Friday, August 03, 2007

2011 comes early: Ms. Carbon Tax, meet Mr. Bridge

I figured American life would change when gas hit $5/gallon in 2011. I picked that date because I figured we won't get a carbon tax through before 2013. That was before one of my local bridges took a tumble and I started to do the math on 77,000 "deficient" (rating =4) bridges and wonder how much it costs to (re)build a bridge. If we assume an average cost of, say, $30 million each, and we assume we replace/rebuild only 40,000 deficient bridges, that's $1.2 trillion dollars.

Now, perhaps we'll decide that the I-35W collapse was basically in line with expectations. We all understand that bridge ratings are probabilistic -- the yearly risk of catastrophic collapse is not 0% at the highest rating (10) or 100% at the lowest rating (0). Maybe it's something like a 1/100,000 risk at the rating of 4, with a substantially higher risk of non-catastrophic failure. With 77,000 bridges at that rating we should expect one to collapse every few years somewhere in the US and approximately 50 people to die or be injured by bridge collapse every 1-2 years.

That's a risk that a Vulcan would probably find quite reasonable. It's probably significantly less than the risk we assume with current food imports; riding a motorcycle is probably a hundred to a thousand times higher risk. Logically we may decide to just accept that and stick with our current bridge replacement/repair policies.

Humans are not logical. There's a good chance we'll run up a trillion dollar infrastructure repair bill rather than have yearly bridge collapse headlines.

We could simply borrow to build. It's a much better investment than the Iraq war, for example. I have a hunch though that Bush has busted our budget already. So we need to raise a trillion dollars.

We also need to reduce CO2 emissions.

We also need to decrease the load on our old infrastructure.

Gee, I wonder how we could do all of these things ...

$5/gallon by 2009?

PS. If I were in a business related to bridge construction, I'd be hiring today ...

Update 9/17/07: This is looking more likely ...

Update 9/21/07: It occurs to me that this is the cure for the AMT problem. More on that in a f/u post.

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