Is Passenger Rail Finally Leaving the Station?

Could it be that there is life in passenger rail in the Old Dominion after all? Such could be the good news now that the Commonwealth Transportation Board has agreed to spend $25.2 million over the next three years to add two new passenger trains from Washington — one to Richmond and the other to Lynchburg.

The board wants to see how ridership goes. Lynchburg already has one daily train, descendant of the famed Crescent which raced from D.C. to New Orleans. The Lynchburg route starts in October and another extra will go from Richmond to D.C. in December.

Hats off to Norfolk Southern for agreeing to put up 30 percent of the $41.5 million cost to improve both passenger and rail service in Lynchburg which is easing the deal. Now if CSX will improve its north-south artery through Richmond and clean up chronic delays at the Acca Yard, the Old Dominion could really be high-balling along.

Suddenly, there finally seems to be movement on passenger rail. A little more than 15 months ago, I quoted Norfolk Southern CEO Charles W. Moorman as saying that the cold reality was that the the political will didn’t exist to boost passenger rail. Freight carriers like NS and CSX must tend to their principal responsibilities of improving shareholder value and they do that by providing good freight service. Only Amtrak offers national passenger routes.

I got fried for running Moorman’s comments as BR’s intrepid readers thought I was dissing passenger rail. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Anyone who knows me well realizes that I am a “foamer” or an individual so enamoured with choo-choos that I start foaming at the mouth when I hear the mournful horn of a diesel. When I had a basement I had a sizeable HO layout and long to rebuild one.

How to explain the turnaround on rail? Part of it comes from Barack Obama’s push for massive infrastructure improvements and the federal and state spending to pull it off. He’s got my vote on this. America’s and Virginia’s rail, port, highway, water and sewer and electrical systems badly need upgrades. The last time the U.S. launched any serious major infrastructure project was the 1950s when Dwight Eisenhower started Interstates.

Broadband also needs to reach out to rural parts of the state since big-time carriers like Comcast tend to wire up wealthier middle class neighborhoods and suburbs first because they can bundle Net, digital TV and digital phone service into one expensive and profitable package. Poor rural and inner city folk may need broadband to start up a business, but they can’t spend upwards of $200 a month buying Starz, TMC and ESPN, too. Maybe some relief is on the way.

The rising popularity of infrastructure improvements is based in part on getting out of the recession but it is suddenly in vogue and that is breaking some political barriers to thinking about the possibilities of rail. The shift in thinking is becoming evident as “pay as you go” and “public private partnership” ideas so popular since the 1990s with neo-cons and other conservatives suddenly seem so yesterday and so limited. They might be fine for a small stretch of superhighway or a bridge (entailing lots of patterns of human settlement issues well known on BR) but they can’t really do much to bring on rail and all of its benefits.

And, you have to wonder just how these deals are funded and how much the foreign highway operators back in Sydney or Barcelona can raise tolls to meet their debt obligations. Unless the Australians and Spaniards who often run such public-private projects are geniuses at financial planning — and the current crisis has shown that very few are — Average Joes commuting by car to work are just going to avoid their highways and bridges if they jack up the prices too much. Then, they go bust, dashing hopes that private enterprise and not government is the salvation for everyone and everything.

Rail is a perfect alternative to a lot of these problems. Improvements require massive amounts of money but the rail fares will be cheap and the trips less polluting. To be sure, the steps so far are tiny and they will require public funding.

Virginia has a great tradition of railroading and some of the first ever roads went through the Old Dominion. The Confederacy was saved for a while by the old Wilmington and Weldon that ran war supplies to Richmond from blockade runners docking in the Cape Fear, N.C. area. Famous passenger trains include the Chesapeake & Ohio’s “George Washington” that ran from Newport News and D.C. to points West, Norfolk & Western’s bullet-nosed “Powhatan Arrow” and, of course, Southern Railways’ “Southern Crescent.”
Could trains like that ever come back? One can only dream.

Peter Galuszka

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


80 responses to “Is Passenger Rail Finally Leaving the Station?”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    In late 1887 and early 1888, using his trolley system, Sprague installed the first successful large electric street railway system, the Richmond Union Passenger Railway in Richmond, Virginia.



  2. Larry G Avatar

    they key word here is “Pilot”:

    “The plan was approved last week by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which authorized $25.2 million for a three-year pilot program to fund new rail passenger service from Lynchburg and Richmond to Washington, DC and its Northern Virginia suburbs.”

    After 3 years, the State is going to ask the localities being served if the service is worth keeping and how much of the cost they’d like to share.

    We have a conflicted citizenry on transit and high speed rail.

    most everyone think it’s a grand idea… as long as they don’t have to pay extra taxes to “subsidize” it.

    In other places that have a traditional of rail and transit, the taxes for it are considered in a context similar to how, in this country, we view taxes for law enforcement, prisons, roads and schools.

    The other issues with citizens is that when politicians say that we need Richmond to “step up to the plate” for … name your favorite item to be better funded…..

    what they are saying in effect is that Richmond needs to RAISE TAXES.. but for some odd reason, most citizens think that means that we’ll get more money from Richmond but no increase in taxes…

    apparently Richmond has a pile of money that they are hoarding and not passing out like they should be…

    sooner or later.. folks in Va …will have to decide… if they actually want to pay for rail and better transit – as part of their taxes….

    because that’s the only way the service is going to continue…past a pilot…

    when do people start to understand the reality?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “We have a conflicted citizenry on transit and high speed rail.

    most everyone think it’s a grand idea… as long as they don’t have to pay extra taxes to “subsidize” it.”

    Depends on whether it provides a positive cost benefit ratio or not.

    Why would you continue the service if it does not?


    Why would you spend the money on this if some other olicy gives y0u a better return?

    Would there be any conflict in paying the taxes if what you got was really worth what it costs?

    Where would you put the burden of proof? Would it fall on the promoters of the service, or does the burden fall on theose who do not wish to pay the extra taxes?


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I love trains. I’d much rather travel to Philly or New York by rail than by any other means. But we need to make decisions based in large part on economics. This does not mean there cannot be any tax subsidies, but rather, we ought to have a good idea what those subsidies will amount to and who will likely be the payors.

    What are the capital and operating costs that will be needed from taxpayers to run these trains for five years? Who will pay? What are the alternatives and their costs?


  5. Groveton Avatar

    I went to the NVTC (Northern Virginia Technology Council) meeting this morning. All 4 candidates for governor made presentations and answered questions. I’ll post more details when I get the chance but passenger rail was a highlight of more than one candidate. One called the NoVA – Richmond – Tidewater high speed railway possibility “the golden crescent:.

  6. Larry G Avatar

    re: cost benefit

    lemme see.. where is that report that shows that there is a positive cost/benefit to putting an 18 year in jail for selling weed to his buddies?

    or.. where is that study that shows the cost/benefit for special education ….

    or… putting a new hip in an 75 year old…. whose productivity consists of rocking on the porch and watching FOX News?

    Oh.. I have it now… let’s go talk to the Europeans and get their cost-benefit numbers for transit… surely they would not have built all that transit if it had a negative cost-benefit… right?

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I am going to play devil’s advocate here….

    I like the concept but be careful what you wish for.

    If the end result is going to be dozens of “new” stops or stations b/w Richmond, DC, and Tidewater that results in more scattered, unconnected development then I fail to see how it’s not just more of the same old, same old.

    If all we are going to do is subsidize developers with rail as opposed to roads then what have we accomplished?

    Plus, with the recent real estate “correction” areas that were once dubbed over-priced, and unaffordable, aren’t anymore. This changes the “value” of rail in terms of a cost/benefit to commuters.

  8. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Numbers, always with the numbers. Sheesh!

    If this report is the basis for PG post, then the kink in the deal is Amtrak. They want the train to go to/from NYC before they go on these regional routes. That means no schedule flexibility and possible delays if the train doesn’t make it to DC in time.

  9. Larry G Avatar

    A rail that allows a guy in Richmond to attend a meeting in Washington… without spending 3-4 hours on I-95 would be of “value” – no?

    doesn’t this law of thermodynamics that you always talk about say that it doesn’t matter how you get from a to b that it will still take the same amount of energy?

    So.. 500 folks on a train are going to use as much fuel as 500 cars on I-95?

    is that what you mean by “cost-benefit”?

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    “where is that report that shows that there is a positive cost/benefit to putting an 18 year in jail for selling weed to his buddies?”

    Good question. Have you seen any of Jim Webb’s comments on this topic? Amereica throws five times as may people in jail as any other industiralized country. Some people are beginning to wonder if the cost is worth the benefit.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “This changes the “value” of rail in terms of a cost/benefit to commuters.”

    “If all we are going to do is subsidize developers with rail as opposed to roads then what have we accomplished?”

    Comments like this show a lack of understanding of the process. A cost benefit analysis considers ALL the costs and ALL the benefits that are large enough to be worth considering. Not only to the first ring of players, but out to two or three degrees of connnection.

    It doesn’t consider who is a good guy or bad guy, just whether ther eis a net benefit or not. If there is a net benefit and the developers are getting too big a chunk, then the money can be redistributed, so there are no losers.

    But, it might also turn out that the total cash flow is not as heavily weighted towards the developers as some would have us believe.

    You need a full and fair analysis to find out.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “A rail that allows a guy in Richmond to attend a meeting in Washington… without spending 3-4 hours on I-95 would be of “value” – no?”

    It would have value but the value might not be worth the cost. You cannot tell without a market to tell you the value, and engineering to tell you the cost.


    “doesn’t this law of thermodynamics that you always talk about say that it doesn’t matter how you get from a to b that it will still take the same amount of energy?”

