…may not be the most glamorous segments of the world economy. But, in a very real sense, they underlie everything else.
Colombia, in partnership with China, is looking at a potential land-bridge railroad which could serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal. Ships arriving at a coastal terminus would offload their cargoes to the railroad, which would carry them 137 miles overland, and the process would be reversed at the other end.
The benefits of this “dry canal” for Atlantic-to-Pacific connection, and vice-versa, seem a bit questionable given the costs and delays of offloading and onloading containers and other freight–unless, of course, the Panama Canal reaches an extreme state of congestion and/or the canal fees are substantially increased. It appears, however, that one major motivating factor behind the project has to do with COAL. Columbia has substantial quantities of high-quality and easily-worked coal near the Caribbean end of the proposed route.
“Progressives” and establishment liberals have praised China’s progress in “green technology,” suggesting that the future energy supply for that country will come from solar, wind, and helpful leprechauns turning cranks while being supervised by wise unicorns. But if China’s leadership is serious about investing in a project like the Colombian land-bridge, then it’s pretty clear that they see a long-term future for coal as an energy source–clean or otherwise.
And I doubt it has escaped their attention that achieving/maintaining low electricity prices establishes a powerful competitive advantage in a whole range of manufacturing industries.
(link via Commonsense & Wonder)