Last Friday, President Biden told a Rose Garden assembly of senior administration officials and from Congress that his $1.9 trillion "American Rescue Plan," needed "fastidious oversite to make sure there is no waste or fraud and that the law does what it is designed to do . . . Details matter. Because we have to continue to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver."
And I would argue that there is no more important goal than to protect all Americans from natural and manmade threats to our electric power grid.
Gabriel T. Rubin’s March 6, 2021 Wall Street Journal article reported the legislation then included $350-billion for state and local authorities, with $10-billion for infrastructure. And various reports indicate additional major funding will be included in follow-on legislation, much focused on infrastructure.
A significant percentage of these "infrastructure" funds could—and I argue should—be used to protect the nation’s electric power grid.
A few weeks ago, unanticipated cold weather shut down most of the Texas grid for a few days, illustrating a very consequential vulnerability to most Texans. Moreover, their experience should be a lesson for all Americans to be prepared for all weather conditions that can take down their electric power grid.
Texans, led by State Senator Bob Hall, are taking significant legislative initiatives to protect their electric grid—and other state legislatures should consider their efforts as a model for them to follow.
Note that the worst imaginable weather condition would be the "space weather" from the Sun, associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME) that envelops the earth—sometimes disrupting satellite communications and disrupting air traffic.
If large enough, it can interact with the earth’s geomagnetic field, causing a major Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) that disrupts and/or damages our electric power grid.
John Kappenman provided an interesting YouTube presentation on the 1989 GMD events that caused a nine-hour outage of Hydro-Québec's electricity transmission system and significant consequences especially in Québec and the northeastern United States. Other effects interfered with international communications—including with our military systems, then at the height of the Cold War.
A much larger GMD occurred in May 1921, damaging telegraph communication systems—happily before our major reliance on electricity and while we were still supported by a rural society producing most of our food and other necessities, so the consequences were important but not significantly life-threatening.
The largest on-record GMD was the 1859 Carrington Event, which enveloped the entire earth. Were it to happen today, it would undoubtedly lead to a major global loss of electricity due to electric power grid vulnerabilities. Major disruptions in commerce and essential life support would lead to dire consequences for all societies dependent on electricity and "just-in-time" delivery of essential life-support for most citizens.
Estimates are that the chances for such an event are about 12-percent a decade. Given this reality, consider the recent 2-minute YouTube discussion of the perceptions of a Boulder, Colorado National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist, who anticipates major solar events this summer. Whether his is correct or not, it seems we are overdue for a repeat of Carrington Event class GMD.
The Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, or the Congressional EMP Commission, has warned for well over a decade that we are unprepared for such a catastrophic event—and we have done little or nothing to protect our electric power grid against it.
The Commission has warned that up to 90-percent of all Americans could perish due to starvation, disease and societal collapse. Dealing with such an event would make the events in Texas look like child’s play.
Furthermore, it should be understood that manmade EMP threats are more consequential that natural EMP threats. If the grid is protected against manmade EMP threats, it will be protected against natural EMP threats—but the converse is not true, as discussed by the reports of the Congressional EMP Commission.
Thus, top priority should be given to protecting the grid against the manmade EMP threat that is posed by the Military Doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
Moreover, we have shown in a South Carolina Pilot Study that the cost of providing this protection is quite affordable—especially in the context of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion "American Rescue Plan." The impedance blocking needed remediation has been political and bureaucratic. More to be discussed in a future article.
Now is the time to take needed steps to rescue the American people from this important truly existential threat. By doing so, the Washington "powers that be" can meet President Biden’s challenge "to build confidence in the American people that their government can function for them and deliver."
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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