    No, it doesn’t say that. Speed matters, weight matters, how much energy you have to expend on the roadbed matters. Planes are expensive, but you don’t need to build and maintain a road for them.

    Enrgy isn’t the only cost to consider. Time has value.

    What thermodynamics tells you is you can never, ever, get something for nothing. And you will aways have some waste.

    What CBA tells you is the relative cost or value of what you are getting for what you are giving up.


    “putting a new hip in an 75 year old…. whose productivity consists of rocking on the porch and watching FOX News?”

    I don’t know what the CBA on hip replacements is, but doctors routinely figure that you need to live more than three years additional to make major heart surgery worth the price. If your prognosis is not at least that good, you probably won’t get the surgery, whether here or in Europe.

    or, you might get it, your insurance might pay for it, and all the other premium payers will have paid a lot to get not very much. You might feel differently if it buys you another 6 months, but you don’t get to set the rules.

    You could put it to a vote of all the people who pay premiums, but that isn’t how it works.


  13. Larry G Avatar

    no but I’m asking about the HIP.

    what is the cost-benefit of the HIP?

    my point here is that cost-benefit for a lot of things involves a lot of subjectivity.

    and what that means is that YOUR cost-benefit is not the same as MINE.

    For instance, EUROPE has done a cost-benefit on rail and while it may not agree with yours, it was enough for them to build and operate it and it’s become as much a part of their culture as… SUVs to ours.

    I actually have a LOT of heartburn with commuter rail for the reasons you state….

    in some respects.. it’s as much an enabler of sprawl as commuter roads.

    You’re not providing rail transit to all.. and instead really providing rail to a small segment AND it has twice the subsidy as other forms of transit such as van pools and buses.

    But the pilot is inter-city rail.. to serve a wider, more diverse constituency – or so they hope.

    I don’t think that you’re ever going to get 100% fare box recovery of any fixed guide-way transit although my understanding is that the Japanese rail IS private.

    More likely than not… 3 years from now.. when the next administration comes to the localities served by the pilot and says “your turn”… they’re probably going to say “no thanks” UNLESS the service starts to draw enough riders who will strongly advocate for it.

    That’s what has kept VRE alive IMHO… last I heard.. the subsidy was something like a thousand bucks per rider… but the advocates have staunchly defended it because it “takes traffic off of I-95”.

    One wild-card here and that’s HOT Lanes combined with the fact that VRE really has no additional capacity anyhow.

    If HOT lanes “encourage” the use of other modes… and there are additional daily trains besides VRE… things could move that way .. and be real hard to move back… especially if they start using HOT Lane tolls to fund it.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    “…my point here is that cost-benefit for a lot of things involves a lot of subjectivity.”

    That is a common mistake in thinking. There is NO subjectivity in cost vs benefit: it is what it is. There ae costs, and there are benefits.

    The only question is whether we can discover what the ratio is: whether our subjectivity will obscure the truth.

    Some people think Madonna shoud adopt an American orphan rather than another African orphan. Appaently they think American orphans are more important or worth more. A cost benefit analysis would value them equally. The value might be subjective, but probably not unequal. And within reasonoable limits, It might not make any difference in the result, as long as they are valued equally.

    Say it costs $10,000 to adopt in Africa and $35,000 to adopt in the US. It wouldn’t matter what value you put on the orphans as long as they are equal: you still get more adoptions for the same money in Africa, and you get more value.


    “…YOUR cost-benefit is not the same as MINE.”

    That isn’t the way it works. A cost benefit analysis adds up ALL the benefits and ALL the costs for EVERYONE involved. If the policy in question doesn’t provide a positive benefit for EVERYONE, then either it isn’t a worthwhile policy to begin with, or else it is worthwhile but the distribution is skewed: someone is using th policy to steal from someone else.

    Which is the point of your comment: either you are worried that you are paying more than your share, or else you are GLAD that you are not paying your share.

    Either way it is stealing.


    “EUROPE has done a cost-benefit on rail and while it may not agree with yours…”

    I don’t have one, and it doesn’t matter. Cost/benefit analysis only applies to everone involved.

    Europe has a different labor situation than we do, with high chronic unemployment. They use railas a kind of WPA.

    Incidentally, there is not one European rail system. As I understand it there are a mix of guages, equipment, electrical systems, signals etc., although they have been moving to common standards.

    Rail has been a big political football in various European countries with some using a strong government system and others more highly privatized, to reduce costs, much like our argument for HOV.

    But the point is that their (actul or percieved) cost/benefit may have nothing to do with what ours turns out to be.


    “….it’s as much an enabler of sprawl as commuter roads.”

    You assume sprawl is bad. Some people assume it subsidized developers.

    A cost benefit analysis assumes none of that: it simply adds up the costs and the benefits. If it enables developers, that’s a benefit, if it also increases other infrastructure costs as a result, that’s a cost.

    But there is no assumption going in that either development or sprawl is bad.

    So far as I know there is no comprehensive study that suggests how to determine the optimum density, or even whether that value might be different in different regions. That would be out of scope anyway.

    All you could expect to do is propose a policy that increases rail transit in a certain way. Based on past history you would project certain development, and add up the costs and the benefits.

    If the costs of the development expected are more than the benefits recieved than that (small) part of the CBA would be a negative.


    “…AND it has twice the subsidy as other forms of transit such as van pools and buses.”

    That makes no difference. The subsidy is part of the cost. The question is only whether the total costs are worth the total benefit.

    Secondarily, are the costs and benefits evenly distibuted?


    Some portions of Japanese rail are private, and profitable. However the private companies were allowed to take over a rail system that was publicly constructed AND they had substantial subsidies/loan gurantees for years before they became “profitable”. If they had built it from scratch with thei own money, the situation might be different.


    100% fare box recovery of any fixed guide-way transit isnt important. Non riders do get SOME benefit from the existence of transit, and they should expect to pay for whatever benefits they get.

    I suspect those benefits are a lot smaller that what they are paying for, but that’s just my guess.


    “….last I heard.. the subsidy was something like a thousand bucks per rider… ” Also makes no difference and it is a blatant mis-statement anyway: It isn’t $1000 bucks per rider per trip whichis what this implies. It might be $1000 per year per rider.

    There are thousands of people paying the additional gas tax that pays this subsidy. For each of them the cost of having someone on VRE is small, even if the total cost adds up to a grand.

    The question is; Do they get a benefit in traffic reduction that is worth the few cents they pay?

    If they do then the benefit they get for the cost they pay is worth while. Despite the subsidy, the VRE rider gets NO BENEFIT. (I know tht idea will freak you out, but think about it, HE doesn’t get the subsidy.)

    He pays for the ride he gets, and the people paying the gas tax pay for the ride they get. What CBA tells you if what everybody pays is worth what everybody gets. It doesn’t say anything about distribution of benefits. Some people can get robbed blind by the majority (who also contribute something) in order to provide a “public benefit”.


    The VRE rider probably gets a disbenefit: he still drives to the station and he pay the gas tax, too: to subsidize himself. He gets a trip that is slower, less private, in seats that are not as comfortable, but he gets to nap or read if he likes. He travels on VRE’s schedule and probably not direct to his destination.

    That’s why you have to chip in a grand to make it worth his while. Otherwise his cost is too high.

    Which is the same reason car pools are a failure, generally. The costs are too high and we don’t “subsidize” them enough.

    We have the mix of modes that we have. GIVEN THAT MIX, CBA can tell you if we have the right mix of subsidies, or whether someone is actually getting a free ride (stealing from someone else). But you have to “subjectively” price the value of a nap on the train to do it.


    If you propse a new modal mix CBA can tell you if the cost of construction and implementation is worthwhile, overall.

    Depending on the mix of subsidies you use, it still might not be fair. And, of course, the mix of subsides available change as the mix of modes changes.


    How are you going to pay for VRE with HOT lane tolls unless you plan on stealing from Transurban?

    You don’t get something for nothing: Thermoeconomics 101.

    Even WITHOUT Transurban how do you pay for VRE with HOT lane tolls? The more attractive you make VRE through subsides the fewer people you have in the HOT lanes to pay them.

    Your Previous Argument is that people in HOT lanes should pay for the infrastructure they require (on account of their housing choices). Now you think they should pay for that and VRE, too?

    HOT lane drivers, like other drivers, should only be paying for VRE to the extent that VRE benefits them – otherwise someone is stealing from them.

    Yu need CBA to figure that out: you cna’t get there just becasue some yahoos make wild and inacurrate (and partial) claims about who gets what.




  15. Anonymous Avatar

    I hope some of you are reading this. It is a hoot. You would think parts of it were written by the buildig trades lobby, but there is nothing in it on how Cap and trade is really going to work.


  16. Larry G Avatar

    “There is NO subjectivity in cost vs benefit: it is what it is. There ae costs, and there are benefits. “

    and the artificial hip at 25K+ for the 70 year old?

    how do you objectively determine the value of allowing a 70 year to continue to walk rather than use a cane or a walker?

    If it were as clear cut as you say.. then why does insurance pay for the hip – if it is not cost effective with a clear cost/benefit?

  17. Larry G Avatar

    “f they do then the benefit they get for the cost they pay is worth while. Despite the subsidy, the VRE rider gets NO BENEFIT. (I know tht idea will freak you out, but think about it, HE doesn’t get the subsidy.)”

    without that subsidy wouldn’t the VRE have to pay twice the fare?

  18. Larry G Avatar

    “Which is the same reason car pools are a failure, generally. The costs are too high and we don’t “subsidize” them enough.”

    Gee.. when I was in a 4-person carpool .. I spent 1/4 as much for fuel and my car had 3/4 last miles on it.. so it was worth a whole lot more when it was 5 years old with 50K on it than if I had driven every day and had more than 100K on it.

