Tags: solar | peril | power | grid

Growing Bipartisan Concern Over Solar Peril to U.S. Power Grid

Image: Growing Bipartisan Concern Over Solar Peril to U.S. Power Grid

Sunday, 02 Feb 2014 02:11 PM

By Elliot Jager

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The danger that the electrical grid could suffer massive disruption from an electromagnetic pulse set off by solar flares is generating growing concern, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The risk that all electronics could break down leading to societal collapse has spurred liberals, including outgoing California Rep. Henry Waxman, and tea party aligned Republicans, to join in a bipartisan effort to prepare the country, according to the Times.

Former GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who was defeated in 2013, remains a key tea party advocate of better preparation against a solar-generated massive power surge. Bartlett has warned that either a natural solar storm or a nuclear detonation could wreak havoc with all electronics.

Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst says, "I am a tea party Republican who does not like big government. But people like me who are genetically anti-government are nonetheless trying to expand its regulatory powers to do something about this."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, the ex-CIA director have also warned of the consequences of a devastating power surge.

Trevor Maynard, of Lloyd's of London said, "We definitely think this is a risk. It is one of those hazards you just know is going to happen, just like you know a major Miami hurricane will happen," according to the Times.

William Murtagh, a government scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, said that such storms hit earth about every 150 years. The previous time it happened was 155 years ago during what came to be known as the "Carrington event" of 1859.

Then the effect on pre-Civil War America was minimal. The switching system of the New York Central Railroad was put out of commission and telegraph wires were affected. America was hardly dependent on electricity in those days, the Times said.

In July 2012, a solar storm missed Earth's orbital position by seven days.
One worst-case scenario forecasts 20-40 million Americans without electricity for more than a year resulting in widespread rioting, according to the Times.

Physicist Michio Kaku of the American Physical Society estimated that Congress would need to appropriate $100 million to protect the country's electrical grid against solar flares, according to the Washington Post blog.

Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has asked utilities to come up with contingency plans to address the danger.

Lawmakers in Maine, rather than wait for the federal government, have passed their own legislation requiring utilities to take action, the Times reported.

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