The Solar Train Petition for Dutchess County sign now

If you agree with WHVW 950 AM owner (and Town of Clinton resident) J.P. Ferraro that our county could and should lead the way with a new solar railway demonstration project right here in Dutchess-- even if only starting on a small scale-- sign on to this petition, pass it along to all you know, send a letter to all 25 of us in the County Legislature at [email protected], call Gov. Paterson/NYS Legislators @ (877) 255-9417, and call Congress @ (800) 828-0498.

Joel Tyner
Dutchess County Legislature Environmental Committee Chair
County Legislator (Clinton/Rhinebeck)
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

p.s. J.P.'s not alone in his vision here, folks-- for more on similar proposals from around the globe, see,,, and see as well re: imminence of global warming/climate change.

There's also no time to waste in turning our local economy around either, as such a project would indubitably create jobs, too-- the front page of the April 17th Poughkeepsie Journal reported that there are over 11,000 unemployed right here in Dutchess County and that the jobless rate here is the highest in March in fifteen years-- in the 19th straight month of increased unemployed.

[finally-- don't forget Obama's $8 billion commitment for high-speed rail announced April 17th:]

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"Pirate Joe's Solar Railroad Dream"
16 April 2009, Pirate Joe [a.k.a. J.P. Ferraro]

O.K. I have a dream. Little old lowly moi. At the risk of seeming egotistical and grandiose far beyond my station (double entendre pun intended), I have an idea that could change the world. It could start right here in Dutchess County, N.Y.

Ill get to the point: I want to build the worlds first (as far as I know) solar-powered railroad. Its a small, cheap demonstrator railroad in fact, designed to show that this idea could work as a practical public transportation alternative (that) would be totally independent of imported oil and nuclear power plants (and for you anti-coal folks, no tie-in to coal-fired plants, either).

Yea, I know, what about hybrids? yall ask. You may not want to hear it, but, truth be told, hybrids are in fact, junk technology. Yes, they use less gasoline. But you tell me: how is running a vehicle that was charged up by Indian Point (nuclear power plant) any sort of a green alternative? We need to do a lot better than that.

Building a small, demonstration solar-powered railroad could, and I believe would, provide the genesis of a nationwide network of 100\% off the grid transportation. Because railroads (steel wheels on steel rails) are so intrinsically efficient, it is the best way by far to get to the goal of 100\% renewable-energy powered transportation. Yes, I said 100 percent.

Here in Dutchess County, N.Y., we have a semi-abandoned railroad right-of-way part of which could serve as an ideal demonstrator project. Running between Buckingham Place in the Town of Poughkeepsie, it takes a course that leads to a spot right behind the shopping plaza on Burnett Boulevard. This route would allow folks who live in the Buckingham Place vicinity to access that shopping plaza (with its resident supermarket) without using their cars. This choice is ideal for many reasons:

1. It was a railroad, the right-of-way exists and would be ready to receive track with very little (read cheap) work. I have personally verified this by walking the entire route.

2. Its short: just 4 Km. This would keep construction costs low.

3. It could provide, fast reliable service to the people in the Buckingham Place vicinity and along the way.

4. It could attract a variety of grants, costing local government nothing.

5. It might, or has the potential to, attract tourists and other visitors.

6. Since it is based on an existing right-of-way, the most expensive (by far) part of the project (land acquisition and grading) has already been done.

7. It would provide jobs in one of the most important fields for the future of our nation.

8. It would create reams of positive publicity for Dutchess County.

So what do you say, folks? Are you with me? Do you want to say no to nukes and OPEC? Goodbye to smog and traffic jams? Stop Ross Perots great sucking sound of jobs being outsourced? Know some folks who can help? Call, write or e-mail, all the info is on the front page ([email protected] or 483-9489).

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Don't forget-- Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Al Gore, Wendell Berry, et. al. are right-- there's no time to lose battling climate change and global warming-- more reason for solar rail here...


350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. Accelerating arctic warming and other early climate impacts have led scientists to conclude that we are already above the safe zone at our current 387ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.

