Engineers highlight U.S. infrastructure investment gaps: the $3.1 trillion problem


By Jared Anderson

AOL Energy


Without adequate investment on infrastructure the U.S. could face a $2.4 trillion drop in consumer spending by 2020, a $1.1 trillion loss in total trade and experience the loss of 3.5 million jobs in 2020 alone.


This is just a sliver of the doom and gloom the American Society of Civil Engineers predicted with the recent release of their final report in the "Failure to Act" series that focuses on the impacts associated with continued infrastructure deterioration. The latest installment of the ASCE reports focus specifically on economic impacts.

Under current investment trends, only 60% of the investment funding required by 2020 will be secured and this underinvestment in infrastructure will have a "cascading impact on the nation's economy" and culminate in a "gradual worsening of reliability over time," Gregory E. DiLoreto, ASCE President said during a conference call.

The previously released "Failure to Act" reports addressed surface transportation, energy, water and wastewater, and airport and waterborne transportation. DiLoreto made the point that all these sectors are inter-related and need to be thought of as a cohesive system. For example, "wastewater treatment plants are one of the biggest users of electricity," he said.


Hoecker said it's not necessarily due to a lack of government funding - as much power transmission infrastructure is privately owned - but lack of investment clarity and regulatory uncertainty. "There is a lack of regional planning and cost recovery issues are a concern," he said.

There is strong competition for capital and power grid investment is extremely risky for private entities, said Hoecker.

Regulatory hurdles abound as the grid extends across large regions, but is regulated by numerous overlapping institutions - sometimes down to the county board level - which creates a virtually unworkable business climate. Given this counterproductive regulatory system, a national policy would be desirable, he said.


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