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To the Victors, the Contracts

Which engineering firms will rebuild Iraq, and how will contracts be let?

11 min read

2 July 2003—Nobody needs to be told that the reconstruction of Iraq is a highly charged subject, with huge human, political, and financial interests at stake. Obviously, the immediate welfare of all persons living in Iraq depends almost entirely on how well the job is done, and in the longer run, so will prospects for self-government and healthy relations between Iraq and the victor countries. At the same time, the way the job is done will have an impact on relations between the victors and the many more countries that proved unwilling to join the ”coalition of the willing.” And those relations, in turn, will have important effects on the availability of funds to support reconstruction work and on the work itself.

The decision by the Bush administration to rely heavily on private contractors, and to put reconstruction work in the hands of companies with which members of the administration have had close ties without open bidding, was controversial from the start. Bechtel National Inc. (San Francisco), the world’s largest engineering contractor, was awarded US $680 million early this year to rebuild Iraq’s electrical grid, water-treatment systems, roads, and schools. It is expected to remain, in effect, the United States prime contractor and perform work that runs into billions of dollars, at least.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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