Breaking Down: Collapse

Episode 45 - Infrastructure

July 27, 2021 Kory & Kellan Episode 45
Breaking Down: Collapse
Episode 45 - Infrastructure
Show Notes Transcript

A functioning civilized society requires an ever-increasingly complex network of infrastructure. As that infrastructure ages, and necessary maintenance is not done to ensure it remains whole, it can have severe and lasting impacts on society. 

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Episode 45 - Edit

Kellan: [00:00:00] Kory, this might sound like a random question, but I'm curious if you know, do our phones listen to us and then base what shows up in our newsfeeds and what advertisements see on what it hears. 

Kory: [00:00:27] So for awhile, I was pretty convinced of that because that was happening pretty frequently to me. And I've seen all these different things where people are talking about that. And I did some research and read up some things on it and it seems like no, like Facebook and all these other things don't have a way to actually listen to your conversations and use that for advertising purposes. The explanation was the AI is literally just so good. It knows you so well that based on your Google searches and communications, and maybe even texts and chats and things, it is able to pull that information. And who knows, maybe that's a bunch of crap and they are actually listening. And I just watched Snowden and we know that the FBI can listen if they want.

So it really wouldn't be that surprising to me if we found out that advertisement agencies or Facebook was selling our speech data or something too, but anyway, I don't know if that's happening. 

Kellan: [00:01:15] Yeah. I've always been curious on that because there have been times that I've said something and I don't think I searched anything on it and it was something totally random. And yet then the next day, as I'm on my device, something pops up that has to do exactly with what I was referencing previously. 

Okay. Anyway, it's part of the reason I ask is because I think I've been fact checked by my phone. You know, we did an episode on microplastics and I remember at one point saying, Hey, microplastics are really hard to track. It's not like you can just look down from a satellite and see that microplastics that are covering the earth. 

Kory: [00:01:51] I think your exact words were

Kellan: [00:01:54] And the answer is, nobody really knows. Like you can't take a special image from a satellite and just see how much of the world is covered in microplastics. "


 there it is. That's it. Anyways, in my newsfeed, an article showed up just the other day that says, well, here's the title of it: " satellites can track microplastics from space."

Kory: [00:02:14] Eat your words.

Kellan: [00:02:16] First of all. That's awesome. I'm always excited to learn something new, but it makes me realize, I've probably said a number of things on the podcast that need to be fact checked. We try to do our research. Some of it is changing and evolving. Right? There's certain things that we might've said several months ago and new research has come out to shed more light on that topic. 

Kory: [00:02:37] Yeah, for sure. And we've had some people who have reached out and corrected us on a few things and we appreciate that. You know, as more and more people are listening to the podcast now, and just recently, we have had a pretty steep increase in listeners. We're happy to, to hear people give us feedback when they know something that we might not.

But anyway, that's super interesting that you had said pretty bluntly and clearly it's not like we can see them from satellites and then boom. Maybe we'll post that article in the show notes so people can check that out and see how that works. And by the way, you sent me that article and I read it and it's not like we can clearly see how much microplastics there are, how thick they are that this article is talking about how they use a certain technology that was meant for something else to be able to see in the oceans, the areas of microplastics. So they can basically see how big of an area is covered by plastics and even microplastics. But that's only on the ocean and it doesn't show, you know, how thick that is, or it doesn't give them any sort of estimate of the number of microplastics, but it helps them track where on the ocean, the big groupings of microplastics are. 

So for this week's episode, we're talking about infrastructure, which is something that's come up from time to time in different episodes that we've done, because infrastructure is in everything it's everywhere. The most prevalent one that we've talked about infrastructure would probably be catabolic collapse. And then again, in our deeper look at catabolic collapse.

Because when we're talking about catabolic collapse, we're talking about a system that's grown so big and so complex with so much capital that it can't maintain itself anymore. And when we're talking about capital, we're basically talking about infrastructure. And so catabolic collapse is basically the inability to continue to maintain your infrastructures so that your society can carry on at the level of it's grown accustomed to. 

Kellan: [00:04:24] Yeah, I think infrastructure is a word that gets used a lot and it's thrown into a lot of different contexts. It can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And that's actually one of the critiques of the way that that word is used. You think about the political realm and you know, we're going to talk at some point in this episode about what the US government is potentially going to do in regards to infrastructure. And, you know, currently there's a bill being proposed to do a major overhaul of our nation's infrastructure. But one article I saw that said this: " Senator Rob Portman of Ohio slammed the bill as one full of quote, 'broad policy priorities that are a far cry away from what we've ever defined as infrastructure.'" So in this case, he's basically saying you can't call all these things that you've thrown into this bill " infrastructure." 

