Road and Track

“We import 70 percent of our oil,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit at Aria on Aug. 30. He said it more than once, to a convention hall filled with business and academic proponents of new, renewable energy technologies.

And while the point was well-received (Vice President Joe Biden said in his speech that he was “preaching to the choir”), somehow neither our dependence on foreign oil nor thousands of entrepreneurs in the alt-fuels energy industry has prompted the administration to invest more in high-speed rail.

In fact at the very time Reid was standing on the curb outside Aria watching demonstrations of electric vehicles, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu was reminding conventioneers that during the Civil War, Congress funded construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, President Barack Obama was pushing for jobs created by construction of more roads.

In some ways, it’s understandable: The pavement projects are already in progress, and the nation needs to get back to work. Still, for such a forward-looking summit to be touting better cars while only $8 billion in stimulus money nationwide went to high-speed rail development, it seems a little like repaving the past.

After all, we import 70 percent of our oil.