Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’
Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11 billion gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools…
The group, which drew on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, state protection agencies and water treatment plants, said most of the outflow during the storm, which hit the eastern US in October last year, was caused by storm surges, which overwhelmed sewage treatment plants. But power shutdowns – and heavy rain in Washington DC – also played a part. A third of the sewage was untreated.
The scientists said the report exposed yet another risk factor to America’s crumbling infrastructure, due to climate change.
New York City authorities have been working for years to reinforce the city’s subway system, which is vulnerable to flooding, and to shore up power stations, which are located along the coast. The scientists said that in the wake of Sandy, when storm surges raised waters more than 9ft above the high tide mark, it was time to look at waste-treatment plants.
“Our sewage infrastructure isn’t built to withstand such surges and we are putting our property, safety and lives at risk if we don’t adequately plan for these challenges,” said Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research manager for Climate Central, adding that almost all of the sewage had ended up in New Jersey and New York…
The estimated cost of repairs to New York and New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants could reach $4.7 billion. “In the long run, sea-level rise is going to force us to rework our infrastructure physically if we are going to keep it intact,” she said.
There isn’t any part of superstructure repair, maintenance or upgrades that Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress care a rat’s ass about. They operate under the assumption that voters only care about dollars – like the money-grubbing thugs they’ve elected.
Infrastructure in the United States has progressed from an overall grade of “D” to a “D+” since 2009, a survey by civil engineers indicates.
In its 2013 Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers sees a slight uptick in the status of the nation’s infrastructure since the society issued its last report card four years ago.
However, its 2013 report concludes that a total investment of $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 in order to bring U.S. infrastructure up to an acceptable level.
Currently only about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending is projected, leaving an estimated shortfall of approximately $1.6 trillion.
The survey covered a vast number of topics including aviation, bridges, dams, levees, roads, schools and transit.
“The methodology with which this Report Card was produced was a very objective piece of work, not a bunch of people using a gut feeling, but real numbers,” said Robert Victor, ASCE Region 2 director.
Victor said the organization formed a committee of more than 30 civil engineers, all technical experts in their field, to assess the nation’s infrastructure.
If we left this in the hands of Congressional Republicans – first, we never would have made the breathtaking climb from D all the way up to D+. Second, the diminished; but, continuing clown show in the House will try their best to Ryanize the existing budget proposal – instead of responding to real needs within our crumbling infrastructure.
Switzerland is the best country for a baby to be born in 2013, according to a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is based on both subjective and objective quality of life factors.
The variables include life expectancy, gender equality, political freedoms, and even climate, but because the study looks at where “to be born” not “where to live,” some of the factors look at what life will be like in those countries in 2030, when children born in 2013 reach adulthood.
Rounding out the top 10 are:
7. New Zealand
10. Hong Kong
The report authors write:
Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account.
The United States didn’t crack the top 10 this year, because American “babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation,” the researchers write. Could have included mediocre education, crumbling infrastructure in that same sentence.
In the 1988 survey, the United States came in first, followed closely by mostly European countries and several high-performing Asian ones, such as South Korea and Japan…
Now, Japan and South Korea rank 25 and 19, respectively, perhaps because their economies have become more troubled in recent years.
Europe has also slipped in the rankings because the ongoing euro-zone crisis there has caused severe unemployment and “eroded both family and community life,” the authors write…Germany has dropped to 16 – a tie with the United States.
Disagree with the list? The full methodology can be found here.
The Economist is a magazine grounded in conservative economics. That’s conservative in the traditional sense, rather like the term used to be in the United States before today’s Republican Party started their outreach policy for governance by homophobes, religious nutballs, various and sundry bigots.
So, the list will be accused of being part of a mythic liberal conspiracy – regardless of credentials.
These folks ain’t waiting in line for fuel for their cars
In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.
In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again…
More broadly, the lust for generators is a reflection of our antiquated electrical grid and failure to address climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our grid, prone to bottlenecks and blackouts, a grade of D+ in 2009…
That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.