    How do you figure that is a inferior cost-benefit?

  19. Larry G Avatar

    “Depending on the mix of subsidies you use, it still might not be fair. And, of course, the mix of subsides available change as the mix of modes changes.”

    why subsidize at all?

    why not have each person pay the legitimate costs of their commute?

  20. Larry G Avatar

    “Your Previous Argument is that people in HOT lanes should pay for the infrastructure they require (on account of their housing choices). Now you think they should pay for that and VRE, too?”

    Well I did not say they should have to pay a penalty for their housing choice.

    what I said was that if you CHOOSE to live in a place that requires a commute – that the consequences of making that choice are yours… not others.

    If a bunch of you make that choice and in the process clog up the highway.. it is still your responsibility.

    why should the folks that chose NOT to do that commute have to pay to make your commute easier when it was you that made the choice?

  21. Larry G Avatar

    “Yu need CBA to figure that out: you cna’t get there just becasue some yahoos make wild and inacurrate (and partial) claims about who gets what.”

    well your wild and inaccurate and partial claims are someone else’s valid C/B study.

    Since even you admit that trying to get all the proper pieces together to do a TRUE C/B is virtually impossible.

  22. Larry G Avatar

    re: …. "there is nothing in it on how Cap and trade is really going to work."

    well.. it helps if you are competent enough to find the germane articles that address the subject:

    I would submit that this one paper is more comprehensive and more thoughtful about the pros and cons of Cap & Trade than all the rah rah cheerleading blather that has been posted from the "property rights" folks advocating for toxic pollution.

    Capt & trade for GHG (and in general) has a LOT of potential problems.. and they are covered in this paper and among them – risk – something that cannot be easily quantified.. as they point out…

    The NRDC and the Environmental Defense folks are legitimate and credible voices in the dialog and have a low blather factor – unlike some of the whacko ideas that the "property rights" folks advocate… clearly without much thought with respect to consequences.

    I've not seen a single paper from the "property rights" folks talking about the risks that need to be acknowledged and addressed.. with using Cap & Trade for pollution.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s because the “property rights” folks that I think you are referring to are concerned only with a very narrow aspct of property rights.

    For the most part these are folks who are really concerned about real estate rights, which is a small part of the picture.

    The “environmental folks” (for the most part) on the other hand are hung up on the (false) idea that property rights equals environmental ruin. As we have seen, conservation easements and large, private conservation holdings depend on strong (and divisible) property rights.

    The environmental literacy council describes property rights this way:
    (emphasis mine)

    “What are property rights? This concept is one that is often difficult to understand and, therefore, can vary in definition. The most complete property rights systems have four underlying qualities: the right to possess a resource or asset, the right to determine its use, the right to sell and receive profits from it or its outputs, and the ability to exclude others from using it. In short, property rights are legal rights an owner has entitling them to the use, benefit, sale, and exclusion of others for a given resource.


    Property right arrangements can stretch beyond conventional notions of a single owner possessing a physical object for an indefinite amount of time. It is not only possible, but fairly common, for groups and governments to own resources. Property rights can also be held temporarily and can also be held over something intangible, like an idea.

    The most important consideration is not ‘who’ has property rights to the specific resource, but that someone, or some organization, does in fact have those rights. These rights can also be held in common, as with a tribe or village.

    A clear definition, consistent enforcement, and easy divestment of property rights are paramount to their effectiveness. Clearly defining a resource and delineating ownership is required for any legitimate transaction to be made. Consistently enforcing or defending ones right to the resource is essential to give ownership meaning. Finally, being able to divest (sell off) one’s property is necessary if resources are to be used in the most efficient manner.

    You will notice that these are all concepts I have tried to explain the environmental significance of.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “Solutions to externality or tragedy of the commons problems usually involve the creation of uniform regulation or the establishment of property rights. An argument for uniform regulation, which is often done through inefficient and expensive government intervention, is based on the idea that the marketplace cannot handle externalities or prevent a tragedy of the commons. However, by recognizing the role property rights plays in determining the effectiveness of markets, we can begin to think that – instead of setting a uniform standard or regulation – we should be establishing property rights in order to help create an effective market. When faced with true costs, polluters and others that create negative externalities through the use of their resources will have a stronger incentive to change their behavior.”


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “In summary, property rights allow holders to use, profit, sell, and exclude from a resource. These rights are often thought of as the foundation for efficient markets because they establish clearly defined and enforceable rules. They are particularly important for issues related to the environment because, once established, they can be a more practical alternative to government regulation.”


  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Weak Property Rights = Pollution?
    Posted by Tim Fitzgerald · 13 September 2007 · Pollution

    I’m not usually much on “Top Ten” lists, but this one certainly reiterated for me that the worst pollution is correlated with weak property rights. That industrialized Western nations with strong property rights can’t collectively crack the top 30 suggests an important panacea to environmental ills. “

    The Top 10 Worst Polluted Places
    The Top 10 worst polluted places in the world are:

    Chernobyl, Ukraine
    Dzerzhinsk, Russia
    Haina, Dominican Republic
    Kabwe, Zambia
    La Oroya, Peru
    Linfen, China
    Maiuu Suu, Kyrgyzstan
    Norilsk, Russia
    Ranipet, India
    Rudnaya Pristan/Dalnegorsk, Russia

    Notice that these re all places with a history of really strong property rights. (sarc).


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    "Site description: In Dzerzhinsk, a significant center of the Russian chemical manufacturing, the average life expectancy is 42 years for men and 47 for women. Until the end of the Cold War, the city was among Russia's principal production sites of chemical weapons. According to figures from Dzerzhinsk's environmental agency, from 1930-1998, almost 300,000 tons of chemical waste were improperly disposed of. Of this waste, around 190 separate chemicals were released into the groundwater. These chemicals have turned the water into a white sludge containing dioxins and high levels of phenol – an industrial chemical which can lead to acute poisoning and death. These levels are reportedly 17 million times the safe limit."



  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “The Commons Blog is a collaborative web log dedicated to the principle of promoting environmental quality and human dignity and prosperity through markets and property rights. Put more simply, it’s about free markets protecting the environment.
    The blog is named after the famous 1968 Garrett Hardin essay, The Tragedy of the Commons, where he established that common ownership of land and natural resources tended to lead to the degradation of those “common” resources. The free-market environmentalist movement exists to demonstrate that property rights have time and again proven the bulwark against such degradation. You can read more about the theory on our page “About Free Market Environmentalism.”

    The picture in the top left corner of the site is of the Natural Bridge of Virginia. Natural Bridge is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Since the nation’s founding it has also been protected and conserved through private ownership, not government regulation or public control.”

    “…it did not take long for some environmentalists to recognize the friction for what it was — a natural reaction by property owners who did not appreciate being told what they could and could not do with their own property. A new method for encouraging good stewardship evolved. If private-property rights naturally instill in owners a sense of stewardship, even if it is for personal gain, why not work with property owners instead of against them?

    From this kind of thinking sprouted free-market environmentalism. Although the free-market movement has had a much lower profile than the highly visible activities of such organizations as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, arguably it has done a more efficient job in preserving the environment. Instead of relying on the coercion of the state, free-market conservationists use the voluntary mechanism of the market. They purchase land they want to conserve. And as with all voluntary transactions, both parties involved are better off than they were before. The purchaser exchanges money for property he places a higher value on and the owner exchanges his property for money he values more than his property.

    The Nature Conservancy has been an innovator and leader in free-market environmentalism (though unfortunately they also often rely on government to achieve their goals). They take voluntary contributions and purchase ecologically valuable property.


    No one can in good conscience trespass on private property and force the owner to conserve at the point of a gun. It is no different if he uses the state to do the same, which is exactly what environmentalists who turn to the state do. Free-market environmentalism has been a highly successful tool of conservation where it has been applied ……”


  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “Since even you admit that trying to get all the proper pieces together to do a TRUE C/B is virtually impossible.”

    It is not at all imposible. It is mostly just tedious and expensive.

    1) Identify the first, second and third degree of freedom: all those who will be SUBSTANTIALLY affected.

    2)Add up all the costs imposed by a proposed new policy,

    3)Add up all the benefits presented by the policy.

    4) Assign prices to the costs and benefits using the best methods avaiilable, if there is no market for them.

    5) Stop when the exercise is more expensive than the benefit it provides.

    The only thing that prevents it from happening is people like you, who suspect the answer won’t be to their liking.

    This is no more difficult than say soing a failur modes analysis on an airliner, or the space shuttle.
    And, like a failure modes analysis, just because we don’t always get it perfect is no reason not to try. Each time we get an unplanned failure, we add it to the list of things to do for the next analysis.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “Environmental Defense folks are legitimate and credible voices in the dialog and have a low blather factor”

    I’mnot so sure. I watched a spokesman from EDF on Charlie Rose recently.

    He sounded like a wind up platitude doll.


  31. Larry G Avatar

    I wonder for the Virginia Pilot what expectations they have for farebox recovery both during the pilot and then subsequently?

    I would think that number important for a number of reasons… from making a decision that a pilot is worth a go to what kind of ridership levels and what folks would be willing to pay.

    I found this interesting:

    Farebox ratios around the world:

    and these in particular:

    Hong Kong MTR 149%
    Osaka (Hankyu Railway) 123%
    Osaka (OMTB) 137%
    Taipei Rapid Transit System 119%
    Teito RTA (now Tokyo Metro) 170%

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, and Osaka have exactly what relevance to Virginia?


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Does 149% and 170% imply 49% and 70% profit?

    We hate excess profits, right?


