Freight Railroad and Falling Coal Shipments

June 26, 2015

Falling coal shipments are a significant economic issue for the freight railroads. What's interesting is that at the same time, the freight rail industry cannot seem to see the opportunity that comes from being a considerably more efficient mode for freight shipment.

There are many people even in the freight rail industry who would like to build on the fundamental efficiency of freight rail, but there's a profound lack of management attention to this.

If the industry wants to expand its mode share in a world of ever increasing environmental concern, it needs a game plan other than than shipping more fossil fuels.  

Those options are out there but the industry needs to engage outside of traditional avenues and develop a greater role in a world where sustainable solutions are at a premium.

Pope Francis

June 18, 2015


From the New York Times report--

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.

The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

The first pope from the developing world, Francis, an Argentine, used the encyclical — titled “Laudato Si’,” or “Praise Be to You” — to highlight the crisis posed by climate change. He placed most of the blame on fossil fuels and human activity while warning of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us” if swift action is not taken. Developed, industrialized countries were mostly responsible, he said, and were obligated to help poorer nations confront the crisis.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” he wrote. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

. . . .

Francis has made clear that he hopes the encyclical will influence energy and economic policy and stir a global movement. He calls on ordinary people to pressure politicians for change. Bishops and priests around the world are expected to lead discussions on the encyclical in services on Sunday. But Francis is also reaching for a wider audience when in the first pages of the document he asks “to address every person living on this planet.”

. . . .

Catholic theologians say the overarching theme of the encyclical is “integral ecology,” which links care for the environment with a notion already well developed in Catholic teaching — that economic development, to be morally good and just, must take into account the need of human beings for things such as freedom, education and meaningful work.

“The basic idea is, in order to love God, you have to love your fellow human beings, and you have to love and care for the rest of creation,” said Vincent Miller, who holds a chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton, a Catholic college in Ohio. “It gives Francis a very traditional basis to argue for the inclusion of environmental concern at the center of Christian faith.”

. . . .

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San Jose's Traffic-Intense General Plan Held Unlawful

May 07, 2015

The California Clean Energy Committee has successfully over-turned the City of San Jose General Plan due to the failure to adequately analyze impacts resulting from a lack of housing for people employed in the city.  The City's recent update of its general plan would require 109,000 additional housing units to be built elsewhere in the region for employees working in San Jose.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) described the effect of that kind of planning in its 2007-2014 Regional Housing Needs Plan—

In the Bay Area, as in many metropolitan areas, cities with employment centers have historically planned for insufficient housing to match job growth.  This lack of housing has escalated Bay Area housing costs.  Unmet housing demand has also pushed housing production to the edges of our region and to outlying areas.  San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and San Benito counties have produced much of the housing needed for Bay Area workers.  People moving to these outlying areas has led to longer commutes on increasingly congested freeways and inefficient use of public transportation infrastructure and land.  Negative impacts on health, equity, air quality, the environment and overall quality of life in the Bay Area also result.

Read more

19 Gigawatt Hours of Renewable Energy Dumped

February 03, 2015

Here is some important data about dumping renewables from Scientific American--

In California, where renewable energy makes up 20 percent of retail electricity sales, an overproduction of solar and wind during the middle of the day forced the state to dump 19 gigawatt-hours of prepurchased renewable energy last year.  Electrolyzers could effectively serve as energy storage by using that excess generation to make renewable hydrogen.

Full article is here.


Catholic Bishops on Climate Change

December 14, 2014

Catholic Bishops explain climate change--

Following the evangelical option for the poor, we work closely with the most vulnerable communities and the excluded and as such are closely attuned to how the problem of climate change is affecting them. Our message to political leaders and all people of good will is rooted in the experience and suffering of these poor communities. . . .

We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsible intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God's loving care. And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide.

We express an answer to what is considered God's appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming. The main responsibility for this situation lies with the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation. . . .

We as Bishops call on all parties . . . to build new models of development and lifestyles that are both climate compatible and bring people out of poverty. Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all.

See full statement here.

Picker Casts the Future

November 29, 2014

Commission Picker has issued a proposed order that will direct major California utilities to prepare plans to integrate renewable energy resources into their distribution grids. Picker has cast a balance between far reaching goals for localized energy production and the real-world challenges of moving utilities forward. Comments due December 12.  Picker's Draft Order