Tag Archives: infrastructure

Build We Won’t

by Paul Krugman, New York Times, JULY 3, 2014

You often find people talking about our economic difficulties as if they were complicated and mysterious, with no obvious solution. As the economist Dean Baker recently pointed out, nothing could be further from the truth. The basic story of what went wrong is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, it left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes.

And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure. In prosperous times, public spending on roads, bridges and so on competes with the private sector for resources. Since 2008, however, our economy has been awash in unemployed workers (especially construction workers) and capital with no place to go (which is why government borrowing costs are at historic lows). Putting those idle resources to work building useful stuff should have been a no-brainer.

But what actually happened was exactly the opposite: an unprecedented plunge in infrastructure spending. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, public expenditures on construction have fallen more than 20 percent since early 2008. In policy terms, this represents an almost surreally awful wrong turn; we’ve managed to weaken the economy in the short run even as we undermine its prospects for the long run. Well played!

And it’s about to get even worse. The federal highway trust fund, which pays for a large part of American road construction and maintenance, is almost exhausted. Unless Congress agrees to top up the fund somehow, road work all across the country will have to be scaled back just a few weeks from now. If this were to happen, it would quickly cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, which might derail the employment recovery that finally seems to be gaining steam. And it would also reduce long-run economic potential.

How did things go so wrong? …

continue reading and follow links at New York Times

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Thinking Infrastructure on Earth Day

[Note: SW PA, SE PA, same deal: our country and state are falling behind in infrastructure, and it costs us in energy, time and environmental degradation. It’s not just how we as a people move around the map; it’s also what happens in our own homes, as the chart below shows. Global Climate Disruption works in unexpected ways in our own daily lives.]

“City council shows support for Earth Day action to strengthen Pittsburgh’s infrastructure” by Khari Mosley, Regional Programs Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance in Pennsylvania.

The Negley Avenue Bridge in Pittsburgh that spans the East Busway and railroad tracks connecting Shadyside with Centre Avenue was built long before many of us were around—89 years ago—and unfortunately the structure is showing its age. When it was built, the Negley Avenue Bridge was built to last 100 years and beyond, but years of neglect and delayed repairs and investment have made it unsafe for use today. It’s just one of many bridges here in Pittsburgh and around the state that demand our attention, and this Earth Day we’re doing something about it.

Councilman Dan Gilman joined labor and environmental leaders today to call for swift passage of a resolution he introduced in support of efforts to repair Pittsburgh’s crumbling infrastructure systems. These systems include water, wastewater, transit, energy, and natural gas distribution systems.

Why Earth Day? Today we take action to educate ourselves about the effect we’re having on the environment around us. It’s time to look for new solutions to address climate change. Extreme temperature swings related to climate change are causing more pot-holes on roads, higher than average rainfall is testing the limits of dams and levees and stronger and stronger winds are leaving our electric grid vulnerable to more power outages than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. In fact, the number of weather-related blackouts has doubled since 2003.

More often than not, we hardly notice even notice infrastructure until it breaks on us. When we can’t get to work or school on time, dial the phone to speak with friends and relatives and more, it becomes a problem. From stronger storms to flooding to other dangers, these changes put us all in harms way unless we make the structures that are supposed to protect us stronger.

The Repair America resolution introduced on Earth Day, is an effort to recognize that these investments would impact job creation, and better protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

Inefficient infrastructure creates more waste and carbon pollution driving climate change. For example, there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks a year. Replacing that leaked water requires energy to pump even more water, resulting in not just water waste, but energy waste as well. A Chicago State University study showed that by reducing the amount of water leaked annually in the U.S. by only 5 percent would result in saving enough energy to power 31,000 homes for a year and cut 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

We’re faced with both a challenge and an opportunity to prepare infrastructure systems for the increasingly severe and more frequent storms and droughts that we are experiencing. Investing now will put people to work rebuilding pipes, roads, bridges, transit, and energy transmission systems. And, it will make our infrastructure systems more efficient, reducing energy and water waste, as well as carbon pollution that drives climate change.

With the introduction of today’s resolution, Pittsburgh joins many other communities across the country calling for investments to fix the basic systems people rely on every day—for power, water, to communicate with each other, and to get people and goods from place to place—which will create family-sustaining jobs, help address climate change, and ensure our communities are safer and healthier.

chart from “Weather-Related Blackouts Doubled Since 2003: Report” at Climate Central, 4/10/14:


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Filed under Environment, Energy, Science