Why the US sucks at developing new power

Good article in today’s WaPo. To avoid the paywall, I have “gifted” the article here. The three charts tell the story cleanly and dramatically:


From the link:
“But, almost unbelievably, projects accounting for more than 1,200 gigawatts of clean energy and more than 650 gigawatts of storage have already been proposed; they just can’t get connected to the grid.”

Not a unique situation. From the BBC last week:

“There are currently more than £200bn worth of projects sitting in the connections queue, the BBC has calculated.”


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Congressional leaders, haggling over how best to avoid default, have suggested…

spending less? :imp:

The Captain


The actual argument is not how much to spend, it is always who to give the money to. The faction that wants to use forced labor to pay for welfare, is the same one that wants to give Trillions in “no strings” tax cuts to those who already have the most.



But, the issue is that legislation has already passed which requires spending more. One can’t do both.

The spending has already happened. The argument is whether to pay the bill or not. For instance, approximately 2.5 million federal employees are working in the month of May. Come June 1st (which is approximately when the borrowing authority ends) they will be owed a paycheck. If the Treasury doesn’t have the money, the workers are still owed the paycheck.

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Ay - but that’s the rub, right? The treasury will probably still have the money to pay the paycheck for May. The question is whether to start looking forward to June payroll. If the Treasury won’t have enough money to cover the payroll for the 2.5 million federal employees who are planning to be working in June, then one option is to start furloughing them at the end of May. That way the spending hasn’t already happened - and we can avoid “questioning” any debts of the U.S.

Note - though that is an option, it is a terrible option. It should not be exercised. But when someone tries to defend why the Treasury issued bonds in violation of Congressional statute, it’s going to be raised when the Treasury tries to plead necessity under the 14th Amendment.

That’s correct. The law ought to be that Congress can’t appropriate any spending that is in excess of the debt limit. That would shift the wrangling over the debt limit to be at the same time as the wrangling over how much and what to spend on.


We can drill down as far as we want. Interest payments are due for bonds, lease payments are due, F-35s are scheduled for delivery, Medicare checks need to be cut, etc. Some of that you can defer, but not all of it.

And by the way, I’m not arguing about the 14th Amendment. I’m just saying those debts will exist (at least some of them), regardless if the debt ceiling is raised or not.

You only need to cut some of it. The government brings in new money through ongoing receipts all the time - at least a few hundred billion every month. There’s obviously a bigger spike in April, but generally speaking the annual receipts of the government are spread out through the year.

So if you cut spending by about 30% or so, you would come close to balancing outlays and receipts on a going forward basis. That’s an absurdly catastrophic thing to do, of course - and it’s terrible policy. But it’s theoretically possible. You could get pretty close to doing that just by not sending people their Social Security checks. Which, again, would be an absurdly terrible policy choice - but none of that money is “already spent,” nor is any of it a legally enforceable debt against the United States. It’s “just” spending that Congress has said that it intends to engage in.

BTW, none of that has anything to do with why the US sucks at developing new power. We suck at that because we have a lot of systems in place that make it challenging to build things - not just electrical power infrastructure, but almost any kind of large scale development. Those systems are in place for a lot of admirable reasons - to protect the environment, to give individuals and local groups a voice in whether large projects get approval, to provide for review to ensure compliance with a host of laws and policies. But the consequence of all those reviews and veto points is that certain types of development can be hard to move forward - and certainly hard to move forward quickly.


And, of course, there is the point that no other country in the world has such a stupid limit.

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Your first sentence makes sense until you realize the implications of the second. Because it takes time to hammer out legislation, and because many of the expenses are ongoing from previous years (and change, depending: see aid to Ukraine, or unemployment compensation, or…) it’s hard to know when you’ve hit the finish line, and it seems a bit rash to say “Well, shop’s closed, we can’t do anything else. Sorry California about that earthquake, or Haiti about that hurricane, or, I don’t know, Europe because Stalin invaded. Wait ‘til next year, we’ll see if we have the shekels to help out.”

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For some years Congress followed the “Gephardt rule” which did exactly that, but the other way around. Under the rule, when Congress appropriated spending, the debt ceiling was automatically raised to cover it.


By far the biggest reason we have $32 trillion in debt. Anything saying otherwise has always been lies.