Also see:

"Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates" by Kari Lyderson [Washington Post 2/15/09]

"World Will Not Meet 2C Warming Target, Climate Change Experts Agree"
by David Adam [Guardian 4/14/09]

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Italian Trains with Solar-Power Boost
22 October 2005

Trenitalias PV Train

ANSA. Italy has unveiled Europes first solar-power-assisted train. The solar panels on the trains roof do not drive it but provide energy for its air conditioning, illumination and safety systems.
The PVTRAIN project, partly funded by the EU, has been under development since 2003, and involves 10 prototype units: 5 carriages, 3 cargo wagons and 2 locomotives.

Environment Minister Altero Matteoli said the first ten prototypes would pave the way for significant developments in the future.

The panels on a rail car can deliver approximately 1.36 kW of peak power. In the development and testing from July 2003 to May 2005, the solar panel system generated a total of 1,017.41 kWh.
The CEO of Italian train company Trenitalia, Roberto Testore, said it was looking with interest to the solar power sector, with a view to producing vehicles on an industrial scale. Solar panels are already used to provide a portion of train power in Japan, and a miniature railway in Wales is wholly powered by solar energy.

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UltraLight Rail for Santa Cruz

Check out these New developments related to solar powered transit on fixed guideways [2006 November] and another website about Ultra Light Rail.

Santa Cruz has urgent need for better transportation, and needs to decide between more rail or more road usage. We are working to use the existing rails, by starting with an ultra-lite demonstration prototype. Join us in creating a unique form of sustainable transportation for Santa Cruz.

Since this page was last updated in 1997, the developer of this website has become involved in other transportation projects. New activities include the Kiteship Project and the Umunum Chapter of Citizens for Personal Rapid Transit. To learn what others are doing in this field, see the innovative transportation technologies website.


Solar-electric rail is a smokeless, noiseless rail transit system based on recent advances in solar racing car technology. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) is finishing up a major study on transportation options which includes expanding Highway 1 or using the existing rail corridor for transit. While the Ultra Light Rail is not "officially" being considered by the county, strong public support for the ULR could make it a viable contender. Meanwhile, the Commission has signed a resolution supporting the development of an Ultra Light Rail (ULR) prototype. We are building a core development group to create, design and build the world's first prototype. The public has been invited to participate on many levels.

Over the past year, two alternatives have been presented by the SCCRTC to the public -- the SunTan Special (a Danish IC3 Flexliner) and the First Night Trolley (Siemen's RegioSprinter).


Since the late 1890's, the weight of a train has not improved much from about 2,500 pounds per passenger. In the 1930's, it was recognized that stronger materials could dramatically improve performance of rail cars. Going from more than 300 horsepower to only 90 horsepower, the 13,500 pound Budd-Micheline light-weight stainless steel car was a precursor to the use of composites now becoming familiar in advanced transportation systems.


The ULR vehicle will be built low to the ground (4 feet) and will seat passengers from the sides in a manner similar to an amusement ride (roller coaster).. Each car will be shaped like a tear-drop for maximum aerodynamics. The cars will hold 20-40 passengers, ride on rubber motorcycle-type tires and use very light carbon fiber and composite materials. It will weigh about 100 lbs per passenger. The electric power will be provided by a utility grid/solar photovoltaic (PV) mix, with the mix changing as PV costs come down. PV (solar cells) on both the solar train and at each rail station will re-charge battery packs.


The solar electric racing industry is well established. Beginning in 1987, when GM's "SunRaycer" won Australia's World Solar Challenge, auto-makers, universities and private groups from around the world have competed in developing the technology which will support the transportation industry of tomorrow.


The goal of our Ultralite is to reach 100 lbs/passenger, to lower energy consumption. It will be virtually silent, autonomous, with opportunity charging at stations. With electric propulsion, it will have low maintenance. It will be aerodynamic, low profile, unlike a bus or train, but like an oversized sports car. The rail itself is easy to install (feasibly on existing streets for automobiles) and removable if requirements change. Priority will be given to local development and fabrication.

Technical Aspects: On-Board Solar Panel

An 8'x20' (160 sq ft) panel area can provide 2 kw solar power (3 HP peak). For a very light, aerodynamic vehicle, this is a substantial portion of the power required. It will have light weight, low power electric motors. The novelty of using solar on-board will create appeal for ridership.


We are planning to incorporate low profile seating, with gull wing doors (roof lifts for access). There will possibly be open air seating for summer days. It will accommodate 10-20 passengers, seated 4 abreast, with access from both sides (i.e., loading 2 per side, with space for luggage and groceries in the center. (The first prototype will not handle bikes/handicapped but the production model will.)


