Posts Tagged With: electrical grid

ELECTRICITY JUNKIES

These days, when most of us arise in the morning, we’re likely to scan our I-Phones for any texts, or missed calls we may have received while we were sleeping. Who knows, maybe we’ve won a giant jackpot somewhere in the world during during the previous night. Or someone is texting to inform us that our long lost Uncle Willy, that we didn’t even know we had, just died and left us a fortune in his will. Then, still using our I-Phones or perhaps a laptop or tablet, we’ll next check our e-mail to see if such fortuitous news might be lurking there. Perhaps we might turn on the TV to keep up with the latest events both audibly and visually. We might also get out our ATM card because we plan to stop by the bank to obtain some cash. Or our credit card if we’re headed for the department store or the gas station. (I’m an exception to all this, since I generally read the newspaper when having breakfast.) All of this, of course, totally depends on the free flow and availability of an unseen product called electricity. Something that didn’t exist when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, or when the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

But what would happen if the silent, unseen current of electricity that we all take for granted, suddenly vanished like the morning mist. Devastation is what would happen. Devastation beyond beyond all imagination. Planes would fall out of the sky and massive traffic jams and accidents would occur. Your ATM cards would be useless at banks no matter what your account balances were. Credit cards would also be worthless. Food inventories in stores would be ransacked by roving mobs until the shelves were empty. All this, and much, much more would occur within an hour should our electrical grid be destroyed. Unfortunately, such an event is well within the realm of possibility. Welcome to the world of EMP, or electromagnetic pulse.

A sudden burst of EMP could create an apocalyptic nightmare, which would destroy, in moments, the electronic gadgetry that civilization increasingly depends on. Here’s the scenario.  A U.S. enemy, like say North Korea or Iran, or a terrorist organization that could its hands on a nuclear weapon, could launch a nuclear missile at high altitude above the U.S. The explosion of such a weapon would release a burst of radiation that would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and deliver a powerful burst of electrical current that could totally devastate our grid and all electrical appliances. And don’t think that terrorist groups around the world are not working around the clock to secure such a weapon and bring this event to fruition.

A recent report by a Congressional EMP Commission stated that: “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear warheads may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may gain the greatest political utility from one or a few such weapons… in an EMP attack.” And by the way, in 2012, North Korea successfully orbited a satellite, the KSM-3, compatible with the size and weight of a small nuclear warhead. The Commission further stated that within one year of a nation-wide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown. One other thing. Even if an enemy does not strike in such fashion, the possibility exists that a catastrophic EMP could occur naturally, triggered by a severe solar flare.

Congress, in reaction to the EMP Commission’s findings, did introduce legislation in 2013, that would initiate actions that could  possibly shield our electrical grid from EMP attacks. The legislation, thus far, has gone nowhere. After all, enacting such legislation would require a spirit of cooperation, instead of the dysfunction and polarization that Congress is so well noted for. Meanwhile the vulnerability is there, and the saddest part is that most people are totally clueless that it exists in the first place. It’s far more important to keep up with the Kardashians than to worry about things like EMP attacks.

Like the assault on our ecology, electrical grid vulnerability falls into the category of ignoring the steady ecological degradation of our planet’s resources, such as the disappearance of phytoplankton from our oceans, which provide a large chunk of the Earth’s oxygen. (Most people have probably never even heard of phytoplankton.) Or the steady disappearance of our rain forests which give forth most of the rest of the planet’s oxygen. They’re only important if you decide to inhale all the time. But there is one difference, however. While ecological degradation won’t be seriously felt for perhaps decades, a successful EMP attack will impact us within minutes. So while we can pass along all the ecological damage that’s occurring on to our children or grandkids, we can’t do that in the case of EMP. In the meantime, we’ve all become electrical junkies, depending more and more each day on electronic gadgetry and appliances in the functioning of this country.

I guess Ben Franklin never fully appreciated the impact electricity would have on our lives, when the kite he was flying was supposedly struck by lightening. That event, however, would truly change the world as it had existed for tens of thousands of years.