 And here in this case, the way that they're battling about this bill and what that word infrastructure really means and what it should include is going to make the difference of potentially trillions of dollars for our country. 

Kory: [00:05:28] Yeah. I think a lot of people, when they hear the word infrastructure, they think of strictly, you know, roads and dams and bridges and our water, and maybe even our energy infrastructure, but people don't realize that there's a lot more to it than that. You know, our entire economies are built up from intangible infrastructures. From, you know, the healthcare system and labor and all of these different facets to infrastructure that have to be in place that is so much more than just, uh, you know, maintaining a road or upgrading your power grid. And while those are extremely important, and we're going to talk about those, it's important to know that infrastructure can mean so much more than just that. 

So referring back to our previous episodes on catabolic collapse, we talked about how societies will use resources to create more capital, and then they in turn, use that capital to find more efficient ways to use resources and that's how societies grow. But it gets to a point where society acquires so much capital that they don't have enough resources to be able to maintain that capital. And so we call that the maintenance cost of capital and once the maintenance cost of capital cannot be met, that society has peaked and will inevitably start to decline. As I mentioned earlier, infrastructure is basically capital.

You know, in the Roman empire, it's believed that that's one of the reasons why Rome collapsed is that as they invaded more and more territories, they acquired all of the new capital that that territory had. But everything was so centralized in Rome that they didn't have a way to get the resources necessary to be able to maintain the capital that they had acquired. And so, pretty soon they were just too big for themselves to be able to handle which ended up causing economic issues and made it so that they had to shrink in size. Okay.

And when you look at the state of today's societies and our infrastructure, we require insanely vast amounts of complicated and complex infrastructure to keep ourselves going. We've talked about supply chains in the past. Our episode on supply chains really touched on how intricate and detailed and massive a single supply chain is and everything that goes into it.

 And you multiply that out by all the supply chains in the entire world, and then all of the government infrastructure and all of the public infrastructure. There's just so much to it. And failures of that infrastructure, if that infrastructure isn't maintained properly, Will inevitably lead to issues with supply chains, severe economic issues, as well as budgetary issues within a government.

Kellan: [00:08:00] Yeah. You know, this might seem like a strange analogy or a weird parallel, but at one point I watched an interesting little docu series about people that live unique lifestyles and one person that it focused on was, was one of these like heavyweight champions, somebody who, you know, you picture somebody who can drag a a jet or, you know, can deadlift just insane amounts of weight. Anyways, it just kind of followed him and what his day looks like. And he would wake up early and he had to prepare just plates and plates of food, and he would eat thousands of calories and he'd go out in his cul-de-sac and he had a huge tractor tire that he would flip over and over again.

And then he would go back inside and make plates and plates of food and he'd have to eat it all. And he was pretty miserable and he, he would talk to a camera and mention how he had gotten to a point where he just hated eating it was such a chore. And then he'd go to the gym and he'd work out a bunch. And then he'd come back inside and eat plates and plates of food and the number of calories that he had to consume just to even maintain his muscle mass and maintain his strength was absolutely outrageous. It was multiple times what a normal person consumes. 

And yet if he wanted to compete, that's what he had to do. If he were to stop consuming all those calories, he would not be able to maintain that kind of muscle mass. And I think about, you know, we've mentioned power plants. And the fact that a lot of our nation's power plants are at a point where they have to make a decision. Do we move toward a different form of power and build this whole new power plant that's going to cost a ton of money and we don't have the money to do that? Or do we try and repair the one that we're currently using, which would also cost almost just as much money. And you think about the thousands and millions of tons of concrete that are used just to build new buildings and concrete has a lifecycle. It doesn't last forever. So what do you do when all of those buildings now have to be repaired? Right? There's just such a maintenance cost when anything gets large and complex. 

Kory: [00:10:06] Yeah. I think your analogy of the powerlifter is perfect because that guy, not only if he stops, will he not be able to compete and all of that, but as he stops working out or doesn't consume as many calories, he's built up such a mass that something has to happen to all of that muscle mass and it's going to convert to fat or flabby, nasty skin, you know, have you ever seen a guy who lifted and then stopped?

You know, his body is going to react to not doing something that he was used to doing. 

But yeah, it's totally true. Our, our society has to foot the bill of the maintenance cost of its capital of its infrastructure. And in many ways, right now we are not. And there are plenty of examples, both domestic and foreign of infrastructure. And what happens when it fails, obviously domestically in the U S we just had this building collapse in Miami, right? Killing 150 people. And it's the type of thing that most people say like that only happens in third world countries and people are kind of waking up to realize infrastructure wise. The U S is headed towards or may already be a third world country. But before we talk about the domestic side of things, I think it'd be interesting to take a look at some international examples of infrastructure failure as well. 

