Clare Lopez’s excellent discussion of the consequences of the March 7, 2019, cascading collapse of Venezuela’s electric grid
heralded the inevitable collapse of Venezuela’s disastrous socialist experiment and described how Venezuela’s long-suffering population is increasingly desperate for the most basic necessities of life, most especially water.
Given the loss of electricity in 22 of 23 Venezuelan states, she reports that, “people are jostling to fill containers from the filthy, contaminated water coming out of a leaking pipeline along the Guaire River. Those needing regular or urgent hospital or medical care are simply out of luck and dying. Food, what little of it there is, is spoiling. Cell phones don’t work. Vehicles sit where they ran out of gas, while others limp or are pushed into the few remaining gas stations with their own generators. Looting is widespread.”
Clare’s sobering report is complemented by Thomas Popik’s pithy assessment of the implications of the well-reported disastrous blackout, particularly its associated painfully slow restoration activities and continuing persistent blackout pockets. Moreover, he reports that this crisis is far from over and likely will cause further stress on Venezuela’s economic, social, and political systems.
There are lessons to be learned in considering the possible consequence of a major electric power grid loss in the United States. And it is well worth your time to read and contemplate the implications of both these reports.
Clare is an expert on worldwide intelligence matters and Tom is an expert on our vulnerabilities to various threats to our electric power grid from physical, cyber, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. And he has long labored to rectify the dysfunctional nature of the federal government in addressing these vulnerabilities, especially associated with the regulatory regime.
His analysis makes clear that we need to learn lessons from Venezuela before an even worse blackout hits the United States.
Consider the following implications from his analysis that are absolutely clear to me:
- 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.
- In Venezuela, a localized failure cascaded into a nationwide blackout. Each of the three U.S. grid interconnection — Eastern, Western, and Texas — is vulnerable to cascading collapse as well. In fact, the U.S. Eastern Interconnection has already been hit by cascades in 1965 and 2003. The Western connection was hit by a cascade in 2011.
- 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. Ditto for the USA.
- When grid equipment is damaged, power restoration is difficult; full power restoration in the near-term may be impossible. We see this happening in Venezuela and should expect the same or worse if a large blackout were to hit the United States.
- Consequently, much of the population of Venezuela will likely be without electricity for many months to come. Because the U.S. has less resilient generation sources, our situation could, probably would, be even worse.
- If current efforts to restart the Venezuelan grid fail, outside humanitarian support for Venezuela will probably be massive. But if the U.S. utilities fail to restart our grid, there likely would be little if any outside help and no practical way to support an American population ten times larger than Venezuela’s.
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 would be a human catastrophe of unprecedented proportion.
We should contemplate what has happened in Venezuela and take immediate action to prevent an even worse situation for the United States.
So . . . when will the President’s Executive Order on EMP direct the Federal Government to wake up?
As argued for over a year, that order should establish executive leadership in the White House with a mandate to rectify the current dysfunctional federal establishment, when it comes to rectifying the vulnerability of the nation’s electric power grid.
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. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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