Matt Wald has a story in this morning’s New York Times that illustrates what increasingly seems like the core issue associated with the energy transformation now underway. Wald writes about a rapid rise in demand for Amtrak train tickets, which is turning out to be more cost-effective ways to get around. Market forces may have kicked into high gear with remarkable suddenness. But the things we need to do to respond involve a massive shift in the societal infrastructure that is currently based on cheap energy:
Today Amtrak has 632 usable rail cars, and dozens more are worn out or damaged but could be reconditioned and put into service at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars each.
And it needs to buy new rail cars soon. Its Amfleet cars, the ones recognizable to riders as the old Metroliners, are more than 30 years old. And the Acela trains, which have been operating about eight years, have about a million miles on them.
Writing specifications for bids, picking a vendor and waiting for delivery takes years, even if the money is in hand.