Today everything in America depends on the Electrical “GRID.” Without the Grid we would have no food, water, heat, air conditioning nor anything else that is essential to human existence in this country.
But, the Grid is extremely fragile. Periodically parts of the Grid go down leaving lots of people without their essential needs. And, there is no doubt that the entire system is vulnerable to massive malfunctions at any time.
What is the major problem with the Grid? Let’s look at how it was built. We will compare it to the home of a guy named “Joe.” Sometime around 125 to 150 years ago Joe bought a piece of land. Land was not expensive in those years. But, building materials were scarce. He cobbled up some logs and boards and whatever else he could find and built for himself a little shack. This shack was small and all inclusive. It didn’t even have a foundation. Electricity was not available to him, but, never having had it, he didn’t miss it.
He had no plumbing. For water, he either dipped it from a nearby creek or dug a well. He carried it into the house by the bucket. He had a “Path” instead of a “Bath!” He had a fireplace with which he cooked his food and heated his home. Everything he owned was in his little one room hovel. But, living alone, he was comfortable and content.
Then, he met Mary! He fell in love. He courted her and soon persuaded her to become Mrs. Joe. After their marriage, Mary moved into the little hut with him. But, she was not happy! “This place is too small!” “I don’t like having everything in one room!” “I want a bed room and a separate kitchen, etc. etc.”
So, Joe cobbled together some old used building material and added a room to the house so that Mary could have a bedroom. Later he found some old boards that were available cheaply and built a kitchen. The house was growing but each new part was a little different from the others.
Then “Joey” entered the family. “I want another bedroom for the baby!” So, again Joe had to build onto his growing house. When “Little Mary” came along, another bedroom was desired for her. And, so it went. Down through the years the house was built and rebuilt.
Then the day of indoor plumbing arrived. And, you know what Mary wanted! And, she wanted it NOW! So, out came the hammer and saw and another room was added. This also required him to cut openings into the growing home to run water pipes and take the waste water away.
And, when the day to electrify the house arrived, Mary wanted that, too. Naturally! But, it was going to be difficult to add electricity to an existing building, so, Joe ran the wires along the outside of the house and drilled holes through the walls for outlets and fixtures. (There are a number of houses around here where you can see the wires on the outside even today).
But, the basis for the entire structure was the old “Hut” that Joe started with. And, because the “house” was built by dribs and dabs, it never was a quality built structure. It was supported by (or propped up by) whatever building materials Joe could find when he needed to expand. And, even though that old house still stands today, it is a rickety old fire trap that is basically a heap of wood and or whatever.
America’s Grid was built the same way. When electricity first became available in the latter 1800s and early 1900s, there were hundreds of small power companies, many of which operated on a shoe string. A lot of electrical systems were thrown together to serve a small segment of the population. As the years passed the Big “Fish” began to eat the little “Fish.” This led to both good and bad systems merging. One thing that these new major companies started to do was to interlock their systems. This was good because; if there were shortages in one part of the country, surplus electricity could be shunted to that area from other systems. This made it easier to keep all electricity customers happy.
But, it also meant that a minor malfunction of a certain relay or other gizmo, could shut down a large part of the system, cutting power to millions of people (Exactly that happened in the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada in 1968 when one remote relay in Ohio was tripped inadvertently throwing millions of Americans and Canadians into darkness).
Today, America is at risk of an EMP attack. One small nuclear bomb set off 100 miles or so above America could destroy the entire Grid. It could also destroy electrical systems in cars, planes, ships or trains. Such an attack would paralyze this country and it would take years to rebuild. Also there is a possibility that a solar flare from the sun could create the same type of damage. Because of the vast area covered by the Grid, it is also vulnerable to vandalism and terrorist attacks. The cost to bring the Grid into the twenty first century would be billions of dollars and that ain’t gonna happen! So, the possibility of losing the entire grid is one more possibility that we have to prepare for. The day may come when we will have to survive without electricity for a day, week, month, or, perhaps for years. Can you do it?