Category Archives: Infrastructure

Green-Collar Jobs, Industrial Policy, And A Society With A Future

Source: Bernard Marszalek, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 3, Fall 2008
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Green-collar jobs have gone mainstream. The popular reception of this program is a remarkable achievement for what began only a few years ago as an underreported campaign uniting a few progressive labor leaders and some politically astute environmentalists.

Despite its popular appeal, or maybe due to it, green-collar jobs lack clear definition. The term arose from a groundbreaking alliance between labor and environmentalists to create a massive national effort to jumpstart an alternative energy program. They modeled it after John Kennedy’s well-funded Apollo Project to get an American on the moon, fast.

Bridge To The Future

Source: American City and County, Vol. 123 no. 9, September 2008

New construction techniques and materials shore up the nation’s broken infrastructure.
Representatives from the Washington-based National Association of County Engineers (NACE) testified before Congress in September 2007 that 25 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The cost to repair or modernize the country’s bridges is $140 billion, assuming all bridges are fixed immediately, according to a July 2008 report issued by the Washington-based American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The report cites several factors that affect the cost to fix the bridge system, including age, deterioration, congestion, and soaring construction costs — including the price of steel, asphalt, concrete and earthwork, which, over the past four years, has risen 50 percent and is especially aggravated by the high cost of oil. In addition, as a result of the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, engineers are increasingly concerned with the need for preventive maintenance. Increasing traffic and loads are pushing officials to consider costly new bridges that force difficult resource allocation decisions.

Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure

Source: Penn State Public Broadcasting, September 2008

Liquid Assets is a public media and outreach initiative that seeks to inform the nation about the critical role that our water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity.

Combining a ninety-minute documentary with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering, and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure, and engages communities in local discussion about public water and wastewater issues.
See also:
Press release
Trailer

Financing the Productive Economy: The Heartland Development Bank

Source: Joel Kotkin, Delore Zimmerman, New America Foundation September 18, 2008

From the summary:
Throughout American history, infrastructure investment has played a critical role in economic development. As the nation moved west, the building of canals and turnpikes, followed by construction of railroads, expanded the field of economic opportunity. Later, investment in electricity and telephone networks facilitated the development of vast expanses of the American landscape that had previously been left behind. More recently, the national interstate highway system and now the continuing build-out of broadband telecommunications networks have enabled the de-clustering of many business endeavors that were once confined to large central cities.

Green Recovery: A New Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy

Source: Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, James Heintz, and Helen Scharber, Center for American Progress, September 9, 2008

From an article:
A new report released today shows that the United States can create 2 million jobs over two years by investing in a rapid green economic recovery program.

The new report shows that, in addition to creating 2 million jobs nationwide over two years, this $100 billion green economic recovery package would:

• Create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than a similar amount of spending directed toward household consumption.
• Create roughly triple the number of good jobs–paying at least $16 dollars an hour–as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.
• Reduce the unemployment rate to 4.4 percent from 5.7 percent (calculated within the framework of U.S. labor market conditions in July 2008).
• Bolster employment especially in construction and manufacturing. Construction employment has fallen from 8 million to 7.2 million jobs over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse. The Green Recovery program can, at the least, bring back these lost 800,000 construction jobs.

The report is accompanied by state-by-state fact sheets showing the potential impact on each state in terms of investment and new jobs.

Big Ideas from New America: An Economic Recovery Program for the Post-Bubble Economy

Big Ideas from New America: An Economic Recovery Program for the Post-Bubble Economy
Source: Bernard L. Schwartz, Sherle R. Schwenninger, New America Foundation, July 2008

From the press release:
America’s economy is in serious trouble, and it will take more than the standard countercyclical measures to fix it. The nation today is mired in a post-bubble economy, and needs a bold and optimistic economic recovery plan that goes beyond conventional thinking. This new proposal from the New America Foundation offers exactly that.

