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Texas power outages shows how badly America needs an infrastructure bill: expert

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read

The rolling blackouts in Texas caused by brutal winter weather — which have caused thousands to be without heat amid a taxed electrical grid — underscores the need for lawmakers to sign off on a long overdue infrastructure bill, according to one expert.

"I think it's indicative of things we are seeing across the country. We saw rolling blackouts of course in California [last summer]. We are seeing what has happened over the past year where we have more extreme weather events. We had I think 22 separate $1 billion disaster events, whether it's wildfires, cyclones or severe storms or droughts. And the dollars we are spending are very significant," said American Society of Civil Engineers executive director Tom Smith on Yahoo Finance Live.

Smith added, "If we spend upfront, it will save us in the long-run. In fact you can leverage that money — every dollar can save you six dollars on the backend if we mitigate these things upfront and stop being reactive and more proactive, including in Texas."

HOUSTON, Feb. 15, 2021 -- A gas station is closed due to power outage in Houston, Texas, the United States, on Feb. 15, 2021. Up to 2.5 million customers were without power in the U.S. state of Texas Monday morning as the state's power generation capacity is impacted by an ongoing winter storm brought by Arctic blast. (Photo by Chengyue Lao/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Chengyue Lao via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, Feb. 15, 2021 -- A gas station is closed due to power outage in Houston, Texas, the United States, on Feb. 15, 2021. Up to 2.5 million customers were without power in the U.S. state of Texas Monday morning as the state's power generation capacity is impacted by an ongoing winter storm brought by Arctic blast. (Photo by Chengyue Lao/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Chengyue Lao via Getty Images)

Research out of Smith's outfit highlight how dire America's infrastructure is at the moment.

According to new research from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. economy stands to lose $10.3 trillion in GDP by 2039 if an infrastructure bill isn’t passed. A total of $9 trillion in disposable income among households will be lost over the next 20 years, the research shows.

The current state of America’s infrastructure — including gaping potholes on roads, outmanned electrical grids, and suboptimal public transport — is costing the average household in the country $3,300 a year.

Need for resilience

Then presidential candidate Joe Biden outlined a more than $2 trillion infrastructure plan called Build Back Better. He said it would be the “largest mobilization of public investment since World War II.” Among other proposals in the plan, Biden would devote about $400 billion to expanding clean vehicle technology, steel production and other building materials. He is also earmarking $300 billion for investments in 5G and artificial intelligence.

Now that Biden is president he is expected to make a push for the Build Back Better plan once another round of COVID-19 relief gets passed.

Smith warns it's well past time for government to step up and sign off on a bold package of infrastructure investments. If not, the blackouts in California and Texas may be the new normal rather than a one off.

"We're learning now what is our tolerance for risk. As we see more extreme weather events, whether it's heat, cold, or a seismic storm we really have to recognize that we need to be prepared. We need infrastructure that is resilient, but we also need infrastructure that is sustainable," Smith said.

Yahoo Finance is going inside the nation's crumbling infrastructure in its latest series called: Rebuilding America. More details could be found here.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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