The prototype will employ a very simple box structure. It will be made of composite materials (fiberglas, honeycomb, kevlar, carbon fiber). Batteries will be inserted in a channel down the center. Furthermore, the prototype will offer an opportunity to serve as a research platform to develop new battery types, ultracapacitors, etc.

Solar Charging Station

Solar charging will consist of 10 KW of solar panels per station (about 1,000 sq ft of rooftop area that will shelter riders from elements while embarking/disembarking). A flywheel or similar electrical storage at each station will facilitate rapid opportunity charging while in the station. The message for sustainability will create future benefits and build extraordinary public relations for the community.

Program Development Schedule

A video is currently being produced, and is anticipated to be ready by the end of December, 1995. The present schedule is to do preliminary engineering in Winter 1996, and prototype construction Spring/Summer 1996. A new video will be produced to document the prototyping and testing.

Progress Report

Take a look at the mockup which has been contructed for community events to give our future riders a chance to appreciate the scale of the vehicle and (if they have a lot of imagination) an idea what it might look like.

Marketing Plan

We will coordinate a series of core group meetings to be held in Nov-Feb to promote the ULR concept. The meetings will be promoted by a series of press releases in local Santa Cruz and SF Bay area media. A 30-minute docudrama is being produced about the ULR project and will be shown on local television stations in January 1996. Newspaper and magazine articles will also be sought. While the prototype is being approved, a national press campaign will be created to promote, manufacture and license the ULR for both urban and rural rail corridors.
A detailed marketing plan will evolve over the course of these meetings, reflecting the input received from public, business, and technical sources.


Preliminary engineering, component development

Suspension/drive train design
Prototype construction
Suspension/drive train
Electrical -- motor/controller
"Batteries included" (lead acid)
On-board solar panel & electronics
Video documentation


We have received feedback that this budget is excessively optimistic. Some comments:

This budget does not include organizational expenses, testing costs, or other items needed to jump from the prototype into a viable business. This is merely the budget for the prototype itself. Other such costs are being factored into our business plan.

It is not our intention in the first iteration to build a production prototype. It will not have elaborate automated controls or fare collections boxes, etc. -- things which might be quite necessary when in production. This is to be a rudimentary prototype that will prove the viability of the concept and enable us to refine the specifications for a more advanced prototype, which will be built after we have done initial testing and market research. By using our money carefully at the outset, we will avoid going off on costly tangents.

No charging station facilities (solar cells, storage devices, etc.) are planned for this prototype.

We are not counting costs that may be incurred in producing specialized components for testing. For example, we will gladly accept loans or donations of advanced components such as unproven batteries or electronics, and we will put them through the paces for the benefit of our sponsors in order to improve the quality and demonstrate the feasibility of their products.
Additional comments are welcomed.

Ecosystems Qualifications
Renewable Energy and Conservation Specialists since 1970

Constructed 15 homes of molded fiberglass and urethane foam, 1971, 1972
Electric Vehicle Restoration, 1979
Prototype Solar/Electric Vehicle, 1981
Installed wind generator for California Energy Commission, 1981
Exhibits of Solar Cars, 1991
EV Market Research for GM/Hughes, 1992-1994
Converted Volkswagen Bug to Electric in Mexico, 1994
Co-Founder, Tonatiuh, Mexican Solar Race Car Team, 1992-present, with sponsorship budget of $200,000. In SunRayce 1995, Tonatiuh won the coveted $5,000 DuPont Prize for best use of composite materials in solar race car design.
References: from industry, professionals, sponsors on request

UltraLight Rail is one potential key element in creating a transportation system using sustainable energy sources. A group is developing a prototype for use on the existing rail line in Santa Cruz County, California.

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A next-generation transportation system now under development in Northern California

Is railway revitalization the best way to end highway congestion, curtail smog, stop suburban sprawl, expand renewable energy, revitalize a thousand downtowns, and effectively respond
to global warming-- simultaneously?

Could old railways be the biggest new business opportunity in the world?

