“Because NEPA allows third parties to sue over allegedly inadequate environmental studies, it’s become a favorite tool of environmentalists, slow growth activists, and garden variety NIMBY (not in my backyard) trying to stop or delay infrastructure projects.”
“Biden does bear significant culpability for at least some of the delays that are now frustrating his White House and campaign teams. From the tightening of “Buy American” rules for federal procurement to mandates that limit the ability of nonunion construction shops to bid on these projects, the infrastructure bill Biden signed in November 2021 is loaded with provisions that were always going to slow its implementation and limit its effectiveness.
The outcome was predictable from the start. “Making waivers for Buy America provisions harder to obtain reveals the contradictory aims of Biden’s infrastructure policy,” Reason’s Christian Britschgi wrote in April 2022. “The president wants to make ‘historic’ investments in infrastructure, but he’s also deeply committed to regulations that ensure those investments will buy as little infrastructure as possible.””
“”Ordinarily, Washington lets states decide how best to spend transportation money,” The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2021. But the infrastructure bill gives the Biden administration a greater role in deciding which projects to fund. Those additional steps slowed everything down: “It will probably take at least a year for the Transportation Department to write the rules around the new grant programs, solicit and evaluate applications and send money to the winners,” Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the Journal for that piece.”
“”The slow rollout…primarily boils down to the difficulties state agencies and charging companies face in meeting a complex set of contracting requirements and minimum operating standards for the federally-funded chargers, according to interviews with state and EV industry officials,” the article notes.
Even with federal funds, part of the problem may also be cost, because the chargers are quite expensive to build and maintain. The types of chargers mentioned in the law are either Level 2 or Level 3, also known as Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC). Level 2 chargers use alternating current electricity and take between four and 10 hours to charge an E.V., while DCFCs use direct current and can charge an E.V. in less than an hour.
Any long-term solution would prioritize DCFCs—no road-tripper will want to wait all day for their car to charge when fueling up a gas burner takes minutes. But DCFCs are considerably more expensive to install: A 2019 study by the Department of Energy found that while Level 2 chargers can cost up to $6,500 to install, DCFCs can cost as much as $40,000. Depending on factors like hardware costs, other estimates have put the price between $50,000 and $100,000.”
” Ultimately, consumer choices will dictate the future of electric vehicles; if people don’t buy them at their current price and with the current technology, then companies will either innovate or come up with something better. By merely subsidizing the current thing, the Biden administration is upholding the status quo and disincentivizing other innovations that could revolutionize the industry and make environmentally-friendly vehicles truly competitive with their gas-burning counterparts.”
“There’s a reason rural and small-town dwellers have less access to the sort of fast internet connections that urban dwellers enjoy: It costs a lot of money to lay fiber-optic cable—”an average cost of $1,000 to $1,250 per residential household passed or $60,000 to $80,000 per mile,” according to Dgtl Infra’s Jonathan Kim. It’s easier to limit and recover costs in densely populated areas where a lot of potential customers live along paved roads than in sparsely settled areas where there’s rough terrain and empty space between each household served. Costs rise dramatically in rural areas.”
“The Alaska Telephone Company, which won a $33 million grant, is planning to run fiber to 211 homes and five businesses at a staggering cost of nearly $204,000 per passing.””
“wireless internet offering 10-50 Mbps and (increasingly) satellite connections such as HughesNet, Viasat, and Starlink are how we connect to the world in my piece of Arizona. It’s a tradeoff you accept if you want open space around you. Well, you accept that tradeoff unless you can rope other people into paying the cost of laying cable.”
“”If you’re spending $50,000 to connect a very remote location, you have to ask yourself, would we be better off spending that same amount of money to connect [more] families?””
“The late-summer surge in gasoline prices is heightening the risks that inflation poses for President Joe Biden, and offering Republicans a new chance to pin the blame on his green agenda.
The GOP narrative has a major hole: U.S. oil production — already the highest in the world — is on track to set a new record this year, and will probably rise even more in 2024. But the ever-increasing flow of U.S. crude has failed to keep a lid on gasoline prices, showing once again that a global market drives the fuel prices that shape presidents’ political futures.”
“In the EU, car fatalities, already far lower than America’s, were down by 22 percent over the last decade. Car crashes are just behind guns as the second greatest killer of US children. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans are disproportionately likely to be killed by a car. Merely taking a walk outside is becoming particularly dangerous: about 7,508 pedestrians were killed by cars last year, the highest number since 1981 and a massive increase over the last decade”
“there’s a lot we can learn from the aviation system’s approach to passenger safety.
The most obvious is that we shouldn’t accept carnage just because the activity seems inherently dangerous. If we can figure out how to make it exceptionally safe to hurtle through the sky at over 500 miles per hour, we can definitely figure out how to keep people alive on the ground, especially because other countries have done it already. The Netherlands is a famous example, but others, including Canada, with an urban geography much more similar to ours, have steadily decreased their death rates to levels far lower than ours.
A second lesson from the aviation sector is that safety is a systemic responsibility. “The [air] safety regime, with its built-in redundancies, is known in aviation circles as the Swiss cheese model: If a problem slips through a hole in one layer, it will be caught by another,” the New York Times explained, which has added up to a near-spotless safety record.
Compare that to the situation in car safety, where high death rates are accepted as a baseline part of how the system works rather than an institutional failure. Media coverage treats surges in crash deaths as if they are uncontrollable fluctuations in the weather and blames people driving recklessly for getting themselves killed. In the American traffic engineering bureaucracy, there’s a widely circulated myth that the vast majority of crashes are caused by “human error,” transportation writer David Zipper explained in the Atlantic in 2021.
