The CSS Blog Network

Investing in Infrastructure

Repair wanted, photo: cmh2315fl/flickr

On September 6, President Obama announced an infrastructure renewal project in the US. According the White House press release, the plan aims to create a long-term framework for the renewal and expansion of a major part of America’s transportation infrastructure (roads, railways aviation and transit infrastructure.) Its broader objectives are to contribute to the economic stimulus of the Recovery Act with a front-end investment of $50 billion.

Specifically, the plan aims to do the following in the coming six years:

  • Rebuild 150,000 roads
  • Build 4,000 miles of railroads and introduce high-speed rail systems
  • Reconstruct 150 miles of runways and upgrade the air traffic control system
  • Establish a permanent infrastructure bank to leverage capital investment in the nation’s infrastructure

This contribution is a step in the right direction, but only a step. The plan addresses only four of the 15 issues outlined by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which produces an annual report card  on the state of US infrastructure, assessing bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation.

According to the most recent ASCE report, the US scored a dismal D (approx. 1.0 out of a possible maximum of 4.0.) This same report estimated a 5-year investment of $2.2 trillion would be needed to significantly improve these areas, including some 1,800 high hazard and over 4,000 structurally deficient dams, as well as 72,868 and 89,024 functionally obsolete bridges.

But, as the mid-term elections draw near, calls to reign in federal spending have grown. Republicans have vowed to oppose the plan and support among Democrats may be weak.

Ultimately, infrastructure renewal in the US will depend on murky congressional back-room deals, tough legislative cycles and the fickle political trends of the coming years.

Despite the Obama administration’s attempt to bring the issue to the forefront of domestic policy, quick action on a vital issue seems increasingly unlikely. And this is bad news for America.

Iraq on Its Own

Lone US solider looks out over the Diyala River Valley in Iraq, photo: US Army/flickr

Lone US solider looks out over the Diyala River Valley in Iraq, photo: US Army/flickr

With US combat troop operations in Iraq at an end, less than 50,000 US service personnel remain in a country mired in political quagmire. This week the ISN looks toward Iraq’s future on its own in the wake of US occupation.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Philip McCrum about the deleterious security and economic impact of Iraq’s stalled political process.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Kristian Ulrichsen on the challenges facing Iraq on its path to post-war reconstruction and recovery.
  • Security Watch articles covering the US troop presence in Iraq from invasion to withdrawal.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including US Congressional Research Service assessments of the March 2010 elections.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of US President Obama’s address to the nation on the end of combat operations in Iraq.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as ‘Ground Truth: Conditions, Contrasts, and Morale’, which provides the results of a survey of US troops in Iraq on the conditions and morale of service members in the war against terrorism.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Washington, DC-based Iraq Foundation, working for democracy and human rights in Iraq and for a better international understanding of Iraq’s potential as a contributor to political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Keywords in Focus: Haiti and Cuba

It’s easy to retrieve information from the depths of the ISN Digital Library either by searching or by browsing our comprehensive keyword-tree (either by subject or by region.)

Two countries (and keywords!) that have recently been in the headlines are Haiti and Cuba – the former because it suffered a devastating earthquake earlier in the year and the latter because significant changes seem imminent in one of the world’s last communist bastions.

For both countries our Digital Library offers extensive resources for research ‘behind the headlines’ and for further insights into the historical challenges and future prospects of these two fragile Caribbean nations.

Head out to explore our holdings and let us know what you found particularly interesting and helpful. Some publications worth highlighting include:

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ISN Quiz: Economic Recovery

How severe has the global economic downturn been and are we on the cusp of a recovery? Test your knowledge in this week’s quiz and read up on the topic in this week’s Special Report.


From ESPO to Druzhba?

Close-up of a pipeline

Close-up of a pipeline

Some of Russia’s pipelines have names that reflect more than just technical realities – such as the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline system that brings oil to Central Europe. Yet, others are of a more prosaic kind, including the recently opened Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline (ESPO). ESPO will bring the black gold from Eastern Russia to China and Russia’s Pacific Coast. Whether this new pipeline is the beginning of a new Russian-Chinese energy-friendship remains to be seen.

China’s growing appetite for gas and oil will be hard to saturate in the next decades. According to projections of the International Energy Agency, China’s demand for primary energy will nearly double from 1,765 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2007 to 2,539 Mtoe in 2020 and 3,451 Mtoe in 2035. The country will account for 30 percent of the increase in global primary energy demand for that period. Oil demand is expected to more than double while the demand for natural gas will more than triple.

Before that backdrop one would expect Russia, home to 5 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 24 percent of all proven gas resources, to be eager to enter this growing market; even more so, since the focus of Russia’s oil and gas production is moving eastwards. There are untapped hydrocarbon resources in Eastern Siberia and Russia’s Far East that are expected to cover falling production elsewhere. Furthermore, hooking up with China holds major potential for developing an economically backward region and would add another trump to Russia’s hand when bargaining with its European energy customers.

But that’s not how Russia seems to view the situation. » More

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