It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place…
The National Climatic Data Center has just reported that October was the 332nd month in a row of above-average global temperatures. As the environmental Web site Grist reported, that means that nobody younger than 27 has lived for a single month with colder-than-average global temperatures, yet climate change wasn’t even much of an issue in the 2012 campaign. Likewise, the World Economic Forum ranks American infrastructure 25th in the world, down from 8th in 2003-4, yet infrastructure is barely mentioned by politicians…
This question of public goods hovers in the backdrop as we confront the “fiscal cliff” and seek to reach a deal based on a mix of higher revenues and reduced benefits. It’s true that we have a problem with rising entitlement spending, especially in health care. But I also wonder if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.
Since the 1950s, the top federal income tax rate has fallen from 90 percent or more to 35 percent. Capital gains tax rates have been cut by more than half since the late 1970s. Financial tycoons now often pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.
All this has coincided with the decline of some public services and the emergence of staggering levels of inequality (granted, other factors are also at work) such that the top 1 percent of Americans now have greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
American building codes generally tail along a decade behind European building codes. When it comes to infrastructure, the number ranges from thirty years to fifty years. More likely the latter. You can end our progress with Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System built officially for the Cold War – and really for the motor freight industry. Though that had improved codes that approached European standards for infrastructure, the big boys running contracting firms capable of the job were already figuring out how to cut corners – legally or otherwise.
Highway Codes have since declined. Budgets have diminished. Low-bidder rulings supersede standards. And Congress couldn’t care less.
The same is true for schools and libraries, bridges, parks, any structure designed for the common good.
The American Society of Civil Engineers issued a cry of alarm five years ago in the form of three separate report cards on the state of the nation’s infrastructure in 15 major categories — from bridges to rail lines, pipelines, dams, waterways, highways and all other publicly regulated facilities…
U.S. infrastructure repairs and new projects have been repeatedly postponed as defense requirements and two wars over the past 11 years took priority…
Infrastructure has been a key U.S. priority — on paper. On average, since World War II, the United States earmarked 3 percent of its gross domestic product to infrastructure. But this was cut by one-third to 2 percent since 1980…
As U.S. national priorities changed, the U.S. government gradually shifted the lion’s share of its infrastructure responsibilities from federal to state and local. Thus, the federal government moved an estimated 75 percent of public infrastructure costs off its books.
Years of deferred infrastructure costs followed.
Stocks rally on decision to rebuild, repair, expand infrastructure to aid commerce – oh wait, that’s China not the United States!
China approved plans to build 1,254 miles of roads, spurring the biggest stock- market rally in almost eight months on signs the government is stepping up stimulus efforts to revive economic growth.
The government also backed nine sewage-treatment plants, five port and warehouse projects, and two waterway upgrades, according to statements on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission yesterday…
The Shanghai Composite Index closed 3.7 percent higher, led by construction stocks, on speculation infrastructure spending will help bolster growth that’s cooled to the slowest pace in three years. The announcements came a day after approvals for subway projects in 18 cities, an earlier rise in the railway- building budget and increases in land supplies in cities including Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai.
“They are clearly stepping up the infrastructure-investment push to help boost confidence and revive growth,” said Zhang Zhiwei, Hong Kong-based chief China economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. Premier Wen Jiabao’s policy stance is shifting “to a more proactive and significant easing…”
“China’s central government finally took real actions to arrest the worsening slowdown,” Bank of America Corp. economist Lu Ting said in a note. “Adding home supply and improving urban infrastructure are the two best ways to contain home prices, speed up urbanization and increase social welfare…”
The approvals on Sept. 5 for a total of 25 new subway and inter-city rail projects are worth more than $126 billion, or 1.7 percent of 2011 gross domestic product, according to HSBC. The spending will run from the second half of the year to 2018, it said…
The NDRC backing may accelerate metro-rail developments, most of which were already in local governments’ plans, Citigroup analysts Jenny Zhen and Paul Gong said in a note to clients yesterday.
