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Web Letter

One domestic national solution to the coming of world peak oil in the measurable future is a proposal for an electrified steel interstate system. This idea, building on concepts laid out earlier in this decade by rail system planners in Virginia and other nearby states, was conceptualized by Alan S. Drake and was publicized on The Oil Drum, a blogsite of world peak oil and related topics.

Under this multi-part proposal:

1) The 36,000 miles of the US rail rail network defined by the Department of Defense as the STRACNET would be fully electrified with overhead catenary feedwires and would be double-tracked. These mainline rails would also get grade-level crossing improvements and other upgrades so as to sustain 100-120 mph freight and passenger train travel.

These improvements would provide schedules fast enough and operating costs low enough to attract off the concrete interstates and onto the electrified steel interstates a significant and growing portion of the petroleum-based freight now hauled by the eighteen-wheelers. In addition, regular use of higher-speed passenger trains would reduce both auto travel on the highways and even air travel in and out of increasingly congested airports with their unceasing and time-consuming security checks.

It has been estimated that the main work of this part of the proposal could be carried out in six years, including one year of planning and project setup and five years of actual construction.

2) A new national electric power transmission grid would be constructed along the right of way of the national rail system.

3) Using the same rail system right of way and the extensive trackage of the country's numerous branch lines, a system of wind towers would be erected to generate electric power which not only would be fed into the new grid but would also supply power to the electried rail system.

The availability of on sign rail tracks and standard railcar cranes would reduce costs of bringing construction materials to the sites of both the transmission towers and the wind-driven generator towers.

The same rail system right of way could also be used to construct a largescale innovative system of solar collector panels to further enhance the wind generator system.

Completion of the national electrified steel interstate project not only would reduce US usage by a significant amount but would also significantly reduce the volume of carbon emissions released into the earth's atmosphere.

At the local level, much the same thing could be accomplished by rethinking the combination of land-use planning, community development and regional transportation planning. In urbanized and urbanizing counties such as found all across the USA, development should be focused on infill in each region's central city or cities, where most of the employment sites are located.

This policy would bring commuters closer to their places of work and make electrified commuter light rail systems more feasible, further reducing American transportation dependence on petroleum.

Arnold Harris

Mount Horeb, WI

Nov 15 2008 - 9:01am

Web Letter

Energy is needed for human survival. There are, however alternatives to the kind of archaic energy use that we are now using, if only we gave the problem, the challenge, to scientists to solve and remove as much political involvement as possible.

Immediately: wind, solar and conservation are possible short-term solutions. Solar is limited by sun exposure, cost recovery, cost replacement. Wind is again limited by place and transmission.

The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. Long-term, nuclear when we learn how to store waste. Hydrogen if we can produce it cheaply, clean coal and hydro, inclusive of tidal.

Conservation ideas: ban plastic, electrified highways, shortest point-to-point highways, gravity highways, high-speed long-distance rail built parallel to highways, underground shopping malls in cold climates, reforestation.

Replace the internal combustion engine ASAP. The four-cycle motor wastes 80 to 90 percent of its energy on pure heat.

Why are we exporting as much coal as we can mine? Why are we farming and burning corn ethanol?


Caribou, ME

Nov 12 2008 - 3:18pm

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