  34. Larry G Avatar

    Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, and Osaka have exactly what relevance to Virginia?

    relevance to the conditions that result in a positive fare-box recovery – which if Virginia could replicate would remove a big roadblock to the future of intercity rail.

    In other words – sustainability?

    excess profits?

    there is no such thing.

    if you can provide a service and that service is so popular and demand so strong that you can charge more for it – then there is nothing at all wrong with that.

    Usually under those conditions, the “excess” profits are often plowed back into more innovation to provide even better and more things that might be in demand.

    It’s called success.

  35. Larry G Avatar

    “…TRUE C/B is virtually impossible.”

    It is not at all imposible. It is mostly just tedious and expensive.”

    Here’s a C/B study that has to do with transit:

    “A study by the International Center for Technology Assessment found that after accounting for government subsidies, pollution cleanup and other costs, the real price of gasoline is estimated to be somewhere between US$5.60 and US$15.37 per gallon.[2] Were gasoline sold within this range of prices, people might voluntarily drive less, choose more fuel-efficient vehicles, and use mass transit”

    Now I realize that you and your whacko dumb-as-toast property rights friends won’t agree with the above but my point here is that there is not agreed-to standard for doing C/B and your idea of “it’s simple” is really only in your own mind.. which of course is 180 degrees from others…

    this is why the countries that provide robust rail service believe that they have done a proper and valid C/B analysis and have made the proper decisions – and you do not.

    This would be why the METRO system with one of the highest farebox recovery ratios in the Western World is considered to be a good C/B for the following reasons:

    “There are several practical reasons for government subsidies of public transit. By subsidizing mass transit, it encourages ridership and subsequently lowers traffic congestion. Another benefit is lowering pollution from single occupant vehicles that are no longer on the roads. The third benefit is reducing infrastructure costs needed to build and maintain more street, highway, and freeway lanes associated with increased traffic congestion. These factors considered together also contribute to a better quality of life as defined by global quality of living measurements”

    Again.. you won’t agree but that’s not the point. The point is that your way of measuring C/B is:

    1. – not simple
    2. – not universal
    3. – does not put the same value on things as others do
    4. – not used by any other country in the entire world -not one.

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    “A study by the International Center for Technology Assessment found that after accounting for government subsidies, pollution cleanup and other costs, …”

    That is not a cost benefit study.

    Where are the benefits? Where are the rest of the costs?

    Where is the comparison, on an equal basis, for transit?

    Where is th news here? There is no “might” in the idea people will drive less at $5.60 a gallon: that’s a virtual guarantee. The question remains as to whther that would turn out to be a cost to society, or a benefit.

    If government subsidy for transit is good because it encourages ridership, then how is it that government subsidies for autos, that encourtage ridership, are bad?

    I agree that drivers should help pay for transit to the extent that it reduces traffic congestion. Now, how do we go about figuring out how much that is? And what it is worth? How is it that we hae one of the best transit systems and still hae the worst congestion?

    Does the existence of transit result in so much additional business that it also results in MORE auto traffic traffic to support all the things taht transit does not do so well?

    Transit is mainly a peak load operation, would we do better to operate it ONLY during peak periods, except for the downtown loop?

    I presume that some of the value in congestion relief would be calculated in the form of time savings for drivers. But if Time savings for drivers is a benefit then additional time spent in commuting by transit is a cost.

    Transit has substantial costs in maintenance, safety, insurance, surveillance and other items that auto drivers absorb themselves. In fact, patronage and political support from the unions are one reason transit gets such attention from government.

    Reducing the infrastructure costs for building and maintaining streets as to be offset by the costs for building and maintaining tracks. Which is paid for mainly by drivers, not Metro riders.

    That 45% farebox recovery is only operating costs, and says NOTHING, by itself as to whether Metro represents a good cost/benefit for the Metro region. One legislator familiar with transit and Metro has said that Metro is one of our national monuments and anyone who thinks it is about transppotation doesn’t understand.

    But, being a monument has a value, so that isn’t all bad.


    ” believe that they have done a proper and valid C/B analysis “

    This is not about beliefs, you either have the numbers or you don’t. In any case there is very little about the costs and benefits of the European system that would apply here. The categories of costs and benefits would be similar.

    You assume tht I am opposed to transit and regional rail, and I am not. But when I hear statements like:

    “These factors considered together also contribute to a better quality of life as defined by global quality of living measurements”

    then my BS alarm goes off. I have a hard time believing that Metro makes th egobal quality of life measurably different, or that anyone has actually made any such “measurements”.

    And it is not my way of measuring C/B. I don’t invent this stuff, And the outlne I provided actually is pretty much universal. What isn’t universally accepted (although common) is the one-sided sort of “study” or data that you have presented.

    I don’t have any argument with what was presented: but it probably only represents a tiny part of the costs and benefits of transit vs auto. Let’s go do the rest of the job.

    In ANY case, this shouldn’t even be about ransit VS auto. What we SHOULD be doing is trying to figure out what represents the best combination, given that we are pretty much stuck with both.

    Presenting a one sided argument, as this study does is pretty much a blatant call for hiher charges agaisnt auto drivers withthe money presumably going to suppor more subsidies for transit.

    Obviously, this is a self defeating or self limiting argument. Once you have completed the task of getting everyone out of their cars, who will be left to pay for transit?

    Metro now costs more than $0.85 cents per passenger mile tooperate. If it had to do all the jobs that autos do and support all the locations (or even some kind of new equivalent locations) then its costs would be much, much higher.

    If you had to comapre the theysystems as true apples to apples competitive systems, there would be no comparison, which is why a study suchas you quoted is far less than sentient.

    What we should be arguing about and looking for is the lowest cost, highest benefit, mixed mode transportation system. Anyone promoting, advocating, or lobbying for one mode over another isn’t doing that — and probably isn’t contributing to what is best for all of us.

    they are tring to get some kind of advantage for their position, otherwise known as stealing.


  37. Larry G Avatar

    “This is not about beliefs, you either have the numbers or you don’t.”


    “In any case there is very little about the costs and benefits of the European system that would apply here. The categories of costs and benefits would be similar.”

    Who decided that they do not apply?

    Isn’t that part of cost-benefit – do decide what you will include and not include in a C/B?

    who decides what should be or not be and what criteria are they using for inclusion or exclusion?

    what criteria did you use that was NOT arbitrary and subjective to exclude the European experience?

    What I’m proving here is just how subjective and arbitrary you are with your advocacy for C/B done “your way” or the “property rights” folks “way”.

    and then you have the nerve to accuse others who disagree with your arbitrary and subjective point of view – of “stealing”.

    isn’t this a tad bit dishonest on your part?

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    sorry, the previous post was aapted from


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    “..not used by any other country in the entire world -not one.”

    I don’t know what their rules are, but in this country CBA is required by law. We can either do a good job, and understand why it is there to help us make our lives better, or we can do a lousy job and claim the tool ahs no value.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “To hit the 2015 ethanol mandate, a lot of land currently set aside in conservation programs and other land used for soybean cultivation would need to be converted to corn. Growing all that corn means more fertilizer, which will feed into the Mississippi River and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The increased use of nutrient-enriched crop production is a key cause of “harmful algal blooms … oxygen depletion … and overall fisheries habitat decline,” the authors point out. In other words, to grow enough corn to meet renewable fuel standards will mean increasing the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.”

    Cost Benefit Analysis, anyone?


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    nerve to accuse others who disagree with your arbitrary and subjective point of view – of “stealing”.

    We agree, I think, that if a manufacturor does not include the cost of pollution in the cost of his product, then he is creating an “externality”. He is not absorbing the full cost of what he produces, and this represents a subsidy to him by those people that absorb the ill effects, and who are not users of his product.

    This is exactly equivalent to stealing on the part of both the manufacturor and his customers, because they get something that is taken involuntarily from others.

    I think you would agree with that.

    All I’m pointing out is that exactly the same thing is true if the manufacturor (and his customers) are overpaying the cost of pollution.

    Your position seems to be, not to worry: that never happens. Besides the cost of pollution damage is assumed to be infinite.

    Whether it happens or not, the possibility exists, and just like the other situation it is exactly equivalent to stealing.

    Where, exactly, do you think this position is one-sided?


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    “to the conditions that result in a positive fare-box recovery – which if Virginia could replicate would remove a big roadblock to the future of intercity rail.”

    Great. All Virginia has to do is replicate Hong Kong in order to make intercity rail “worthwhile”.

    That replication would go mostly in the cost column, I think.


    Sustinable, Eh? Show me a city, any city, that sustains itself only with rail traffic.


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    “This is not about beliefs, you either have the numbers or you don’t.”


    The costs and beenfits of any system are what they are, whether you have the numbers or not.

    If you have at least some numbers, you can start to make decisions about how to improve the system, with some uncertainty.

    The more numbers you have and the more accurate they are, the better decisions you can make. More objective and less subjective.

    Arguing against cost/benefit analysis is arguing in favor of ignorance and against reality.

    We may, in fact, be ignorant as to what reality is, but that does not mean we cannot learn.


  44. Larry G Avatar

    did we ever state an opinion about how we do a cost-benefit for an artificial hip for a 70-year old?

    What is your answer?

    yea or nay?

    you said it was simple… and ignorant to be against doing a cost/benefit… so sally forth.

    and then tell me how the Europeans and Japanese cup up with a positive cost-benefit for rail.. and we do not?

    how does that work?

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    The benefits they would receive would be different from the benefits we would receive, and their costs are different as well.

    Why is that so hard to unerstand?


    “did we ever state an opinion about how we do a cost-benefit for an artificial hip for a 70-year old”

    I know number of 0 year olds with artificial hips, some are on their second or third. They seem happy to have them. I’m not sure if they actually paid for them, though.

