“Texas crisis” warning, the U.S. infrastructure problem is still difficult to solve

A Texas resident in the United States collects bottled water at a rescue station due to the power outage. Picture/Reuters)

The wave of criticism and reflection caused by the Great Texas power outage in the United States continues to ferment in the United States.” It’s speechless that we can successfully land on Mars without providing electricity for Texas’s home security.” The complaint of a Texas doctor points to a “old problem” in the United States: As the world’s largest developed country, why doesn’t the United States spend money on infrastructure construction?

Underinvestment is the first problem facing Texas and even the United States in infrastructure construction.

In Texas, for example, The Economist pointed out that the Texas Electricity Reliability Board (ERCOT) did not require power companies to reserve “redundancy in power generation capacity”, which caused power suppliers to be unable to provide enough electricity to the grid when the demand surged, and forced to implement pull-gate power restrictions to ensure the safety of the grid.

Politico, a U.S. political news website, also pointed out that the planning of the Texas power department is “more about the heat wave than ice storms”.

At present, there are more than 3,000 power enterprises in the United States, including private enterprises, federal public enterprises, municipal companies, power cooperatives, etc., most of which are fighting separately.

In the pursuit of profits, private enterprises seek to maximize profits, and usually do not have the power to maintain power facilities and increase backup capacity, resulting in serious aging of power supply equipment in the United States.

According to the statistics of the U.S. Department of Energy, 70% of transmission lines and transformers in the United States have more than 25 years, and 60% of circuit breakers have more than 30 years of service.

Will this “Texanzhou Crisis” really become an opportunity for the United States to solve the old problem of power infrastructure? Even the American media itself has no confidence in this problem.

Politico said on February 21 that power experts have been calling for large-scale grid construction for decades to compensate for the power supply lost by California and Texas due to power plant shutdowns and solve his problems by obtaining power supplies from other parts of the United States, even Canada and Mexico.

The energy supply problem we face. This is one of the ways the Biden administration is likely to try, but they need to come up with a plan to drive the hundreds or even trillions of dollars of spending needed.

In fact, infrastructure in the United States is facing a “lack of money”. A recent report released by the American Civil Engineering Association (ASCE) pointed out that by 2029, the cumulative investment gap between expected demand and possible investment in critical infrastructure systems in the United States will exceed $2.6 trillion and more than $5.6 trillion by 2039.

The report also warns that if these gaps are not filled, the aging and destruction of infrastructure by 2039 will cause the loss of US GDP of more than $10.3 trillion.

From this perspective, neither the Trump administration’s $200 billion infrastructure investment plan to leverage $1 trillion, nor the Biden administration’s 10-year investment plan of $2 trillion, it is difficult to fill the huge investment gap in the infrastructure field of the United States.

Insufficient investment in infrastructure in the United States is closely related to the increasingly fierce party struggle in the United States. Since 1998, ASCE has rated the overall rating of infrastructure in the United States as D; in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2019, the United States ranks first in terms of infrastructure quality measurement.

13th, down from the fifth place in 2002. However, with the high debt of the U.S. government and the continuous increase of the debt burden, the Congress, which controls the “money bag” of the United States, has been stuck in partisan sawsaws for a long time on how to raise money and invest.

For Construction Pros, a U.S. construction news website, said that although the Biden administration will probably propose a more ambitious infrastructure plan, it may still make a mistake due to differences within Congress.

At the same time, the increasingly rigid bureaucracy of the United States may also interfere with the process of infrastructure construction. Over the years, it has not been uncommon for large-scale infrastructure programs in the United States to eventually abort due to a series of cumbersome procedural interferences such as planning, approval, hearings, etc.

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would abandon the San Francisco-Los Angeles high-speed rail, which has been promoting since 2008.

One of the important reasons is that the project’s budget and costs have soared due to the continuous extension of the construction period in various disputes, and was eventually abandoned by the California government.

A sudden extreme cold weather exposed the weaknesses and problems of the American infrastructure. However, in the face of years of accumulated old diseases, increasingly intensified partisan politics and veto politics, I’m afraid that the United States can’t jump out of the trap of old infrastructure.

I’m afraid that it can’t achieve a few slogans such as “making historical investments” and “seizing the opportunities of generations”.

After all, ten years ago, Texas suffered a cold winter that knocked down its power grid.

A cold current caused more than 3.2 million households in Texas to cut off their power. At that time, the U.S. federal government also wrote a 350-page report to recommend its rectification, but it was not implemented.

If Texas really learned the lessons of a decade ago, today’s crisis may be completely averted. The key question is, can the United States avoid the next “Texas crisis”?