Kellan: [00:11:17] It is, I think, worth emphasizing what can happen if we're not careful about our infrastructure. And in some cases, it's that we fail to maintain it like we've talked about. In some cases, we don't put the proper resources into it in the first place. Right? If we're not very careful about the way, you know, a bridge is engineered or the way it's constructed, what conditions it has to meet and how it's maintained. If we're not careful about all those things, there can be some huge ramifications. So to give just a couple of examples in kind of recent history, 1995, a five story mall in Seoul, South Korea collapsed and it killed more than 500 people. 

Um, in 2013 there was a clothing factory in Bangladesh that structurally failed. It collapsed and more than a thousand people died. Yeah. You know, you look back over the past century or so, and we've had plenty of those cases in the U S as well, usually not with quite so many casualties but there's a dam in California that St. Francis dam. It burst in 1928. We don't have an official death count. Some claim it was as high as 700, but hundreds were killed, you know, to quote an article that I read about it it said the hundreds of ranch houses that once dotted the canyon were crushed like eggshells. 

You know, a really famous one is the Teton dam failure. There's a walkway that collapsed in 1981 at a Hyatt hotel in Kansas city that killed over a hundred people. There was an interstate highway in 2007. And again, a lot of these years that I'm mentioning aren't that long ago, 2007, a section of his bridge collapsed and something like 50 cars got done into the Mississippi river. 13 people ended up dying in that case.

And so some of these that I'm mentioning are extreme examples, right? And here, I'm just talking about the casualties, but you think about when a major bridge collapses, right? Not only is there that death and suffering, there's a huge cost. Usually there's a lot of time that's required in order to repair that. And you know, something like a bridge, at least in a highly populated area is extremely necessary for commerce to continue to flow the way that it needs to. And for that region to continue to operate like it should. 

Kory: [00:13:34] Those are some crazy examples. And I know that there's just tons of them out there. And obviously what you're referring to with those examples is primarily physical infrastructure. And I think that is what today's episode is going to mostly be on is the physical side of it, you know, Kellan and I have already talked about how we plan to do an episode on the healthcare system. We'll do one on the education. We'll do an on government infrastructure. So there's plenty of, of opportunities for us to talk about all the types of infrastructure in the future. Today. We'll focus mostly on physical infrastructure. 

So when it comes to that type of infrastructure in the us, there's actually a report that comes out once every four years. That details the state of our infrastructure. And it's done by the army Corps of engineers and they do it in conjunction with the American society for civil engineers. So basically what they do is they give the nation as a whole, a letter grade from a to F just like they would in school. And then they give each state a grade as well. And they break the grades down based on the different type of infrastructure. And they have 17 different types of infrastructure listed. We're not going to list them all here, but it is things like roads, dams, bridges, levees, inland waterways, ports, rail, those types of things. 

And reading through those reports. It is very apparent that the infrastructure situation in the U S is pretty bad. I don't think most people realize that or notice it, you know, other than being like, oh, the traffic is really bad today, or there's potholes in the road. We don't really notice all the intricacies of infrastructure. But this report does a really great job of highlighting it. And so in 2021, the most recent report came out this year, which is awesome.

And it actually was a little bit higher scoring than the previous report four years ago in 2017. So we were scored, the U S was scored as a C minus in our infrastructure as an average. Last time around, it was a D plus and they cited, um, some new investments. They S they cited that things were in some ways, headed in the right direction towards making some corrections to infrastructure.

But they're very quick to point out. We are nowhere near where we need to be. There is so much left to go. And, um, when you look at the report, it is pretty obvious that the situation for a lot of our infrastructure is, is pretty bad. So I'm gonna 

So I'm gonna Probably just read a couple different parts from this report. I don't want to go into too much detail with it, but there, there is so much to it. And it's super interesting. So I recommend checking it out if this topic interests you more. Okay.

Their executive summary, they said this, they said "when we fail to invest in our infrastructure, we pay the price, poor roads and airports mean, travel times increase , an aging electric grid, and inadequate water distribution, making utilities, unreliable problems like these translate into higher costs for businesses to manufacture and distribute goods and provide services. These higher costs in turn get passed along to workers and families". 

And I like it because they also make the point that when it comes to infrastructure, it's kind of a weakest link thing, you know, when it comes to supply chains, the weakest link of that chain is what's going to cause the problems. you could be perfect in one area. But if in another area you fail, you could still have the same catastrophic conclusion. 

