Last week, Charles Bickford (see letters "For Port Westward rezone, we need brains, not greed" A4) did a wonderful job of demonstrating the potential social costs of rezoning Port Westward for industrial use. Few doubt the ultimate intended use of this rezone. He used the example of multiple daily oil trains going through Columbia County and provided a rough calculation of the cost of time lost waiting at train crossings throughout the day.
During the coal train debacle, I created a social costs spreadsheet that applies equally well to oil trains and used considerably more conservative estimates. Additionally, I calculated the costs from the Balkan oilfields in northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota to Clatskanie. We tend to forget that these trains will impact citizens in every state that they passed through.
To calculate the uncompensated cost to citizens, I use the following assumptions: Total rail distance — 1200 miles; significant railroad crossings — 100; average number of stopped vehicles per crossing — 20; crossing time — six minutes; crossing events per day — 12; one person per vehicle, and cost per gallon of gas — $3.
Using these basic assumptions and the average from multiple sources of 0.8 gallons per hour consumed by a vehicle while idling, the results are as follows:
Citizens stopped for trains daily — 24,000; lost time sitting at railroad crossings per day — 2,400 hours, per year 876,000. The cost of lost time per year using $7.25, the federal minimum wage — $6,351,000. Fuel consumed idling per year — 700,800 gallons. The cost per year of fuel at $3 a gallon — $2.1 million. The grand total for fuel and lost time is approximately $8.5 million a year. I am very comfortable that this figure is reasonable or low and have provided a copy of my spreadsheet to the Spotlight if they choose to comment on the validity of my calculations.
The argument has been made for job creation and additional tax revenues, but the true externalized costs to society have been ignored. There has been zero honest cost-benefit analysis for projects that severely, negatively impact the commons; e.g. safety, further contributing to and enabling climate change, lost property values, loss of business for those who happen to be on the wrong side of the tracks, and so much more.
When did you and I agree to subsidized wholly for-profit companies and, more to the point, why are any of our elected representatives still even considering this back-door pickpocket proposal?