April 2022 Vol. 77 No. 4

Editor's Log

Good math, bad math

By Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-chief

First the good math 

The over two-year COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc through the lives of virtually everyone in the world. That also held true for the business world and certainly the underground infrastructure industry. 

In addition to worker shortages before and after COVID, now we have acute supply chain issues, a by-product of the pandemic. With all this going on, it was no surprise that in-person events across every business and consumer niche would suffer. 

The annual Underground Construction Technology (UCT) International Conference & Exhibition was no different. The 2021 event was delayed, first from January until May, and then forced to slide into July before pandemic skies sufficiently cleared to hold a safe event in Nashville. 

Like all events of 2021, the road back started out with small steps. But, at least for UCT, 2022 led to a large leap. Held during its traditional winter timeframe, only six months after the 2021 event, UCT 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas, had a remarkable 60 percent increase in attendance. 

Most of all, the audience came ready to learn, network and re-enter normal work life. It was an audience in drastic need of the opportunity to re-engage with industry peers at the most dynamic event for the total underground infrastructure markets. It was great to see the smiles and matching enthusiasm of both attendees and exhibitor personnel. 

Another very positive growth metric was experienced by the annual Most Valuable Professional (MVP) luncheon. Held in conjunction with UCT 22 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the event set all kinds of new attendance records. Sponsored by the Under­ground Construction Technology Association (UCTA) and Under­ground Construction magazine, the event boasted the largest attendance in the storied history of the award. 

Earning the MVP Award was Gary N. Oradat, P.E., celebrating his 45-year career of progressive engineering, supervisory/managerial and administrative/executive experience. His work involved various aspects of municipal planning, operations, design, construction and management in the areas of water/wastewater transportation and treatment, stormwater drainage and raw water transmission. 

Since 1975, he has been continuously involved in the underground infrastructure construction and rehabilitation industry. His first position was with Dallas Water Utilities that led to a successful 23-year career with the city of Houston’s Public Works and Engineering Department. He started as an Engineer III and worked his way up to Deputy Director. He retired from the city in 2004 and joined the Coastal Water Authority, as chief engineer, and went on to serve as executive director. 

Returning home to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Gary joined the Trinity River Authority in 2019 to serve as executive manager of the newly developed Planning, Design and Construction Administration team. 

Throughout his work career, Oradat has demonstrated leadership and expertise that significantly contributed to the improvement of the agencies he was in and to the underground sewer and water infrastructure industry. 

Oradat’s career has also positively impacted the underground marketplace by assisting with improvement of concrete additives and pipeline coatings/liners for use in manhole and/or sanitary sewer rehabilitation. 

Bad math 

The proposed budget by President Biden was unveiled in March and carried some common themes: more taxes, attack fossil fuels and invest public money heavily into alternative energy sources. 

President Biden is basically repeating the same concept he raised last year by wanting to cut tax breaks for oil and gas production, including deductions for drilling costs, at a time when encouraging the regrowth of the domestic oil and gas industry is extremely important, not only to the U.S. but potentially to Western Europe, as well. 

If the tax breaks are eliminated, the White House projects that the federal government would save $3.4 billion a year. Not surprisingly, the all-out effort to produce alternative energy – no matter what the cost – was also proposed, with more than $50 billion budgeted for expanding U.S. offshore wind generation. 

The folly in that approach is that alternative energy, as we know it today, is nowhere near ready to assume the role of primary fuel supplier to the world. It can supplement but can’t replace, at least not for many years, quite possibly decades. 

The same old problems still remain for wind and solar. Electricity generated by wind/solar farms still lacks the ability to be adequately stored and subsequently transported to population centers. Solutions to the critical and inherent problems of wind and solar could be solved tomorrow or it could easily take many years. Regardless, for now, the answers necessary to eliminate limitations to wind and solar power are not within the grasp of science. 

I’m not opposed to tax credits for constructing new wind or solar facilities. By all means, provide them with similar credits that oil and gas receive. Put everybody on equal footing and let the markets evolve, rather than being artificially propped up by taxpayers.

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