In an age of lightening fast Internet where web pages effortlessly stream across our computer screens makes so many of us unaware that in a split second that computer screen could suddenly turn black. We have all experienced power outages before, sometimes they last for just minutes but many times they have been know to last hours and even days on end. That old saying you don't realize what you have until it is gone, is very apropos today, because we take for granted our electricity will some how always turn back on. Down here in Florida with this seasons hurricane season already upon us still too many aren't fully prepared in the eventuality that the power could go out. It has already happened too many times before in the aftermath of so many storms that have decimated whole regions leaving millions without electricity for weeks. All because of our failure to put in place energy grids and energy transfer that would be capable of uninterrupted and unlimited supply of power to every community all across the United States. While home generators are somewhat of a good idea they too require fuel to keep them running. In the event of a major power outage the sources of fuel to run those generators will become unavailable all because of the power grid collapse. Even if there were solar or wind power generators available they still are way too expensive for the average home to have on hand. In all actuality today we have a third world energy grid that is so antiquated it is a wonder we haven't had more prolonged power shortages.
When we hear of the present Administration propose legislation to improve our infrastructure and upgrade our energy grid they fail to take blame for the complete lack of preparedness for any contingency that has arisen and will arise due to the fact that our energy policies have completely undermined the supply of electricity to every home and business all across the country. Years ago electric utilities used to run as locally managed companies. So the power grid in New York was separate from the power grid in South Carolina. And both were separate from the power grid in Idaho. As of 2000 congress passed legislation that mandated all the utility companies join together in a national energy grid. Like everything else our Congress has passed may have been a good idea but as it has turned out this legislation has had terrible consequences.
Instead of upgrading our energy grids the mind set was and still is we can't do that because it would cost too much money. Today, our energy grids all across the country are like our bridges that have been around for more than 50 years or more that could collapse at any moment like I-35 in Minnesota did just two years ago. In fact, the average age of an electrical transformer in the US grid is just 40 years. When they were put on line some 50 years ago means that they are already on borrowed time for at any moment our whole electric grid could come crashing down. Even with the little maintenance and slight upgrades of recent years have done nothing to increase the life expectancy of our energy grid or safeguard their continued operation in the event of a national emergency
Today, we have in an energy grid piecemealed together, a patchwork of over 500 separate grids that almost routinely cause regional power outages. Are we prepared for the eventuality that our whole power supply going dark? Not in the slightest. Another factor is that since 1990 our power grid's capacity has failed to increase to handle the growing populations energy requirements. Instead of using appropriated funds that were used to connect those grids the money should have been used to fully upgrade the existing separate grids to keep pace with our ever increasing energy needs and put in place those safeguards. You'd think we should have grown our power infrastructure to match our growing population. That would have been a smarter investment in tomorrow. As it stands now, the system will collapse under its own weight! And that's why all it took was a tree in Ohio to knock out power to 10 million people in the US and Canada.
What we have seen in so many instances when the power is knocked out other necessities like water coming into homes and businesses which are also connected to our power grid fail. Even if homes use private septic systems and wells their water is all tied into the existing national power grid structure they too will fail. When hurricane Sandy decimated New Jersey the power was off in places that managed to escape the wrath of that storm had severe power outages that lasted for days on end just because of national energy grid that is completely unprepared and insufficient to handle major storms or any other contingency that would cause a local power outage.
But, weather isn't the only natural disaster that could knock out your power. What is most concerning is the fact that any moment an EMP or electro magnetic pulse could knock out power is a flash. Natural causes are lightening and even a solar flare like the one that happened just last year that just missed the planet. If that solar flare came just a little closer to earth the whole planet would have lost power. A massive disaster was narrowly missed. Are we prepared? Again, not in the slightest. A strong enough EMP could instantly disable every unprotected electrical device. A normal grid failure from an EMP could wipe out power to more that half of the United States. It would also cause hundreds of commercial airlines flying across the US to fall like rocks from the sky, cars would stop dead in their tracks and communications would all be shut down. Just think for a moment of what this could really mean, instant panic on a national or global scale would ensue.
In todays hostile world Nations or rouge terrorists could also launch an EMP attack on America. EMP's can be completely man-made. A nuclear weapon creates it's own electromagnetic pulse. This power could be harnessed to cause widespread power grid destruction beyond the nuclear explosion itself. There's also a high-altitude version of this, designed to multiply the damage inflicted. It's called an HEMP. And it causes widespread destruction by using the Earth's magnetic field.
If the United States ever experienced an EMP blackout either natural or man induced it would take over 10 years before life as we know it could be fully restored. Some places could be without power for months or years. With Chronic energy shortages people everywhere will be thrust back into the caves of the Neanderthal. The United States first became aware of the threat of EMPs during its 1962 nuclear weapons test called Starfish Prime. Since then, several commissions and well-respected organizations and panels such as the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP attack, the Quadrennial Defense Review Panel, NASA, the National Academy of Science, and the U.S. National Laboratories have warned of the danger of EMPs from nuclear weapons, space storms and solar flares. Despite these warnings, to date the Department of Homeland Security which is charged with preparing for, mitigating, and recovering from major catastrophes, does not have a National Recovery Plan or a National Planning Scenario for an EMP event or any other disaster that would cause a massive regional or national blackout. State and local governments are also totally unprepared. The only state to really take EMP's seriously is Maine which has taken the first step to mitigate its vulnerability. Given the enormous damage and panic that an EMP or any other prolonged disruption in our supply and delivery of electricity would cause it is well past time for the United States to fully refit our energy grid to be fully capable of withstanding any natural or man induced catastrophe that would cause our nation to go into a blackout.
There are ways to become more prepared for any eventuality that would cause a major Blackout in any region of the country. We have to first determine which countries or organizations have the capabilities or can acquire the means to undertake an EMP attack. We have to understand where potential EMP attacks could come from and produce intelligence estimates on nations or rouge groups that are pursuing or already have weapons capable of producing an EMP. This information is critical in the prevention of any attack. We have to vastly improve and fully fund our defense budget and that includes our missile defense program. Ballistic missiles are one of the most effective means of delivering an EMP. Our missile defense should be advanced to address this threat as well as any potential object hurling in from space like a rouge comet or asteroid. The Star Wars program that was first proposed under President Reagan has to be completed not only for our safety but for the global community as well.
We have to have in place a national recovery plan for any long term power outages regardless of the cause. The catastrophic cost of the aftermath of an EMP event means that it deserves careful preparation, planning and the foresight with the means to intervene before hand. Such plans should take the advice of the EMP commission and employ a risk-based approach that recognizes that certain infrastructure particularly electrical and telecommunication systems upon which all other sectors depend is most important in preparing for and recovering from an EMP event. Additionally, DHS should have a National Planning Scenario dedicated to EMP so that local, state, and federal authorities understand what would happen in an EMP event and what their respective responsibilities are in terms of both response and recovery.
The United States must have in place the protection necessary for our cyber infrastructure. Cyber infrastructure is completely and uniquely dependent on the power grid, which makes it particularly vulnerable to an EMP. The United States has to implement ways to protect and shield the circuit boards of critical networks. We have to put in place the critical infrastructure to prevent any disruption in our cyber networks. In this way open communications will avoid any disruptions. All this requires the up front capital to make it all happen. But, considering the enormity of the costs in the wake of a major disaster or an EMP attack the money spent before hand is infinitesimal compared to the amount necessary in the aftermath.