Do you live in an all-electric home? Dependent on electricity for heating and cooling, cooking, refrigeration, lighting, hot water, communications, security, to open the garage door?
What if the grid melted down for say a week? The water would stop flowing. Fuel pumps at the corner gas station would not work. Even if you had natural gas that would eventually cease to flow. The banks would be closed. Sewage would back up in the streets.
If the power remained off for months, as much as 90 percent of the population might die from starvation, disease and social tumult.
There are a number of things that could cause such a scenario — terrorism, solar flare or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by the detonation of a relatively small nuclear bomb in the atmosphere.
I’ve 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 nation’s grid against both solar flares and mad-man-caused EMP. Rep. Joe Heck was a sponsor. It passed the House on a unanimous voice vote, but languished untouched, unnoticed, ignored by the Harry Reid-run Senate.
The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.
Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October, said, “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. In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”
Harry Reid was unmoved, unconcerned, unavailable.
Today, Henry Cooper and Peter Pry again are warning of the threat of EMP and just how near it is. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Cooper, the former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, point out the megalomaniacs who run both North Korea and Iran are both probably capable of and likely willing to order such a devastating strike.
They report that the headquarters for the North American Aerospace Defense Command is being moved back into Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. The site was largely abandoned a decade ago, but is being reactivated precisely because of the threat of EMP. Cheyenne Mountain is hardened against both blast and EMP.
In addition, the nation’s defenses are still pointed toward a Cold War enemy only capable of striking from the north, while our southern flank is completely exposed. Pry and Cooper report that both North Korea and Iran put satellites into south-polar trajectories “that appear to practice evading U.S. missile defenses, and at optimum altitudes to make a surprise EMP attack.
“The U.S. has no ballistic-missile early-warning radars or ground-based interceptors facing south and would be blind to a nuclear warhead orbited as a satellite from a southern trajectory.”
While U.S. senators sit on their collective arses and twiddle their thumbs while humming an oblivious happy tune, several states are pushing ahead with hardening their intrastate grids against EMP, Cooper and Pry tell us. These include Maine and Virginia, which have enacted legislation. Florida’s governor is considering executive action. Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York are looking into ways to deal with this threat.
But not Nevada. Our lawmakers are too busy squabbling and quibbling.
But perhaps the Nevada Public Utilities Commission could pick up the slack. After all, one of its duties by law is to “provide for the safe, economic, efficient, prudent and reliable operation and service of public utilities.” All it would have to do is tell Warren Buffett to spend the money to harden the grid and then reap a 10 percent return on equity from ratepayers.
Spending a little now to put locks on the house is cheaper than paying the price for the eventual break in.
So, if you see a flash of light in the sky, followed by a loud boom, thank God you bought a Prius and the latest edition of the book on the caveman diet.