Of course, individuals making unsafe choices — speeding, say, or driving drunk — matters. But these are distractions from what makes the American system of driving so unsafe in the first place: we have a proliferation of fundamentally unsafe roads, known among traffic safety advocates as “stroads,” that combine wide lanes and speeds higher than 25 miles per hour with frequent turns, stops at traffic lights, and shared traffic with cars, pedestrians, and bikes. With all these conflict points, it’s inevitable that collisions will happen.”
“A third lesson from aviation is that dangerous technology has to be adequately regulated. Empirical research increasingly shows that the rapid takeover of big cars — SUVs and pickup trucks — is a major factor behind our car safety backslide over the last decade. But US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has declined to call for policies to discourage the proliferation of these vehicles (like Washington, DC’s tax on oversized cars).”
“What if I told you there was a fairly simple policy initiative that would reduce auto traffic by 15 to 20 percent in the heart of America’s most congested city, raise $1 billion annually for the country’s biggest mass transit system at a time when such services are on the edge of a financial death spiral, and improve air quality for urban neighborhoods that have long suffered disproportionately from pollution?
I have good news: Such a plan exists. It’s called congestion pricing, and at the end of June in New York City, the plan cleared its last federal hurdle. As early as next spring, motorists will be charged a fee — perhaps $23 for a rush-hour trip and $17 in off-peak hours, according to a report released last year — to enter the most crowded parts of Manhattan south of 60th Street and below Central Park.”
“congestion pricing demonstrates two things: one, that the US can implement smart solutions to some of the most difficult climate and urban problems we face today. And two, that the byzantine review system we’ve created — ostensibly to protect the environment — has made it so, so, so difficult to do so.”
“Transit agencies face a conundrum. Because they view transit ridership largely in equity terms, they design the systems largely as social-welfare programs designed to provide poorer residents with a means to get around. Yet when they dump billions of dollars in boutique rail lines, they inevitably cannibalize funds from the bus routes that serve the bulk of their riders—and few drivers end up taking those rail lines, anyway.”
“Instead of thinking like business-people who need to meet the needs of customers, California transit officials act like government bureaucrats who are married to high-cost government and union solutions, and mainly want to impose their preferences on us—rather than lure us into transit by offering high-quality transportation alternatives. Until they change their thinking, Californians will continue to vote with their gas pedals.”
“While the BLM took longer than anyone else to approve the project, the TransWest Express line suffered from “a ‘spider web of jurisdiction’ across multiple levels of government,” according to Roxane Perruso, the company’s COO. Perruso told EnergyWire, a trade publication, that the project required approvals from state, local, and federal entities—and getting those permits required surveys of over 40,000 acres of land for environmental impacts and 60,000 acres of land for cultural impacts.
All that to get permission to build a power line, which is less invasive than other forms of infrastructure can be. In addition to the BLM and state governments of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, the project needed approval from the U.S. Forest Service, part of the federal Department of Agriculture, and the Western Area Power Administration, which is part of the federal Department of Energy. (In fairness, EnergyWire notes that the project also got snagged by disputes with some private property owners along the planned route.)
With all the permission slips finally locked down, construction on the line will begin later this year, and the 3,000-megawatt line could be operational by 2028, EnergyWire reports. By then, it’ll be 23 years since the project was first proposed in 2005.
To put it simply: It should not take nearly a quarter century to build a supply line connecting renewable electric supply with an area where there is growing demand. But this is a recurring problem in America. A recent Princeton study found that 80 percent of the potential emissions reductions from green energy projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act would be lost without an expansion of transmission lines.
The time and expense of permitting have slowed or prevented some major renewable energy projects in recent years. “Windmills off Cape Cod, a geothermal facility in Nevada, and what could have been the largest solar farm in America have all been blocked by an endless series of environmental reviews and lawsuits,” Alec Stapp, a co-founder of the Institute for Progress, which advocates for policies that accelerate technological and industrial progress, wrote last year in The Atlantic. “U.S. climate spending could exceed more than half a trillion dollars by the end of this decade—but without permitting reform, those investments won’t translate into much physical infrastructure.””
“The Biden administration has framed its new, tighter “Buy American” regulations as a way to bolster domestic manufacturing and benefit parts of the country that have been left behind by technological innovation.
To many of those same communities, the White House has promised better connectivity and higher internet speeds. The bipartisan infrastructure plan signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 dedicated $42 billion to expanding broadband access, with much of the funding aimed at laying fiber optic lines in parts of the country where they don’t exist.
There’s one small problem with all this: Finding enough fiber optic cables that comply with the Buy American rules.”
“Under Biden’s Buy American rules, 55 percent of the component parts of any product used in a federal construction project must be sourced in the United States. That disqualifies any imports of finished cable, but it also wipes out most of the available American-made supply since many of the component parts are sourced overseas.”
“Another problem, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this week, is that building a fiber optic network requires more than just fiber optic cable. You also need switches, terminals, routers, and other pieces of tech that are mostly imported or manufactured with imported components. In both cases, the Buy American requirements mean broadband companies can’t use those parts for projects funded with federal funding from the infrastructure bill.
That means less infrastructure gets built, and lots of perfectly good American-made fiber optic cable doesn’t get purchased, simply because less than 55 percent of its components happened to come from somewhere else.”