Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Government-sponsored earthquakes

The Telegraph is running a story that claims that scientists in the US and China have concluded that the massively destructive 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan Province in China last May was caused by the Communist Party's insistence on building the Zipingpu dam in 2004. The earthquake killed 80,000, displaced a million, and has had reverberating political repercussions in China.

Unlike global warming, where there's a collective action problem, in a free market there would be ample incentive for entrepreneurs to not build damns that burst at the seams, undoing all their work after only five years of operation.

Evidently the US is not immune to the problem of massive public works projects causing earthquakes, though not on the magnitude of China:

There is a history of earthquakes triggered by dams, including several caused by the construction of the Hoover dam in the US, but none of such a magnitude.

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