I’ve been to India many times over the years. The specter of the U.S. moving closer to that unhappy example of democracy–poverty, overcrowding, blatant corruption, and overpopulation—terrifies me. It should terrify all Americans.
And that was exactly my reaction to the power outages I endured, along with Americans from Ohio to the mid-Atlantic, following the June 29 storm system: it’s like India.
This was the parallel also drawn by reporter Ashley Halsey in the Washington Post’s August 2, 2012 story Aging power grid on overload as U.S. demands more electricity.
They began to bend in the roaring wind, then their steel girders snapped like twigs, the towers toppled and the lights went out.
Minutes before the windstorm arrived to pummel the Washington area on June 29, it swept east through West Virginia, crushing three electrical transmission towers that are a tiny part of an intricate power grid that’s supposed to keep the lights on in America.
The term “grid” suggests a certain uniformity to the power system’s structure, but the network more closely resembles a patchwork quilt stitched together to cover a rapidly expanding nation.
The United States doesn’t yet face the critical shortage of power that has left more than 600 million people in India without electricity this week.”
Our power problem differs from India’s, but both are serious—and both are ultimately traceable to population growth:
[T]he U.S. grid is aging and stretched to capacity. More often the victim of decrepitude than the forces of nature, it is beginning to falter. Experts fear failures that caused blackouts in New York, Boston and San Diego may become more common as the voracious demand for power continues to grow. They say it will take a multibillion-dollar investment to avoid them.
“I like to think of our grid much like a water system, and basically all of our pipes are at full pressure now,” said Otto J. Lynch, vice president of Wisconsin-based Power Line Systems, “and if one of our pipes bursts and we have to shut off that line, that just increases the pressure on our remaining pipes until another one bursts, and next thing you know, we’re in a catastrophic run and we have to shut the whole water system down.”
India’s blackout was a power generation problem: It is saddled with aging coal power plants and facing resistance to new nuclear plants. This week, several plants closed suddenly and the lights went out. Although the United States will need more power plants to meet the demands of a growing population [my emphasis—DAC], the most immediate threat is that the delivery system will continue to fail.
Power horror stories were extensively documented :
A large part of downtown Boston and adjacent neighborhoods lost power in March when a connection between a power line and a transformer failed, shooting sparks that ignited mineral oil used as a cooling agent.
That led to a massive fire that consumed a substation, blacking out the financial and theater districts, emptying hotels and college dormitories, and shuttering restaurants, where food spoiled after two to three days without power.
The substation wreckage was too melted and twisted to determine why the connection failed. Two months later, while repairs were underway, the system short-circuited and shut down again.
"This was infrastructure that was not kept up," said Glen E. Weisbrod, president of the Boston-based research group that helped produce the ASCE report. "There is no doubt that this is happening in cities all over. "”
The Boston example is one of the worst, but New York and Texas are also having problems.
My point: If we hadn’t imported many tens of millions of aliens and their descendants since 1965, when our immigration laws were changed, would we now have this problem? Would it be as bad?
Donald A. Collins [email him], a free lance writer living in Washington, DC. , is Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). However, his views are his own