“This sentiment is positive for the whole railway- construction and equipment sector,” they said…
If you’re interested in the global economy, one of the funniest things you can do is watch Asian Squawk Box on CNBC-World with Bernie Lo. Bernie’s a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and a Baptist to boot. He tries very hard to ask leading question of Asian old hands – to paint China as a failing economy envious of American accomplishments.
I watched him the other night as he tried to press one of the lifers for a typical Wall Street 2-3 month outlook on structural economic changes in China. He got the usual sigh, followed by – you have to learn that China’s economic planners, the government as a whole ignores what the stock market is doing in its various up-and-down joyride. They look to what will achieve the greatest improvement over a 2 to 5 year period. They want to ensure the fullest employment and growth in the nation’s economy – not just a bump that satisfies daytraders and short-term profiteers.
Meanwhile, we sit here in the GOUSA and get to watch alternating panic and euphoria from Biz TV talking heads and politicians who are most expert at blaming someone else – anyone will do – instead of Congressional corporate pimps who are most accomplished at sitting on their hands when they’re not busy picking our pockets.
To the myriad indignities suffered by Congress, including stagnant legislation, partisan warfare and popularity on a par with petty criminals, add this: the Capitol’s roof is leaking, and there is no money to fix it…
The dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks. Water that has seeped in over the years has caused rusting on the ornamentation and staining on the interior of the Rotunda, just feet below the fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” which is painted on the Rotunda’s canopy.
Like most of what the federal government is on the hook to fix — highways, bridges and airports — the dome is imperiled both by tough economic times and by a politically polarized Congress. While Senate appropriators have voted to repair the dome, which has not undergone major renovations for 50 years, their House counterparts say there is not money right now. In that way, the dome is a metaphor for the nation’s decaying infrastructure.
“The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, whose office oversees the building’s physical state. “It’s a public safety issue.”
The skirt of the dome — the section around the base of the original sandstone foundation — was fixed up recently at a cost of about $20 million, but an additional $61 million is needed to repair and restore the rest of the structure’s exterior…
“This is not a ‘bridge to nowhere’ we’re talking about here,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the leader of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees the architect’s office. “This is basic upkeep to the United States Capitol building. There is a time and place to debate spending levels and the proper role of the federal government, but when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof.”
It’s easiest for everyone to malign Congress as a whole. But, everyone – including Republicans, including the nuttiest of the Kool Aid Party – knows who is wholly responsible for getting absolutely nothing accomplished since the 2010 elections. The Tea Party pantywaist populists and Republican Party honchos who think they’re being the best beancounters in the world by putting a halt to any task Congress may attempt.
Saying they’re saving money doesn’t make it so. Saying they have a constitutional mandate doesn’t make it so. Saying they’re following the will of the people – on the basis of a not-so-unusual mid-term election – never makes it so. And since most of this crowd haven’t learned to lie as skillfully as the leftover Republican Party bosses – they rely on blaming everyone but the people who say “NO” to everything.
Including fixing the roof.
Another Republican the Kool Aid Party hates
If the debt-ceiling showdown made your blood boil, if the shutdown of air-traffic-control work related to the airline-ticket tax drove you crazy, then you should unplug your TV and power down your computer in late September, as the deadline for extension of the federal gasoline tax draws near.
…A sizable chunk of Republicans, led by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, want to abolish the tax that pays for the federal highway program and replace the whole system with one overseen by individual states.
This insurgency, inspired by the Tea Party, reflects flawed thinking on economics, transportation policy and even American history.
Like many other excise taxes, the federal highway tax comes up for periodic renewal, which is usually noncontroversial. But not this time. If Congress doesn’t act to renew the tax by Sept. 30, gas stations all over the country have to stop collecting it; the highway trust fund will never get the money; and new work on federal highway projects will come screeching to a halt.
A delay of just 10 days in renewing the tax would mean the permanent loss of $1 billion in highway funding (and layoffs for thousands of workers). Longer delays would measurably increase the national unemployment rate.
…Tea Partiers and their allies on this issue haven’t given up the fight over ending the tax; if they can’t abolish it outright just yet, they’ll push to allow states to opt out.