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Page added on December 1, 2008

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The Economic Crisis as a Window of Opportunity

The twin pillars of climate change and peak oil has recently been joined into a troika of challenge, with the onset of the global economic crisis. However this unprecedented alliance of difficulties does not mean all hope is lost. During this challenging time, new ideas can be brought to the forefront, and practically implemented. President-elect Obama’s recent infrastructure investment proposal, could potentially be the wedge to open the door for substantive change, in the way that we live our lives, conduct our commerce and travel in this new age.

The current high level government discussions deciding the fate of the “Big Three” automobile manufacturers in the the United States, is symbolic of the importance of this moment. I personally side with the policy makers, who favor some form of bail out for these major manufacturers. The liquidation of their crucial physical plants, along with their extensive supplier networks would simply be too much of a severe body blow to a nation that is already economically reeling. However, this crucial time permits both a proviso and a teachable moment for our society.

What if the big three were considered transportation and energy companies, instead of being relegated to the rather narrow definition of automobile manufactures? With the enormous physical assets and locational infrastructure of these companies, they could easily be converted into manufacturers of light or heavy rail passenger cars and locomotives.

During the past several decades, the United States has lost nearly all of it’s domestic railroad car and locomotive manufacturing companies, including the Budd Company, the St. Louis Car Company, and even GM’s own Electro-Motive Division (EMD), that manufactured diesel locomotives. This division was sold to a Canadian company. These and many other rail car and locomotive manufactures and their superb products, were once considered the envy of the world.

Although some people are currently being lulled into complacency, by the

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