American Railway Renaissance
Welcome to Solar-Hydrogen, Fuel-Cell Powered
April 2009

The time is ripe, the stage is set. These may be tough times, but as seen by the reality of Barack Obamas miraculous presidential election, there is opportunity in crisis. In response to a wide range of economic and environmental emergencies now surfacing worldwide, the Suntrain concept outlined here is a new paradigm proposal for a California company to build a privately-operated, publicly-regulated, solar-powered railway system for a region such as Northern California within 15 years. Suntrain would provide fast train service to every city and major town; with near-seamless connecting shuttle-van or rental-car service to every doorstep, .... all on one ticket from one business transaction. With a critical mass of connectivity, reliability, convenience, and quality of ride, and with both freight and passenger operations, Suntrain would be expected to turn a profit and displace huge amounts of automobile traffic. We believe that such a system could not only spread like a wildfire to other regions, but the spinoffs from its solar technology could provide a shortcut to the much coveted hydrogen economy.

The transit market in America has been artificially constrained for almost 100 years. With a fresh and holistic approach, Suntrain aims to redress this issue by harnessing both latent and newly emerging market forces. Suntrain is a railway-based retail transportation system for the 21st century with both the potential to solve many of our most pressing environmental problems as well as an historic business opportunity. It is important to note that NO major technological breakthroughs would be required for this effort, and almost NO federal funding would be required.

This project can be financed from mostly private sources, with 30\% - 40\% coming from state and local funding.

The Suntrain concept was developed by Christopher Swan and is the culmination of a multiple-decade research effort in the fields of transportation and energy infrastructure. Key members of the Suntrain Team include:

David Vasquez, Ed.D is a computer graphics specialist and urban design visualization consultant for transit agencies and engineering firms in Northern California. Dr. Vasquez is co-founder of Public Vision Research, LLC, and is currently a faculty member at the San Jose State University Department of Urban & Regional Planning. He joined the Suntrain team in 2005. Examples of Davids urban design and transit visualization work may be seen both on this website (see Gallery) and at: [email protected] Davids new book, Mr. Swans Big Idea, (2009, Sopo Press) an in-depth look at the background to the Suntrain project, is now available at

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"Yes, President Obama, but whatkindof infrastructure?
The case for a green and clean, trillion dollar national train system"
by David VasquezJanuary 2009

All of a sudden everyone likes saying the word infrastructure, were seeing it in the newspapers everyday. Thats fine,and its very encouraging, but whats the next sentence? What kind of infrastructure? So far its all been talk aboutfreeways, bridges, and overpasses, or maybe a new national electricity grid. Is that it? Are people supposed to getexcited about essentiallyfixing things that already exist? Is this the best we can do in theland of innovation thatbrought the world bluejeans,Elvis Presley, and Apple computers? Wheres the compelling, substantive vision thatpropels us into the new era of green technology and sustainability? What kind of infrastructure do we really need?

Heres a thought: For just a moment, pretendyoure Dustin Hoffman inThe Graduateand some rich, olderguy pullsyou aside at your collegegraduation party and says, Son, Ive got just one word for you:trains. By itself, this singular word probably wont domuch for you. But could you open your brain up to the idea of railway revitalizationon amassive scale? Is there a chancethat good old trains might actually be the key missing ingredient to the socalled green revolution?

Think of it this way: the 1st half of the 20th century was dominated by trains; the 2nd half by cars. What if for the 21stcentury we were to strike an equal balance between the two:de-emphasize cars, re-emphasize trains.Is that so radical? Perhaps its high time that Americans start considering lifestyles not centered aroundcars.

Consider for a moment the problem with cars. Forget about the fact that they suck upforeign oil and spew smog andgreenhouse gasses, these problems are probably fixable. The REAL problem with cars is thatthere are too damnmany of them ...andthey take up too much space.Think of traffic congestion, grid-locked parking lots, urban sprawl,diminishing open space, andpedestrian-UNfriendlytowns and cities. Do you think electric cars will solvethese issues?

OK, so whats the alternative? More lousy buses and shamefully inadequate commuter trains? Absolutely not.

What were talking about here is (gulp) nothing less than a trillion dollar national train system. And it cant be just any train,the trains of today have shortcomings, some of them major shortcomings. It needs to be a next-generation new paradigm,full service train system. This doesnt mean high speed rail either. The railway world, most recently in California, seemsto be afflicted by high speed mania. But theyre missing the mark. More then highspeedrail, what California really needsis highconveniencerail, highchoice of destination (go everywhere)rail, highquality of riderail, and highgreenrail.

