CEO calls Kasich’s decision to kill Ohios job-creating high-speed rail project “mind-boggling

Pracht: “Where would Ohio be today if it opted out of the interstate highway system?”

John Kasich, the newly tea-party governor of Ohio doesn’t just deny climate science.  He is apparently unaware that everyone from the German military to the once staid International Energy Agency is warning of a looming peak oil crisis (see World’s top energy economist warns: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”).

And so the Tea Party crowd is declaring unilateral disarmament in our effort to stop the nearly $1 billion day outflow of money from Americans to foreign oil producer (see “Passenger rail is not in Ohio’s future”: New GOP governors kill $1.2 Billion in high-speed rail jobs).

Kasich can stop passenger rail for now, but he can’t stop the inexorable march of gasoline prices past $3 a gallon to $4 and then $5, which will ultimately reveal how inane his decision was.  The CEO of an Ohio-based railroad-car manufacturer severely criticized Kasich’s myopia, as ThinkProgress reports:

Rather than acknowledge the number of jobs created or kept afloat by Democratic policies like the Recovery Act, Republicans insist that Democrats have done nothing to help create private-sector jobs. Future House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said, “Washington has kept the private sector in bust while manufacturing a boom for the public sector.”

Boehner’s bosom-buddy Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) beat a similar drum on the campaign trail. Touting his plan to help the private-sector “quickly help create jobs,” Kasich insisted he would help “improve the atmosphere in our state for real business development” by meeting “the needs of businesses to overcome” governmental “snafus.” But Kasich undermined his rhetoric by killing Ohio’s high-speed rail project. In doing so, he derailed many businesses’ economic development plans and effectively killed the private-sector jobs he promised to create, leaving one businessman to call his decision “unbelievable,” “mind-boggling,” and “naive”:

Locally, certain not to happen is construction of a $15 million facility planned for Columbus by US Railcar Co. The plant would have employed up to 200 when fully staffed, said Mike Pracht, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus-based railroad-car manufacturer.

“It’s unbelievable these states would send back $400 million and $800 million in free money,” Pracht said. “It’s mind-boggling.”

“The only thing I can compare it to is the interstate-highway program back in the ’60s. Where would Ohio be today if it opted out of the interstate highway system? To suggest passenger rail would be any different is naive.”

Pracht said that in addition to the jobs his company would have added, abandoning the rail plan negates millions of dollars in potential development that would have clustered around each rail station along the 258-mile route.

Pracht’s anger is legitimate. The Cleveland developer Forest City Enterprises was planning projects that would create $180 million of taxable property. Dayton, OH anticipated around $250 million worth of downtown development around the rail station and, in Columbus, OH, the rail line “was expected to spur business development” and “provide a link between Downtown and Port Columbus.” But, as Forest City’s spokesman put it, “Clearly, it won’t happen now. It’s a governmental decision.” A decision that has already cost Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) private-sector jobs as well.

But Kasich is “unrelenting” in his mission to overtly rebuke his campaign promises. While acknowledging that the train would create private-sector jobs, Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols scoffed Kasich wasn’t going to build a train that “will cost taxpayers.” A curious excuse given the fact that Kasich is perfectly willing to spend taxpayer money to “pay for security improvements” at his own private residence. Because Kasich is choosing to be “the first Ohio governor in a generation” to live in his private residence rather than in the already secured governor’s mansion, Ohioans will now pay for “around-the clock security at the Kasich home” as well as at the official residence.

Decisions like these help to explain the seven point drop in his approval rating before he’s even taken office. But rather than rethink high-speed rail and his other poor economic policies, Kasich is committed to driving the state into further economic disaster. As Nichols said, “We had the debate. The train is dead. The matter is closed.”

Passenger rail is very much in Ohio’s future, no matter how much Kasich tries to stop it:

22 Responses to CEO calls Kasich’s decision to kill Ohios job-creating high-speed rail project “mind-boggling

  1. cervantes says:

    Passenger rail is very much in Ohio’s future, no matter how much Kasich tries to stop it:

    What makes you think that? If elected officials don’t want it to happen, it won’t happen. Agreed, the consequences will be unfortunate, but the corporate media treats free market fundamentalist baloney as a respectable point of view and the voters have evidently fallen for it. If high speed rail and other essential investments are delayed long enough, we will be in a situation where we can’t afford them. Then they will never happen.

    [JR: Peak oil makes it inevitable.]

  2. Nell says:

    A free market relies on the consummer having choices.
    The choice to use a high speed train has been removed by one man.
    These so called pro-private sector ‘leaders’ are not for free market. They are for funneling money from a lot of pockets into a few.

    Our choices have diminished through the years…and we are worse for it.

    I bet peak ‘choice’ occurred in the 50s, maybe even earlier.

