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Ron Patton | July 24, 2019
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Yesterday I woke up late and rushed to the bathroom to take a shower. I pulled back the shower curtain and turned the spigot and nothing.

There was no water. I said to my wife, “Where is the water?” She handed me some of the water we had in saved in jugs and said this is it until 4:00 PM. I asked why and she told me that road crews were digging near the water mains and so the water needed to be turned off until 4.

Well, needless to say, I had to use some of our stored water to wash my hands and face. It was just a little weird having to dip into our water reserves.

I realized that something this small, this inconvenience forced me into delving into our water stores for emergencies.

We get so dependent on things working when we go about our day and waking up to no water was a little unnerving but of course, I was prepared.

I remember that last time something like this happened was when we had a power failure in the middle of the night. I was awakened because I couldn’t breathe and then realized that my C-Pap machine had shut off and having a mask on your face not supplying you with air, is certainly uncomfortable.

We all know our ancestors dealt with roughing it in the past. They had to struggle before they found that time where conveniences could be had. With all of the power and the geniuses who were able to connect us all, we won over the perils of the primitive life.

Looking through news clips online, I am noticing that necessities like water and power are somehow being rationed in some places and other places end up without power – and the reason simply is because of politicians with “green deal” aspirations.

The pace of the American lifestyle is rigorous and we have actually made our lives more complicated with technology. We also have a plethora of creature comforts that need electricity to keep them running proficiently.

Infrastructure is everything you don’t think about. The roads you drive on. The rigs and refineries that turn fossil fuel into the gas that makes your car go. The electricity that powers the streetlights and lamps that guide your way. All these technologies vanish into the oblivion of normalcy.

Until they break. Then everyone notices.

Nearly two decades of the 21st century have gone by and the things we take for granted have multiplied way beyond the ability of any of us to understand in a lifetime. The things around us, the man-made inventions we provide ourselves with, are like a vast network each part of which is interdependent with all the others. Change anything in that network, and the effects spread like ripples in a pond. And all the things in that network have become so specialized that only the people involved in making them understand them.

We all live in cities and small towns that have technologies and innovations that we take for granted – most of us know that they work for us, but we don’t know how they work for us. Without these innovations and technologies, our houses become more like boxes. Our lives revolve around supplies and technologies that magically come to life from the outside.

The entire world is a massive structured box that relies on power supplies from the outside. Without those supplies, the entire massive Box and the teeming millions it encloses would die.

The pace of our lives in our particular box is set by the pace of the technology that serves it.

If the power is cut from our urban sprawl – our little box – namely the place we occupy becomes useless. In the bigger picture what is outside the box can be hostile.

It has been reported countless times America is unraveling and many people are curious as to when we will reach our breaking point.

There are various triggers that I am sure can be used to bring us to that point –and one of the major ways to actually create a strategy of tension is to limit resources, especially electrical power.

Believe it or not, areas that want to practice “New Green Deal” policies are suggesting just that. They are suggesting that they pull the plug on customers in order to conserve energy on windy days and maybe even hot days.

Following the devastating California wildfires of 2018, Pacific Gas and Electric announced that they would be will cutting power this summer to electricity customers on high-wind days to avoid future wildfires.

Many complained that it was already being done in some areas most of which lasted days.

California’s climate change policies are driving these decisions.

Plunging millions of residents into darkness on purpose isn’t a good long term solution. But the serious question is “why?”

While the plan may potentially solve one problem for PG&E, it obviously creates another with residents, businesses, hospitals, and government facing blackouts. The last California Governor who authorized rolling blackouts was recalled by the voters.

After he signed off on $42 billion in vastly overvalued energy contracts in 2001, Gov. Gray Davis instituted random, rolling blackouts that created chaos and severe economic damage in many parts of the state.

It’s called the Public Safety Power Shutoff program, developed in cooperation with state utility regulators at the Public Utilities Commission. The utility shuts electricity on transmission and distribution lines in fire-prone areas during high fire-risk moments. The program isn’t new. But the practice is about to become more common.

It’s less likely to affect urban areas than rural areas. But PG&E officials have warned they could shut power for urban areas as well, given that major transmission lines that provide urban power travel through fire-prone rural areas.

Meanwhile, New York is also seeing its share of power failures due to intentional shut down of the grid by Con Edison.

Con Edison sees this as a necessity due to demand. Last weekend’s heatwave did not help matters.

Throughout the weekend, officials at Con Edison had assured its customers that the power grid would hold. Then, around 7 p.m. on Sunday, as demand for electricity rose, the utility’s system was stressed like it had rarely been on a weekend.

The load on the grid was setting a weekend record: 12,063 megawatts.

The biggest trouble, officials said, came in southeast Brooklyn, in and near the neighborhoods of Canarsie, Mill Basin, Flatlands and Bergen Beach.

Three of the 19 cables that snake out of a substation to deliver electricity to homes and businesses in the area had failed. Then, in a span of about 10 minutes, a fourth and then a fifth failed.

That left 14 cables to handle a heavier-than-normal electricity flow, leaving the system’s operators worried that the entire network in the area could fail.

Con Edison officials decided they had no choice but to take the drastic step of temporarily cutting off power to about 33,000 customers.

According to Con Edison officials, if the utility had not shut off some electricity, the power failure could have stretched over a wider geographic area and lasted longer.

