As it evolves to operate on domestic, renewable electric energy, the Steel Interstate supports a vibrant economy protected from potentially devastating consequences to transportation from future mandatory climate change abatement measures.
The health of the North American economy is inextricably bound to easy mobility of goods and people. If rapidly advancing climate change forces an oil-constrained world, this vital mobility would quickly be threatened and quality of life as we know it would rapidly deteriorate. This subject is thoroughly explored in our sub-section, "The Path to Oil-Free Mobility" under our National Defense section because the implications are grave for national security and our democratic institutions as well as economic stability and maintaining quality of life.
We still have time to plan and construct a North American Steel Interstate System in order to give us an oil-free transportation system. Independent transportation researcher Alan Drake projects in an unpublished article ("An American Citizen’s Guide to an Oil-Free Economy: A How-To Manual for Ending Oil Dependency With valuable bonus information on Saving Our Economy, Our Planet and Strengthening Our National Security") that a Steel Interstate System can be constructed in six years or less, front-loading the construction of the routes most vital to preserve economic prosperity and security.
In the introduction to his treatise, Alan Drake says,
We must create a viable, resilient and sustainable oil-free transportation and economic system that can operate in parallel with our existing petroleum based system. We can transfer our economy, bit by bit, to the new, more efficient and oil-free replacement as our present system becomes increasingly more fragile and eventually unsustainable. These plans all rely on mature, proven and economically viable technologies.
As new technologies develop, as they will, and are debugged and scaled up, our plans can be adjusted to incorporate these new solutions. Yet we can make a viable, workable plan with what we have “on the shelf”, ready to go today. We need not gamble our future on “Just-in-Time Technology” appearing at just the right time and with just the right technology. No miracles are required, simply foresight, persistence and hard work.
We can divert oil and other consumption that has no lasting value into long lived, productive and energy efficient infrastructure that generates increased high value employment.
If our future is to be energy constrained, as it appears likely today, there is no better legacy to pass along to future generations than a durable, energy efficient transportation system that operates on renewable energy.[Drake, A., An American Citizen’s Guide to an Oil-Free Economy: A How-To Manual for Ending Oil Dependency With valuable bonus information on Saving Our Economy, Our Planet and Strengthening Our National Security, unpublished manuscript, 2010, copied with permission of the author.]
Of course, the pace of implementation for the Steel Interstate could be accelerated just as the Manhattan atomic bomb project or Apollo man-on-the-moon commitment were, because these were considered national emergencies. Unlike these examples, fortunately, the technology necessary to construct and operate the Steel Interstate System is already available and in use in other parts of the world. We just need the foresight and the will to apply current technology.
Create an Oil-Free Transportation system that can out-compete our existing oil based system. Electrified and improved oil-free railroads can competitively attract much, and likely most, of today’s truck freight traffic under current conditions of $75 per barrel oil and tax subsidized trucking vs. unsubsidized rail. Extant rail freight plus the freight transferred from trucks can be carried faster, cheaper, cleaner, greener, safer, more profitably and largely without oil, while creating an oil-free passenger network...
A major goal of an electrified and improved rail system is that in the event of an oil supply shock (imagine $200 to $350 per barrel oil coupled with shortages), our oil-free transportation system can quickly expand to transport at least 85% of today’s inter-city truck ton-miles. This will allow food and critical materials to be transported oil-free and this shift will reduce the pressure on rationing oil to critical needs.
Much can be done in six years, but the horizon I am proposing is twenty years, with some additional “in fill” work for another decade. However, oil emergencies can develop in a matter of days. Therefore, infrastructure investment in oil-free transportation should be “forward leaning” to ensure greater elasticity of transportation supply and rapid expansion in the event of an oil supply shock.[Drake, A., Ibid.]