    I know how BCA is done, but I only know the results of ones I have worked on or studied. Hip replacement is outside my expertise. However, there are people who do such things.

    A search on benefit ost analysis for hip replacements drew 248,000 hits.

    Heart bypass drew 72,500 hits

    Heart transplant 60,400 hits

    Economic costs associated with retardation 18,200 hits

    Are ANY of these the final answer, the last word? Probably not, but it beats hand waving.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    The practical development of CBA came as a result of the impetus provided by the Federal Navigation Act of 1936. This act required that the U.S. Corps of Engineers carry out projects for the improvement of the waterway system when the total benefits of a project to whomsoever they accrue exceed the costs of that project.

    Thus, the Corps of Engineers had to create systematic methods for measuring such benefits and costs. The engineers of the Corps did this without much, if any, assistance from the economics profession. It wasn’t until about twenty years later in the 1950’s that economists tried to provide a rigorous, consistent set of methods for measuring benefits and costs and deciding whether a project is worthwhile. Some technical issues of CBA have not been wholly resolved even now but the fundamental presented in the following are well established.

    -In order to reach a conclusion as to the desirability of a project all aspects of the project, positive and negative, must be expressed in terms of a common unit. The most convenient But not the only common unit is money.

    This means that all benefits and costs of a project should be measured in terms of their equivalent money value. A program may provide benefits which are not directly expressed in terms of dollars but there is some amount of money the recipients of the benefits would consider just as good as the project’s benefits.

    This could be less than the market value of the Benefits provided. (sometimes people would rather have the money than the benefit provided) It is assumed that more esoteric benefits such as from preserving open space or historic sites have a finite equivalent money value to the public.

    -Not only do the benefits and costs of a project have to be expressed in terms of equivalent money value, but they have to be expressed in terms of dollars of a particular time. This is because a dollar available now can be invested and earn interest for five years and would be worth more than a dollar in five years.

    -CBA Valuations of benefits and costs should reflect preferences revealed by choices which have been made. For example, improvements in transportation frequently involve saving time. The question is how to measure the money value of that time saved.

    The value should not be merely what transportation planners think time should be worth or even what people say their time is worth. The value of time should be that which the public reveals their time is worth through choices involving tradeoffs between time and money.

    If people have a choice of parking close to their destination for a fee of 50 cents or parking farther away and spending 5 minutes more walking and they always choose to spend the money and save the time and effort then they have revealed that their time is more valuable to them than 10 cents per minute.

    For example, the valuation of the benefit of cleaner air could be established by finding how much less people paid for housing in more polluted areas which otherwise was identical in characteristics and location to housing in less polluted areas.

    -When consumers make purchases at market prices they reveal that the things they buy are at least as beneficial to them as the money they relinquish. Consumers will increase their consumption of any commodity up to the point where the benefit of an additional unit (marginal benefit) is equal to the marginal cost to them of that unit, the market price.

    If they are allowed to steal the benefit there is no cost and they will consume more than the optimum amoount.

    -It is sometimes necessary in CBA to evaluate the benefit of saving human lives. There is considerable antipathy in the general public to the idea of placing a dollar value on human life. Economists recognize that it is impossible to fund every project which promises to save a human life and that some rational basis is needed to select which projects are approved and which are turned down.

    The controversy is defused when it is recognized that the benefit of such projects is in reducing the risk of death. There are many cases in which people voluntarily accept increased risks in return for higher pay, such as in the oil fields or mining, or for time savings in higher speed in automobile travel.

    These choices can be used to estimate the personal cost people place on increased risk and thus the value to them of reduced risk. This computation is equivalent to placing an economic value on the expected number of lives saved.

    -The impact of a project is the difference between what the situation in the study area would be with and without the project. Note that the with-and-without comparison is not the same as a before-and-after comparison. for example evaluating a rail system would mean evaluating what transit without the rail system (bus system?) would have cost.

    Suppose an irrigation project proposes to increase cotton production in Arizona. If the Department of Agriculture limits the cotton production in the U.S. by a system of quotas then expanded cotton production in Arizona might be offset by a reduction in the cotton production quota for Mississippi. Thus the impact of the project on cotton production in the U.S. might be zero rather than being the amount of cotton produced by the project.

    -The impacts of a project are defined for a particular study area, be it a city, region, state, nation or the world. This is why the European experience is different from ours, and not applicable.

    -Sometimes an impact of a project can be measured in two or more ways. For example, when an improved highway reduces travel time and the risk of injury the value of property in areas served by the highway will be enhanced.

    The increase in property values due to the project is a very good way, at least in principle, to measure the benefits of a project. But if the increased property values are included then it is unnecessary to include the value of the time and lives saved by the improvement in the highway.

    The property value went up because of the benefits of the time saving and the reduced risks. To include both the increase in property values and the time saving and risk reduction would involve double counting. This is an error contained in the “cost analyis” you quoted above.

    -If there are more than one mutually exclusive projects that have positive net present value then there has to be further analysis. From the set of mutually exclusive projects the one that should be selected is the one with the highest net present value. This is the problem I have referred to as an infinity of projects. Claiming an infinite value or benefit for one project exludes all others from consideration, because it would justify infinite expense.

    -If the funds required to carry out all of the projects with positive net present value are less than the funds available this means the discount rate used in computing the present values is too low and does not reflect the true cost of capital. changing the discount rate will also change the costs and benefits. The present values must be recomputed using a higher discount rate. It may take some trial and error to find a discount rate such that the funds required for the projects with a positive net present value is no more than the funds available. Otherwise you wind up funding a project with higher costs for the benefits recieved and this is exactly equivalent to stealing – paying $5000 to save one life when $500 might have saved two.

    -Hayami and Peterson in their innovative 1972 article (1) on the social returns to public crop forecasts developed a method for computing the economic value of increased accuracy of crop forecasts. Producers and users of crops may have to make decisions on inventories and plantings before the crop is harvested. To the extent that these decisions are made on erroneous expectations of output, prices will deviate from the correct values. If output expectations are too low prices will be too high, but once the error is realized when the crop is harvested then excess inventories will be sold off resulting in prices which are too low. This is why advocating or agitating for a single outcome will necessarily reduce the public benefit. And error in either direction is equally bad.

    The specific equation developed by Hayami and Peterson for the social loss incurred from a forecast with a proportional error of e is:
    social loss = ½e^2(Value of Production/α), where α is the price elasticity of demand.

    -A project will generally have some direct benefits and costs that result from the goods and services it produces and the resources it uses up. These goods and services and resources generally will involve market transactions.

    A project may also have external benefits and costs. These are the good things and the bad things that result from the project and are imposed upon society rather than resulting from market transactions.

    Thus the net scocial benefit of a project can be expressed as:
    Net Social Benefit = Social Benefit for Direct Effects + Net Effect of Externalities.

    Notice tht this is equivalent to the equation I have presented before: Total cost = Cost of production + Cost of Preventing Pollution + Cost of Pollution Damage, where costs are simply neative benefits.

    Adapted and modified from

    Emphasis mine.

    The answer to your questions are that ALL relevant costs and ALL relevant benefits must be accounted, whoever they apply to. The only issue is how small must the costs and benenefits be before yu stop counting: before the CBA itself loses its benefit.

    Also the experience of Europe doesn’t apply here.

    What you think of a subjective is mostly measurable.

    And whether you care for it or not, CBA is both policy and law for ealuating policy and regulations in the US.

    Go read the proposed new energy bill, and you will be shocked.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    To see an opposite viewpoint on CBA:


  48. Anonymous Avatar

    “Behind the smiley-face rhetoric of “sustainability” and “conservation” – that warm and fuzzy public image that the environmental movement has cultivated for itself – resides a dark agenda. In Green Hell, Steve Milloy examines how the Greens aim to regulate your behavior, downsize your lifestyle, and invade the most intimate aspects of your personal life. He reflects on the authoritarian impulse underlying the Green crusade. Whether they’re demanding that you turn down your thermostat, stop driving your car, or engage in some other senseless act of self-denial, he argues that the Greens are envisioning a grim future for you marked by endless privation.

    With apocalyptic predictions of environmental doom, the Green movement has gained influence throughout American society – from schools and local planning boards to the biggest corporations in the country. And their plans are much more ambitious than you think, says Milloy. What the Greens really seek, with increasing success, is to dictate the very parameters of your daily life – where you can live, what transportation you can use, what you can eat, and even how many children you can have.”

    Heritage Foundation

    Whether you think the greens are right or wrong in their quest, you have to ask yourself what they have done to inspire such rhetoric.

    So here is an example: I hired a local service company to come and fix my oil burner. They replaced a plastic driveshaft about four inches long, that connects the motor to the blower. The part cost around $19.39, plus the labor to install it.

    The bill contained an additional charge for $14.89 for “EPA/HAZMAT compliance.

    Compliance implies they did some labor, which I already got charged for. If I had known they wer going to charge me $15 to dispose of the old part, I’d have kept it.

    Do this to enough people often enough, and you will get a backlash.

    Today, I saw another example of inappropriate silt fence. A crew was working along the curb line near an intersection. The land slped uphil away from the intersetion and, sure enough there was 100 ft of silt fence, on the uphill side of the worksite, protecting a heavily wooded thicket from runoff.

    This kind of polarization leads to unfounded claims in order to protect each sides “territory”. And this results in less environmental protection for all of us.


  49. Groveton Avatar

    As promised, here is my blog summary of the recent speeches and Q&A amongthe four candidates for Virginia governor. I have summarized the points and have doubtlessly forgotten to note some comments.

