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Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales

Advertisement from the mid-20th century

I have often used this expression (the title) to describe many things people tend to think of as solutions for one thing or another that either are not solutions or are unrealistic at best in terms of actually solving something. For anyone just joining these articles, this post will help get you started so as to be able to comprehend what this article is about.

As I have expressed before, my deep passion is to help explain where we are (as a species), how we got here, why we are in this mess, and what can and/or cannot be done to “solve” these predicaments. My very first post explained the difference between problems with answers or solutions and predicaments (or dilemmas) with outcomes. In it, we discovered that predicaments don’t have solutions, and that every solution proffered for a predicament winds up causing new problems and/or predicaments or comes with unacceptable costs or just simply doesn’t solve anything.

The reason these explanations are necessary is because a very large portion of society is completely ignorant to these facts and tends to buy into industry hype, marketing, advertising, and propaganda. Why does this happen? Because culturally, this is what society has been doing for the last several centuries AT LEAST. In order to sell an item or service, the seller needs to market and advertise the product or service. Making it attractive to the purchaser and making the purchaser feel good about buying it is key to getting the target audience to bring demand for said product or service. Whether the product or service is actually necessary or does more than make the purchaser feel good is often irrelevant in the grand scheme of things…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Infrastructure Will Not Come Good, Fast, And Cheap

New Infrastructure Will Not Come Good, Fast, And Cheap

Anyone naive enough to think America is about to receive a big gift of newfangled “fixed installations” needed in order to function should look long and hard at what is really being proposed. The “underlying structure” a country and the economy rely upon includes things such as roads, bridges, dams, water and sewer systems, railways and subways, airports, and harbors. None of these things are cheap to construct and when it comes to infrastructure the words, good, fast, and cheap should never be clustered together. While many people see government spending on infrastructure as a job creator and a silver bullet for our ailing economy I would like to raise a word of caution, things are not that simple. The cynical part of me thinks the American people should get ready to get bent over and taken advantage of.

Spending Trillions Likely To Result In An Epic Fail

Now that Biden’s massive Covid-19 relief package has been signed into law, talk is moving towards what is next on the agenda, That’s where, most likely, his infrastructure plan resides, and this is a plan set to explode the budget. If you think that $1.9 trillion is a lot of money, it pales next to what the Democrats are going to propose as they continue on their spending spree. It appears that Biden wants $3 trillion or more which should scare away moderates such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin but it has not. Not only has Manchin not blinked at $3 trillion in new spending instead, he recently stated Congress should do “everything we possibly can” to pay for it. He said there should be “tax adjustments” to former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law to boost revenues, his endorsement of raising the corporate rate from the current 21 percent to at least 25 percent, however, would do little.…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

bruce wilds, advancing time blog, united states, government stimulus, infrastructure, crony capitalism

Water is Life. Can We Protect It?

From West Texas to Jackson, Mississippi, tens of millions of people struggled through late winter storms that froze pipes, broke water mains, and cut off electricity. They froze without showers, toilets, or washing machines — let alone drinking water — for days or even weeks.

The irony that Texas, the state built on fossil fuels, was completely unprepared for extreme weather disasters shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Fossil fuel and utility firms have long plied state officials with money. In turn, officials failed to regulate utilities, weatherize their grid, or create programs to weatherize homes — much less upgrade the state’s decaying water infrastructure.

This extreme weather disaster gave Americans a glimpse of the daily reality of billions who struggle to protect their water from polluting corporations.

In our travels, we’ve seen these fights up close — they’re harrowing, but also inspiring. As we in the United States face similar struggles, we might take some encouragement from others who’ve won local, national, and global fights to protect their water.

In particular, we’ve spent countless hours with people across El Salvador, where drought has taxed the river system that provides water for over half the country’s population. Over the past two decades, this river system was threatened by a giant mining company that wanted to mine gold near the rivers.

Gold mining uses toxic chemicals like cyanide that poison water. But a global mining company attempted to buy public support by launching flashy PR campaigns, funding local projects, and hiring expensive lobbyists.

Beyond offering these few carrots, they also carried a large stick. When the Salvadoran government paused new mining licenses to study the issue, the mining companies filed lawsuits against the government under the rigged rules that govern investment across borders.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

, OtherWords, water, infrastructure, 

Lifespan of infrastructure, transportation, and buildings

Lifespan of infrastructure, transportation, and buildings

Preface. What follows is from the International Energy Agency 2020 report “Energy technology perspectives” on how to transition to net zero emissions by 2050. This might require the replacement of just about everything, since power plants, steel blast furnaces, cement kilns, buildings, trucks, cars, buses and more that run fossil fuels now would have to be replaced or greatly modified to run on hydrogen, electricity, or other renewables since most of this infrastructure will last for decades, and much of it is quite young, especially in China.