They said that by 2039 America's overdue infrastructure bill will cost the average American household $3,300 a year. And that's in addition to whatever bad infrastructure is costing us now. Yeah. They say that right now, we're only paying about half of our infrastructure bill each year and the gap between what we need to be paying and what we're actually paying is growing. So the total investment gap has gone from $2.1 trillion over 10 years, to nearly $2.6 trillion over 10 years. So that doesn't mean that we're $2.6 trillion behind getting caught up on our infrastructure. It means we're $2.6 trillion behind what's already scheduled to be paid, which is about half so double that would be $5.2 trillion. If we want to get our infrastructure up to where it needs to be, it's a massive amount of money. And it's one that we've kind of proven as a nation we're not really willing to the pay. 

Some of the consequences of this are that by 2039, if we continue to under-invest, as we have been, it will cost us $10 trillion in GDP, more than 3 million jobs in 2039 and $2.4 trillion in exports over those next 20 years.

So just a huge amount of economic issues that will come from that. And this is just projection, right? It's not even taking into account that certain infrastructures could fail. This is just saying, having infrastructure not be in perfect condition is going to cost us money. Now, if there were actual failures like dam failures or bridge failures or power grid failures, the costs would be much, much higher. 

Kellan: [00:18:14] I'll just say, I think it's really helpful to hear it quantified like that, at least in terms of economic impact, because when it's just broken down into a letter grade, you know, you think of school and whether you're an a student or a C student in either case you've passed the class and whatever grade you got, and it probably won't really affect your life. So you hear something like, okay, we're a C minus in our nation's infrastructure. Doesn't sound great, but it sounds like passing. And yet when you talk about the trillions and trillions of dollars, that it will cost us if we continue to underinvest, that doesn't seem like something that we can afford. 

Kory: [00:18:49] Yeah. And I'll give a few examples here in just a minute of the different types of infrastructure and what type of money is needed and what condition they're in, but it might be good to lay out really quickly what those letters each mean? 

So A means exceptional and fit for the future. There was not a single a in any category and not in any state that I could find, I looked through different states to see how each one was panning out and no one had an A in any category, which means that the army Corps of engineers saying that nowhere in the U S is any of our infrastructure basically fit for the future on average. 

B is good, adequate for now. I saw maybe one or two different spots where they had B. C is mediocre, requires attention . D is poor and at risk and F is failing, critical, unfit for its purpose. So the best category for the U S overall was in rail, railways and trains, and it was at a B, and the worst was a D minus. And it was transit. That's not saying roads, but it's saying actual transportation infrastructure, like buses, public transportation. But almost every category that I looked at was either a C or a D in that range. So it was anywhere from mediocre and requires attention to poor and at risk. 

And in some cases that might not seem super like consequential, right? Like, oh, this road's in poor condition. It's got some pot holes or just needs to be repaved, but in other things, there was actually some really significant risks that come from that. So for some examples, when it comes to bridges in the U S there are more than 617,000 bridges. So that could be anything from as small as, you know, the little bridge that goes over the Creek next to your house to as big as the golden gate. Currently 42% of all of those bridges are at least 50 years old and 46,154 of them, which is around seven and a half percent are considered structurally deficient, meaning they're in poor condition. And 178 million trips are taken across those structurally deficient bridges every day. So when you think about all of the vehicles, all of the commerce, all of the supply chain and just all of the life, that's dependent on those bridges, again, just seven and a half percent of those bridges are 178 million daily trips. 

And they're claiming that the rate of improvements on bridges has slowed. There's currently a backlog of bridge repair at a $125 billion in repairs. there needs to be a 58% increase in the amount of money being spent on bridges if we're going to improve their condition. And it says that the current rate of investment it'll take until 2071 to make all of the repairs that are currently needed on those bridges. And by then 50 years from now, all of the other bridges will be well over 50 years old. 

Kellan: [00:21:39] I have a hard time even knowing how to react to it. Hearing those specifics. And especially when you think about those millions of trips that are being taken over bridges that are structurally deficient, what you're saying in terms of how much we would need to invest there, just to get those up to being at an acceptable level. It seems frankly, out of reach and impossible.

Kory: [00:22:00] Yeah. And it's not just money, right? I mean, that's a ton of money that you have to throw at it, but you can't just Chuck money on it and have it be fixed. You have to have other infrastructure in place to be able to carry out those, those tasks. You have to have the people, you have to have the bureaucratic infrastructure, the machinery and the resources to make it all happen. 

