By Noel T. Braymer
With Republican control of Congress and the White House, the prospect of additional Federal funding for construction of California High Speed Rail is bleaker than ever. In fact there is a good chance that efforts will be made to take back Federal Funding that has already been granted. Governor Jerry Brown is an old man. But he still has a sharp mind and has years of experience in politics. He has made his fair share of political mistakes, but has learned from them. Every attempt by opponents to outmaneuver Governor Brown in the last 6 years has found Governor Brown usually 1 or 2 steps ahead of his opponents with contingency plans to get his way. A priority of Governor Brown is the California High Speed Rail Project. If the United States government refuses to help build it, there are other countries that would likely be interested in doing so.
As Governor, Jerry Brown has made several overseas trips. Several of them have been to countries with High Speed Rail service. Governor Brown has visited China and ridden some of the High Speed Trains there. Quite likely he also made contacts with officials of the Chinese Government and the National Railroad. China has loaned money to several countries to build railroads. China is aggressively marketing to more counties to build new railroads with Chinese financing, construction companies and train equipment. China would love to get a foothold in the American High Speed Rail market. They also expect to get their loans paid back. China has had problems keeping the contracts for building railroads in some countries. A little over a year ago XpressWest, the company planning to build High Speed Rail service between Las Vegas and Southern California signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build and finance the High Speed Rail line to Southern California. Yet less than a year later XpressWest pulled out of the agreement due to conflicts with the Chinese company.
Why would China want to get involved in the California High Speed project? Besides the reasons already mentioned, there is the element of spite stemming from tensions between the United States and China. With the election of Donald Trump as President, these tensions will likely increase. Having a major presence in the United States in the largest State in the US would be good business as well as very annoying to the Trump Administration.The first 119 miles of construction is well underway in the San Joaquin Valley for High Speed Rail and by 2019 it should be ready to test High Speed Trains. Most of the money for building the rest of High Speed Rail between Wasco to San Jose is expected to be covered by already granted Federal funds, State Bonds and Cap and Trade income. With Chinese financing, there is a better chance that construction could be extended to Bakersfield and San Francisco. This will greatly increase ridership and revenue for this first segment of California High Speed Rail. The amount of Chinese investment would be small for the second largest economy in the world for this first leg. But this could lead to finishing this first leg before the now planned 2025 finish and position China to be involved in the rest of the construction of the full 800 miles of California High Speed Rail. It would also help China win other contracts both in this country and elsewhere.
Of course China is not the only country that could be interested in building High Speed Rail in California. Japan has been aggressively competing with China to win High Speed Rail contracts in other countries. Japan is supporting the Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail project. Japan would likely be interested in competing with China to finance and build the California High Speed Rail project. Japan would want the business and to showcase their High Speed Rail technology. They also want to beat China and gain influence and prestige at China’s expense.
Who else might be interested in getting involved in financing and building California High Speed Rail? The next largest economy after China and Japan with High Speed Rail service is Germany. Naturally Germany would love to get the contract for California High Speed Rail. But Germany, and many other countries including China and Japan would also want to see the United States continue to work to lower its emissions of greenhouse gases in accordance with the Paris Agreement to stop the rise in Global Warming. Governor Brown was in Paris during the final session of the Paris Agreement. California has long been a leader and very successful in reducing its emission of greenhouse gas while at the same time seeing its economy grow with the increasing use of renewable energy. California High Speed Rail is a major piece of Governor Brown’s effort to reduce California’s and the US’s emission of Greenhouse gas. Germany, China and Japan and most of the countries of the world would also like to see California maintain its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency. They would also be interested in blocking the Trump Administration efforts to increase use of fossil fuels. To that end, helping California build high speed rail would be a small price for any of these countries to pay.