I like to think that the president had been reading the late Tony Judt's January 13, 2011 article in the New York Review of Books, in which Judt wrote:
"The cost of oil -- effectively stagnant from the 1950s through the 1990s (allowing for crisis-driven fluctuations) -- is now steadily rising and unlikely ever to fall back to the level at which unrestricted car travel becomes economically viable again. The logic of the suburb, incontrovertible with oil at $1 a gallon, is thus placed in question. Air travel, unavoidable for long-haul journeys, is now inconvenient and expensive over medium distances: and in Western Europe and Japan the train is both a pleasanter and a faster alternative. The environmental advantages of the modern train are now very considerable, both technically and politically. An electrically powered rail system, like its companion light-rail or tram system within cities, can run on any convertible fuel source whether conventional or innovative, from nuclear power to solar power. For the foreseeable future this gives it a unique advantage over every other form of powered transportation."