U.S. Population Grows Due to Immigration as Infrastructure Weakens

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A story in USA Today reports that “The U.S. population will soar to 438 million by 2050.” Most of the population growth will be driven by immigration and live births to immigrants. How depressing. And it ought to make you mad, so that you want to “do something” about it… like build a wall or something.

Really, why is it that the so-called “immigration debate” in the United States is often tied up with terms of race and seldom tied into the discussion of depleting resources and declining infrastructure? If the immigration debate was framed in the latter terms of resource depletion and infrastructure, people would focus on the point that the nation is “full.” The irrefutable fact is that the U.S. resource base is fast-depleting and the infrastructure system is overloaded. There is no more room at this inn. It’s time to hang out the equivalent of the “No Vacancy” sign for very some practical reasons.

The United States is already a net food-importer, yet the nation will now according to the Pew Research study grow its population from 300 million to 438 million within the next 43 years? In what soil will the food grow? How much food will be imported, and from where, and how will the nation pay for it? With the national credit card, that is now broken?

And while we are discussing eating, let’s wash it down. Water is in critical shortage in many regions of the United States, so what will all of these “new” people drink? For that matter, what will the existing population drink? At the other end of the alimentary canal, the U.S. infrastructure of sewers and pollution control systems has long been inadequate. Water and sewer system construction has traditionally lagged population growth even in the best of times. It is both expensive and politically difficult to gain approvals even for replacement sewage systems, let alone new build construction. Really, who wants a sewage treatment plant in their back yard? C’mon… raise your hand.

Let’s think about energy. The United States is already the world’s largest oil-using nation (21 million barrels per day) and the largest oil importer (13 million barrels), so again… how much more oil will these new immigrants consume? While we are at it, the electricity system is strained to its limits in several regions. Each year, the system requires more and more juggling and wheeling of power just to remain up and running. (For example, within the U.S. power companies move electricity from Montana to California; from North Dakota to Illinois; from Tennessee to South Florida.) From where, and from what power plants (few are being built), will the nation obtain its electricity?

As things stand, the world is at the cusp of long-term oil depletion and output decline (and the high grade coal reserves have been dug and burned as well). Thus the existing U.S. population base will have its work cut out just to maintain some semblance of an energy-based lifestyle for the current numbers. That is, the United States should expect the volumes of oil available on world markets to shrink. There will be less and less oil available to import, and at higher and higher prices. Ditto with coal. And as for “alternative” energy sources? Hey, these are great present investments. But they are lousy overall solutions to the future energy problems of 300 million people, let alone 438 million. Something is going to have to give.

Let’s think of some other resource constraints in the United States as well.

Have you tried to find a parking space? The major cities are full-up, surrounded by sprawling suburbs and built-out exurbs. Roads are packed and traffic congestion is chronic. Yet few new roads are being built anywhere for lack of space, let alone the NIMBY-ism that permeates the culture. The nation is having trouble maintaining its existing road and bridge infrastructure. Yet won’t “another” 138 million people need a few more paved roads, bridges, tunnels and exit ramps within the next 40 years or so? Who will build those structures, and how will the nation pay for them?

Where would these roads go in any case? You can already get to most places that you want to go, using a highway or road in some state or repair or another. But when you arrive at your destination you typically find that much of the formerly rural landscape has been transformed into development and track housing, all of which uses energy and water in wasteful ways that will be untenable in years going forward due to scarcity and high costs. While we are at it, for some strange reason, most of the U.S. population wants to live within 200 miles of a coastline. So lets add the majority of those 138 million new bodies to the existing coastal bands. Tell me when you feel crowded.

How else can people move about? Not on trains. The U.S. rail system is essentially maxed out with trains hauling freight shipments, hence there is no room in or near any urban area to acquire new railway rights of way. So rail and light rail which very few Americans currently use in any case will not grow in any big sense in future years.