What would a revolutionary full service next-generation railway system for America look like?

energy source:.....................100\% solar & wind powered
propulsion:......................... Hydrogen fuel-cell electric; (no emissions, overhead wires, or 3rd rails)
operational flexibility..... All-purpose rail vehicles; can operate as long trains or individual streetcars
speed:................................ Up to 150 mph
system scale:............ Massive & ubiquitous network: high choice of destinations; high connectivity
timeframe to build............... Very rapid; builds upon and consolidates existing railway infrastructure

Anything like this on the horizon? Actually,yes. A California railway analyst named Christopher Swan has outlined whatsucha systemcould look like. He and his group call it Suntrain, and theyve actually raised the bar several notches overwhatslisted above. For example, with modern refinements to standard gauge track, it could be made less obtrusive visuallyandmuch more environmentally friendly overall. By using coordinated shuttle vans and rental cars, Suntrain could, likeFederalExpress, guarantee door-to-door service from one transaction. Instead of just a train system, call it a human mobilitynetwork.

The Benefits? For starters: no more foreign oil. Add to that drastically reduced: smog, sprawl, traffic congestion, and greenhousegases, plus much improved mobility for everyone, hundred of thousands of jobs, revitalized downtowns, and a kick-start to themuch coveted hydrogen economy.

Not so long ago this kind of talk would have sounded like delusional fantasy. It became fashionable to say theres no magic bullet,and we need to try a multiplicity of options. ! Now with drastically increased concern about climate change, andwith Obama in and the economydoing what its doingall bets are off: its the Wild West all over again. Truth be told, Swans Suntrain idea seems to so far be the ONLY substantive vision for America getting out of its deep s*** mess. The suggestion here is that maybe there is a magic bullet, and it takes the form of a train.

Oh yes, the price. How are we supposed to pay for this thing? Conventional wisdom would no doubt, call it prohibitivelyexpensive.Swans response: Were already spending the money. Translation:Stop subsidizingthe American automobile industry fora trillion dollars a year.If this number sounds exaggerated, read Professor D. Shoupslandmark bookThe High Cost ofFree Parking(American Planning Association, 2005),or Paul Weyrichs 2001 piece Twelve Anti-transit Myths: a ConservativeCritique,based on the 1994 U. S. Governments Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) report.**

Bottom line: If America spent the same amount of money on a new-paradigm national train system as it originally spent on the Interstatehighway system, wed put huge numbers of people to work and, within 15 years, have both: (1) a shiningnew green transportationinfrastructure; and (2), as a spinoff, a near-zero- emissions hydrogen economy. Imagine that! spending a trillion dollars and actually solving a bunch of problems and getting something that works!

Now thats the kind of infrastructure change Americans might be able to get excited about.

** Weyrichs report available online

David Vasquez, Ed.D. is a Bay Area based transportation consultant, college educator, and author of the the just released book Mr. Swans Big Idea (Sopo Press, 2009), now available on

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From ...

Southwest Solar Train Project: An Open Source Public Works project initiated by Stu Baurmann

I think there should be a high speed maglev train system running from Texas running west into the sunbelt, extending at least as far west as Phoenix or Las Vegas, if not L.A. as well, and at least as far east as the Dallas - Waco - Austin - San Antonio corridor, which would particularly benefit from the intra-Texas service. Interim stops at El Paso, Albuquerque, and Tuscon would be natural to expect. If more cities (perhaps even some cities in northwest Mexico) can be included, so much the better, and if the station locations can be chosen to encourage smart urban growth from the point of view of each metro area, that will also be a major benefit. I also think that this train, and all of
its supporting systems, should be "powered by the sun", at least symbolically.

I live in Texas, and for years now I have casually discussed the idea of high-speed train service connecting the major Texas cities with Texas residents. Everyone seems to love the idea of travelling from Austin to Dallas (about 200 miles) in under two hours on a train. And why wouldn't they? It takes at least three hours to fly anywhere, and it can't really be done without burning a lot of fossil fuels, not to mention strapping oneself into a cramped seat purchased weeks in advance. Electric trains are relatively comfortable, reasonably safe, and can run on any electric energy source, including the abundant solar energy available in the American southwest. Finally, note that a train, unlike an airplane, does not have to be full every time it runs in order to be economically viable. Imagine the convenience of choosing from 3 different trains from Austin to L.A. every day, without the need to buy tickets more than a day or two in advance. What would that do for the regional economy?