Since mining uses 10% of all energy, and many elements are likely to run out or are controlled by China, and energy transitions take 50 years or more (Smil 2010 Energy myths and realities), making such a transition is unlikely. And if conventional oil did start declining in 2018, impossible.

* * *

Figure 1.12 Typical lifetimes for key energy sector assets

Notes: The red markers show expectations of average lifetimes while the blue bars show typical ranges of actual operation in years, irrespective of the need for interim retrofits, component replacement and refurbishments. “Buildings” refers to building structures, not the energy consuming equipment housed within. Examples of “urban infrastructure” assets include pavement, bridges and sewer systems.

The operating lifetime of some assets, especially those that produce materials or transform energy, can span several decades: this means that it could be a long time until they are replaced by cleaner and more efficient ones.

Figure 1.13 Age structure of existing fossil power capacity by region and technology in operation 2018 (source: Platts 2020a)

About 50% of the installed fossil-fired power generation capacity in China was built within the last ten years, and 85% within the last 20 years. The average age of coal plants is over 40 years in the United States and around 35 years in Europe, while it is below 20 years in most Asian countries, and just 13 years in China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Russia & China Invest in Infrastructure; U.S. Instead Spends on Military

Russia & China Invest in Infrastructure; U.S. Instead Spends on Military

Russia & China Invest in Infrastructure; U.S. Instead Spends on Military

China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” is famous as an extension of their domestic infrastructure investments, but Russia is also investing heavily in infrastructure. Both countries need to do it in order to improve the future for their respective populations, and both Governments have avoided the Western development model of going heavily into debt in order to pay for creating and maintaining infrastructure. Both are, in fact, exceptionally low-debt Governments.

According to the “Global Debt Clock” at Economist, China has a public debt/GDP of 17.7%, and Russia’s is 8.0%. For comparison, America’s is 93.6%. (Others are: Germany 85.8%, Spain 91.2%, Italy 122.6%, Greece 147.1%, India 54.2%, Pakistan 47.0%, and Brazil 55.0%.)

The United States isn’t going into public debt in order to finance building or maintenance of infrastructure, but instead to finance expansions of its military, which is already (and by far) the world’s largest (in terms of its costs, but not of its numbers of troops).

While the US Government now spends around half of the world’s military expenditures and plans to conquer Russia, China, and all countries (such as Iran and Syria) that cooperate with those ‘enemies’ (and please click onto a link wherever you question the truthfulness of an allegation made here), Russia and China plan to improve their infrastructures, in order to boost their national economies and to minimize the impacts that (the mainly US-caused) global warming will have. These infrastructure projects are optimistic and long-term expenditures, which are being planned and built only because the countries that the US aristocracy are targeting to conquer, expect the US aristocracy to fail to achieve its clear #1 goal, of controlling the entire world and conquering them — of America’s rulers finally achieving the global fascist empire that, in World War II, Hitler and the other Axis powers had been hoping to become.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Delusional Economy Is Poised To Slam Into The Brick Wall Of Reality

dailyhaha

Our Delusional Economy Is Poised To Slam Into The Brick Wall Of Reality

Will you thrive, merely survive, or fail?

While life has always been uncertain, today our choices matter more than ever. The decisions each of us make today will determine if we thrive, merely survive, or fail during the future time of upheaval ahead.

The window of opportunity to change course for humanity is all but closed.  There’s simpply no more time to hope that somehow, magically, the world’s entire energy complex will suddently evolve to a bountiful and sustainable new plane — whether by market forces, by maverick billionaires like Elon Musk, or by happy accident.

As we hammer home constantly here at Peak Prosperity, energy is everything. Without it, our society simply can’t function.

And it’s critical to appreciate that it takes an investment of energy to migrate from energy solution to another.

Imagine you heat your house with wood, but want to switch to a forced air gas furnace.  Is there energy involved in doing so?  You bet there is.  Besides the obvious new need for natural gas, there’s a huge amount of embodied energy in the manufacture and installation of your new furnace, all the duct work, and the delivery lines that will bring the gas to the furnace.  Further, there will be electricity required to force the air from the furnace, through the ducts, and into your house.

The same is true when making transitions at the national level. What’s involved in the much larger projects of switching industrial agriculture away from the fossil fuel driven process of plowing, planting, fertilizing, irrigating, harvesting, drying or cooling, and then transporting food from the field to your table?

