Threats to the Electric Grid

An Underground Grid to Protect America’s Power?

An EMP strike, from a sunstorm or a nuclear weapon, could kill 90% of Americans. Is an underground network an affordable answer?

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | June 8, 2016

One of the most dangerous threats facing America is a terrorist strike featuring even a very primitive nuclear weapon.  Should such a strike be targeted to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), blue-ribbon estimates suggest that up to 90% of Americans would die.  This is because food and water supplies would stop nearly immediately, but it would take months or years to get the power back on.  Without water or regular infusions of food, major cities would begin to die in days.

In point of fact, it wouldn’t take a terrorist.  The sun produces such pulses from time to time.  A famous one struck the Earth in the 19th century, setting telegraph wires on fire.  A similar storm erupted in 2012, missing Earth by mere weeks because of our orbital position around the sun.  Even if you could stop every terrorist forever, we simply can’t control the sun.  We just don’t know when the sun might do it again.

Former NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald, currently of Spire Global, has a novel proposal to address the danger.  He has suggested a “market driven” approach by which industry would build an underground network of cables shielded with copper wire.  The copper wires, combined with the fact of being underground, would act as a Faraday cage to shield the wires from disruption by an EMP.  Such a cage works because the conductive material — copper, in this case — readily shifts electrons around to balance incoming charges.  Thus, instead of being destroyed by a massive electrical surge, the network would see the surge pass over it without harm.

Such cages really are just wire, meaning that the cost of installing them is quite low compared with high-tech solutions.  MacDonald aims to keep costs lower by keeping the government out of it as much as possible.

MacDonald said in a phone call to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the idea is a “market driven solution,” which would ideally not cost the taxpayers anything. It allows private companies to bid for sections of the new ‘Energy Interstate,’ and build it at cost to the companies, not taxpayers. MacDonald said he hopes to earn wider support for such a program precisely because it isn’t government mandated.

After a 6 year study on underground High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), MacDonald and his team found that the massive undertaking would either keep energy prices the same, or at most, “a one cent increase” for energy bills, as MacDonald explained[.]

The idea for a non-government, market-driven solution does not obviate the need for government action as well.  The Secure the Grid Coalition, which considers these threats to America’s power, backs a Congressional plan developed over several years of study.  In 2008, the Congressional EMP Commission estimated it would cost $2 billion to harden the grid’s critical nodes — a very affordable figure for the American Federal government.  They also recommend changes to the regulatory arrangements governing America’s power grid, especially in terms of bringing two major power industry organizations — “NERC” and “FERC” — under central control.

Those interested in the problem can learn more at Secure the Grid Coalition‘s website.


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