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When The Grid Breaks

She's not gonna blow. She already has.

What’s your reaction when the lights go out?

Me, the first thing I do is spew words my mother doesn’t know I know.

If it’s a nice day or night, after I stop cursing the gods and the utility company for this monumental inconvenience, I don’t worry about it. See whether my laptop and Kindle have juice. If they don’t — not an uncommon occurrence — I’ll sit by the window and read, if it’s daylight. At night, I just go to sleep.

Downed lines and transformers.

It also depends on the season. Winter is the same, except with blankets. Summer, I go to my truck and hang out in air conditioned comfort. Can’t stay in the house. Without air, the place transmogrifies into a blast furnace. The cellar is cool, but no. No. I’d have to be totally and completely desperate before I go down there. 

In horrendous weather, like a hurricane or a monster snowstorm? Yeah, then I worry. Is it a downed line or the neighborhood transformer? If that’s all it is, okay.

But if it’s the grid…

The world stops. The house is dead quiet, no sound but the howling wind. Everything else is dead quiet, too. Hospitals. The airport. The trains, if you’re in the Mid-Atlantic up to the Northeast. Your cell phone. The landline might work if it’s got a battery backup. Water and sewage treatment plants. Farther away, the oil and gas pipelines and processing facilities. Everything that uses electricity to run goes kaput. Got solar? If you were Promethean enough to install solar batteries big enough to power your home, whether at full or reduced load, you’ve got it made.

The rest of us will be partying like it’s 1699.

Party like it’s 1699.

Disasters that take out the grid are happening more often. Climate change. The number and severity of weather events are increasing. More hurricanes in the Southeast. Make that the entire East Coast, all the way up to New York and Connecticut. Droughts out West. Remember 2018, when it seemed the entire West Coast was on fire? Now that I think about it, it was. California, Oregon, and Washington. The Central U.S. doesn’t get off, either. They get derechos, a line of thunderstorms that produces a literal wall of wind and rain. Like getting flattened by a hurricane, except you’re in Iowa. If the grid goes down, you can be without power for weeks.

You remember the Great Texas Freeze of 2021, right? A series of winter storms took down the grid and some 10 million people lost power. When the grid overloaded and power was cut to keep it from failing, generating plants — natural gas, coal — which hadn’t been winterized to withstand that kind of dismal cold, froze. Pipelines, too. Couldn’t get gas to the plants anyway, even if they’d been online. The upshot? If you had electric heat, you froze. If you had gas heat, you froze. There’s no official tally, but it’s estimated between 246 to 702 people died behind the big freeze. The main causes were hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and medical emergencies exacerbated because no electricity. And to think Gov. Abbott blamed it all on renewable energy! What an ass. Texas gets only 23 percent of its energy from renewables. A mere blip.

But here’s the kicker. Something very similar happened in 2011, and the official report advised the state to upgrade its electric generating infrastructure to mitigate or prevent a disaster if it happened again. Texas didn’t do jack. Of course.

The fan has already been shat upon.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell I’m ranting about the national power grid. Well, it’s this. Like Texas (which has it’s own grid — hey, it’s Texas) it’s no secret that the national grid is vulnerable. The feds are well aware of it, and so are the states. Yet nobody’s doing anything about it. The various federal agencies — the DOE, Homeland Security, FERC, and FEMA, to name a few — have no coordinated response structure in place, and you can be sure the states don’t, either. If the grid goes down, the costs are enormous. The price tag of the Texas freeze is estimated to be $195 billion. As climate change worsens the weather, grid failures are going to be more common nationwide and it’s going to be freakin’ fugly. Deaths. Bankruptcies. Royally pissed off insurance companies. And you can best believe it’ll be us commoners who end up paying for it, one way or another.

I read the GAO reports. They’ve done the research. Surveys, interviewing people on the ground, inspections. No coordination. No lessons learned from past failures. Just a great, big, honkin’ clusterfuck. It’s really fucking annoying that the reports are written in government-speak (with lots and lots of acronyms). The kind of bone-dry shit that hides the magnitude of the problem. And nobody’s doing a goddamned thing to prevent it. It’s madden–

What?

Of course I read this stuff! It’s vital that we the people stay inform —

What’s that? What do I need? I don’t —

Oh.

I need to get a life.

Maybe.

But I think I’ll solarize my house instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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