Other U.S. public infrastructure such as the hospital and public health system, court system, public schools and higher education system are similarly maxed out. The United States can barely serve the population base of 300 million with the existing sets of buildings and personnel. In many jurisdictions, the fact is that the public IS NOT being served in any adequate sense. And in many locales, people are being treated, served and/or allegedly “educated” in trailers, for lack of space in the “real” buildings. Many of the “real” public buildings in the United States are aged and long-past replacement. (In Pittsburgh, for example, no new public high school has been constructed since 1923.)

This does not even address the profound national issues of “borders, language and culture” that will be affected by new waves of mass immigration. 438 million? That number is just too many to allow any sort of society to function on half a continent, mostly near the coastlines. But one could also focus on the “depletion” of the traditional American concepts of national boundaries, or the decline of the nation’s common English language and some semblance of an “American” culture based on a shared history. No, if you focus on that kind of thing, people will think that you are talking about immigration in terms of race.

So better just to focus on the fact that an increased U.S. population from whatever source will lead to massive shortages of food, water and energy. And the public infrastructure will simply break down. Vast swaths of the country will become unrecognizable slums filled with broken-down housing, bad transportation, and hungry and thirsty people living on the squalid edge of human survival.

Now, let’s talk about building that wall…

Byron King
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

Byron King
Byron King currently serves as an attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1981 and is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University. Byron is also co-editor of Outstanding Investments.
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19 Comments on "U.S. Population Grows Due to Immigration as Infrastructure Weakens"

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Mal Moy
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Interesting article. Population increases exponentially while available food increases linearly. Peak oil, peak water, peak resources, peak food!

It is easy to see where this is heading!

mike
Guest

….immigration and colonisation are birds of a different colour…..and now that we are colour blind…we’re calling one the other…..

John
Guest

But you can’t have a North American Union if you build a wall in the middle!!

Jon Cruz
Guest

Population growth is an international issue not a national issue. I can’t believe you think it’okay for people to go hungry as long as it is outside of our human made, geographically insignificant borders. Dont worry YOU mr. selfish, you won’t go hungry. By the way, how many children do you have? I hope none because I dont want them filling up our schools, hospitals and taking my kid’s jobs.

Mike Courtman
Guest

Great post, great site, nice to see at least some people in Australasia are awake to the unsustainability of mass immigration.

Another point worth mentioning is that the US doesn’t have significant migration (unike say, the UK) so the argument that it needs overseas workers doesn’t really stand up.

Greg Weilo
Guest
Bravo Byron. A country is defined by its borders, and if it has no borders then a country loses control of its own destiny. Developed countries can’t help the third world by becoming part of it via uncontrolled mass immigration. It’s pretty obvious really, but this point is lost on those open-borders activists who seem to have a grudge against Western civilisation and hide their destructive agenda behind their sanctimonious moral supremacism. There is no justification for uncontrolled mass immigration, which is why it is never seriously debated, and its supporters are reduced to making ad hominem attacks on anybody… Read more »
P J Abel
Guest
It is an interesting article. I live in Klamath County, Oregon where there is a serious “water war” going. There is not enough water for the Tribes, Salmon,Trout, Suckerfish, farmers, ranchers and irrigators. It would appear that the only solution is to develop deep water storage to replace the irrigation waters or eliminate farming, cattle and sheep from the Basin. Then where will you get your food and the hay for animals? Some are demanding the removal of 4 hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. They would be replaced with natural gas burning plants. Now, how much sense does that… Read more »
Kim
Guest

Come to Dallas, TX and see the tragedy in action.