Sunday’s power failure marked the second weekend in a row that parts of the city had been plunged into darkness, amplifying New Yorkers’ indignation.

The service disruption came at the end of the city’s first heat wave of the year, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s for three days in a row. Like much of the country, the New York region was under an extreme heat advisory, as a so-called heat dome spread from the central United States toward the Great Lakes and the East Coast.

Also massive power failures occurred in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, where severe storms and fierce winds brought down power lines.

In southeast Michigan, where temperatures also rose above 90 degrees over the weekend, around 600,000 customers of DTE Energy lost electricity.

The weekend before, equipment failure unexpectedly left a swath of Manhattan in darkness on another warm evening. More than 70,000 customers were without electricity for more than three hours.

According to reports, the outage was caused by a transformer fire within the affected region.

Exactly 42 years prior, the same thing happened: New York City plunged into darkness, but that time the city was left without power for 25 hours.

It became a defining event. Looting and arson spread through the streets, resulting in 3,800 arrests and millions of dollars worth of damage.

This Summer will officially be the summer of the rolling blackouts – a little something to remind you that deferred maintenance, increased demand, climate-change-driven weather calamities, and even the threat of cyber attack put infrastructure at greater risk.

The technocrats –the biggest threat to power now is of course climate change and the conspiracy is whether or not intentional power shut downs are being implemented to remind us of how we should plan to use alternative power sources because the others are becoming inefficient.

Now, because of severe weather, which scientists attribute to climate change the grid runs the risk of either shutting down because of weather catastrophes –or shut down intentionally to avoid power grid disasters.

Last weekend’s dome of heat increased the electrical load, which put a greater pressure on infrastructure.

Then of course there are superstorms that can cause flooding, fire, and other disasters that might disrupt nodes in the network.

When utility operators designed their equipment years or decades ago, they made assumptions about load, storm surge, and other factors. Those estimates might no longer apply.

At least that is what we have been told – and there is your excuse for the failing power grid.

The utility industries are pushing for transformation, as it were, in infrastructure design, including efforts to make the “edges” of the grid more resilient and redundant.

But those plans are similarly snared in the traps of outdated investment and regulation. Worse still, the same climatological, economic, and political instabilities that help increase the likelihood of electrical-grid collapse might also increase the risk of deliberate attacks to the grid, or reduce the agility of emergency response when accidents like this weekend’s Manhattan transformer fire occur.

What used to take hours or days to restore power – now may take weeks and if the power companies see a possible problem with power load – they can shut down their grids intentionally.

The infrastructure is crumbling, and while the government claims they intend to secure the power grid, most of us know much better. The best the rest of us can do is make sure we are armed with knowledge and the survivalist mentality.

Americans, largely, have put their survival in the hands of the government—but now we see that a lot of our problems are from the authorities themselves who do not have to suffer from the effects of intentional power outages.

A “rolling blackout” occurs when a utility intentionally “shuts off the power to an area, turns it back on, and then shuts the power off in a different area,” with outages in any given area typically lasting 60 to 90 minutes.

It used to be that a utility would do this as a last resort, in order to avoid an even worse situation – a total power blackout.

This makes it distinct from an uncontrolled outage that occurs when power is disrupted without warning, often by weather or accidents.

Power systems are operated close to their stability limits and this increases the probability of cascading outages leading to large-area blackouts.

I wanted to again point out that recently Venezuela was hit by yet another power grid blackout and when most of the power was restored another event caused the power to fail again.

There was no internet connectivity, cell phones were not working and many battery-operated appliances also failed.

Authorities are saying that it was an electromagnetic attack; something that would be like a pinpointed EMP attack.

However much of the power has been restored since the last power outage.

Now, 22 of 23 of the Venezuelan states have some power problems.

There are lessons to be learned in considering the possible consequence of a major electric power grid loss in the United States.

Nearly all of Venezuela’s electric power is generated by hydroelectric power plants — the most resilient sources of electricity and the easiest to restart on their own following a blackout. In contrast, the majority of large less resilient U.S. generation plants require outside power to restart.

Now keep that in mind as Venezuela’s demand had surpassed the load and that after the power failure they were met with painfully slow restoration activities and continuing persistent blackout pockets.

When electric grids collapse, critical equipment can be damaged — such as generator turbines and high voltage transformers. In Venezuela, transformers have been exploding, and there are multiple reports of damage to turbines at their largest hydroelectric dam. This damaged equipment will take months or years to replace.

This applies also to the United States.

When grid equipment is damaged, power restoration is difficult; full power restoration in the near-term may be impossible. We saw this happening in Venezuela and should expect the same or worse if a large blackout were to hit the United States.

Just imagine what it would be like following a major EMP attack that shuts down the entire U.S. grid. Or a naturally-occurring solar storm, which could cause major unprotected grid shutdowns around the world? Or a combined cyber and physical attack? Any of these would be a human catastrophe of unprecedented proportion.

Emergency services, hospitals, and law enforcement officials would become overwhelmed, and mob rule would ensue. The breakdown of society as we know it today would cause wide-scale death and destruction of biblical proportions.

We should contemplate what has happened in Venezuela and take immediate action to prevent an even worse situation for the United States.

Written by Ron Patton

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