much and go home very fast.

    Jerry Brown was hired to try to get a little track laid, not to jump around like a-

    Well, you know the rest.

  • insensitive monster||

    "Phase 1, I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment," Brown said.

    Can I suggest a Lionel train set from Amazon.com?

  • L13||

    Transfering $ from cap and trade to public transport of any sort is not a bug, it is a feature.

  • MNG||

    It's inevitable that two dumb, ugly ideas like this would choose to shack up...

    Question: If Newt becomes Pres and we get a Dem Congress will we get a bi-partisan bill to build high speed rail on the moon?

  • nEwT gInGrIcH||

    HIGH SPEEDZ MOON ELEVATORZ!1!1!!!!11!!!elevnty!!

  • Elf||

    Profit!!!

  • AlmightyJB||

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahah:P

  • A Serious Man||

    (pumps fist) Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!!!!

    Is it wrong to find amusement in the actions of a desperate man?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Sorry Tim, but the use of the phrase "Hare-brained" makes you sound like a character in a bad 1950s movie or an American Spectator contributor, which is basically the same thing.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!

  • ||

    +1 :D

  • ||

    I like the phrase "exhalation tax." Good one!

  • Sevo||

    Anyone looking at this must keep in mind that Moonbeam is a serial, psychopathic, liar on a par with Obama and that he is owned, lock, stock and barrel by the Unions; he signed the Dill Act when he last inflicted his stupidity on CA.
    While it's true well-off CA residents might get to ride SF-to-LA in the wonderfully retro-romantic (and largely imaginary) splendor of club-cars, attended by properly subservient servers, the real beneficiaries are numbered largely among the union members who will be paid to keep this boondoggle running, assuming it gets built.
    Not to mention the highly-paid managers of the money-rat-hole, the current crop of whom have seen where it's going and bailed before they got blamed for what they've done. BTW, I have yet to see anything about their severance packages; are the CA taxpayers already on the hook for life-time medical benes?
    Several years ago, I had the misfortune to lunch near Willy Brown (hired as a 'consultant'[fixer]) and someone highly placed in the 'California High Speed Rail Authority' as they discussed the various issues, among which were the budget numbers. As far as I could tell, the numbers were based on the cost of the restaurant's wine list.
    Cynicism only begins to describe the entire project.

  • Sevo||

    Check that:
    *Formerly* highly placed in the 'California High Speed Rail Authority'...
    I see that he has bailed also.

  • Kloveniersburgwal ||

    The Sheriff of San Francisco should place him u der arrest when he next visits our fair fucked up city.

  • strat||

    re: AB32, don't you mean "carbon dioxide" rather than "carbon"?

  • Resident Dietician||

    High fiber, low fat. Reduced salt, lower sugar.

    But NO flavor!

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Count on the current Democrat leadership to come up with a limitless supply of harebrained schemes. Unlike Republicans, they're the party of ideas. And small-l libertarians are the irrelevant anti-party of purity.

  • PantsFan||

    Bruins Goalie and Obama snubber Tim Thomas came out as a Nickelback Fan on TV tonight.

  • Brandon||

    Goddammit. There goes his credibility.

  • PantsFan||

    Send the illegals to El newto's Moon Colony to mine H3. PROBLEMS SOLVED

  • PantsFan||

    Should be He-3

  • ||

    Actually, tritium would work even better. (Shorter half-life, though.

  • ||

    just what we needed, a tax on a hoax to pay for a boondoggle

  • Chris Reed||

    Oh, Great Satan, that is an awesome line.

  • ||

    FYI moonbeam, Barclays shit canned their emissions trading desk, what makes you think anyone else is going to get involved in this epic fail

  • Sam Grove||

    Tim, are you up on the latest with the 49'ers Santa Clara stadium boondoggle?

    The opposition group managed to provide more than enough signatures to bring it back to the voters, because it has become known that the city will have to take on something like 800 million in debt to finance the stadium, something which was not presented to Santa Clara voters when the stadium initiative was passed. This may go to the CA supreme court.

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  • ||

    Most recently, Brown took to the airwaves to say that his own team’s estimate of the project’s projected cost is “way off.”

    Of course, he's right. Just not in the right direction.

  • Pete||

    FYI moonbeam, Barclays shit canned their emissions trading desk, what makes you think anyone else is going to get involved in this epic fail The opposition group managed to provide more than enough signatures to bring it back to the voters, because it has become known that the city will have to take on something like 800 million in debt to finance the stadium, http://www.profischnell.com something which was not presented to Santa Clara voters when the stadium initiative was passed. This may go to the CA supreme court.

  • Kevin N||

    The state is facing a September deadline to break ground or lose more than $2 billion in federal funds for the project. The damage is quite large, thanks for sharing
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