Massive thunderstorm storms June 30th caused floods, up rooted trees, and left 2,000,000 residents in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey without power. As of July 7th, a week after the storms, 500,000 are still without power half of them in West Virginia.
The misery index is off the charts. Residents have no air conditioning to deal with record breaking heat. Home owners have lost all the food in refrigerators and freezers. Darkness begets looters. Restaurants and super markets lost all their frozen and refrigerated food. Businesses are closed.
The costs in the billions to individuals, businesses, taxpayers, and insurance companies are enormous. Insurance losses will be paid by everyone in higher premiums. Businesses are losing money because they can’t open. Many will close because they won’t recover. Employees are missing paychecks. Government is losing sales tax and income tax revenue. People have lost their lives.
This is 2012 not 1912
The first to get their power restored were customers in Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs. That is where the “political deciders” like lobbyists, bureaucrats, and members of Congress live so they were spared the brunt of the misery everyone else is suffering. That allows them to continue denying climate change while they work to eliminate all policies that support new energy or re-build our antiquated infrastructure.
The storms show us how vulnerable we are to power outages. Our entire economy is dependent on electricity. We need electricity to communicate, charge cell phones, run computers, refrigerate our food, and run our homes and businesses.
There are lessons to be learned here. First of all, scientists and meteorologists point out this severe weather along with the fires in the West are part of the patterns brought on by climate change. This is a preview of life in years to come.
Secondly, it shows how antiquated our electrical distribution system is. Every time there is a storm it takes days to restore our life line. The reason is our grid is inefficient, and we do not bury power lines. So every ice storm, wind storm, heavy snow, tornado, or hurricane knocks out our electrical lines. And what do we do? We re-build them.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
The Department of Defense realizes that self-sufficient energy is essential to our national security. If for whatever reason power goes out, it jeopardizes the military’s ability to communicate with satellites, run drones, and simply operate. That is why they are on mission to make our military installations and ships energy self-sufficient. Members of Congress, however, want to shut that down.
What if some fraction of the billions we spend as a result of weather events were diverted to improving our grid, burying our power lines, and installing on-site electrical generation to homes and businesses so they are not down while waiting for crews to restore power. What if that on-site clean energy also reduced green house gasses and cleaned our air?
Clearly, if the grid is down, the owner of an on-site generating system like solar would need to have the ability to switch the electricity generated to on-site use until the lines are restored. It also means that efficient and cost-effective storage must be developed so that some electricity generated can be stored and used at night. Solar may not run everything in a home or business, but it could keep food from spoiling, keep lights on, and run fans or air conditioning, and allow a business to remain open and people working.
Those 2,000,000 Americans would have given anything for that opportunity.
What stops us from doing this? Congress! Voters elected people to Congress and in many cases when they get there they do the bidding of lobbyists and special interests. Members of Congress especially Republicans receive hundreds of millions from coal and oil companies in campaign contributions every year. The get tens of millions more in perks, vacations, gifts, and meals from lobbyists. The fat from all those steaks stains their ties and blouses.
In return, these purchased Congressmen kill funding for renewable energy, and give tax cuts to the fat cats and oil companies instead of investing in infrastructure like burying our electric lines, cable lines, and phone lines.
This will continue and these storms will continue until we wake up. Maybe this summer is a wake up call. Or maybe it will be forgotten when special interests flood the airwaves with political ads courtesy of oil and coal companies.
If you like this article subscribe to my column above or follow me on Facebook.