  50. Anonymous Avatar

    “make Virginia the energy capital of America with a combination of clean coal, nuclear, offshore drilling and alternate energy.”

    Given Virinia’s attributes, that could actually work.


  51. Larry G Avatar

    thanks Groveton….

    of course the devil is in the details… and that is in spades when listening to a candidate on the campaign trail!

    and I did a search for “rail” and did not see much… did I miss it?

  52. Larry G Avatar

    re: cost benefit for rail (and other stuff)

    Here’s what you said Ray (paraphrase):

    ” the government REQUIRES a cost benefit”

    ” where is the cost-benefit for Ethanol?”

    ” hip C/Bs are not my expertise”

    here is what I said:

    All C/Bs are not the same …don’t use the same criteria and don’t use the same items and even assign different values to the same items used in other C/Bs….

    My point here is that what you tend to do .. is take something like C/B or Thermodynamics, or minority rights, cap and trade.. and you expand it out to include all manner of things associated with your beloved “property rights” dogma…

    in totally inappropriate and downright wrong ways…

    all to fit your view.. of how these things should work and all of them to justify really, really dumb-as-toast ideas like saying that property rights essentially means that people should be allowed to pollute toxics with a cap and trade system…

    hand waving blather.. is my name for it…

    I ask you one question about a hip…C/b

    and get pounded with 3, 4, 5, voluminous hand-waving blather that evade and avoid the actual question…

    you sure know how to fry those electrons…

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    “… public investment in green technology brings costs as well as benefits. Taxpayers, for example, will ultimately have to pay for government debt, while prodigious government borrowing makes it harder for businesses to raise money. Spending on renewable electricity, meanwhile, tends to raise the price of power, since wind- and solar-power plants cost more to build and run than coal-fired ones, say. These effects can cost jobs.”

    The Economist.


  54. Groveton Avatar


    These four guys talked for 25 minutes each – or 100 minutes in total. There was some discussion of passenger rail but it was non-specific (other than saying they liked it). I decided not to include the comments in the summary I posted since I thought there were more important topics that were discussed (and discussed more specifically). There were members of the MSM in attendance so I’ll try to find some articles they may have written with more detail. My objective was to provide a “typical” voter’s view.

  55. Groveton Avatar

    Here is some decent coverage. First a take from Fake Virginia (I wish I had thought of that name for a blog site – it perfectly captures the arrogant stupidity of the people who claime to be from the Real Virginia who think poor education and limited economic growth make them special).

    This one is a little more serious and more detailed.

  56. Larry G Avatar

    re: govt debt

    if the govt essentially requires taxpayers to “invest” in “green” that in the longer run will actually save them money but the up-front costs are not voluntarily assumed….

    example: we need humvees… no one likes to pay taxes and we really don’t know how many humvees are “enough” to do what they are supposed to be doing – part of the defense of the country.

    so.. we know that LEDs and tankless water heaters and solar panels and wind power… in the Longer run are more cost effective but we won’t buy that stuff because the initial up-front cost is more than we want to pay.

    so… the government says to us: ” in addition to you guys buying humvees that will certainly benefit you in the longer run – we are going to add some new items to that list – and generically, we will refer to it as “green” and “intercity-rail” because ultimately over the longer run – it will save us money and unaccounted externalities…..

    so…one of the roles of govt is to force us to invest..


    isn’t that essentially what Social Security and other mandatory salary deductions are in the first place?

    isn’t that essentially what they are saying will be the solution to universal health care? i.e. make everyone put aside money for health care – on the premise that young people won’t buy it but later on they’ll need it but would require others to pay since they do not save for it like they should have?

    so.. the govt basically says: ” we are going to force you to invest in things that you don’t want to – for your own good”.

  57. Anonymous Avatar

    ” the government REQUIRES a cost benefit”

    The government not only requires cost benefit analysis, it requires that teh answer be positive. there is no REASON for a public policy taht does not create a net public benefit. (GAO).
    that much is indisputable.


    “where is the benefit for Ethanol”

    I don.t know, I didn’t do the study, and I don;t thinkthe truth is readily available because there are too many people interested in hiding or obfuscating it – for their own benefit, instead of ours.

    When ALL costs and ALL benefits to ALL the participants are eveluated I couldn’t tell you if it is positive or not. I’m undecided.

    Either the government thinks there is a positive benefit, or else the government got sold a bill of goods, and we are all being robbed. I think ethanol was originally promoted by the greens (and big ag), but now they have learned you don’t get something for nothing, they are unhappy

    It is also possible the government THOUGHT there was a positive C/B ratio, but now new information is coming to light.

    Here is what I think I know.

    -It appears that the argument ethanol takes more energy to produce than it provides is false.

    -It might be true that ethanol productin uses a higher quality and more valuable fuel. As a result the cost margin between what is produced and what it is produced with is small, or even negative,for now.

    -That margin may increase with economies of scale and the diesel penalty may decline with the advent of biodiesel.

    -Ethanol production appears to have raised food prices.

    -Ethanol burns cleaner, but it has a lower energy content, so you burn more of it.

    -Ethanol may reduce air pollution and increase water pollution. however Combustion of ethanol in an internal combustion engine yields that are produced by gasoline and significantly larger amounts of formaldehyde, formalin, and acetaldehyde. This leads to a larger photochemical reactivity that generates much more ground level ozone.

    -One cost attributed to oil production is military protection of our oil supplies. We may eventually have some cost savings, but we will need a military even in an oil free world.

    -We can import ethanol cheaper than we can make it here. Energy independence doesn’t really buy us much and may be very costly.

    -Ethanol damages some kinds of rubber. We haven’t resolved all the hidden costs yet.

    -Ethanol burns with a near invisible flame and its flash point is only 55 degrees Farenheit, which is much higher than gasoline but much lower than Diesel.

    -Ethanol does help break the fossil fuel syndrome. It is based on renewable solar energy. (at least for now.)

    -Full use of Ethanol will require a whole infrastructure we don’t now have.

    Bottom line, I don’t know the answer, but if someone paid me enough I could find a reasonably accurate answer.


    “All C/Bs are not the same …don’t use the same criteria “

    The criteria and procedure are SUPPOSED to be the same or pretty similar. The ground ruels are well established. some people an dorganizations do a better or more disinterested job than others. You could subvert the process by deliberately choosing or ignoring certain costs or benefits.

    But what would be the point, if you know that the idea is to get you the best deal possible? Oh, that’s right, because you think you might get a better deal if you can steal from someone else.


    “..your beloved “property rights” dogma…”

    It’s not my dogma. Take it up withthe founding fathers,a nd various PhD’s in environmental Science and Economics.

    You believe in property rights, too. “Other poeoples rights end where your property begins.”

    I just haven’t found anything else other than religion and ethics that is as basic to how I must run my life. Anything that affects my property affects the result of my labor, which IS my life.

    Nothing you have said has convinced me otherwise, and your argument is based on property rights, too. I just think we need better and more complete definitions, along with better protection. I beileve that,properly done this will get us a BETTER environmentla quality.


    My labor involves my personal thermodyamics, and whatever other thermal power I can buy with that. There is always some waste in the process, and the same holds true for everyone else. As a result, at the top level, the economy all runs on energy, and trading one kind of energy for another, whether it is in the form of ethanol or lumber.

    That is a physical fact that no one has ever disproven. You want to live in fantasy land, go right ahead. just don’t expect me to agree to any policy or law that violates the laws of physics.


    “…saying that property rights essentially means that people should be allowed to pollute toxics with a cap and trade system…”

    As you point out, we can set the cap extremely low. We already do that with prescription medications and medical radioactives. What you are talking about is a matter of degree, which I refer to as “better defined” property rights. Better defined most likely won’t mean zero except in very rare cases: for enough money we will allow the use of most toxins, as EPA activities have already shown. Let’s get off our high horse and get real about what it is we re doing, and why.


    “…I ask you one question about a hip…C/b

    and get pounded with 3, 4, 5, voluminous hand-waving blather that evade and avoid the actual question… “

    I don’t know about hips. (there are SOME things I don’t know.)

    I know there are people who work that problem and many other problems that some people assume are too subjective to solve. You can look it up as easy as I can – if you really want an answer instead of a defense.

    I know these things and these ideas are not perfect, but they are defensible, measurable, and improvable. Even you admit that a truly pristine environment is not the goal, all I’m suggestng is that we agree on a method to go about finding the goal, which must be something like having as many of us life as well as we can while making the least mess in the process.

    Even a moron can see that is going to mean some wealth transfer, and that is what the heritage people are so hot about. We have to convince them that they will be getting something that is worth what it costs them. We need a CBA that they can bellieve.

    Either that, or we can just steal from them.


  58. Anonymous Avatar

    “that in the longer run will actually save them money”

    We are supposed to consider taht using the time value of money to calculate NPV. Then you Know if it saves you money, or not.

    The mere unsubstantiated calim that it saves money in the longer run won’t get my vote. Burn the electrons, and show me.


  59. Anonymous Avatar

    “we know that LEDs and tankless water heaters and solar panels and wind power… in the Longer run are more cost effective”

    No, in fact we don’t know that. We haven’t got it all figure out yet. Even if we did, it would not matter if the up front cost is so high we can’t afford it. You can’t get teh long term savings without the short term capital, and you won;t getthe short term capital if there is something “better” to spendi it on – meaning more profit sooner.

    Then, you can always take that money (more now) and invest it in the next best thing. Eventually, the next best thing WILL BE solar or tankless or wind.

    But if you spend that money first or out of order you get less profit (or benefit), or stuff later and it costs more.


    It depends on how much you have to pay for them, and on what other costs you avoid. it depends on more cost effective –than what???

