Establishment insiders are worried we’re too vulnerable.
In the past here at Peak Prosperity, we’ve written extensively on the threat posed by a sustained loss of electrical grid power. More specifically, we’ve warned that the most damaging threat to our grid would come from either a manmade or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
A good friend of mine, Jen Bawden, is currently sitting on a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — who are equally concerned about this same threat and have recently sent a letter to Obama pleading for action to protect the US grid.
Before we get to that letter, here’s a snippet from what we wrote on the matter roughly a year ago:
We talk a lot about Peak Cheap Oil as the Achilles’ heel of the exponential monetary model, but the real threat to the quality of our daily lives, if not our lives themselves, would be a sustained loss of electrical power. Anything over a week without power for any modern nation would be a serious problem. A month would lead to chaos and many deaths.
When the power goes out, everything just stops. For residential users, even a few hours begins to intrude heavily as melting freezers, dying cell phones, and the awkward realization that we don’t remember how to play board games nudge us out of our comfort zone.
However, those are just small inconveniences.
For industrial and other heavy users, the impact of even a relatively short outage can be expensive or even ghastly. Hospitals and people on life-assisting machinery are especially vulnerable. Without power, aluminum smelters face the prospect of the molten ore solidifying in the channels from which it must be laboriously removed before operations can be restarted.
Many types of nuclear power plants have to switch to back-up diesel generators to keep the cooling pumps running. And if those stop for any reason (like they run out of fuel), well, Fukushima gave us a sense of how bad things can get.
And of course banking stops, ATMs are useless, and gas stations cannot pump gas. Just ask the people of New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
A blackout of a few hours results in an inconvenience for everyone and something to talk about.
But one more than a day or two long? Things begin to get a bit tense; especially in cities, and doubly so if it happens in the hot mid-summer months.
Anything over a week and we start facing real, life-threatening issues. National Geographic ran a special presentation, American Blackout, in October 2013 — it presented a very good progression covering exactly what a timeline of serious grid disruption would look and feel like. I recommend the program for those interested.
We’re exploring this risk because there are a number of developments that could knock out the power grid for a week or more. They include a coronal mass ejection (CME), a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, a cascading grid failure, and malicious hacking or electronic attacks.
This post was published at PeakProsperity on June 1, 2015.