Cato Institute: Trains Bigger Than Cars; Sun Arguably Warmer Than Moon, Ice

June 14, 2008

As if you needed any further proof that the Cato Institute is a completely full of shit mouthpiece used to skew debate and media coverage with asinine commentary, we now have this article from

In an effort to provide balanced news coverage, CNN’s Rachel Oliver took a story about Amtrak promoting itself through the proven energy efficiency per passenger-mile of rail travel over airlines or automobiles (Ch. 2 – Energy, Tables 2.4-2.6 or here) and transformed it into he-said she-said nonsense.

According to Amtrak, which was behind the event, trains are more energy-efficient than cars or planes so should be celebrated and actively encouraged as the ideal mode of transport among today’s travelers.

Attributing the information to Amtrak makes it appear as though Amtrak – an obvious financial beneficiary from increased rail travel – is the only authority claiming rail travel to be a more energy efficient mode of travel. Amtrak is, of course, highlighting and publicizing this information – but it also happens to be the truth, as the above-linked documents show.

So Rachel has shown one “side” of a non-debatable, fact-based issue. Let’s give everyone a chance, people! Balance, balance, fairness, balance:

In an April 2008 report Cato said the U.S.’s train lines “generate more greenhouse gases than the average passenger automobile,” before adding,”rail transit provides no guarantee that a city will save energy or meet greenhouse gas targets.”

Well. A fifteen-car passenger train creates more greenhouse gas than your Mazda. And Oliver doesn’t even say one train – it’s all of them. The combined greenhouse gas output of every train operating in the U.S. is greater than that of the average passenger automobile. Sounds like a reasonable counterbalance quote, don’t you think? Next we’ll hear that the homeless – once thought to be our most destitute and needy citizens – are actually okay after all, because everyone who isn’t homeless has money and a place to live.

Dodged that bullet, I guess; jester, a round for the house!

Then there’s the second half of the quote: “rail transit provides no guarantee that a city will save energy or meet greenhouse gas targets.” Well, no, it doesn’t. Rail transit also provides no guarantee that the city will not be sucked into the gaping maw of the earth’s crust as the result of a massive earthquake. It provides no guarantee that people will not simply start lighting gas stations on fire or burning truck tires in their backyard. It’s disingenuous nonsense and it’s what the American press does on a daily basis.

Demand better.


8 Responses to “Cato Institute: Trains Bigger Than Cars; Sun Arguably Warmer Than Moon, Ice”

  1. either way, hybrid cars can be a big help in our environment. so why not use them?

  2. jd1220 Says:

    Actually, no, they aren’t. The production of a Toyota Prius is worse for the environment than a Hummer, and only lasts a third of the time on the road. Also, initial MPG estimates for the Prius have been adjusted after initial use showed the gasoline-powered engine remains in use much longer than previously advertised.

    Even if it worked up to everyone’s initial beliefs, the hybrid car would still be a less efficient use of energy per passenger-mile than something like a train.

  3. Solid article – Will come back soon:)

  4. SDS Says:

    Just silly. You would force people to pay for trains they don’t want. You would actually put a gun to my head and take my money to pay for something that I don’t want. You would sneak into my bank account, steal my money and use it for something that I don’t want.

    Government IS force and if you use it to accomplish your goals you are simply outsourcing force to get what you want. If you want to be a peaceful person and you like trains then start a company and get people to invest in your ideas voluntarily. Stop hurting people to get what you want.

  5. jd1220 Says:

    The government forces people to pay for things they don’t want all the time. That’s what government does: it regulates and channels a vast number of individual self-interests to benefit the whole (or at least the greatest portion of the whole possible). Trains benefit you in that they promote mobility while limiting greenhouse gases. Perhaps certain aspects of rail transit go against your immediate wishes (i.e. to go wherever whenever you want). I hate to break it to you, but… tough. Rail transit is better for you and your children and your children’s children and everybody else’s children than a nation reliant on the automobile. So I – and I’m sure all those children I just mentioned – will bite the bullet and piss you off if it benefits the whole of society in a marked and measurable way.

    Yes, sometimes government is force. Currently, your government is forcing you to pay heavy taxes for thousands of miles of road you will never drive your car on. Ever. They are forcing you to contribute to the millions upon millions of dollars in subsidies for the automobile industry, not a penny of which you will see. Ever. They are forcing you to pay for wars that are hurting – actually hurting, not… I don’t know, however people are hurt by trains existing – and killing hundreds of thousands of people to justify and sustain a car-centric lifestyle that has no viable future.

    So let me put it this way: you want to drive your car. You want to drive whenever and wherever you want and you don’t want to have to worry about anybody else getting anywhere but yourself and your car. Fuck trains, right? OK. Start a company based around you and your fellow volunteer investors being able to drive your car. Start funds for road maintenance, fuel subsidies, highway patrol, snow removal, bridge and tunnel maintenance, roadside assistance, roadside maintenance, deer carcass removal, and everything else you think you might need to maintain that transportation system.

    Thing is, you already have that, thanks to the government sneaking into my bank account and stealing my money at gunpoint. I don’t know the numbers offhand but cars and highways are funded through vast government subsidies to all sorts of industries. All Amtrak wants is to be funded up to the meager level the government promised them it would, a task it rarely succeeds in. You can check the figures and get back to me if you want.

  6. hk Says:

    Wow look at you now. Solyndra and other green energy subsidies makes the government look really stupid. Nobody cares, we just want cars. That’s how the free market works, if we don’t like something you just wasted billions of dollars.

    The facts are that cars are more convenient and you can’t make people RIDE on these buses or trains. Even less people use mass transit now compared to a few years ago.

  7. jd1220 Says:

    Prove it. That certainly isn’t true where I live. And if you don’t like it you can still drive, it just makes less sense from a societal point-of-view. And my original point was that the Cato Institute used misleading information about public transportation vs. cars. That point remains true.

    Seriously, drive your car if you want. Just know that a) I’m not too sympathetic when people complain about pump prices and b) I’m sick of subsidizing something I don’t use.


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