So, if you like this idea, and you're asking yourself "hey, why don't we have high speed trains in Texas? They have them in Japan and Spain and France and Germany and a whole lotta other places less magnificent than Texas," then you may be interested in stoking your indignation at the powers-that-be by reading this summary of the Squashed attempt to build high speed rail in Texas in the mid 1990s. Notice in particular this part: "The first job was to conduct an environmental impact study, for the sum of 170 million dollars. The money proved difficult to assemble..."

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Obama Puts $13 Billion High-Speed Rail Investment on Track

WASHINGTON, DC, April 17, 2009 (ENS) - President Barack Obama Thursday released his administration's plan for a new high-speed rail system that he says will reduce dependence on cars and planes and spur economic development.

The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the Recovery Act plus $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget to jumpstart a world-class passenger rail system and set the direction of the Obama transportation policy.

"What we're talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America," said the President at a news conference in Washington. "Imagine boarding a train in the center of a city. No racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes. (Laughter.) Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination. Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America."

"This is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future," said Obama. "It is now. It is happening right now. It's been happening for decades. The problem is it's been happening elsewhere, not here," he said, mentioning high-speed rail developments in France, Spain, China and Japan.

The plan identifies two types of projects for funding. One would create new corridors for world-class high-speed rail. The other would involve making train service along existing rail lines faster.
The Obama plan identifies 10 high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Empire, Northern New England and the Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania.

Opportunities also exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nations only existing high-speed rail service.

States and local communities are invited to put together plans for a network of 100 mile to 600 mile corridors, which will compete for the federal dollars.

The government is publishing a detailed guidance for state and local applicants for the funds, and by late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants to fund projects that will begin to turn this vision into reality.

"Like all funding decisions under the Recovery Act, money will be distributed based on merit," said Obama, "not on politics, not as favors, not for any other consideration - purely on merit."

Under the plan, high-speed rail development will advance along three funding tracks:

Individual Projects. Providing grants to complete individual projects that are "ready to go with completed environmental and preliminary engineering work with an emphasis on near term job creation. Eligible projects include acquisition, construction of or improvements to infrastructure, facilities and equipment.

Corridor programs. Developing entire phases or geographic sections of high-speed rail corridors that have completed corridor plans, environmental documentation and have a prioritized list of projects to help meet the corridor objectives.

Planning. Entering into cooperative agreements for planning activities, including development of corridor plans and State Rail Plans, using non-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriations funds. This third approach is intended to help establish a structured mechanism and funding stream for future corridor development activities.

"A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve," said the President. "High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.

"As a daily rail commuter for over 35 years, this announcement is near and dear to my heart," said Vice President Joe Biden. "Investing in a high-speed rail system will lower our dependence on foreign oil and the bill for a tank of gas; loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways; and significantly reduce the damage we do to our planet.

"President Obama's vision of robust, high-speed rail service offers Americans the kind of travel options that throughout our history have contributed to economic growth and enhanced quality of life, said Secretary Ray LaHood. "We simply can't build the economy of the future on the transportation networks of the past.

Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler was one of five state transportation secretaries in the audience at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for the high-speed rail announcement. "Governor [Ed] Rendell has demonstrated the wisdom of investing in high-speed rail," Biehler said.

"Under the governor's leadership, Pennsylvania in 2006 completed a $145 million improvement project with Amtrak to increase speeds on the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The resulting sharp increase in ridership demonstrates that by making smart investments, you can make a big difference for the nation's mobility."

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Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates
Sunday 15 February 2009
by: Kari Lydersen | The Washington Post

Chicago - The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday.

"We are basically looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations," Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Field, a member of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have largely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel's 2007 reports. The higher emissions are largely the result of the increased burning of coal in developing countries, he said.

Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of "feedback loops" that are speeding up natural processes. Prominent among these, evidence indicates, is a cycle in which higher temperatures are beginning to melt the arctic permafrost, which could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, said several scientists on a panel at the meeting.

The permafrost holds 1 trillion tons of carbon, and as much as 10 percent of that could be released this century, Field said. Along with carbon dioxide melting permafrost releases methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

"It's a vicious cycle of feedback where warming causes the release of carbon from permafrost, which causes more warming, which causes more release from permafrost," Field said.

Evidence is also accumulating that terrestrial and marine ecosystems cannot remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as earlier estimates suggested, Field said.

