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Give the Economy a Jolt
Author: BobR    Date: 08/03/2012 12:50:53

With the upcoming election, the choices being proffered generally revolve around 2 economic models. The Republicans are doubling down on their trickle-down economics, rebranded as "job creators". The Democrats are proposing a more bottom-up approach, assuming that creating jobs in the public sector will result in more jobs in the private sector as those new workers spend their paychecks.

But there are other differences besides economics, and one in particular plays into both economic models: energy. The Republicans are clinging to the old-school polluting technologies of oil and coal. They reason that more drilling will mean more jobs in the private sector and cheaper gas at home (which could stimulate the economy). I've written before why gas prices won't go down (hint: refinery capacity). There is also the Keystone pipeline project with the new jobs created working on that bit of infrastructure ranging between a few hundred and tens of thousands, depending on who you talk to (and who you believe).

The Democrats want to focus on renewable energy like solar and wind. They also believe that creating public-sector jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure will stimulate the economy. It seemed to stop the freefall in Mar 2009, so there is likely some truth to that.

If renewable energy is the goal, then we definitely need to address the delivery system - the electric grid. An article in the WaPo yesterday reveals just how bad our electrical "grid" is, and that it is literally crumbling:
They began to bend in the roaring wind, then their steel girders snapped like twigs, the towers toppled and the lights went out.

Minutes before the windstorm arrived to pummel the Washington area on June 29, it swept east through West Virginia, crushing three electrical transmission towers that are a tiny part of an intricate power grid that's supposed to keep the lights on in America.

The term "grid" suggests a certain uniformity to the power system's structure, but the network more closely resembles a patchwork quilt stitched together to cover a rapidly expanding nation.

The United States doesn't yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this week

But the U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter. Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.

Everyone loves all their electronic gadgets - their phones, their Nooks, their iPads, their laptops, their big screen TVs... These all require electricity to charge and to run. Rechargeable hybrid cars are flying off the lots, because it's cheaper to charge them at home and run on electricity than it is to use gas. As the summers get hotter, we run the A/C longer.

We definitely need more electricity, and we need it in a way that doesn't pollute the earth even more. It does us no good to start building wind farms and solar facilities across the vast stretches of the US, however, if the electrons can't get from there to here.

Bridge and road repairs can be funded through gas taxes. Fixing the grid and making it more homogenous across the country is going to require an investment in federal dollars. That investment in materials and labor would put the tax dollars back in the hands of the American worker, providing jobs and stimulating the economy. It's an essential pre-requisite to building solar and wind power facilities.

It seems like a no-brainer.

65 comments (Latest Comment: 08/04/2012 01:43:35 by livingonli)
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