Short Sea Shipping, Locomotives in Sac and Crowdfunding Goes Mainstream

“Short Sea Shipping”. Now try saying THAT three times in quick succession.

However it comes out, short sea shipping has been talked about as a potential use for Humboldt Bay Harbor for at least the several years that I’ve been following the rail/bay/train situation. At their July 31 meeting, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group hosted a presentation by Stas Margaronis on “Trucking by Water:  Potential of a Humboldt-Stockton Container Ship Service”.  Mr. Margaronis is an energetic speaker and is the publisher of  his own website, Rebuild the US, and is the founder of Santa Maria Shipping and Trucking, as referred to on the website as a startup. Stockton is home to or near to many Central Valley distribution centers and is 75 miles from Oakland by water.

Harbor Commissioner RIchard Marks provided a good writeup on his blog, Samoa Softball, so I won’t repeat his excellent reporting. I would just add that a number of folks from SoHum showed up, apparently supporting any alternative to trucking on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The opponents of the Richardson Grove realignment and the Willits bypass heard Magaronis explain that one ship can replace 120 trucks but a kind of pall fell over the crowd when he mentioned LNG as a possible fuel for these ships (as opposed to diesel). It hasn’t been that long since our last LNG trauma and it’s pretty clear to me that LNG is a non-starter, even when confined to ship fuel lines, in this community.  He also mentioned our lack of a pier (cost: $10-15M). Anyway, whether you call it short-sea shipping or the marine highway, it’s a hard concept to be against assuming the freight is available. The potential for well-paying jobs is clearly there. Kudos to the HBHWG for another thought -provoking program.

LOCOMOTIVES- like any train nut, I look forward to RailPAC’s newsletter, Steel Wheels. The current issue reminds us that, although there are those in Humboldt who seem to think that railroads are a thing of the past, railroads are thriving in other areas. Siemens, the German mega-corporation, is building 70- that’s 70-energy-efficient locomotives for AMTRAK at its solar-powered plant in Sacramento.  This project will involve 69 suppliers in 23 states and 61 cities and will replace aging locomotives with state-of-the-art imodels that are expected to conserve  3Bkwh of energy by using such innovations as regenerative braking, which  can feed up to 100% of the energy generated during braking back to the power grid. Personally I am delighted that this huge investment has come to Sacramento, which has been a train town since they knocked in the Golden Spike. Hopefully there will be follow-on orders, as this first fleet is all-electric and designed for the Northeast corridor.  Hopefully Siemens can produce a passenger diesel and other products to keep foreign investment and good jobs coming in to the West Coast..

CROWDFUNDING- Those of you who supported local artist Peter Santino’s Kickstarter campaign have heard that the funding was successful and we can expect to receive our books in December. It occurred to me the other day that Eureka has a long and honorable history in crowdfunding; the Eureka Inn was originally financed by pledges from 750 citizens who felt the city needed a good hotel.  Seth Geddes’ project Fund Humboldt has taken off flying.  The Economist reported recently that in 2013 THREE BILLION DOLLARS will be crowdfunded of which about a sixth will be donations, without promise of equity or products. Crowdfunding is happening everywhere from Chile to Finland and could eventually provide an avenue by which citizens can decide how they would like their tax moneys to be spent.  Sounds good to us.

Finally,  a happy note for those of us who were English majors; the UK’s new ten pound note will feature  novelist Jane Austen,  a woman who wrote about money and its effect on families like no one else ever has. Sony is about to release Austenland,  a film about Austen  fans. Congratulations, Jane. It’s about time.

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