High Speed Rail and Hydrofracking

Posted on November 7, 2011 by

If you favor high speed rail you’re probably against hydrofracking.  And vice-versa. 

The price of California’s LA to SF bullet train - funded by voter-approved rail bonds and the federal government – keeps going up.  Continuous planning delays and opposition by central valley communities – among other factors – have pushed the cost to $100 billion and the proposed completion date to 2033. 

But the project still has big-time support among “visionaries” who look with envy on the sleek, speedy passenger trains connecting cities all over Europe and Asia.  They see a statewide public works project which will create tens of thousands of construction and other jobs and will ultimately reduce the region’s carbon footprint. 

On the other hand, hydrofracking – releasing natural gas by shooting chemicals and water into rocks – doesn’t fit the imagery of a green technology.

Environmentalists have alarmed communities about the toxic consequences of the drilling and many towns in upstate New York, for example, are regretting their decision to approve the process. 

With the economic development and jobs crisis in America, I’m inclined to support both.  Call me a big spender or a shill for the gas companies, but I’ll take blue collar job growth in the building trades and in the engineering and technical sectors wherever I can get it. 

Though I wouldn’t want to live near a gas lease with the potential for a toxic spill or next to tracks with 130 mph trains whizzing by, somebody has to compromise their comfort zone to move the country forward and get American workers back on the job.

Comments (10)


  1. Irene Fertik says:

    From what I have read, leaking these toxic chemicals used to free the oil, into groundwater systems miles away from the drilling site my injure everyone, in the long run…

  2. Greg says:

    I am also in favor of BOTH ideas. As the construction sector grows so goes the rest of the economy. The NIMBY’s will put us on a flatline to build the economy. And @Irene that is why they invented bottled water. ;-)

  3. Mark Doering-Powell says:

    I would trade the fracking in favor of more jobs in solar or other renewable energy. Fracking is not sustainable, and the bottled water also needs a clean source. :-)

  4. Rey says:

    i don’t really understand how anyone is actually still having a debate about this. hydrofracking is stupid, stupid and stupid. the science keeps screaming the same damn message…wind & solar, wind & solar. i’m all against useless and expensive wars, white collar political corruption, but this to me is even far more important at this time and has more significance in the big picture.

  5. Brad Cagle says:

    Must business unionism be only about clinging to the bloated and decaying materialist fascist mindset?

  6. Greg II says:

    Greg. Bottled water. Really? Just how elitist is that? So because you can afford it, everybody should be able to? Get a grip I think.

  7. Nick Eldredge says:

    “Though I wouldn’t want to live near a gas lease with the potential for a toxic spill . . .”

    It isn’t a potential for a toxic SPILL that’s the real problem with fracking, Lou. Or the unreimbursed infrastructure damage from large trucks and drilling equipment.

    It’s the specific danger of fouling the air with gases that will sicken children as well as adults in the wider vicinity. And the likelihood of polluting local water tables and beyond.

    And it’s another example of the power of money to manipulate politics at every level.

    Fracking isn’t as grotesquely dismissive of ecological concerns as mountaintop removal coal mining, but it’s close. Drop “fracking” into the google toaster and see what kind of nasty pops up.

    Job possibilities make fracking a very persuasive sell to communities hit hard by unemployment. Big oil money will come in with pie-in-the-sky promises to convince a town council or even voters to let them in. They’ll offer a library, a mall, a gymnasium or even a school building. Easily spending tens of thousands to make tens of millions on a package that will turn out to be a good old fashioned Trojan Horse.

    Even someone who owns their home and doesn’t want to sell drilling rights, can’t stop a neighbor, whether next door or a half mile over, from making the bittersweet deal and kicking off an environmental debacle. With the oil company taking what they want and sliding through free and clear.

    Already slick “hydraulic fracturing” commercials and frack-friendly opinion pieces are showing up as part of a manipulation-by-misinformation campaign that is classic for the oil industry.

    It’s all so by-the-book, that aside from the greed and lies and devil-may-care damage involved, it’s almost amusing. All these guys are asking is that we open wide . . .
    and swallow. One more time.

    As Rey put it so succinctly, it’s “stupid, stupid, stupid”.

  8. martha says:

    Lou, seriously – are you smokjng crack? fracking is not “uncomfortable” – it’s horrifically toxic and presents a major health hazard to everyone by poisoning the water table. Have you seen people light tap water on fire before? it happens after fracking. And talk about privatization – handing public water over to public companies once and for all? Great idea, NOT. Let’s go back to unleaded gas, child labor, get rid of OSHA.

    trains whizzing by are an annoyance, not irreversible destruction of natural resources. there are plenty of other ways to seek energy independence that create good jobs that don’t carry a cost like this. The illusion that progress on jobs must come at the cost of the environment is really outdated. Do we in the labor movement have so little imagination? NO. Solar, wind, and hydro cost more in the long run and are harder, but cheaper in the long run – and create more jobs, cost fewer lives.

  9. martha says:

    sorry, I meant private companies.

  10. Bill Thomas says:


    I am afraid I can meet you only halfway on this one Lou. I am all for high speed rail in California, but you cannot be serious about fracking. Borrow or rent “Gasland,” the documentary about the impact of this ridiculously wasteful method of extracting natural gas and circle back on this issue. That is, if you think clean drinking water is important at all.

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