Would you be willing to spend $500 million to save 90 percent of the American population from death?

What if someone turned off all the electronics?

No electricity to power your computer, your phone, your television, your lights, your radio, your refrigerator, your freezer, your stove, your air conditioning. Few if any functioning cars or trucks. No civilian airplanes. No fuel pumps. No banks. No fresh water. No sewage system.

Do you have enough dried beans and rice to survive?

All it would take is for some lunatic rogue nation or even a terrorist to detonate a relatively small nuclear device in the atmosphere over the heartland of America. It would release an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would virtually shut down all technology.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Dr. Peter Pry testified before Congress this week  that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse,” he said.

There is a bill in the House, H.R. 3410, that would start the relatively inexpensive process of hardening the nation’s grid against such an attack, but it is languishing. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck is a co-sponsor.

Is this some startling new revelation? Hardly, I first wrote about it in February 1980 and it was old hat then.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October, said “every single facet of modern human life” would be “crippled” by an EMP event. “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation,” he said. “In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

Most military equipment is hardened against such an attack but the populace is naked.

You may have read that North Korea’s state-run news agency called Obama a monkey, but you’ve probably not read about the real threat to your life that nation poses. There was almost no coverage of Pry’s testimony outside of the Free Beacon and an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily. The Apocalypse is such a downer.

First in a series of articles on the impact of nuclear attack on a Louisiana Air Force Base.

First in a series of articles on the impact of nuclear attack on a Louisiana Air Force Base.

 

 

 

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12 comments on “Would you be willing to spend $500 million to save 90 percent of the American population from death?

  1. Steve says:

    EMP (as I have said before) really doesn’t worry me all that much…in fact I believe being struck by lightning or bit by a shark to be more of threat…and I live in the desert so the odds of being bitten by a shark are extremely small.

    As for the damage an EMP could cause from a small blast, Canada has some experience in the form of a naturally occurring space storm. In 1989 Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid was hit by the effects of a severe solar flare, within 90 seconds causing millions of people to be without power for 9 hours…9 hours. Not really all that devastating.

    I think we have more to worry about from human failure to trim the trees along power line routes than we do from an EMP… The 2001 western US power failure was caused by a lack trimming the trees along the power lines..that blackout lasted for days and effected the entire western United States. We survived it. Again, not all that devastating.
    The effects of an EMP are rather well understood and recovering from them is not as hard as recovering from overgrown trees was in 2001. In fact it was the 2001 black out that basically ended the intertie system and a main reason for the one Nevada power line. (Enron also had a large influence but that power failure was big and trimming the tress was not done in the interests of saving money.)

  2. I believe you are mistaken, Steve. If all the transformers go out, there will be no replacements, and no trucks to drive the workers to the substations.

  3. Steve says:

    Transformers are not CMOS, they are wound coils of copper. They have inline breakers if they overload….that is one of the things we experienced in 2001. A whole bunch of blown inline fuses that needed to be replaced.
    As I understand it any CMOS electronics not powered up will not suffer damage.
    This means we would experience a situation much like 2001, which was not the devastation described.
    If your are worried about your car or truck,,,go ahead and disconnect the battery every time you aren’t driving it! 😉

  4. Rincon says:

    I found a Wikipedia article that supports both of you. Seems there was a massive solar storm in 1859 that fried telegraph lines. Nothing else electric to be affected at that time, of course. Lloyds of London set the estimated worldwide cost of another equivalent event today at $2.6 trillion. So Lloyds says Steve is right in that it would not cause a worldwide meltdown, but Thomas is right in that $500 million to $2 billion is chump change to prevent a problem that appears quite likely to occur. After all, do we have any way of knowing how often a storm like this can occur or if more powerful ones are possible?

    A sudden flipping of the Earth’s magnetic field might have a more devastating impact because the effect of all solar storms would be magnified greatly so as to perhaps overwhelm systems which could ride out a single smaller event. On a geologic timescale, the chances of it occurring now seem small.

    EMP’s are unlikely to bring down civilization, but as part of a perfect storm of events, it is a threat. After all, most civilizations have been brought down by a perfect storm of some kind.

    As with global warming, insurance is worthwhile if the cost isn’t too great. Unfortunately, also as with global warming, the Conservatives are likely to consider this a plot by the electronics industry to make money or the government to gain more control and would probably prevent meaningful action for decades.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

  5. Steve says:

    The biggest problem with EMP is the concern about transmission lines. With many of those now being buried the possibility of them transmitting the effects into building is quite small.

    Transformers are also isolation devices and are used to step down the voltage from high tension wires. These transformers would block the effects of EMP as well.

    The further one is from the center or source of an EMP the less its effects are.

    My link takes you to a story that cites real a experiment on modern cars.

    Additionally there are real positive uses being developed for EMP. Engineers are applying the effects of it on cutting, welding and shaping steel with very high precision and far lower cost compared to current methods.

    Google search results:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=EMPT+cutting+steel&oq=EMPT+cutting+steel&aqs=chrome..69i57.4606j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8

  6. Rincon says:

    I suspect most of the trillion dollars in damage would be to computer systems and communications equipment. Take away internet, telephone, and radio, and I suspect there would be a fair amount of chaos. Hopefully, things like oil refinery control systems are hardy or we could find a severe fuel shortage in a matter of days.

  7. […] Would you be willing to spend $500 million to save 90 percent of the American population from death?… What if someone turned off all the electronics? All it would take is for some lunatic rogue nation or even a terrorist to detonate a relatively small nuclear device in the atmosphere over the heartland of America. It would release an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would virtually shut down all technology. […]

  8. […] previously testified before Congress that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population by interrupting the […]

  9. […] been writing about the potential for the latter event since 1980. A year ago I discussed a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3410, that would begin the process of hardening the […]

  10. […] a natural or manmade EMP catastrophe that, as the Congressional EMP Commission warned, could kill up to 90 percent of the national population through starvation, disease, and societal collapse. Indeed, some actions […]

  11. […] I have been writing about this topic since 1980 to no avail. […]

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