In “An Economic Recovery Program for the Post-Bubble Economy” — the first proposal in New America’s new Big Ideas series — Bernard L. Schwartz and Sherle R. Schwenninger warn of the dangers of misreading the current slowdown, and map out a plan for harnessing the U.S. economy to the two most important new growth drivers: public infrastructure investment and rising global demand for efficiency-enhancing technology.

Mr. Schwenninger, directs New America’s Economic Growth Program. Mr. Schwartz, a member of the New America board of directors, is the former chairman and CEO of Loral Space & Communications, Ltd.

The full text of their proposal — along with supporting data and and video overview — can be found here. Highlights from their proposal, as articulated by Mr. Schwenninger in the video, include:

■ “The most promising two new areas of economic growth are America’s enormous public investment infrastructure needs, and the increased global demand for American technology, created by the drive for greater efficiency by economies around the globe.”
■ “Infrastructure investment is the single best way to stimulate the economy in the short term, and to make it more productive, more efficient in the long term. Infrastructure investment not only creates jobs but also provides additional demand for materials and services throughout the economy.”
■ “To ensure continued funding of public infrastructure investment over the next decade, we recommend that the new administration move quickly to adopt a national infrastructure bank, as proposed by Senators Christopher Dodd and Chuck Hagel.”
■ “Finally, given the magnitude of the housing and credit bubble, a massive public infrastructure investment alone may not be enough to offset consumer weakness and jumpstart new business investment. Rising exports of American goods and services. . . therefore must be a second pillar of an economic growth recovery program.”
■ “There are both political and economic reasons for large surplus economies to shift their economic policy toward more balanced economic growth in the near term. The next administration needs to do a better job of sending the message to large current-account-surplus economies, including the advanced economies of Japan and Germany, that they need to do more to generate their own demand.”

An Economic Strategy for Investing in America’s Infrastructure

Source: Manasi Deshpande and Douglas W. Elmendorf, Brookings Institution, July 2008

From the abstract:
Infrastructure investment has received more attention in recent years because of increased delays from road and air congestion, high-profile infrastructure failures, and rising concerns about energy security and climate change. The United States now has the opportunity to channel public concern and frustration into a national infrastructure strategy that promotes infrastructure as a central component of long-term, broadly shared growth. While increased spending on infrastructure is likely to be needed, this paper emphasizes the large gains that could be reaped by using existing infrastructure more efficiently and by making better decisions about how to invest in infrastructure.

For physical infrastructure, we recommend establishing pricing mechanisms such as road congestion fees and air traffic control fees to make users bear the costs of their infrastructure use more fully. At least part of the revenues from these fees should be used to offset their potential adverse distributional effects. The federal government can also promote better decisionmaking about new investments by removing distortions in its own policies and providing more flexibility in exchange for accountability by states and localities. For telecommunications infrastructure, we propose that the government make better use of the wireless spectrum by facilitating sales and leases of unused spectrum and by introducing more flexibility in its policy of interference prevention. Further, the government should consider targeted, cost-effective subsidies to encourage private firms to expand high-speed Internet access to unserved rural areas.
See also:
Bringing Broadband to Unserved Communities

Build Infrastructure to Compete

Source: Lael Brainard, Brookings Institution, July 22, 2008

Olympic visitors will see first hand the forward-thinking investments China is making in infrastructure to support its long-term economic growth and expansion. Brookings vice president Lael Brainard argues it’s time to take a page from emerging nations like China, India and Brazil and restore our own crumbling infrastructure to strengthen our global competitiveness.

Clean Energy Strategies for State and Local Governments: Public Infrastructure

Source: Apollo Alliance, 2008

As America faces rising energy and fuel costs, state and local governments lead the way towards energy independence in America, employing strategies ranging from using biofuels in fleet vehicles to retrofitting public buildings to meet minimum energy efficiency standards. In doing so, state and local governments not only help the environment, they help themselves by cutting energy costs, relieving pressure on tight budgets, and demonstrating the essential value of public investment in new energy technologies.