Clean Transport

Published on March 3rd, 2017 | by Steve Hanley

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Trump Transport Secretary Elaine Chao Pulls $647 Million Dedicated To California Rail Electrification

March 3rd, 2017 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

Republicans hate high-speed rail. In fact, Republicans pretty much hate spending taxpayer dollars on anything that might benefit taxpayers. They would prefer to give the money to defense contractors, corporate executives, and Wall Street investment bankers. After all, those are the folks who paid to get them elected.

High Speed rail

As one of her first official acts as America’s new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao has pulled the rug out from under a proposal to fund electrification of the rail line between San Jose and San Francisco. The decision also puts the kibosh on California’s plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and The City By The Bay.

Both projects, of course, would be consistent with Donald Trump’s grandiose plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure, a program that would create jobs for many Americans. But Trump may not have counted on the antipathy of Congressional Republicans when it comes to spending money on infrastructure. They steadfastly blocked virtually all infrastructure spending during the Obama administration and show no inclination to loosen the purse strings now.

Chao is a battle-tested political operative. She is married to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and one of the most spiteful, hate-filled politicians to ever serve in Congress. She served as Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration and as a Deputy Secretary of Transportation under the George W. H. Bush. She has been given her marching orders and is carrying them out with alacrity and enthusiasm.

Chao’s action cancels $647 million in federal funds that were earmarked for the Peninsular electrification initiative and work on the LA to SF high speed rail project. The electrification work was scheduled to begin March 1. The last-minute decision means hundreds of Californians who might have been employed to complete the work will not get those jobs. “It puts the (electrification) project in serious jeopardy,” Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said Friday.

Most of the world’s civilized nations have electrified rail service and high-speed trains. The US has virtually none, and under Donald Trump that is not likely to change. Instead, we will continue to rely on diesel locomotives — although, Trump would probably like to see coal-powered railway engines make a return, belching clouds of black smoke into the air with every mile. That would surely make America great again, wouldn’t it?

There may be more going on here than just a long-standing Republican antipathy toward high-speed rail. Donald Trump and California governor Jerry Brown have been engaging in a war of words ever since the inauguration. Brown has assailed The Donald repeatedly for his Neanderthal-like policies on immigration and his full-blown denial of climate science, calling climate change a plot cooked up by the Chinese to undermine America. Brown has promised to keep pushing aggressive environmental laws to protect the people of California.

In fact, a bill was just filled in state legislature that would require the state to obtain 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and 100% by 2045. Those targets, if enacted, would be some of the most ambitious in the county. Brown has also pledged that California authorities would not cooperate with federal immigration authorities in their efforts to arrest undocumented immigrants.

Trump is infamous for exacting revenge on those who oppose him. Could it be that Chao’s decision is early payback for Brown’s humiliating attacks on him? When it comes to pettiness, Donald is the acknowledged master.

Photo by Z.F. Chen/Shutterstock





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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel



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