How Did Japan’s Bullet Trains Fare?

Not all of them so well:

Clearly, some of the country’s slower commuter trains were caught in the tsunami. There are reports, again unconfirmed, that up to four of these trains were involved. Wading through photos on the Internet, I found at least three discrete shots of derailed trains, although it is possible the passengers survived.

If indeed a bullet train was lost, it will likely be the working of the law of unintended consequences. For the most part, bullet trains north of Tokyo run inland, so these were probably out of the tsunami’s range (see this map). However, there’s a small loop seaward to Sendai, among the hardest hit areas of the island. This is pure speculation here, but given the timing of the shock wave and the following tsunami, it is possible that safety systems stranded one or more trains in the path of the killer wave. Commuter trains follow a much longer stretch of coastline, and would have been particularly vulnerable.

…liberal planners just might want to reexamine their ideological yearnings for high-speed rail, namely their conviction that it is somehow “better” for people to live in concentrated urban clumps, connected by public transit, than in diffuse, sprawling suburbs. Densely populated Japan must rely on rails to get people to and from work. When centralized systems like these fail, they fail across the board and, as appears likely in Japan, will be out of commission for a long time; aside from the track damage, electrical shortages due to nuclear-plant shutdowns are forcing service reductions. Suburbs and cars, on the other hand, are distributed systems, with inherently redundant roads and vehicles that are more resistant to natural disaster. Rescue workers aren’t taking the train to succor tsunami victims, they’re driving.

This makes a lot more sense than rethinking nuclear power.

AWOL

Where is Steven Chu?

Americans expect leadership from their leaders. Chu has the track record to provide it in this case, yet he is failing to do so. If he is being hamstrung by special-interest pressure within the administration, one would expect that to be a resigning matter. I fear it is more likely that he has succumbed to pressure from his erstwhile allies, the greens, and is simply displaying a lack of backbone.

Yet he should consider what this means for his own plans. The administration’s energy plan, based on the EPA’s draconian regulations against greenhouse gas emitters, depends on a hundred new nuclear power plants being built. The administration knows that that powering America by wind and solar energy is as likely as extracting sunlight from cucumbers, which is why nuclear figures so heavily in the plan. If that option is now off the table — and the Left has been so successful in its opportunistic framing of this issue that it might well be — then there is a massive gap in the plan that can only be filled by coal or natural gas. Secretary Chu will be forced to argue that, if there is a nuclear ban, then the EPA’s beloved greenhouse-gas regulations will also have to be taken off the table. This is a circle that simply cannot be squared.

But then, leftists generally have no problem with unsquarable circles.

[Update a few minutes later]

Since he’s not up to the job, here’s a simple explanation of Fukushima.

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