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HUMANS BEHAVING BADLY

Around the time that Jesus walked the Earth, the Roman Empire was in the process of reaching its zenith in power and control. Having conquered almost all of Europe and North Africa, virtually everyone outside of Asia found themselves under Roman domination. Or under the most advanced and enlightened civilization that ever existed on this planet, if one viewed it from a Roman perspective. But many people chaffed under this Roman rule and started to fight back. They were known as the Huns, the Vandals the Goths and other assorted barbarians. These groups knew that the Roman army was far too powerful to challenge head on, so instead they resorted to acts of barbarism, such as attacking villages at the fringes of Roman occupation; and murdering every occupant while burning these villages to the ground. Over a period of centuries, these attacks began to erode Rome’s military strength, and the barbarians started making steady headway as it just became too costly for Rome to continually defend the territories it had previously conquered. Finally, as we all know, the barbarians broke through the gates of Rome, and destroyed the entire Roman Empire. Europe was then plunged into what is known as the dark ages, as all the societal and technological advances that Rome had accomplished were washed away into a sea of ignorance and barbarism. Europe languished in  this black sea of primitivism, until finally the Reformation which started in the 16th or 17th century, began to take hold, and civilization began to advance back to the point of where the Roman Empire had left it.

Today we have a new set of barbarians chipping away at the gates of the American Empire (if you will);  only now we call them terrorists. But the goals and methods of today’s terrorists are remarkably similar to those of the barbarians that destroyed Rome. This came to light in a story that was mind- numbingly under reported by the media until very recently, but is deeply troubling in its implications. Back in April 2013, an attack was made by unknown individuals, on an electrical substation in San Jose, CA. In the dark of night, these individuals cut the fiber-optic transmission lines in the ground that transmitted the substation’s electrical output. They then set themselves up in sniper positions and began firing at the substation equipment with military grade rifles. The firing went on for nearly 20 minutes, and destroyed virtually all of the electrical equipment. More than 100 shots were fired. Then these individuals slipped away in the blackness, undetected. In all, the entire episode took 52 minutes, during which the police, or any other law enforcement officials were completely absent.

This event is so disturbing, on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the attackers were not some college kids out for a midnight prank. The FBI agrees that these people were highly trained in military operations and sabotage. Speaking of the FBI, their investigation into this matter has turned up zero results, thus far. No clues, nothing. The assault destroyed 17 transformers which took nearly a month to repair and replace. Electric Co. officials battled to keep the lights on by rerouting power from nearby substations. But the most disturbing aspect is what if this was just a trial run.

It’s no secret that America’s achilles heel is its electrical grid. A similar coordinated and simultaneous attack  on a relatively small number of electric substations across the country could bring the U.S. to its knees within minutes. The barbarians wouldn’t have to wait for centuries. Without electricity, all business and commercial activity would come to a screeching halt. All planes would be grounded. Try getting cash out of your local ATM when the power is cut off. California law makers and power officials flat out consider this sniper attack on the San Jose substation to be an act of terrorism. It doesn’t have to be Al-Qaida; local, homegrown terrorists will do just as well. The Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has stated that “it was the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.” He further said that the lack of fingerprints on the shell casings left at the scene, indicated how well prepared the snipers had been.

Almost as disturbing as the incident itself, was the lack of coverage by the media. There was no reporting whatsoever, until the Wall Street Journal broke this story last week, 9 months after the fact. Nothing from Fox News for example. They were still too busy bashing and demonizing ObamaCare to allot time for coverage of an act of domestic terrorism. Nothing from the New York Times or Washington Post. Now the major media outlets have finally woken up to just how huge a story it is, and have begun giving it extensive exposure.

Speaking of ObamaCare, I had a discussion recently with a friend who considered it a disaster, and in his mind, a primary reason that I should become a Republican. I was going to tell him that the GOP’s agenda of tax breaks for the rich, trickle-down economics, and slashing government assistance to the poor, sick and elderly was not exactly my cup of tea. Nor was the GOP’s social agenda of anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gun control. Instead, though, I decided to be more flippant. I told him that the image etched into my brain from the 2008 campaign, of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter with a high powered rifle, and calling it sport, was still more than my body could cope with. Another example of humans behaving badly. Anyway our conversation sort of petered with that remark.

Anyway if the unpopularity of ObamaCare does cause the Democrats to lose control of both the House and Senate this year, as my friend predicted, think of all the fun that will ensue. You will have governmental gridlock, dysfunction, polarization, and ineffectiveness on steroids.

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