    Maybe the most cost effective thing to do is move everyone to the most temperate climates: where we need the least heating and the least air.

    We’ve got enough supercomputers too figure this stuff out, but there is no agenda for it. there is an agenda of various special interests.

  60. Anonymous Avatar

    “one of the roles of govt is to force us to invest..


    the role of government is to protect your property.

    IF gorverment can use its size and other advantages well, then sometimes it can create investments that work well for all of us: increase our property in spite of the taxes we pay to get the benefits.

    It is not the governments job to force you to invest in something that is a “maybe”.

    It is hard to argue that social security is much of an investment. It is not so hard to argue that we are all better off by requiring some minimum level of saving, so we don’t have to provide 100% of support for the indigent elderly.

  61. Larry G Avatar

    Ray – does it strike you a bit odd that in one breath you say that the government not only requires a C/B study but it requires a positive result and in the next breath you say that you don’t know what the C/B is for ethanol?

    So if our government takes your gas taxes and uses it for transit/rail – did they did a cost-benefit study and the result was positive?

  62. Anonymous Avatar

    “…does it strike you a bit odd that in one breath you say that the government not only requires a C/B study but it requires a positive result and in the next breath you say that you don’t know what the C/B is for ethanol?”

    I know that it is required. I don’t know what it is. Or compared to what, for that matter.

    I try to restrict myself to things I think I can accomplish. I might accomplish the idea of convining readers what CB analysis is, and why it is important from a policy, social, ethical, and economic perspective.

    Basically it means don’t do anything that you cannot prove is worthwhile, according to some kind of standard.

    If you decide to do something then (at least in the environmental world) try to make it fair, so the costs and benefits are shared, just as the environment is shared.

    Costs, ultimately come out of someones paycheck (property) which affect real lives. if the effect on peoples lives is greater than the savings provided, not only is the CBA wrong, and you are wasting resources, but you must be stealing, somehow.

    That I can drive home to anyone who will listen. The government CBA on ethanol is something I probably cannot change, and should not attempt to, unless I have real and new information to add to the analysis.

    What I can do is argue that other people should also not interfere uless they have new and legitimate hard information. If their information is mere lobbying propaganda designed to produce a desired outcome in the analysis, then those people (whoever they are) are not my friend.

    Instead, they ae someone who WANTS the analysis to be suboptimal, which amounts to stealing.

    What is really amusing is that such people don’t even hide their intentions: they will tell you flat out that they want what they want, because they FEEL that way is best, or because the alternative has no price, or the “other guys” are the bad guys.



  63. Anonymous Avatar

    “So if our government takes your gas taxes and uses it for transit/rail – did they did a cost-benefit study and the result was positive?”

    Ideally, yes.

    We know for example that the Rail to Dulles project almost failed because it did not meet cost effectiveness goals.

    My personal opinion is that those goals, such as they are are not very rigorous, and probably subjest to some political manipulation, group think, and popular perception not based on fact.

    But, at least those standards (supposedly) apply equally to all transit funding applicants. They have to compete on some kind of equal footing so we don’t pay four times as much per passenger mile in Batavia, Ohio as we do in L.A. or D.C.

    Furthemore, I don’t think the system boundary is correct. The system is the transportation SYSTEM for each applicant,including all modes. If we had cost effectiveness guidelines for THAT I’d be a lot happier, and I think we would get more meaningful answers.

    If all the rail projects are bad, setting standards that chooses the best among them isnt saying much, but it is better than nothing.

    It is certainly better than saying the alternative is too awful to contemplate, so we have to do this no matter what it costs. Which seems to be the green strategy.

  64. Anonymous Avatar

    “if our government takes your gas taxes and uses it for transit/rail – did they did a cost-benefit study and the result was positive?”

    If the government spends gas taxes on transit and rail and they can show how much it improves the driving experience, then I don’t have a problem.

    I have a problem if they think they can take any amount of gas tax on the unproven, unmeasured. claim that it reduces congestion, pollution, traffic deaths or something.

    I have a problem if we say we cannot build our way out of congestion with road constructon becauseof latent demand, and we don’t recognize that rail construction has the exact same problem. we claim rail construction reduces auto congestion but road construction doesn’t. I don’t think either one does: it is a false claim and a false discriminator. The right answer is going to require different questions, but we are to hung up on us vs them to even think about the right problem.

    I also have a problem if there is one rail line to the affluent suburb, and every pizza delivery driver in the state is paying for it. We claim rail is good for poor folks, but that isn’t who is riding (commuter rail)


  65. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m sure you will appreciate this response to one of my comments in another forum:

    “Anonymous wrote:
    hydra, once again you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

    It’s not much of an argument, is it? S

    till, I was flattered to think that EMRs anonymous supporters were taking the trouble to follow me around.


  66. Larry G Avatar

    cost-effectiveness is different from cost-benefit.

    if you check out the Feds criteria for assessing the cost effectiveness for transit – you ought to notice a couple of things:

    1. not included is a requirement for 100% farebox recovery.

    why is that?

    2. try to find a similar approach to rating the cost effectiveness of highways.

    bonus question:

    if a toll study is done on a proposed road and it is determined that the toll that would be needed to pay back the cost of the road would be too high – and not enough people would use the road – to generate enough revenues to pay the bonds…

    what does that mean?

    does it mean that the road is not cost-effective?

  67. Anonymous Avatar

    You are right, cost effectiveness and cost benefit are different, but closely related.

    “Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is a form of economic analysis that compares the relative expenditure (costs) and outcomes (effects) of two or more courses of action. Cost-effectiveness analysis is often used where a full cost-benefit analysis is inappropriate e.g. the problem is to determine how best to comply with a legal requirement.”


    “not included is a requirement for 100% farebox recovery.

    why is that?”

    100% farebox recovery would imply that there is no external benefit to drivers who pay the remainder of the subsidy. The subsidy per rail rider seems large, but because rail riders are so few compared to drivers, the subsidy PAID per driver is still pretty small.

    the only question is whether the subsidy paid by auto drivers is proportional to the benefit they receive.


    “try to find a similar approach to rating the cost effectiveness of highways.”

    The users of highwyas pay all of their own costs plus the costs of subsidies to transit. (That’s because nearly everyone uses the highways, if they are paid for, then they must be paid for by users.)

    If auto drivers get a congestion benefit from everyone who (partly) abandons their car for Metro, then the opposite must be true when someone gets fed up with Metro congestion and returns to their car.

    “Neither the federal government nor the states conduct systematic retrospective evaluations of the costs and benefits of projects. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) does, however, prepare biennial reports to Congress (the Conditions and Performance studies) that estimate the benefits of alternative future rates of capital spending for highways.

    The estimates are derived from a model (the Highway Economic Requirements System) that uses data on traffic, geometry, and state of repair of each of a sample of road segments reported to the Federal Highway Administration by the states. A set of cost factors allows the model to project infrastructure and user costs for each segment for specified assumptions about future road improvements and traffic growth. Given a forecast of traffic and a budget, the model selects the most cost-effective highway improvements.

    The 2002 report did not present estimates of returns on investment. However, the previous report estimated that if all projects with benefit–cost ratio greater than 1 were carried out over the 20-year period 1998–2017, the average benefit–cost ratio would be 3.7 (USDOT 2000).


    The USDOT model used to produce these projections has been critiqued by a Transportation Research Board committee (TRB 2003, 56–58, 127) and by the General Accounting Office (GAO 2000), which concluded that the studies have value for the purposes intended.


    "if a toll study is done on a proposed road and it is determined that the toll that would be needed to pay back the cost of the road would be too high – and not enough people would use the road – to generate enough revenues to pay the bonds…

    what does that mean?

    does it mean that the road is not cost-effective?"

    No, it just means the proposed toll payers are not willing to pay for ALL of the benefits the road provides to people other than the users.

    Or it could mean the discount rate is too high, frontloading much of the cost on the current users and giving the toll road operator excess short term profits.

    On top of that, the road could ALSO be not cost effective, but that is pretty hard to imagine given the number of people who have to promote the idea of a road to get it this far in the process.

    There isn't much point in asking an either/or type question when the answers are likely to be complicated.

    cost benefit study of traffic cameras

    The Proposed New
    Interstate 69 highway: Is it a cost effective economic development for Soutwest Indiana?


    "Last month Cool Green Science (the Nature Conservancy's blog, argued for a “free carbon-trading area of the Americas” —funneling a part of the revenue from a U.S. cap-and-trade system to Latin American forest conservation, and creating new carbon sinks in the process.”

    Hey, wait a minute, what’s wrong with MY forest? Why should I pay for less CO2 in Brazil?


  68. Anonymous Avatar

    One DOT study concluded that the savings just to the trucking industry justified one-third to one-half of the total capital cost of the intercity highway system at the higher interest rate and 55 to 80 percent of capital costs at the lower interest rate.


  69. Anonymous Avatar

    “Most U.S. freight shipments by value and tonnage move less than 250 miles. In 2002, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the weight (9 billion tons) of all CFS shipments and over half the value ($4.6 trillion), moved in local and short-haul shipments that are critical to metropolitan area economies, using local roads, tracks, and facilities (figure 3). But goods that move longer distances—more than 250 miles—carried 82 percent of CFS ton-miles, a slight increase from 80 percent in 1993. By weight, only 5 percent of shipments travel more than 1,000 miles. Nevertheless these shipments carried nearly one-third (32 percent) of the ton-miles in 2002, an increase from 29 percent in 1993. These longer haul shipments were transported an average of 1,780 miles per ton in 2002.

