There are all kinds of “blisters”, but the one we hear about mostly is the one that a pitcher develops after throwing too many curve balls. More than one such “blister” is bothering the promoters pitching the Panama Canal expansion proposal, so maybe the U. S. taxpayer is getting lucky for a change, even though (s)he isn’t aware of the good fortune.

The Panama Canal expansion project is about to get underway … as soon as a way can be devised to get the unwitting U.S. taxpayers to fork over the cost. When the project was first discussed you’ll recall, along with its $ 15 billion estimated cost, the perpetrators – or whatever name you prefer to give them – soon realized that the project evoked no enthusiasm from investors ( us taxpayers).

Remember the little girl we talked to in Vol. IV, Art. 32? Even she spotted the scam. Subtly then, the cost was revised downward – ‘way downward – to $ 5 billion. That would surely sell, they figured, unless they tried to slip it by people who knew about Boston’s “Big Dig” fiasco. So forget about the $ 5 billion, and even the $ 15 billion. If they’re ever allowed to get away with the scam you can be sure that the eventual cost to U.S. taxpayers and consumers will be many, many times that original estimate.

Some of the “blisters”?

• More and larger ships mean more and larger oil spills, say observers. “Increased vessel traffic is one of the issues,” said a U. S. Coast Guard official, “but obviously more vessels mean more risks.” And environmentalists won’t let them forget it.
• Oil spills require a lot of equipment and a lot of attention. The vessels themselves may be obstacles in cleanup attempts, said another Coast Guard official. Cleanup operations would require shutting down port operations and the impact on commerce would be great, the official added. Merchants and Union members will remind them of this.
• Soaring oil prices and a general economic downturn, including the U.S. housing crisis, the credit crunch and the dollar devaluation have caused a decline in the use of the Panama Canal in the first quarter of the Canal’s fiscal year. So where’s the great demand?
• Egypt plans to provide incentives for ships to use the Suez Canal instead of sending goods through the Panama Canal. “We want to lure more containerships into using the U.S. East Coast ports via Suez,” said the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority. With delays, strikes and rising costs for inland transport, Suez would offer a direct and less costly all-water route to the East Coast, he said. And money talks, U.S. consumers say.
• Business News America recently reported that the railroad connection between Southern U.S. states and Hutchison Port Holdings’ Lazaro Cardenas Terminal on Mexico’s West Coast is being expanded. The Mexican government followed up by announcing plans to spend over $ 1.5 billion on the West Coast ports of Punta Colonet and Manzanillo II, in order to utilize this expanded rail service and offer costs lower than Panama Canal transit.

[To Whom it May Concern: Don’t quit your day job.]