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$1 trillion plan: How does the US rank globally on infrastructure?

·5-min read

US negotiators were locked in intense negotiations Tuesday over President Joe Biden’s sweeping $1 trillion infrastructure bill. As Senators and the White House try to hammer out a deal, FRANCE 24 takes a look at where the US stands when it comes to infrastructure on a global scale.

First, it was stalled by Senate Republicans after they blocked the plan from advancing on July 21. But now, after a month of negotiations, the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is reportedly close to being completed.

The White House wants a bipartisan agreement for the first phase, before Democrats tackle broader priorities in a bigger $3.5 trillion budget plan that’s on the table.

Republicans initially balked at the price tag, expressing their disagreement to fund the plan using unspent Covid-19 relief reserves and by undoing 2017 tax cuts.

The ambitious multi-trillion dollar plan over eight years includes new spending on transportation, water systems, renewable energy, housing, education and health care.

Despite being the biggest economy in the world, the US is currently ranked 13th globally when it comes to infrastructure, trailing behind countries like France, the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at how the US fares on infrastructure, compared to other countries across the globe.

Transportation

Only China invests more than the US in new and existing transport networks. However, the US is ranked 12th worldwide when it comes to transportation.

While the US's road connectivity and airport connectivity ratings are high, taking the global top spot for both sectors, the US's railroad infrastructure is lagging behind, listed way down at 48th place worldwide.

Singapore takes the gold medal on transport infrastructure, topping the rankings worldwide.

Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $621 billion to fund improvements on bridges, railways, roads, public transit, waterways, airports and other transport infrastructure. This part of the bill would also allocate money to traffic and greenhouse gas emission reductions by investing in the electric vehicle market.

He has said that transportation funding can create new, well-paying jobs and help the country compete better in the sector.

Water systems

The US ranks low on the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) water quality index, at 23rd place out of the 40 countries represented in its 2020 Better Life Index. Just 83% of people surveyed, only a fraction higher than the average of 81%, said they were satisfied with their country’s water quality.

Most European OECD countries are ahead of the US in terms of water quality, with Iceland in first place.

Generally speaking, the US can’t say it has the safest drinking water in the world. The Environmental Performance Index lead by Yale ranked the country 23rd out of 180 countries worldwide. This could be explained by the fact that US water supply infrastructures aren’t very reliable, ranked 30th worldwide by a 2019 World Economic Forum index.

Biden’s infrastructure plan would allocate $111 billion to US water infrastructure. More specifically, this portion of the budget would go towards rebuilding existing structures, ensuring clean water access to all, improving general water quality and replacing the country’s lead pipes. It would also allow for wastewater and stormwater systems to be upgraded.

Clean energy

Another big promise during the Biden campaign was to boost the country’s clean energy industry. Renewables currently account for just 8% of the US’s primary energy supply. Such a low ranking puts it below China, one of the country’s biggest competitors in the field.

Worldwide, the US ranks 24th on the overall transition to renewable energies. Only two countries among the world’s top 10 biggest economies, France and the UK, get a spot in the highest rankings when it comes to moving towards cleaner energy resources.

Countries ranked within the top 10 on the renewables index account for just 3% of energy-related CO2 emissions and 2% of the global population. Sweden leads the global rankings, followed by Norway and Denmark.

Funds going to clean energy are part of the manufacturing section in Biden’s infrastructure bill, amounting to 300 billion dollars in total. This money is aimed at supporting the semiconductor and medical manufacturing industry, but also manufacturers focussing on clean energy and electric cars, charging ports and electric heat pumps for buildings.

Schools and education

When it comes to higher education and training infrastructure, the US is ranked third worldwide. The quality of the education system is high, ranking fourth place. Still, on some simple infrastructural issues like internet access in schools, the US is ranked 10 worldwide.

“Compared with other top-ranked countries, the United States performs poorly in health and primary education, coming in 29th despite an improvement of 0.15 in score over the last year,” reads a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum on global competitiveness.

People in the US can expect to go through 17.2 years of education between the ages of five and 39, the exact same score as the OECD average. In its Better Life Index, the OECD ranks the US 20th out of 40 in education, trailing behind Latvia and slightly beating New Zealand. Finland is ranked first.

In the bill, the White House has allocated $100 billion to build new schools nationwide and upgrade existing buildings, especially community colleges on the state level. This part of the bill also includes funding for childcare facilities, aimed at making services available to those who need it the most.

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