One issue with infrastructure is that it's cheaper to maintain it while it's still in good condition than it is to fix it once it's either in disrepair or especially once there's a actual massive failure. When it comes to something like bridges, you we're not maintaining them. For the first time. We now have more fair condition bridges than good condition bridges. So there's a chart I looked at and actually shows that there was a moment in time in the last few years is all that the number of fair condition bridges increased while a number of good condition bridges is decreasing.

So as our bridges are getting older, we're not doing enough to take care of them. And in the future we're not going to have seven and a half percent of bridges that are structurally deficient, but that number could go to 10, 15 or 20%.

And as the problem gets worse and as the costs get higher to maintain them, it's less and less likely that we're going to be able to do so. And by the way, we're rated at a C on bridges. Which is higher than our average for everything, because our average was a C minus. And so if the situation for bridges at a C is that bad, you can kind of see where average situation is. 

When it comes to dams. We're rated at a D. There are over 91,000 dams across the U S, and officials estimate that the number of deficient high-hazard potential dams now exceeds 2,300. So to explain what that means, high-hazard potential dam is one that, if failure were to occur, the resulting consequences would likely be a direct loss of human life and extensive property damage. So they're saying that there's 2300 of those that are structurally deficient. 

We saw the result of a couple of these dams failing just in 2020 in Michigan. I don't know Kellen, if you remember in Midland, Michigan, there were two dams that were privately owned and because of poor regulation and because of poor maintenance there was a ton of rain and it was breached though the wall of the dam burst out and it ended up displacing over 10,000 people and destroying 1700 homes. Okay. And this is a huge issue because not only are there a bunch of these dams that are deficient and that would have catastrophic results of their failing, but 54% of dams in the U S are privately owned. Meaning ya know, they're privatized by corporations with profit in mind. And because of that, owners often don't put out the money necessary to fix them. In this case, in Midland, Michigan, the dams were owned by two men who were out of Staters, who had purchased them as a tax shelter, which if someone's buying a dam for a tax shelter, they're not thinking about putting a bunch of money into maintaining and upkeeping it. And the regulation on it is so poor that they were never required to, and it caused just an insane amount of damage both financially and emotionally.


Kellan: [00:24:55] I'll jump in here and say, it's fascinating to hear about this. And in light of the other things that we've talked about, it makes me extra concerned. I'm looking at what's just happened over the last several months. And I see that in Texas there's this freeze and they didn't have the infrastructure to handle that. It's not necessarily that their infrastructure on a physical level was structurally unsound. It's just that it wasn't meant for that kind of an adverse weather condition. So everyone was pointing fingers, trying to figure out who to blame. They were saying there were issues with the power grid and a lot of people were out of power and they shouldn't have been. And yet that happened because there was this extreme cold weather.

 Then you take a look at what we've recently highlighted about the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest. And, you know, for individuals, they didn't have the infrastructure perhaps to deal with that. Air conditioning systems were going out, that it was a strain on the power grid because their infrastructure, regardless of how suited it was for normal conditions was not suited for those extreme conditions. And then you think about even more severe weather events, you look at hurricanes, you think of however many years ago it was that hurricane Katrina came through and wreak havoc on new Orleans and all that's happening with climate change would be really scary from an infrastructure standpoint, even if our infrastructure was graded at an a, but the fact that we're at a C minus overall, and you're highlighting all these issues with dams and with bridges, it just makes me think, how are we possibly going to handle all of these things that are coming our way? 

Kory: [00:26:29] And this podcast is here to tell you that we won't, you know, I, I think that there's just so much that has to be done and some of it will be done, but as conditions get worse from climate change and as conditions get worse economically, and therefore conditions get worse with our infrastructure., And then that creates a feedback loop of a whole, you know, supply chains and, and it's just hard to imagine a future in which our infrastructure is taken care of to a degree, like you said, whether it becomes an a, and is strong enough to withstand climate changes, fury, as it's unleashed on us. 

 So a few others that I'll mention here, and I'll go a little quicker through some of these, um, roads. We scored a D on roads. According to this 40% of our road systems are in poor or mediocre condition saying that as the backlog of rehabilitation needs grows, motorists are forced to pay over a thousand dollars every year in wasted time and fuel, basically just from traffic. And it says that while traffic fatalities overall are on the decline, there are still over 36,000 people dying every year on the road. And the number of pedestrian fatalities is actually increasing. 

