Monday, December 16, 2019

Last Call For Hyperloop Hyperbole

The biggest suspension of disbelief in the new study this week that finds constructing a hyperloop route from Chicago to Pittsburgh through Cleveland would cost $30 billion or so is that anyone actually wants to go to goddamn Cleveland at 700 mph.

A high-speed hyperloop line that could zoom passengers through a vacuum tube from Cleveland to Chicago and Pittsburgh could cost from $24.7 billion to $29.8 billion to build, depending on variations in the route and stops along the way.

But the profits and economic benefits would justify the expense and attract the substantial private investment needed to make it happen.

Those statements are among the key assertions of an 18-month, $1.3 million feasibility analysis scheduled for release Monday by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

The report, led by TEMS, a consulting firm based in Frederick, Maryland, constitutes what the authors believe is the most extensive hyperloop feasibility analysis released publicly to date, anywhere, said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci, who discussed some of the report’s core findings ahead of Monday.

A hyperloop system would consist of large-scale vacuum tubes with magnetic-levitation tracks that would carry capsules with 28 to 40 passengers at speeds of up to 760 mph.

First envisioned by entrepreneur Elon Musk as a high-speed alternative to other modes of transportation, hyperloop has yet to be proven safe for human travel. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HTT, is testing capsules on a track in Toulouse, France.

Hyperloop projects are under study in Europe, the Middle East and corridors in the U.S., including a Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago route.

On the basis of the new report, Gallucci said she would recommend that the Cleveland region should participate in further studies that could lead to construction as soon as 2023, with the understanding that the bulk of the costs would be borne by private investors.
“I am sold to move to the next step,’’ Gallucci said.

“I think there’s enough evidence in the feasibility study to suggest we should move forward as a region in order to leverage the work that we’ve already done and to capitalize on the momentum of hyperloop nationally and internationally,” Gallucci said.

But she emphasized that the impetus for hyperloop is coming from the private sector.

“NOACA’s not trying to push this,” she said. “NOACA wants to be part of the innovation and a leader, but that’s very different from pushing it. This is not our agenda.”

The report will state that a Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh route could be up and running by 2028, following six years of construction.

Cincinnati can't get a bridge built to replace the Kennedy-era Brent Spence over the Ohio River, but hey, hyperloop!

I know picking on Elon Musk is low-hanging fruit, and normally I'm a raging Keynesian on macroeconomic issues and especially on mass transportation infrastructure, but hyperloop is a classic example of Austrian school malinvestment.

Hyperloop will choke out all other infrastructure spending and end up hurting a lot of people. $30 billion spent on going really, really fast from Chicago to Pittsburgh means it's not being spent on anything else, and besides, if you want to go that quickly we have these things called airplanes.

Jesus, this is a horrific idea.  Give me the $30 billion, I'm sure I can find something better to spend it on.

Backing Off Tobacco

Congress has to be dragged kicking and screaming across the finish line to do anything remotely useful and bipartisan, and there's a reason why the institution of the US legislative branch has an approval rating somewhere around gonorrhea, but every now and then they accidentally get stuff done to create political cover from even tougher issues, and raising the age nationally to purchase tobacco products to 21 is one of those things.

Congress is on the verge of a sweeping health care reform: Federally prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to people under 21.

The legislation significantly raising the age cap on cigarettes and e-cigarettes is increasingly likely to be included in the year-end spending deal, the result of support from a diverse coalition of lawmakers, according to four people familiar with the matter. While the deal has not been finalized, it is more than likely to be in the package, according to sources in both parties.

The effort has the support of Democrats like Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Tim Kaine of Virginia as well as Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); on the Republican side Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supports it as does National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

The legislation had been included in a larger package of measures intended to reduce the cost of emergency medical bills. But that legislation has been bogged down in a partisan fight and the broadly popular tobacco legislation will probably be spared from the gridlock.

The rise of vaping products to hook a new generation of kids on tobacco isn't an accident, and the tobacco industry went nuts when Trump wanted to ban flavored vaping juice to minors anyway (I still absolutely believe young master Barron Trump got caught with some) so this is Congress stepping in and getting it done. 

I've counted at least four vape shops in my neighborhood popping up in the last couple of years, and any time any industry like that has growth of that magnitude, Uncle Sam is going to want to regulate it.

Of course, there's also the bonus of positive health outcomes and saving taxpayers billions in treatment costs for tobacco-related illnesses.  Gotta call that a win.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

With a House vote on impeachment a few days away, the obligatory dealmaking in the Senate is beginning with Chuck Schumer wanting former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting WH Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify before the Senate trial.

The top Senate Democrat on Sunday called for subpoenaing several senior Trump administration officials who have yet to testify in the House’s impeachment probe as witnesses for President Trump’s impeachment trial — part of an opening salvo in negotiations that could determine the parameters for the Senate proceedings next month.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) outlined a number of procedural demands that Democrats believe would make the Senate trial fair and completed “within a reasonable period of time.”

That includes subpoenas issued by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, a senior adviser to Mulvaney; former national security adviser John Bolton; and Michael Duffey, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, Blair and Duffey had been subpoenaed by the House committees and defied the summons; Bolton has not been subpoenaed but indicated he would fight one in court.

“The trial must be one that not only hears all of the evidence and adjudicates the case fairly; it must also pass the fairness test with the American people,” Schumer wrote to McConnell in the letter sent Sunday. “That is the great challenge for the Senate in the coming weeks.”

Under Schumer’s proposal, the trial proceedings would begin Jan. 6, although Roberts and the senators won’t be sworn in until Jan. 7 and House impeachment managers would begin their presentations on Jan. 9.

The proposal on witnesses is almost certain to draw the most resistance from McConnell. The top Senate Republican, as well as a growing consensus of GOP senators, would prefer not to call the type of high-wattage witnesses that Trump has demanded — such as Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, and the whistleblower, whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry — and McConnell has warned privately that a battle over witnesses would be “mutually assured destruction.”

We all know Mitch McConnell wants the entire proceeding to be dismissed with a single vote, but there is the slim possibility that a few Republican senators could want the appearance of justice even if they don't want to dispense any.

Even FOX News has impeachment at 54%.  Besides, Trump himself could insist on something like a trial.  After all, it's his legacy going down in flames for good this week.

McConnell will almost certainly lard up the witness stand with everyone from Joe Biden to Adam Schiff to the whistleblower to hell, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama if he's forced to.

I don't see that happening, however.  I see the Senate trial being over by January 17, if it even makes it to the second week.


Related Posts with Thumbnails