    The distance shipped per ton varies greatly by commodity type. Longer haul shipments, on average, had a much higher value per ton than local and short-haul shipments (figure 4). The average value of long-haul shipments (more than 250 miles) was much higher ($1,400 per ton in 2002) than goods shipped less than 250 miles ($500 per ton). For example, goods that moved 1,000 or more miles in 2002 had an average value of over $2,000 per ton, compared with an average of $430 per ton for goods shipped less than 100 miles. ”

    This suggests to me that there are real limits to what we can expect to ship by train – at least cost effectively.


  70. Anonymous Avatar

    ” The most disturbing trend may be an increased taste for arbitrary expropriation. People don’t invest if the government rewrites the rules to take their earnings. When the House of Representatives voted a 90 percent tax on bonuses, economic populism trumped responsibility. Allowing bankruptcy judges to cram down mortgages expropriates lenders and creates more uncertainty and lawyers’ fees. Giving aid to people who lose their homes is a better way to help those in pain.

    Few variables are as reliably correlated with economic growth as respect for private property. America’s economic strength reflects, in part, the fact that investors have historically found this a legally reliable place. That reputation is a golden goose, and destroying it would be like adding trillions to the debt.


    The nation’s debt-to-income ratio is projected to rise from 40 to 70 percent in four years. The government could reduce that debt by cutting spending more sharply after the recession and by scaling back other ambitious programs. Still, no matter what, the debt will be huge.

    For our children to face this debt, they will need free trade, private ownership, and respect for private property. Eliminating fiscal restraint during a recession is understandable. Eliminating all four pillars of sound economic policy imposes too much of a cost on tomorrow for too little benefit today.”

    Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, is director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.


  71. Anonymous Avatar

    More highway benefits that accrue to non-users, and which are reduced by the use of toll-roads.

    “If transportation becomes cheaper, quicker, and more reliable, the cost of running out of stock is reduced because inventory can be replenished quickly, replacement orders will be smaller and more frequent, and inventory size and cost will decline.

    The authors estimated that the annual rate of return on net investment in the highway capital stock from these savings was 18 percent during the 1970s (i.e., an additional $1 of net highway capital stock reduced costs by $0.18), 5 percent during the 1980s, and 1 percent during the 1990s.”


  72. Anonymous Avatar

    “CBO says the mandated use of ethanol will likely increase GHGs in the long run”

    “Last year the use of ethanol reduced gasoline usage in the United States by about 4 percent and greenhouse-gas emissions from the transportation sector by less than 1 percent. Research suggests that in the short run, the production, distribution, and consumption of ethanol will create about 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent processes for gasoline. In the long run, if increases in the production of ethanol led to a large amount of forests or grasslands being converted into new cropland, those changes in land use could more than offset any reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions—because forests and grasslands naturally absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than cropland absorbs. “

    From Environmental Economics

    EMR shold love this. No matter what you do, we are screwed. The only answer is to drive less.

    And speaking of large private vehicles, maybe the PUMA, (A two seater Segway) will satisfy him.


  73. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry thinks I’m either kidding or nuts when I suggest that I (and other farmers or landowners) should be paid for the environmental amenities the land provides, especially if other uses of the land ore prohibited for environmental reasons.

    So check this out.

    “There’s an odorless, colorless gas that is sucked out of the air by your trees, and somebody’s going to pay you for that.”

    “I don’t want to be overly cynical (although it does seem to be a theme of this blog), but when most Washingtonians or New Yorkers read about people like Justin Maxson who are using market mechanisms to promote sustainable forestry (and that’s what we’re all about here on CT), the only green they can think of isn’t the kind growing on trees.”

    “Is it morally wrong to support something that will do a lot of good but that people are only interested in because they can make money? Many climate activist-types I know are seriously angry with the huge amount of offsets in Waxman-Markey. Shouldn’t they be happy because more reductions will be achieved at a lower total cost? Or is that not really the goal here? “

    From Common Tragedies

    “I Drink Your Milkshake”

    Maybe environmentalists need to drop their hatred of profits and learn to harness them for environmental benefit. Of course,that means someone would have to OWN those profits, and have some expectaion of keeping them.


  74. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    ‘Last year the use of ethanol reduced gasoline usage in the United States by about 4 percent ‘

    Because of 10% ethanol, my mileage went down 10%. In other words, the same amount of gasoline was used to travel the same distance. Ethanol is nothing more than a hidden fee to pad someone’s wallet.

    I think the real driver is people driving less.

  75. Anonymous Avatar

    “Because of 10% ethanol, my mileage went down 10%. “

    If you put in 10% ethanol and your r mileage went down 10% youwould have had to receive zero energy from the ethanol. I don’t think your claim is accurate. I don;t see anything like that kind of reduction in my car.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that the claim that gasoline usage went down 4% includes the mileage differential, such as it is.

    According to the EPA, summer gasoline varies from 113,000 BTU per gallon to 117,000 BTU per gallon. That is a difference of 3.4%. Winter gasoline varies from 108,500 BTU to 114,000 BTU. That is a difference of 4.8%.

    Unlike gasoline which is mixture of many different hydrocarbons, ethanol is a consistent product. It has a BTU content of 76,100 BTU per gallon. That considerably less than gasoline but the difference between gasoline and gasoline blended with 10% ethanol is generally around 3.5% less BTU. Generally you would expect fuel mileage to mirror the BTU content of fuel.


    Still 3.5% is yet another pin in the voodoo doll that is ethanol for fuel.

    However, it has been widely reported that ethanol for fuel is responsible for hikes in food prices. The GAO say that is apparently only partly truue, and to a minor degree.

    The jury is still out on ethanol for fuel, but one thing is pretty certain: we can import it cheaper than we can grow and produce it here.


  76. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    The internet is full of stories just like mine. My Escape Hybrid went from 34 to 31 in the summer, and as low as 29 in the winter.

  77. Anonymous Avatar

    Saw a special over the weekend on high speed trains which pretty much explained why we are not going to get it.

    There are a dozen or so markets where it makes sense regionally: large enough cities close enough together, but those markets are disjointed. There is no reason to expect a nationwide system.

    The money we have put up so far is a pittance compared to what eill be needed, and our trains will not meet European or Japanese speeds.


    Good article on payment for environmental services in the NY Times:

    Thoma Friedman on Payments for Environmental Services
    From the NYTimes:

    More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

    As we debate a new energy future, we need to remember that nature provides this incredible range of economic services — from carbon-fixation to water filtration to natural beauty for tourism. If government policies don’t recognize those services and pay the people who sustain nature’s ability to provide them, things go haywire. We end up impoverishing both nature and people. Worse, we start racking up a bill in the form of climate-changing greenhouse gases, petro-dictatorships and bio-diversity loss that gets charged on our kids’ Visa cards to be paid by them later. Well, later is over. Later is when it will be too late.”

    Tim Haab adds a comment I concur with.

    “Friedman seems to imply a strict polluter pays interpretation, but PES encompasses payments for using environmental services by consumers of the environment and payments to potential uses to prevent use. [For example,]… payments to upland farmers in Ecuador and Guatemala to undertake sustainable farming practices to prevent downstream water quality issues.”

    Or payments to upland farmers in Fauquier county, for that matter.


  78. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m no apologist for ethanol, but if we are going to be opposed to it, we should do so for the right reasons.

    I’d bet that in a controlled test your decrease in mileage is not as high as it seems. Probably a good bit of the difference in variation in the gas portion.

    The other thing is that we are suboptimizing by having dual or multifuel engines. Ethanol is higher octane than gas and that meand we could use higher compression engines to optimize the mileage.

    Still, we are paying MORE per gallon for a fuel that carries us less distance, or we are burning more fuel to carry us the same distance, which negates some of the CO2 benefits. Also Ethanol produces water vapor, which is a greenhouse gas, not to mention whatever methane escapes from the digesters and fermenters.

    If gas is $3.00 a gallon then 10% ethanol OUGHT to cost $2.90 to be competitive.

    This is one of those places where concern for th e environment is going to collide with concern for the pocketbook, when the reality hits home.

    And just wait till we get stuck with E85. then you WILL see serious mileage depletion.


  79. Anonymous Avatar

    More on how we value life and morbidity. From Environmental economics.

    “30 premature deaths + 2,000 missed work days + 9,000 coughs = $325 million
    From the EPA:

    Invista will pay a $1.7 million civil penalty and spend up to an estimated $500 million to correct self-reported environmental violations discovered at facilities in seven states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced today. The company disclosed more than 680 violations of water, air, hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparedness, and pesticide regulations to EPA after auditing 12 facilities it acquired from DuPont in 2004.

    “By correcting these violations, Invista will reduce harmful air pollution by nearly 10,000 tons per year,” said Catherine R. McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Invista is making a clean start in a settlement that achieves significant environmental benefits, and we encourage other new owners to do the same.”

    …The emission reductions resulting from correcting these violations will result in estimated annual human health benefits valued at over $325 million, including 30 fewer premature deaths per year, 2,000 fewer days/year when people would miss school or work, and over 9,000 fewer cases of upper and lower respiratory infections.”

  80. Anonymous Avatar

    “The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors reports that:

    Sales activity in Greater Northern Virginia for March 2009 continues to show an increase from 2008. The number of Greater Northern Virginia region homes sold in March was 2,755, a 19.94% percent increase from March 2008’s total of 2,297 sales.

    This marks the twelfth consecutive month of increased year-over-year sales totals for Greater Northern Virginia. The average sales price of $317,158 in March 2009 compares to a March 2008 average sales price of $409,294.”

    This means the dollar volume of sales is still down, but people are buying MORE homes in NOVA, not less as a result of the crash in prices.

    EMR will, of course, put a different spin on this.


Leave a Reply