 When it comes to drinking water, we're at a C minus. It says that every two minutes in the U S there's a water main break, which is just insane. And an estimated 6 billion gallons of water is lost each day in the U S because of those main breaks. Okay. There's 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that make up our drinking water infrastructure. And so just the scale of thinking of how to maintain those, how to update old pipes that, you know, in the past were made of lead and all these different things that they'd got to try and update. It's just a lot. And we saw what happened in Flint, Michigan, and how difficult it was to improve their water. And from what I understand, it's still not up to where it's supposed to be. You know, I don't think that Flint will be the last severe water crisis that we see as far as contamination and drinking water. 

 The last one that I'll mention here is transit, which was our worst score, a D minus. And they said that 45% of Americans have no access to transit. Meanwhile, much of the existing system is aging and transit agencies often lack funds to keep their existing systems in good working order. Over a 10 year period across the country 19% of transit vehicles and 6% of fixed guideway elements like tracks and tunnels were rated in poor condition. And that there's currently a $176 billion transit backlog, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than $270 billion by the end of this decade. 

And here's the scary part of all this. It says, "meanwhile, transit ridership is declining, a trend compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Failure to address the transit revenue shortfall will only exacerbate ridership declines as service cuts means the trip delays and reliability issues become more frequent. This stands to increase congestion, hamper the economy and worsen air quality in the coming years." So they're basically talking about a feedback loop. They say that as the transit infrastructure gets worse and worse, more people say I'm not going to take the public bus system. I'm going to buy a car and I'm going to congest the road. I'm going to cause more traffic. I'm going to emit more greenhouse gases, which then exacerbates the whole climate crisis resource crisis. All of it. By not maintaining infrastructure. It's not just an economic cost, but it also accelerates catabolic collapse by making the resources more scarce, and by causing an increase in climate change. 

Kellan: [00:29:53] So just to make sure I totally understand this report that is giving these grades and is telling us just how poor our infrastructure is, comes from the army Corps of engineers. I don't imagine they have any motive to make it seem worse than it really is. Right? Are they politically associated or is there any benefit for them to say, Hey, our bridges are failing and you know, we've got all these other infrastructure issues? 

Kory: [00:30:21] No, the only possible motive would be job security, right. To say their problems so that they can keep diagnosing them. But I think it's safe to say that what they're saying is real and that these are real issues that need to be confronted. 

Kellan: [00:30:35] Well, I think from an economic standpoint, it's particularly alarming that they are saying we've got to spend over $5 trillion just to get things from the state that they're currently at to an acceptable state for the future. 

Kory: [00:30:49] And actually that $5 trillion is to get everything to a B, which is just to get it into good condition. That's not even, to get it to a exceptional or to get it fit for the future. It's just to get it into good, adequate for now condition. Yeah. 

Kellan: [00:31:03] So just when it comes to those dollars, you're saying just to get it to an adequate condition. ya know we're talking trillions of dollars. One thing that I found recently is that if you could spend $40, every single second, right, $40 spent $40 spent $40 spent every single second. In order for you to spend $1 trillion at that pace, it would take 792 and a half years. 

But it comes back to that maintenance cost of capital. And clearly it's not just this report. That's highlighting how big of an issue we have. Others are recognizing it as well. And as mentioned previously, our current president, Joe Biden has introduced an infrastructure plan. You know, at this point it was a few months ago that he proposed this plan. But the budget for that plan that he initially introduced was over $2 trillion.


So to break that down a little bit, we're talking $621 billion to be spent on trying to fix transportation, roads, bridges, public transit, rail ports, waterways, airports, all of that. $300 billion for manufacturing. And that includes a number of things, but among those, $50 billion for semiconductor manufacturing. 30 billion for medical manufacturing,. You know, an additional $213 billion for building and retrofitting and renovating houses. And just to list some of these others, 180 billion for research and development, 111 billion for water, which by the way, Part of that plan is to replace all of the nation's led pipes and service lines.

and you kind of alluded to this earlier, but there's a huge issue with even drinking water in some parts of the U S not to mention wastewater and stormwater systems. Another a hundred billion for schools and a hundred billion for digital infrastructure, a hundred billion for workforce development. Initially it was proposed that there'd be 400 billion just to try and take care of the aging and disabled population. 

Now over the last few months, there's been a lot of arguing about this bill, this plan. And at least as of a few days ago, it had been revised down and kind of negotiated down to a $1.2 trillion plan.

Kory: [00:33:19] So basically cut in half. 

Kellan: [00:33:20] Yeah, pretty much. What they decided they would leave out is that the $400 billion for taking care of the aging and disabled population. They also decided to cut out a hundred billion for workforce development and they decreased some of the costs and a couple of those other areas like transportation. Yeah. It's still being negotiated. I don't know where it'll end up. Frankly, I don't know where I want it to end up. On one hand. I think. Gosh, that's a shame that they're cutting that stuff out. We need all that stuff. We need everything that I listed there. And so part of me wants the full, you know, $2.25 trillion it was initially proposed to all get approved. On the other hand, we're talking about a lot of money and the question that keeps coming up over and over again is how would you pay for this? And the proposal is to increase corporate taxes.

