Las Vegas Sun

January 25, 2015

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Economic crisis an opportunity to be greener

Regarding a story last week by the Associated Press about Las Vegas and the Midwest seeking $8 billion from the stimulus bill for fast trains:

Instead of focusing on partisan and local-state bickering and politics that can likely kill the high-speed rail initiative, we should focus on building a national high-speed rail system that will revolutionize travel, aid the environment and reduce our dependence on imported energy. President Dwight D. Eisenhower did this for the national highway system about 50 years ago and we should do this for a national high-speed rail system today.

From a physics standpoint, travel by rail stands as the most energy-efficient, low friction means of long distance transportation.

If we can transport people and goods at speeds of 300 mph via high speed trains, we will reduce the need for other wasteful and pollution-laden forms of long distance transportation such as trucks and airplanes that leave long-lasting greenhouse gas in our upper atmosphere.

In this economic crisis, we have a unique opportunity to create novel markets by constructing infrastructure and trains for high-speed rail just as Europe, Japan and many other countries are doing. This effort will diminish our dependence on imported fossil fuels, reduce the ever-increasing congestion on our crumbling roads, and assuage the strain on our environment.

The writer is a professor of physics at UNLV.

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