Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Cost of a Wall

Now I have never built a wall, at least a big one. You see I have a little wall, around my daylilies, to keep out the deer. It does not keep out the squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and nothing keeps out the fox. You see, foxes are really smart, and they are fearless. My fox walks by and smirks, yes, smirks at me. Fortunately his possible meals are all up in trees. But my wall, I put it in myself, holds out those evil deer.

Now don't ask me how much the wall costs. I just went to Home Depot, loaded the car with wall building stuff, really fence stuff, and then put it up. And waited. It worked. It kept those deer at bay.

Now as to the southern wall. I have not a clue. But the Press today is quoting MIT at $25 billion. So I thought that it would be useful to see what the source was. I know something about building stuff. I built cable systems, cellular systems, fiber systems, some in over 20 countries. I know building some stuff. I also knew then when back at MIT students and even some faculty would wander into the field of costing things. Like how much a fiber to the home would cost. Then I asked such things like; where is the franchise cost, the pole attachment costs, the right of way costs? Ooops, since they had no experience they had no clue. So their analysis was usually off.

So when I heard about this MIT cost estimate I went on a trip to the source. It appears to be a Technology Review piece. Now Technology Review used to be the alumni magazine until some twenty years or so ago it was taken over I believe by some group who turned it into one of those technological sheets that are mostly ads plus writings from a variety of folks telling us about the future. My copy generally sees the trash before it is opened. So when I saw that the reference and source was Technology Review I got suspicious.

Now, further the writer, I gather, is from a left leaning think tank in DC and as best as I can gather has never "built" a wall, at least a big one. The author states:

That fits with what structural engineers have told me: the total cost of highways and other megascale projects in the U.S. is generally two to three times the material costs. That makes a 1,000-mile wall pencil out at $27 billion to $40 billion.

That is a bit of a range. So let me see. It was not MIT but Technology Review. It was not an expert in walls, but some staff person at a think tank. It was not a detailed analysis but at best a set of guess works and then a multiplier. And the answer is somewhere between $27B and $40B. Try that on an MIT problem set.

Even NPR, that bastion of totally correct reporting has stated:

Were he to, in fact, try a wall, the cost could be much higher. One estimate from MIT found that a 1,000-mile wall would cost anywhere between $27 billion and $40 billion. 

If NPR had at least noted from its hyperlink it was Technology Review and NOT MIT, then it would in my opinion have been true reporting, not what seems to be the latest flurry of in my opinion could be considered and element of  "fake news".

So let's talk to someone who has built things, real things. Like, I don't know, perhaps the Press could find a real person like that.