At each stage there’s an enormous amount of energy infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt and reconfigured to run on “something else.”  Let’s examine the current dream that we’ll switchover to powering all of our farming needs with electricity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fixing Infrastructure Isn’t as Simple as Spending Another Trillion Dollars

Fixing Infrastructure Isn’t as Simple as Spending Another Trillion Dollars

It isn’t easy to add new subway lines or new highways, and so “solutions” don’t really exist.

If there’s one thing Americans can still agree on, it’s that America needs to spend more on infrastructure which is visibly falling apart in many places. This capital investment creates jobs and satisfies everyone’s ideological requirements: investment in public infrastructure helps enterprises, local governments and residents.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple as spending another trillion dollars. Spending money is the easy part; actually fixing what’s broken isn’t just a matter of spending more money.

The poster child for spending trillions on infrastructure and getting very little value is Japan, which has funneled much of its fiscal stimulus over the past 30 years into vast and largely needless infrastructure projects: bridges and roadways that are lightly used being just one example.

The reason for the this low-value-creation policy is the political power of the construction industry and the convoluted political structure which gives rural areas inordinate political power over public spending. As a result, enormously expensive and utterly needless highways and bridges litter lightly populated rural communities which have become dependent on construction jobs for what little remains of the local economy.

In other words, what’s broken in Japan remains broken. Spending more on infrastructure hasn’t fixed what’s dragging the nation into permanent stagnation.

If you live in any of America’s major urban centers (or happen to visit), you know that traffic congestion is now off the scale. From Portland to Las Vegas to Atlanta, traffic jams and crushing commutes are now the norm.

Soaring housing costs have pushed workers farther into the exurbs, lengthening commutes and choking highways constructed for a much smaller populace.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate change, water and the infrastructure problem

Climate change, water and the infrastructure problem

I was watching an episode of the science-fiction noir thriller “The Expanse” recently. Set hundreds of years in the future, the United Nations has now become the world government and its main rival is Mars, a former Earth colony. The UN is still in New York City and a new fancier UN building is now tucked safely behind a vast seawall that protects the city from rising water resulting from climate change.

It’s a world that looks like an extension of our own, but one that has survived the twin existential threats of climate change and resource depletion. But will it be so easy to update our infrastructure to overcome these threats?

The naive notion that we can, for example, “just use more air conditioning” as the globe warms betrays a perplexing misunderstanding of what we face. Even if one ignores the insanity of burning more climate-warming fossil fuels to make electricity for more air-conditioning, there is the embedded assumption that our current infrastructure with only minor modifications will withstand the pressures placed upon it in a future transformed by climate change and other depredations.

That assumption doesn’t square with the facts. Take, for instance, the Miami, Florida water system. One would think that Miami’s first task in adapting to climate change would be to defend its shores against sea-level rise. But it turns out that the most troublesome effect of sea-level rise is sea water infiltration into the aquifer which supplies the city’s water.

Once that happens the city would have to adopt desalination for its water supply, a process that currently costs two and one-half times more than current water purification processes. And, of course, desalinating water for a city as large as Miami, a city of more than 400,000 who consume 330 million gallons per day, would require a huge, expensive new infrastructure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Permian Bottlenecks Come At The Worst Moment

Permian Bottlenecks Come At The Worst Moment

oil flaring

The growing number of supply outages around the world are causing the oil market to become a lot more volatile, putting extra emphasis on every barrel that does or does not make it to market. That makes the infrastructure bottlenecks in West Texas a global concern.

There is quite a bit of debate about what’s going on in the Permian, and whether or not the shale industry will be able to keep up with heady production forecasts. The IEA predicts the U.S. will add 1.7 million barrels per day in 2018, followed by another 1.2 mb/d in 2019.

Obviously, the bulk of that is expected to come from the Permian, and while the IEA acknowledges pipeline bottlenecks in the Permian, it has not significantly altered its supply forecast. “While producers are bumping up against pipeline bottlenecks, supplies will continue to rise through 2019,” the IEA said in its June Oil Market Report.

(Click to enlarge)

But by most accounts, the pipelines from the Permian to the Gulf Coast are either full or will be full in the next few months. That makes projections like the ones from places like the IEA look a bit optimistic, almost as if growth was simply extrapolated forward.

Others are more pessimistic. “We will reach capacity in the next 3 to 4 months,” Scott Sheffield, the chairman of Pioneer Natural Resources Co., told Bloomberg last month. “Some companies will have to shut in production, some companies will move rigs away, and some companies will be able to continue growing because they have firm transportation.”