 You know, the rate for corporate taxes had been as high as 35% before Donald Trump. And congressional Republicans cut those taxes in 2017. Proposal is to take it from 21% up to 28%. And there are a couple of other things with that that are being proposed specifically when it comes to corporations. Taxing on book income, Ya know, a global minimum tax corporate inversions. We don't need to get into all of that. 

But we've talked in previous episodes about the fact that our national debt has been on one of these exponential curves. It is essentially just gone through the roof and debt isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's leveraged appropriately. You know, a lot of debt doesn't necessarily indicate a weak economy, you know, especially if you're having enough revenue to match all the debt. But when it comes to the national deficit, since 2001, the US has experienced a deficit each year. 

So when we talk about all of these increases in the debt and the deficit, I'll just read one statement and it comes from an article. You know, we can link it in the episode description, but it says having the public debt exceed GDP in the short run can be justified. Especially during such extraordinary times, however, this cannot continue indefinitely because the federal government will be competing with the private sector to borrow the money that exists in the market. That will cause interest rates to rise, which will make it more expensive for the government to borrow thus exacerbating the debt problem.

And we've talked about how there's this need for constant economic growth, just for us to keep up with the interest payments on the nation's debt. So with all of that in mind, you know, Kory, is there another time in us history that you think of when you think of us doing a big revamp of our nation's infrastructure. 

Kory: [00:36:03] I'm not great with U S history, but I think the one that sticks out to me is after the great depression, when FDR did the whole new deal again, I don't know a lot about it, but I know that infrastructure was, was a big part of that plan. 

Kellan: [00:36:16] It was. And that's exactly what I was thinking of when I asked that question. The new deal helped pull us out of the depression. It provided a lot of jobs. It helped us make a lot of investments into our infrastructure and that's what's being proposed right now with this plan from Biden. Not only is it going to help us with our infrastructure, but it's designed to help us with all these jobs. 

The new deal cost $41.7 billion. But you know, that was back in 1933. In today's dollars if you adjust for inflation, the whole new deal would have cost $863 billion. Yeah.

And you know, our population has grown so you can argue that per capita, it's not fair to compare, but we are at least adjusting for inflation there. So if you think of in today's dollars, the new deal costing 863 billion. We're now talking about a plan that would cost 1.2 trillion, and that was talked down from a plan that started out at 2.25 trillion,

Kory: [00:37:14] and that is much less than the 5.2 trillion that's actually needed. And that 5.2 trillion number is just for roads and dams and bridges and things like that, which I think in the numbers that you mentioned was only a small fraction of the 1.2 trillion that's being approved.

Kellan: [00:37:32] That's exactly it. So we're talking about us doing something huge and yet it would really only help with a small fraction of the problem that you highlighted earlier. 

Kory: [00:37:44] And when you look at the insane amount of bureaucratic processes and back and forth and arguing, and how much it's been whittled down just to get that and how this is probably you know, the infrastructure bill of the decade at the very least, it's sad to think that there's going to be so much left undone even if this bill does go through. You know, Donald Trump talked a lot about doing something with infrastructure, it seems like all the presidents do that. They talk about big infrastructure spending and bills, and none of them ever do it.

Donald Trump had infrastructure week, however many times that he had it and it never happened. And now something is happening, which is encouraging. But it's also disheartening to know that the amount that's being presented as what's realistic is nowhere near the amount that is actually needed. 

Kellan: [00:38:32] Yeah, and really it highlights what you've taught me from the beginning, this whole idea of catabolic collapse. You know, it's not an explosion, it's an implosion and we're in a predicament right now with our infrastructure in which it doesn't seem possible for us to maintain the kind of growth that we've supported in the past. And even putting growth aside, just to try and sustain what we've built up to this point. It looks like we're in a lot of trouble. 

Kory: [00:38:57] And that's just it, right? I mean, we're talking about this whole conundrum of, do we fix the grid that we already have, or do we build a grid of the future? Do we work based off of the renewables that we want to have and build a system around that? Or do we fix the fossil fuel infrastructure that we have right now? Because not only is there not money to do both, there's not money to do even one of them. And so the task ahead is very daunting. 