  3. George Ennis says:


    I agree people frequently assume all decisions can if one wishes be reversed. I suspect that what we are likely to see in terms of an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, SLR etc. will at some point overwhelm the ability of governments either state or federal to respond with new infrastructure spending. What will happen is that a ruthless form of economic triage will take place based on what are the priorities in adapting infrastructure to a changed climate.

    One has to look no further than the provinces of Atlantic Canada, and Queensland, Australia to see how governments and citizens can start buckling under the financial strain. What is important to remember about these types of events is that we haven’t seen anything yet compared to what our future holds for us.

  4. BBHY says:

    “…is committed to driving the state into further economic disaster”

    And why not? He will just blame the Democrats. Those claims will be backed up by Fox News and the rest of the right wing echo chamber and most of the citizens of Ohio will believe it.

    It’s been 40 years since Reagan was elected and still the Democrats and progressives don’t understand how right wing politics works. Will they ever figure it out? If they don’t we will continue to give ever greater control to the conservative wingers.

    Someone please, please explain to them, slowly and in big letters, how messaging works and how, when it comes to politics, messaging is so much more important than reality.

  5. BBHY says:

    I’m sorry, thirty years. It seems like 50.

  6. cervantes says:

    JR: Peak oil makes it inevitable.

    Er, no. Peak oil makes driving cars eventually unaffordable. It doesn’t make passenger rail inevitable — that requires that somebody come up with the money to build it. If we don’t invest now, while we still have oil and the wealth it produces, we won’t be able to build passenger rail later, when we’re broke.

    [JR: There is always somebody with money to make an investment, even if it is the Chinese with our money making an investment in our country. Peak oil kills air travel before it kills car travel. That’s passenger rail is inevitable.]

  7. fj3 says:

    Driving to the Future: Can China–and the World–Afford 2 Billion Cars?

  8. Sime says:

    “Kasich can stop passenger rail for now, but he can’t stop the inexorable march of gasoline prices past $3 a gallon to $4 and then $5, which will ultimately reveal how inane his decision was.”

    Wow $5 a gallon that’s nice and cheap!

    Here in the UK we just had a little new year price rise and now the average is 125.19p the min is 119.9p and the max is £137.9p per liter (

    Just to put that into perspective a US gallon of standard petrol would cost you happy ferrets approx 3.80 * £1.25 = £4.75 = $7.40 a gallon NOW!

    One of these days reality will be popping over and kicking these T-party idiots right between the fundamentals, the problem is a large number of US citizens will suffer because of their incompetence.

  9. Bill W says:

    Apropos of fj3’s link, I heard a piece on NPR the other day about a guy who had set up a new factory in the Chinese countryside to use the workers that were already there, rather than bringing the workers to the city. The resulting prosperity has led to a new real estate development outside the village, where all the houses include… garages.

    When billions of Chinese can afford cars, we’re in a heap of trouble.

  10. Dean says:

    Nothing is inevitable just because it is smart or because of peak oil. Many civilizations in the past have not done what they needed to do because of some form of domestic politics, and they declined and disappeared as a result.

    Think back a century or two in the US. The fundamentally flawed economic model of the plantation economy drove the deep South into dire poverty for generations because it served the purposes of plantation owners, and that only for a while.

    As to Kasich, he must be planning to seek the Republican nomination for 2012, selling Ohio down the river for his political future. We’ve had enough Ohio presidents anyway.

  11. Dan King says:

    Peak Oil Delayed – Yesterday they just reported on the 11 billion barrels in North Dakota.

    And the Marcellus gas find is sufficiently large that if you’re waiting for us to run out of fossil fuels, you’re going to be waiting for a very long time.

  12. Barry says:

    cervantes (#1) and george (#3) echo the excellent point that Bill McKibben makes at the start of his book “Eaarth”. As climate damage increases and energy gets more expensive we just won’t be able to afford to repair and replace some of our taken-for-granted infrastructure.

    Rural areas with lightly used but expensive/extensive infrastructure will be the first to see it abandoned.

    However, I also think that Joe is exactly right about peak oil (or at least ever more expensive oil) making passenger train travel expand everywhere, including Ohio.

    These two points intersect when you consider what kind of passenger train options the people and businesses of Ohio will end up with. Joe never said it would be fast, comfortable or competitive passenger trains. Ohio could easily stick its head in the tea for long enough to miss out on the Interstate Modern High-Speed Train grid. Ooops. They can get the old Amtrak trains of today at a big discount and clakety clak along at back-woods rutted road rates. Up to them.

  13. Barry says:

    Dan King (#11), I completely agree that we know of far more fossil fuel reserves than is required to cook the planet into civilization destabilizing misery. Peak oil and peak fossil isn’t going to stop climate emissions in any meaningful way.

    However, I’m not sure I agree with your statement that peak oil has been “delayed”. The threat of peak oil isn’t that we run out of oil, it is that oil becomes ever more expensive and dangerous per barrel to extract. So it really should be called “peak cheap oil”. That is what will drive a switch from air and I.C.E. cars to train, bus and ship for example.

