WARNING, RANT BY FR. ORTHODUCK AHEAD:
As you all know power outages are still going strong in parts of the East. It now turns out that there will be people in the USA out of power for over a week by the time power is restored. It has been interesting, therefore, to read an article posted a few hours ago. Let Father Orthoduck run by you some quotes from the article:
In the aftermath of violent storms that knocked out power to millions from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, sweltering residents and elected officials are demanding to know why it’s taking so long to restring power lines and why they’re not more resilient in the first place.
The answer, it turns out, is complicated: Above-ground lines are vulnerable to lashing winds and falling trees, but relocating them underground involves huge costs — as much as $15 million per mile of buried line — and that gets passed onto consumers. …
“It’s a system that from an infrastructure point of view is beginning to age, has been aging,” said Gregory Reed, a professor of electric power engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. “We haven’t expanded and modernized the bulk of the transmission and distribution network.” …
“They obviously need to invest more in preparing for getting the power back on,” said Maryland state Sen. James Rosapepe, who is among those advocating for moving lines underground. “Every time this happens, they say they’re shocked — shocked that it rained or snowed or it was hot — which isn’t an acceptable excuse given that we all know about climate change.” …
North Carolina considered burying its lines in 2003, after a winter storm knocked out power to 2 million utility customers. The North Carolina Public Staff Utilities Commission eventually concluded it was “prohibitively expensive” and time-consuming. The project would have cost $41 billion and taken 25 years to complete — and it would have raised residential electric bills by 125 percent. …
Kevin Fogg, a barber from the rural community of Jefferson, about 45 miles northwest of Washington, scoffed when asked if he’d be willing to pay Potomac Edison higher rates to prevent more outages like the one he’s been suffering through.
“I think it’s more than it should be already,” Fogg said.He said the utility company should do a better job of trimming trees and branches that threaten power lines.
“There’s a huge, dead tree hanging over our line and they said, ‘Well, we’re not going to cut it down,'” Fogg said. “It’s got to break first and knock the power line down before they’ll do anything about it. So I guess they won’t do any preventive maintenance — or at least not as much as they should.”
So, we have a perfect storm in this country. The radical right has for years tried to convince everyone that too much money is being spent by, uhm, everybody, like government, utilities, etc. On the other side government officials have never seen why money should be spent on infrastructure. Infrastructure spending just gets complaints from citizens about toll roads, or their electricity bills, etc. Add to that the constant refrain from the radical right that everyone is misspending “their” money and you get the constant insistence that if only “they” became more efficient, if only “their” employees were paid much less (in fact, Father Orthoduck suspects only minimum wage would suffice, and even then some would argue that it would be too much), then somehow with almost no taxes everything would work like it should.
As a result, we get the final two paragraphs of the story. Utilities have not spent on improvements for years because consumer do not want to pay for it. Politicians have not insisted on improvements because then voters will not vote for them. And the radical right has convinced people, like the man quoted above, that it is just a matter of cutting a few branches. After all, the radical right has fervently taught that any experts are always wrong (unless they are radical right experts) and that the “common” people have enough knowledge and understanding to see past the recommendations of experts that our current infrastructure desperately needs investment. Oh, and should Father Orthoduck mention that the only answer is private investment, even though the pressure is to not spend on infrastructure but to shunt the money over to shareholders?
So, we have underspent on infrastructure for several decades, as we keep being warned. This shows up every time a massive event happens, whether it be Hurricane Katrina or these massive windstorms. Yet, every time for the last couple of decades, the answer from the radical right is only that if we were more efficient, and if somehow we paid public and utility (and restaurant and every worker who is not us) poverty wages, then somehow mysteriously all financial problems would be solved.
So please do expect a future meteorological disaster that will cause serious problems. And, do not expect that there will be appropriate spending on infrastructure. After all, you, the public, have not been willing pay what is necessary to maintain the system. Somebody else should pay. Somehow private industry could get it done. Somehow by reducing waste and impoverishing public (and private workers other than you) it can be financed. But, you, could not possibly have the democratic responsibility to finance the government functions that you expect to be present at times like these. No, it can be done by any other way than by your paying your appropriate share in taxes, even though they will be administered imperfectly.