Collapsing civilization? Electrical power in North America

Anyone who has perused a survivalist or prepper website or gotten emails from all those people that sell goods and services for that market has probably seen multiple stories and concerns about the vulnerability of the electrical power supply in the Fifty States – or indeed, most of North America. The govgoons (DHS especially) have steadily upped their warnings about sabotage (which they usually call “terrorism”). Those concerned about nuclear attack speak out about electromagnetic pulses from high-altitude nuclear bursts. Others talk about the general instability of the system, which sorta grew, and didn’t have a whole lot of a master plan to develop it.

What we have is a system that was not really designed, but grew like Topsy. We started out with local power plants, and then as more and more areas were electrified, engineers came up with ways to link them all together into grids. Since small, local powerplants were viewed as inefficient, they were replaced. Bigger and bigger central, large and then huge powerplants replaced the small ones, and the grid was expanded, with various grids joined to each other. With each power outage and blackout, such as the famous Northeastern one in 1965 (30 million people), engineers came up with more and more ways to connect more and more areas to more and more (bigger and bigger) power stations. Even so, more and more problems were caused by power outages, as you can read here.

And despite trying to make the power systems more robust, the effect has been to create new, sometimes worse, vulnerabilities.

And while no doubt there have been many blackouts prevented, those that do happen are still catastrophic. A big part of this is the growing government regulation, as “interstate commerce” was used as the excuse to control electrical production and distribution of the power.

The importance and the intricacy of the power system has created a situation where the network, the grid, is “too big to fail,” but its very size and demands make it increasingly likely TO fail. Today, 130 million different customers are supplied electrical power over 450,000 miles of power lines.

Actually, there is not a single national grid. Obviously Alaska and Hawaii have their own, as do the various overseas territories. For the Contiguous (Forty-eight) States, there are three Interconnections: Western, Eastern, and Texas. The Western and Eastern extend on up into Canada. But Quebec, like Texas, is a separate Interconnection.

These are each individually run by private organizations who work together in the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, (NERC), a non-profit company. These are NOT run by government or government agencies, although the NERC and the Interconnections do supply power to government owned transmission and service organizations. (Examples include many municipal electrical utilities owned by their cities; Nebraska Public Power Districts, etc.).

Still, the government DOES tightly regulate these private organizations. And also “helps manage” power provided by government-owned generation systems. (Again, there are many of those. Examples include: Tennessee Valley Authority, Western Area Power Administration (which manages power produced by federal hydroelectric stations at dams). And government supposedly protects the network against attack (external and internal).

Indeed, government has been one of the major pushes to consolidate, connect, and merge more and more. To centralize not just ownership but operation of the electrical grid. The more essential electrical power has become, the more government lusts to control it more and more. Which in turn makes it both more vulnerable to natural disasters, accidents, and attack.

There are many methods which can be used to attack the power grid. Many are aware of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which is generated by a nuclear explosion. There are many other ways, including hacking systems to intentional unbalance the system. This currently has the greatest attention and effort to identify, quantify, and prevent it.

According to many, it is actually happening now. Although it isn’t recently in the news, there were claims and counterclaims back in June of 2019 that Russian hackers were targeting the US grid and that US “cyber-soldiers” were attacking the Russian electrical grid. Wired reported that the US grid is constantly being probed by “Triton” hackers in Russia. It is claimed that there are tens of thousands of cyber attacks around the world every day.

(Kaspersky even has a fascinating map on line showing these attacks.)

Not all of these are on the grid and power stations, of course. But supposedly many are. And the more automated and computerized the system becomes, the more vulnerable to hacking it becomes. And the cycle continues, as the automatic systems are necessary to balance and prevent the system shutting down.

Then we add both winter storms – blizzards and ice storms – and summer storms (hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, especially). Things get really dicey.

And then of course, there is old-fashioned physical sabotage, from shooting up transformers and key parts of substations to actually bombing them.

And many of the recommended – and demonstrated – actions to prevent such problems are exactly the actions that government and environists do NOT want to be done.

Among these are keeping smaller, local power stations up, even if in reserve; making the grid modular to isolate breakdowns; letting more businesses and homeowners produce their own power – in or out of the grid; and similar measures.

All of which take power away from government – especially at the state and federal level. To make matters worse, the vast wind farms and solar firms added to the grid over the last two decades have their own vulnerabilities and are more susceptible to EMP.

Which brings me to the main point: some of these advertisers DO indeed offer solutions which are worth exploring. Small solar banks, even (if you can depend on fuel supplies) gasoline or diesel generating sets, micro-wind turbines and the like CAN be a solution to let you and your business survive. Whether it is a local outage or a nation-wide collapse.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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3 Responses to Collapsing civilization? Electrical power in North America

  1. Pingback: Collapsing civilization? Electrical power in North America – Rational Review News Digest

  2. Darkwing says:

    In my opinion, it is the government that does the fear mongering. This is a way to keep the public in line. Remember: “Fear is the only way to control the people”


    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Absolutely, government is the chief of fearmongers. But too many private businesses – especially those with government-mandated monopolies – do their share. As do opportunists who are more concerned about making a buck than telling the truth.


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