Kellan: [00:39:22] Yeah. And by the way, I, when it comes to trying to invest in renewable energy, or even if it's just technology that doesn't emit so many greenhouse gases, part of Biden's initial plan, I can't remember how much of it stayed in the revised plan, but it was to set up a network of electric vehicle charging stations. But it would need to be like 500,000 of these charging stations. And from what I read, the number of electric vehicles on the road right now, doesn't really support that.

And so there's that problem again: do we build for the future or do we build for now? We don't have enough electric vehicles that it makes sense for us to put them in infrastructure for them. And yet by the time we do have enough electric vehicles, it'll be too late. Right. It takes a long time. They were talking about at least 15 years to try and build out all those electric vehicle charging stations.

Kory: [00:40:11] Which to me is a little bit laughable to think about how long it takes to get this type of infrastructure in place. This is all stuff that should have been done 30 years ago, 50 years ago, as far as planning for the future, we've always been one step behind it seems like. And now it almost just feels like in a lot of ways, especially when you're talking about climate change, we're getting to the point where it's too late, 2035, 2040, in my opinion is going to be pretty nasty when it comes to climate change. On that note, I saw a tweet today from a NASA climate scientist named Peter calmness and his tweet said "climate scientists: I'm curious if the Pacific Northwest heat dome event changed your subjective sense of impact sensitivity. I feel like it moved up my sense of where we are by about a decade. Maybe even more. I wasn't expecting this kind of intensity at 1.2 degrees Celsius, more like maybe 1.5 degrees Celsius." And we are not that far from 1.5. I think they said we were supposed to hit 1.5 probably by between 2027 and 2030. So between six and nine years from now and this guy saying, yeah, we're, we're already seeing a decade ahead of, of what I even thought as a NASA climate scientist, we would see as far as the impacts of climate change on severe weather events. 

Northwest in a lot of ways couldn't handle these weather events, roads buckled, cables melted. Grids were strained, some failed and went out, you know, there was, there was all this stuff. And he's saying, this is just one of many events that we're seeing now with wildfires and heat domes that are going to increase in severity. Kellan, earlier, you mentioned hurricanes. I read an article today that was talking about a $26 billion proposal for a gate system that would protect Galveston, Texas. And they're not even sure that it would work and it's potentially going to be rejected because of not only the cost, but also because of the environmental impacts that would have to put it in. And so all of these trillions of dollars that we're talking about, aren't even taking into account the drastic measures that we'll have to take to either prevent the impacts of climate change or react to the destruction that climate change is going to cause.

And so when you think about catabolic collapse, I think this is really where it hits home, is that not only do we have all these insane costs that we can't afford to give the infrastructure where it needs to be, but also we're going to have increasing costs to fix infrastructure from damage being done by climate change and other natural disasters.

So as our budget gets smaller, but our bill gets bigger. That hits a point where it's completely unsustainable and at, at some point infrastructure fails. And as we mentioned, the beginning of the episode, it's the weakest link that matters. We could invest $5 trillion into our bridges and dams and waterways and all of these things but if our roads fail and we can't get product from a to B, then supply chains and economies still collapse. 

Kellan: [00:43:02] Yeah. This topic really highlights how serious of a predicament we're in. I initially, as I started learning about the basics of collapse I was thinking, okay, we've got quite a mountain ahead of us to climb, but with each conversation we have that mountain seems to get bigger and oh, by the way, if you're going to make it up this mountain, you should now know that your legs are broken. Oh. And you should know that you don't have any water. Oh, Andy. You should know that XYZ. Right. As the mountain keeps getting bigger and bigger, it just is amazing how many different forces are kind of colliding at once on this roadmap for what we see for the future. 

With that in mind though, I do want to point out something that we've tried to mention several times in the past, which is the point of these conversations is to inform, but not for anyone to despair, right? Hopefully it causes enough panic in all of us that we make meaningful changes, but I hope it also inspires us to make the most of life right now while things are good.

while also inspiring us to prepare the best that we can, you know, making sure ourselves and our families are in a situation to fare better than we would otherwise in the future. And if at the same time we can promote change within our community to try and mitigate the damage and hopefully slow the effects even better. Right? There's so much good that we can do with this information. And I hope that's the response that, you know, all the thousands of people that are tuning into this take. 

Kory: [00:44:28] Well said, I completely agree. And my hope is that this podcast will reach the ears of many people who will decide to make changes in their own lives and in the lives of those, around them, whether it be their community or their families, or their neighbors, anyone who they can touch to help make our situation better for, for each other. 

None of us has a circle of influence so big that we can stop collapse, but each of us has a circle influence big enough to affect somebody else for the positive. And hopefully our listeners will take this information and do the best they can with it, to make somebody else's life better even as the world around us seems to collapse.

Thanks for listening and have a great week.