The panel's last report noted that preliminary knowledge of such feedbacks suggested that an additional 100 billion to 500 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions would have to be prevented in the next century to avoid dangerous global warming. Currently, about 10 billion tons of carbon are emitted each year.

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World will not meet 2C warming target, climate change experts agree

by David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 14 April 2009

Guardian poll reveals almost nine out of 10 climate experts do not believe current political efforts will keep warming below 2C

Almost nine out of 10 climate scientists do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed, a Guardian poll reveals today. An average rise of 4-5C by the end of this century is more likely, they say, given soaring carbon emissions and political constraints. Such a change would disrupt food and water supplies, exterminate thousands of species of plants and animals and trigger massive sea level rises that would swamp the homes of hundreds of millions of people.

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350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

Accelerating arctic warming and other early climate impacts have led scientists to conclude that we are already above the safe zone at our current 387ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.

There are three numbers you need to really understand global warming, 275, 385, and 350.

For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Parts per million is simply a way of measuring the concentration of different gases, and means the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules per million other molecules in the atmosphere. 275 ppm CO2 is a useful amount-without some CO2 and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere, our planet would be too cold for humans to inhabit.
So we need some carbon in the atmosphere, but the question is how much?

Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal and gas and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating or cooling our homes rely on energy sources like coal and oil that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. We're taking millions of years worth of carbon, stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. By now-and this is the second number-the planet has 387 parts per million CO2 - and this number is rising by about 2 parts per million every year.

Scientists are now saying that's too much - that number is higher than any time seen in the recorded history of our planet - and we're already beginning to see disastrous impacts on people and places all over the world. Glaciers everywhere are melting and disappearing fast-and they are a source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people. Mosquitoes, who like a warmer world, are spreading into lots of new places, and bringing malaria and dengue fever with them. Drought is becoming much more common, making food harder to grow in many places. Sea levels have begun to rise, and scientists warn that they could go up as much as several meters this century. If that happens, many of the world's cities, island nations, and farmland will be underwater. The oceans are growing more acidic because of the CO2 they are absorbing, which makes it harder for animals like corals and clams to build and maintain their shells and skeletons. Coral reefs could start dissolving at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450-500 ppm. These impacts are combining to exacerbate conflicts and security issues in already resource-strapped regions.

The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists previously thought. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was roughly 39\% below the summer average for 1979-2000, a loss of area equal to nearly five United Kingdoms. Many scientists now believe the Arctic will be completely ice free in the summertime between 2011 and 2015, some 80 years ahead of what scientists had predicted just a few years ago.

Propelled by the news of these accelerating impacts, some of the world's leading climate scientists have now revised the highest safe level of CO2 to 350 parts per million. That's the last number you need to know, and the most important. It's the safety zone for planet earth. As James Hansen of America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the first scientist to warn about global warming more than two decades ago, wrote recently, "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

That will be a hard task, but not impossible. We need to stop taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air. Above all, that means we need to stop burning so much coal-and start using solar and wind energy and other such sources of renewable energy -while ensuring the Global South a fair chance to develop. If we do, then the earth's soils and forests will slowly cycle some of that extra carbon out of the atmosphere, and eventually CO2 concentrations will return to a safe level. By decreasing use of other fossil fuels, and improving agricultural and forestry practices around the world, scientists believe we could get back to 350 by mid-century. But the longer we remain in the danger zone-above 350-the more likely that we will see disastrous and irreversible climate impacts.


Hansen, James, et al. Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? Submitted April 7, 2008. NASA climate scientist James Hansen's paper about the 350ppm target.
Hansen, James, et al. Target Atmospheric CO2: Supporting Material. Submitted April 7, 2008.
The IPCC 4th Assessment Report link to the latest report by the Nobel-prize winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by the world's leading climatologists.
Baer, Paul, Tom Athanasiou and Sivan Kartha. "The Right to Develop in a Climate Constrained World: The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework" - an important policy framework for how to mitigate climate change while ensuring an equitable path to development for the Global South.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - link to the official UNFCCC website with information about the UN climate policy process.
NASA - scientific reports, interactive maps, resources for kids, and more - a blog of climate science, written by climate scientists
Climate Safety - a very useful new report about current climate science, policy, and solutions
Pew Center on Climate Change - helpful information about climate science and international policy

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