WORKING FOR THE VPL AUTHORITY, we've learned to work with the facts on the ground. This is what is happening in America: a hundred-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded bailout for the auto industry and unabated subsidies for air travel—both forms of transportation that consume energy and emit carbon profligately. President Obama has dedicated eight billion dollars in stimulus money to building rail capacity (and the VPL Authority is grateful for its share of these funds), but that amount is not likely to accomplish much.

America isn't Japan. It's not even Spain, which has, by comparison, spent more than one-hundred-forty billion dollars in the past fourteen years on the construction of a high-speed rail network. In this country, advocacy for high-speed rail exists mainly on the level of grassroots movements and wishful thinking.

There are reasons for that. The US may have an enormous trade deficit, but high-tech exports keep it from ballooning out of control. The aerospace industry is one of the few areas in which America runs a trade surplus, and commercial aviation is the largest contributor to the country's positive trade balance. Furthermore, unlike Japan, where cities are laid out in a linear fashion, the US sprawls in every direction, with vast distances between cities. This is especially true in the desert Southwest.