The Permian has roughly 3.1 mb/d of takeaway capacity, plus local refining capacity. There is theoretically some 300,000 bpd of train capacity, but a lot of that is being used to move frac sand, according to S&P Global Platts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Easy Money Is Rotting America from the Inside-Out

How Easy Money Is Rotting America from the Inside-Out

How much of our gleaming new infrastructure will fall into disrepair?

The Federal Reserve has been the main cause of business cycles in America since 1913. For several decades, it has tried to hide the consequences of its policies by enabling easy credit during each recession. As Jonathan Newman wrote yesterday, pouring trillions of dollars into the financial sector obscures the external signs of the recession such as low asset prices and high unemployment and promotes economic malinvestment.

This malinvestment creates the conditions that cause the next recession. Some of the consequences of the Fed’s policies, such as stock market and housing bubbles can be directly attributed to its policies. In other cases, the artificially low interest rates and other “easy money” policies foster an “infrastructure rot” that erodes the efficiency of the American economy, the standard of living of consumers, and eats away at American infrastructure. These effects are difficult to trace back to the Fed’s policies, so let’s concretize some examples to understand how Federal Reserve policies affect America.

At the city level, low interest rates allow cities to fund new public projects such as parks and bridges. While this may seem fine and dandy, all infrastructure projects have a maintenance cost. It’s not sufficient to build a park. One must also have the money to maintain it every year. If there is not enough revenue to pay for maintenance, the park will literally rot until the playgrounds fall apart, the lawns are overgrown, the lights fail, and the park becomes too dangerous for families to play in.

The same thing will happen to streets, bridges, and plumbing. This is one of the ways urban decay happens: easy money policies fund unsustainable urban infrastructure projects which make politicians look good, but end up crumbling a few years or decades later.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada Builds $300 Million Highway To Nowhere, But Is There A Hidden Agenda?

Canada Builds $300 Million Highway To Nowhere, But Is There A Hidden Agenda?

A new $300-million first of its kind ‘permanent’ highway will officially open in the Northwest Territories of Canada on Wednesday.

This will be the first time in Canada’s history that the national highway system will be linked to all coasts. The completion of the four-year project is said to connect the tiny Arctic coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk with the rest of the communities to provide better transportation for residents.

We think there could be another reason why Canada would build a highway to nowhere.

As explained by one citizen in the video below, the new route is called ‘road to resources’, it’s where major reserves of oil and gas reside, and at one time inaccessible due to poor infrastructure. 

The all-season 137-kilometer highway is the first of its kind that connects Inuvik to Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk. The traditional route to Tuktoyaktuk involved ice roads in the winter, but as the seasons changed those roads were inaccessible. In the summer, the only way to travel north was by plane, which made it difficult to transport goods. The new road will be a game changer and its size indicates heavy machinery can be transported north, such as oil and gas platforms.

Darrel Nasogaluak, mayor of the Northwest Territories hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, said the permanent road is “something that’s been on the community’s want list for 40 years.” Nasogaluak might want to take back that statement in a few years, as what we expect the Canadian government could flood the region with oil and gas exploration teams.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America Can’t Afford to Rebuild


Adolphe Yvon Genius of America c1870
A number of people have argued over the past few days that Hurricane Harvey will NOT boost the US housing market. As if any such argument would or should be required. Hurricane Irma will not provide any such boost either. News about the ‘resurrection’ of New Orleans post-Katrina has pretty much dried up, but we know scores of people there never returned, in most cases because they couldn’t afford to.

And Katrina took place 12 years ago, well before the financial crisis. How do you think this will play out today? Houston is a rich city, but that doesn’t mean it’s full of rich people only. Most homeowners in the city and its surroundings have no flood insurance; they can’t afford it. But they still lost everything. So how will they rebuild?

Sure, the US has a National Flood Insurance Program, but who’s covered by it? Besides, the Program was already $24 billion in debt by 2014 largely due to hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. With total costs of Harvey estimated at $200 billion or more, and Irma threating to cause far more damage than that, where’s the money going to come from?

It took an actual fight just to push the first few billion dollars in emergency aid for Houston through Congress, with four Texan senators voting against of all people. Who then will vote for half a trillion or so in aid? And even if they do, where would it come from?

Trump’s plans for an infrastructure fund were never going to be an easy sell in Washington, and every single penny he might have gotten for it would now have to go towards repairing existing roads and bridges, not updating them -necessary as that may be-, let alone new construction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Perturbations Anon

Happy Labor Day everybody. Forward from here, things get jiggy. The nation faces a pile-up of events as we turn the corner on summer and head into the spook-house of autumn.

