FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bring on Solutionary Rail!

It’s not every day that you run across an idea so elegant, so eminently practical that your jaw literally drops as you stagger beneath the shock of your huge “aha” moment. Solutionary Rail did that for me. Rail experts and long-time activists from Backbone Campaign have struck gold with their well-researched proposal to electrify America’s railroads.

Solutionary Rail: a people-powered campaign to electrify America’s railroads and open corridors to a clean energy future is a book, a proposal, a profound vision, and an exciting multi-pronged solution all rolled into one bundle. Electrifying our rail system to run on renewable energy is just plain good sense. It creates jobs. It reduces carbon emissions. It increases freight transport efficiency. It solves the looming highway repair budget shortfalls. It works toward economic justice for rural and Indigenous communities. It contains an astonishing multiplier effect as it meets the demands of climate change.

So, what’s the drawback? (I can hear you, oh skeptics.) The usual: money and political willpower. The Solutionary Rail team addresses those concerns with interestingly viable solutions. To deal with the hefty investment required to transition to electrified rails, they propose a public-private partnership that minimizes the profit-motive from the investor side. It’s not a new idea. It’s how the original rail system was built. And speaking of old-fashioned ideas turned new, electric rail was actually a viable part of our railroading history. In the 1960s, however, internal politics and the development of the interstate highways that sank electric rail, even though the system was far more economical and efficient than diesel.

United States citizens have long bemoaned the sad state of our rails. As an avid rail rider myself, I’ve traveled across our beautiful country by train more times than I can count. It’s amazing. The rail lines are national (and neglected) treasures. You can see the heart and soul of the United States from these routes less-traveled. Also, when riding trains, you hear and see your fellow Americans in ways you never do while shuffling through airport security or crammed into your tiny airplane seat.

Revitalizing rail travel holds some unusual bonuses, such as a deepened understanding of the vast terrain and tangible unique diversity of this nation. It might rekindle our experiential understanding of our incredible ecosystems, and also remind everyone of the small towns, rural regions, urban corridors, water ways and mountain crossings that are hidden from the view of the interstate highway system.

Solutionary Rail offers us a vision for transforming our railroads and creating jobs along the way. In a nation the size of the United States, rail travel and transport makes nothing but sense. Solutionary Rail shows that electrified rail is more than feasible. It’s being done around the world. Seventy percent of Russia’s freight lines are already electrified. Ninety percent of France’s passenger rail trips are on an electrified system. Renewable energy experts demonstrate that we have the renewable resources to run our rails on solar and wind. In the book, railroad engineers also explain how electric engines can even generate energy while braking, something we see in our hybrid cars now.

And, where the political willpower is lacking, well, that’s Backbone Campaign’s specialty. They’re skilled campaigners for change – if anyone can put Solutionary Rail on the national agenda, it’s them. Pairing their knowledge with the expertise of railroad engineers, and renewable energy experts, it takes Solutionary Rail out of the realms of dreams and halfway into reality. Their proposal is well-researched, solid, and tantalizingly possible. The Solutionary Rail book includes action steps for citizens to get involved in the campaign to bring this proposal to the plates of policy makers and power holders. The sooner the better, I say!

More articles by:

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science – Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail