Friday, September 5, 2014
Lately there's a rising number of articles about the vulnerability of the United States power grid. Last year the talk was all about CMEs and EMPs -big electrical jolts that could take down the system. Now most of the talk is about the grid's susceptibility to terrorist attack.
The grind could be actively taken down by a hacking attack, physical assault, or a combination of the two. There's even talk that ISIS wants to attack the grid. There are estimates that if the grid went down 90% of Americans could die.
Now one would think that with a danger that significant extraordinary efforts would be undertaken to mitigate the threat. That does not appear the case. Many power systems lack even rudimentary protection against hackers. Critical physical infrastructure is so poorly protected they can't even stop squirrels from accidentally knocking power off line.
Something weird is going on. Are the threats real or not? If the danger is real, why isn't more being done? The US is willing to invade counties over perceived threats, why isn't grid protection as important as war? Is the threat bogus? Is fear being used to manipulate us?
Who knows the answers? My guess is that we can expect a localized attack -something big enough to get our attention, but not big enough to do significant harm. Once that happens there will be an over reaction and panic. Of course, it's just a guess.
On a personal level it's not just a matter of having an alternative power system. That's fine, but only part of the solution. A major grid down situation would shut down food distribution, shut down water and sewage plants, and overwhelm emergency services. Being able to feed, shelter, and protect oneself will be more important than being able to charge a cell phone.
The real solution to the grid problem is to get rid of it. The basic design and thinking behind it is outdated. Much of the hardware is old and failures are common enough during normal times. The smart thing is to generate power where it's needed, preferably using renewables. It would be much more efficient and nearly impossible to take down with anything less than a nuke. If the threat is real, that's what our response should be.
Come to think of it, it's something we should do anyway as it just makes sense.