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Steel Wheels, Flywheels and Made-in-the-U.S.A. Green Jobs

kinetic traction systems, inc. introduces new flywheel to harvest energy from trains[Updated below.] A new clean tech company called Kinetic Traction Systems, Inc. has just launched, and its success could have some interesting implications for the 2012 Presidential election year. That’s because KTSi manufactures flywheels that harvest energy from the braking power of trains, and their factory is located right here in the U.S.A. If President Obama’s vision of more federal investment in railroads comes to fruit, that could mean  more business for companies like KTSi, and consequently more new jobs for U.S. workers. However, given the forces arrayed against new rail projects, that is one mighty big “if.”

All Opposed to Railroads, Raise Your Hands

It doesn’t seem to make much sense to oppose well-planned new railroad infrastructure when American workers are desperate for jobs, but here are just two examples of the fallout from recent elections: governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio has officially declared that work on the state’s new passenger rail system is “dead,” and progress on New Jersey’s desperately needed rail tunnel to Manhattan came to a screeching halt after the state’s governor pulled the plug. This movement against railroad improvements is especially puzzling, considering that railroads are an American icon. America invented railroads, and in many ways, railroads invented modern America. Now we’re dropping the ball at a crucial moment – and don’t get me started on how fast China is picking it up!

All Opposed to Labor Unions, Raise Your Hands

However, it all makes sense in terms of the upcoming 2012 Presidential election year. By nature, government infrastructure projects are union projects. That makes them focal points for get-out-the-vote efforts by any political party that has forged an alliance with labor unions. Conversely, blocking these projects is a means of dampening the union vote, which helps to enhance prospects for any party that uses union-bashing as a means of motivating its voters. If you’re interested in figuring out which is which, feel free to take a stroll through the ol’ tubes and see which members of what party have officially stated their opposition to new rail projects.

Green Jobs and Flywheels

KTSi and other clean tech innovators in the flywheel field are poised for substantial growth, and the movement against rail improvements could certainly put a damper on new investments in those companies. But, not to worry. KTSi already has worked with the London Underground and the Lyon Metro in Europe, so if a strong market for flywheels fails to materialize in the U.S., KTSi can just go ahead and open up some new factories overseas, where support for new rail systems is thriving. As for new manufacturing jobs here in the U.S., one can always keep on praying.

Update November 6, 2010: Think Progress reports that the governor-elect of Wisconson has also announced his intention to kill a planned high-speed rail project.

Image: New York City subway by Special KRB on

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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