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Friday, September 5, 2014

Grid threats



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 The basic design and thinking behind it is outdated.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.

-Sixbears

12 comments:

  1. Perhaps our leaders and the 1% feel that the remaining 9% would be enuff to maintain them in comfort.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think that 10% would include as much of the current 1% as they'd like. We are all in this together, believe it or not.

      Delete
  2. Therein lies the problem.... "it just makes sense". Can't have too much of that common sense be spreading around, why that leads to things like freedom and independent thought....

    No, we'll not make changes and we'll keep doing things the same old way. Surely we'll get some different results sooner or later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. . . . because that's not a sign of insanity.

      There have been wake up calls in the past where humanity has actually waken up. Hope this is one of them.

      Delete
  3. "...it just makes sense." Not a likely tune to be sung by shareholders of public generation and distribution companies. Frankly, there are damned few privately held power companies likely to sing the refrain either, unless you can find some way of turning a helacious profit from it. And how many municipal power companies are in a position, independant of voters' influence, to unilaterally expend sufficient funds to begin to make a dent locally?

    I despair for my grandchildrens' future. Even mine is starting to look pretty shakey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All utilities have public oversight. Something could be done if the will was there.

      A highly distributed electrical system would put many of the current power companies out of business. Of course, the buggy whip investors didn't make out all that well either.

      Delete
  4. I certainly agree and have said so many times myself that the grid is easy to take down and would be far worse the half a dozen nukes used on us. I can't see other countries having a food surplus large enough to feed our entire nation let alone our military having enough planes to fly it in before most starve to death. The first flight may be 30 days away.
    Six, you're right, being able to feed, shelter and protect oneself it will be priority one.

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    Replies
    1. It would be one heck of a mess, some places worse than others. However, it would be the end of normal just about everywhere.

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  5. The grid will disappear when the government passes laws that force us to pay to make our own power.

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    Replies
    1. Power companies would love to see more of those laws.

      Delete
  6. You really do not know what you are talking about when it come to power generation and distribution

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  7. I've always thought that small thorium reactors were the ideal ticket to get away from the current uranium reactors and much safer as they do not even require an operator and can be buried in the ground. There low level radioactivity minimizes accidents and there are hundreds of years of thorium available. They can be built to provide for towns and cities and distributed to the location where needed. They could even be interlinked if necessary to provide backup to each other. And ;they could provide electricity to power diesel-electric locomotives instead of carbon fuels.

    ReplyDelete