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Competition with China and changing spending attitudes to spur transmission investment

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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The United State’s current cold war with China along with changing attitudes about fiscal policy will spur huge investments in transmission infrastructure in the next couple years. 

For decades, it was American policy to invite the expansion of China’s economy. The idea was simple: Economic prosperity would liberalize all aspects of the country. Eventually, we’d end up with a powerful ally in both trade and the promulgation of democracy. But it hasn’t turned out that way: Despite great economic progress, China has become more illiberal at home and abroad over the past decade. This fact, along with populist resentments in the west about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the west, has created a growing political consensus in the U.S. that China must be challenged. 

This is the part of the logic behind the Department of Energy’s recent commitment to “double down” on transportation electrification. As Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm explained to the senate on Tuesday, the pursuit of an electric transportation fleet is as much about economic hegemony as it is about saving the planet: 

"DOE is going to invest billions of dollars over the next few years in the technologies that are going to make the EV future a reality … to reduce costs, and reliance on China."

This all meshes in nicely with the other information coming out of Biden’s camp. During a recent presentation of the American Society of Civil Engineer’s C- infrastructure rating, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg stressed the need for more investment in the country’s transportation, water and electric systems. He said he thought there was about a $2.59 trillion spending gap. He also emphasised President Biden’s stated goal of having 500,000 EV charging stations installed across the nation and improving public transportation electric options. 

In previous times, all this federal rumbling about investment in infrastructure and transportation research would have to be taken with a grain of salt. The U.S.A just didn’t spend that much money in new projects like the ones being entertained now. But if Biden’s stimulus package is any indication (and I think it is!), we’re entering a new phase of American fiscal policy where spending rules. 

If you don’t believe me, I suggest you check out this New York Magazine article that outlines why the plan is so exceptional. Here’s a line I like: 

The Democrats’ fiscal philosophy is now apparently “There is nothing to fear but fear of deficits itself.”

What does all this mean for transmission? It’s been covered at nausium on this forum so I’ll spare you the details, but basically an electric transportation fleet along with increased reliance on renewables will necessitate more transmission. Our country might be gearing up for a novel transportation and infrastructure revolution, but it isn’t possible without the support of good old, boring transmission lines. Rest assured that a lot of the money getting thrown around now will go into transmission, and rest assured that it will all happen with very little fanfare—because nobody cares about transmission lines.


 

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