This will be the week when the reeking after-effects of Harvey’s journey through Houston become super-vivid. It’s going to be hot-hot-hot there all week, perfect conditions for mold to creep through untold square-footage of soggy sheetrock and plenty of nutriment in the toxic gumbo of lingering standing water for mosquitoes and bacteria to breed like crazy. Bigger surprises will be waiting for some:

HOUSTON (CNN) — A Texas homeowner returned to his flood-marred home Friday in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to a shocking surprise: a 10-foot gator in his living room. Brian Foster made the discovery while assessing how badly the water had damaged his house near Lake Houston, north of Houston….

The news media are already calling Harvey the costliest storm in US history, with estimates running to $180 billion. But damage assessments are incomplete for highways, surface roads, bridges, railroad tracks, water and sewer systems, public buildings, dams (Addicks and Barker), natural gas terminals, and port facilities, not to mention homes and business structures. Texas is the nation’s number one cotton producer and the storm blew away many temporary cotton bale storage modules following a bumper harvest. Corn, soybeans, and cattle were also affected.

The Colonial Pipeline’s hookups to the refineries west of Lake Charles, Louisiana, won’t reopen fully until Tuesday at the earliest. The pipeline conveys 40 percent of the gasoline consumed from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and extends up to the New York metro area. By next weekend Hurricane Irma looks like she’ll be slamming into the US Atlantic coast somewhere between Jacksonville and the Carolina Outer Banks as a category 3 or 4 event. There’s even talk today of possible cat 5. Will there be enough gasoline on hand for the folks at risk to evacuate? Stand by on that.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scott Cahill: Collapse Risk At The Oroville Dam Is Still Unacceptably High

Bungled repairs and new concerns at the tallest US dam

Remember the crisis earlier this year at the Oroville Dam?

The overflow from California’s winter of heavy rain threatened to overpower our country’s tallest dam. A cascading failure of the dam’s main gates, its primarily spillway AND its emergency spillway had the world watching hour by hour to see if a catastrophic breach was going to occur.

Fortunately, the rains stopped long enough for the situation to be brought under control. The dam remains in place and repair crews have been working all spring and summer.

But should we breathe easy at this point? Not at all, says dam safety expert Scott Cahill. Our readers will remember Scott from the excellent technical assessment he provided in the thick of the crisis earlier this year. In our earlier podcast with him, he explained how the real tragedy at Oroville was that for many years, small and affordable maintenance projects that easily could have prevented the crisis were diverted (in his estimation, the cost of making the needed repairs was quite small — around $6 million. But for short-sighted reasons, the repairs were not funded; and now the bill to fix the resultant damage will likely be on the order of magnitude of over $200 million. Which does not factor in the environmental carnage caused by flooding downstream ecosystems with high-sediment water or the costs involved with evacuating the 200,000 residents living nearby the dam).

And the pattern appears to be continuing. In this week’s podcast, Scott details a number of concerning structural risks visible at Oroville that are again being de-prioritized, or ignored all-together. And as before, straightforward and inexpensive projects that have high potential to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam are not being pursued:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Navigating Through the Storms

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE STORMS

Several weeks ago I had to drive west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to pick up my son after his sophomore year at Penn State. I’ve made this trip a dozen times over the last few years, since this is my second son attending Penn State, with a third starting in the Fall. It’s a tedious, boring, protracted, four hour trek through the rural countryside of the Keystone State. During these trips my mind wanders, making connections between the landscape and the pressing issues facing the world. I can’t help but get lost in my thoughts as the miles accumulate like dollars on the national debt clock.

More often than not I end up making the trip in the midst of bad weather. And this time was no different. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a meandering, decades old, dangerous, mostly two lane highway for most of its 360 mile span. Large swaths of the decaying interstate are under construction, as the narrative about lack of infrastructure spending is proven false by visual proof along the highways and byways of America.

The real infrastructure crisis is below ground in urban shitholes where 100 year old water and sewer pipes fail on a regular basis, but bankrupt Democrat politicians divert their steadily declining tax revenues to bloated pensions of government lackeys. Infrastructure spending is only interesting to politicians if they can name it after themselves and have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Replacing water and sewer pipes before they explode isn’t sexy, so it won’t be done.

A winding two lane highway, with a speed limits of 70 mph, and jam-packed with 18 wheelers driven by sometimes sleepy and often aggressive truckers already leads to a pressure packed few hours. Add rain to the mixture and you ratchet up the blood pressure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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