Jeff
Guest

If there really is no more room at the inn, the next logical step would be to mandate a strict limit on the number of births. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

Armand
Guest
in response to the article “U.S. Population Grows Due to Immigration as Infrastructure Weakens” I would like to say that people have been coming to the this country before it was even a country. most of what this article talks about is something that already has been tought about and figured out by someone, that is why there is a system in place where people pay taxes for everything they consume. the more people, the more taxes, the more more money. What I believe is happening is that the United States is preying on poor countries by monopolizing their economy… Read more »
Ramsefall
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How about a realignment of priorities at the government level, i.e. abandon global combat and space programs which consume hundreds of billions of dollars annually in tax payer dollars? Modern technology potential could easily develop clean energy (solar, hydro, wind), water (extracted from the atmosphere) and food production alternatives (green houses), however if the majority of funds continue to be squandered on a perpetual terrorist war which subsequently increases terrorist activity, well then, maybe the people should take the power out of the officials’ hands who manipulate this hegemony. Or, remain complacent and stay the course. Humane solutions are undoubtedly… Read more »
Brimmy
Guest

Great article. We have to build a wall to keep those Australians out who can’t mind their own business.

Stephen
Guest
Comment by Ramsefall on 3 May 2008: How about a realignment of priorities at the government level, i.e. abandon global combat and space programs which consume hundreds of billions of dollars annually in tax payer dollars? Modern technology potential could easily develop clean energy (solar, hydro, wind), water (extracted from the atmosphere) and food production alternatives (green houses), however if the majority of funds continue to be squandered on a perpetual terrorist war which subsequently increases terrorist activity, well then, maybe the people should take the power out of the officials’ hands who manipulate this hegemony. Or, remain complacent and… Read more »
ram
Guest

There has been no significant petroleum exploration activity for 15 years which guarantees a shortage for an extended period, regardless of the state of ulimately recoverable petroleum. It takes a long time to develop a new oil field, decades, not just a few years. The misallocation of wealth into ‘paper pushing’ rather than genuine investment is really going to bite the English speaking world.

Claudia Bueso
Guest

This is just an article that shows how selfish the american society is becaming. This is not a USA problem Mr. Cum lade.. If you are so smart why dont you run for the Presidensy and fix the problems?
Malthus, Darwin, Hitler,marx, Machiavelo, Mao-Tse,..
Why can people just live and let others live as well?
we are so busy finding the faults that we completely missed the beauty of life! But in despite of all this pesimistic people I will rejoice because I know there is only one life and we better make the best of it!

JoanofArc
Guest
THE IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON US AND OUR COUNTRY Obama hasn’t said any more than those before him. It is our time to tell our government what we want. By bringing in more immigrants, it reduces the benefits that many of the low income families today are receiving. Many Americans feel that bringing in millions of mostly impoverished people from third world nations is a generous and ethical thing to do, a way to share the wealth. But this generosity is having unintended consequences hich are very destructive to this country and to the rest of the world. Importing unskilled… Read more »
JoanofArc
Guest
Impact of Immigration – Continued Like Byron King indicates in his statement we haven’t even addressed the profound national issues of “borders, language and culture” that will be affected by new waves of mass immigration. 438 million? That number is just too many to allow any sort of society to function on half a continent, mostly near the coastlines. But one could also focus on the “depletion” of the traditional American concepts of national boundaries, or the decline of the nation’s common English language and some assemblance of an “American” culture based on a shared history. An important requirement should… Read more »
Ross
Guest
Hooley dooley … those living in nations of immigrants sure change their spots quickly in the scheme of things. It is proven that economies extract overall net economic benefits from immigration. Immigration can strain and cause price bubbles in real estate where there are infrastructure & urban land release problems but otherwise positive economic balances are derived from new household formation and eager workers bringing positive culture of savings and pushing hard for a better life for their kids. That is “save” … not borrow and spend on discretionary purchases and “services” in malls and salons and fat food diners… Read more »
jimbo
Guest
well quite simply because we don’t want too many coming in at once. its that simple the numbers. most u.s. citizens like our culture and don’t want it in danger of being taken over. as a citizen i expect immigration to be regulated. i only want the best and the brightest to be able to come in at that. for every one million immigrants that come in 80 million mostly poor are born around the world. so this guilt feeling that ross has cannot be dealt with by letting all in. people are going to have to do the best… Read more »
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