Apr 3, 2019

Scientists pitch a new border security idea: an energy corridor

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As an alternative approach to securing the border, a group of scientists and engineers have proposed the U.S. and Mexico build a sprawling "energy park" of wind turbines, water desalination plants, solar panels and natural gas pipelines.

The big picture: An energy corridor could offer the benefits of a secured physical barrier, since the infrastructure would be well protected, while also creating job opportunities for both migrants and U.S. workers. It has some potential for bipartisan appeal, and President Trump even suggested a similar idea in 2017.

Where it stands: The group's plan was delivered to Congress last month, though it remains to be seen whether it will be incorporated into any legislation.

How it works: The proposal — from 29 academics at universities across the U.S. — calls for $1.1 billion in taxpayer funding to start, but total costs have not been defined.

  • The goal would be to create private-public partnerships to attract private investment from energy companies and manufacturers during the construction phase and later for operation.
  • Supporters argue that the economic and environmental benefits the project promises could far outweigh the costs, providing stable and well-paying job opportunities for migrants and clean energy for generations to come.

Yes, but: There are still many challenges that would need to be addressed, including the total public cost, security standards and potential risks like bribes offered to employees by drug traffickers.

The bottom line: An energy corridor could simultaneously strengthen U.S.–Latin America ties while improving border and energy security.

Sarah E. Hunt is the co-founder and CEO of Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy.

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