Infrastructure & Environment

Red Tape Isn't Green

America’s infrastructure is decrepit. The average age of a bridge is nearly 50 years old and rapidly approaching the end of its service life; deteriorating water mains, many built over a century ago, waste over two trillion gallons of water annually; our electric grid loses 6% of the electricity that passes through it, the equivalent of 200 coal-burning power plants; half of fatal car accidents are due in part to faulty road conditions.

Fixing America’s infrastructure would create millions of jobs and return $1.44 on each dollar invested. It would also create a greener footprint and improve America’s competitiveness.

Let’s get going! Whoops, there’s a problem: No one in government, not even in the White House, has the responsibility to give permits. Projects languish on the drawing board for upwards of a decade or more, as dozens of different government agencies bicker over the details of projects—often resulting in 10,000-page environmental review statements that are as immaterial as they are unreadable. Then come the lawsuits, and years more delay as courts and litigants flyspeck every detail in the permits.

This red tape is beyond stupid. Delays in giving permits more than double the cost of infrastructure. Even more stupid, lengthy environmental reviews often harm the environment—by prolonging bottlenecks that cause pollution and continue traffic congestion.

The solution? Cut red tape—give designated officials the authority to make decisions and enforce deadlines. Give an environmental official the job of deciding when there’s been enough environmental review. Give the White House the authority to resolve issues among bickering agencies. Refocus lawsuits on material concerns, not nitpicking. Our proposal does all this in less than three pages. Put humans in charge, and America can start moving again.


  • Harming The Environment

    Our electric grid, much of it built just after WWII and largely based on designs that date back to Edison, now loses around 6% of the power that it transmits, wasting the output of around 200 coal-burning power plants.

  • Double The Cost

    Delay caused by our headless permitting process is endemic in large-scale American infrastructure projects.

  • Endless Red Tape

    Not even straightforward, badly-needed projects can be built in this country without running a fearsome gauntlet of red tape.