    The climate mistake many peak oil folks make is assuming that oil won’t be burned if it is very expensive. Just look at USA military today paying $16,000/barrel for some front line diesel. Or look at people in the poorest nations that spend at least that much for oil products when you compare it to their daily wages. Or compare the cost of whale oil per barrel in the old days.

    People will burn it all…just more slowly…unless we choose as an international community to create cheaper alternatives and ban the extraction of fossil fuels.

    Climate doesn’t care if we burn it more slowly. It will react to how much we burn over centuries. Quantity, not rate, seals our fate.

  14. PurpleOzone says:

    In the 19th, government support fostered the development of railroads. In the 20th century government support fostered the development of highways and air transit.

    In the 21st, many politicians are saying the government shouldn’t do anything: we should have a teeny wienie government.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nell#2, your concept of ‘peak choice’ is sublime. In Eastern Europe they call their so-called ‘democracy’ with its choice between a variety of Rightwing (ie ‘libertarian’, Catholic ‘Christian Democrat’, nativists/chauvinist and neo-fascist) parties, ‘democracy without choices’. Dan King#11, 11 billion barrels at world consumption of 90 million or so a day, is about 120 days consumption, if you can get it all out. Shale gas is an environmental disaster of gigantic proportions, but the gas hogs, with their snouts down, don’t give a toss. Mr Kasich and the Mad Hatters remind me of H.L. Mencken’s sage observation that, ‘On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House (or Governor’s Mansion’) will be adorned by a downright moron’.

  16. Solar Jim says:

    Ohio’s economy is crippled and now it will be further impaired by this right-wing fossil stooge. Ohio declines along with America.

    In my opinion it is due to corporatism during the end game of fossil, and it’s influence of wealth (i.e. plutocracy and decay) courtesy of T Party goes better with Koch. Actually, oil does not influence the gob’ment, it is the gob’ment. Keystone Extra Large pipeline here we come! Right Hillary and all you tar sands oil refineries in or near Ohio? Heck with that passenger rail stuff. And that climate and national security stuff.

    Dark days in America. If the banks don’t get you the fossil companies will.

  17. Mossy says:

    #16 Solar Jim “Ohio declines along with America.”

    How about “Ohio’s a leader in American decline.”

    Oh, and don’t forget that good old talk show radio in OH, (thanks to my denier mom) “That HIGH SPEED rail is only going to go 30 mph.”

  18. Jim Groom says:

    Far too many of the Tea Party are so afraid of the future, some are afraid of the past and most are afraid of everything. Time and progress march on with or without the consent of any group or organized party…at least it used to.

    It is a shame that these folks are unable to learn valuable leasons from other countries. I’m thinking of the economic growth that took place in Spain because of their new high-speed rail system. They too had negative reaction when started, and now everybody wants a line to their region. Perhaps the citizens of Ohio will prevail in these troubled times and force the issue.

  19. Don says:

    Joe: Although John Kasich is clearly a right-wing Republican, I think it’s inaccurate to identify him with the Tea Party–at least, not in the sense that, say, Rand Paul is. He’s been around a while, after all. (I live in Ohio. No, I didn’t vote for him.)

    [JR: Google “John Kasich Tea Party.”]

    Nevertheless, your comments about his shortsightedness regarding the rail plan are certainly on target.

    Dan King, those 11 billion “barrels” in North Dakota (known as the bakken formation) are solid rock! To turn it into anything refinable would most likely require more energy than it would produce. That’s not to mention that it would require prodigious amounts of water in a place where water is more than a little short. And since the world uses something like 30 billion barrels of petroleum per day, that 11 billion would last, what, maybe about three months?

    The Bakken oil shale is not a solution to “peak oil.”

  20. Don says:

    Correction on my previous post. The final sentence should read, “And since the world uses something like 30 billion barrels of petroleum per YEAR..”

  21. Ed says:

    “Rob Nichols scoffed Kasich wasn’t going to build a train that “will cost taxpayers.”

    More proof of the absolute ignorance of this administration. The freight portion of the 3C project would have reduced highway damage by $33 to $44 million per year(according to ODOT, I believe) from freight being diverted from roads to rail. That means this project pays for itself. Meanwhile, the legislature has approved/will approve increasing the allowable weights of steel coil trucks and grain trucks. The increased highway damage that will result will be $90 million/year. That extra damaged isn’t paid for. Tell us oh so intelligent Mr. Kasich (or your mouthpiece Nichols) how that’s ok, but a project that pays for itself is not? What warped sense of fiscal responsibility do you have? Kasich is nothing but a phony fiscal conservative when you consider this.

  22. Ed says:

    Clarification: I meant that the project also pays for annual operating cost of the trains.