Heartland in Darkness?

Remember the big blackout last August? What has been done to prevent another? Sadly, not much.

At the time of the blackout, I was living in Minneapolis. The media all reported that a blackout could just as well have happened to us because of the congestion in the transmission lines over the St. Croix river between Wisconsin and Minnesota. So, I got interested, even though all I really know about energy is that I get most of mine from Cuban coffee. (Those not in Miami, to buy Cuban coffee, check out Javacabana.com . )

Why has nothing been done? There are lots of reasons, I'm sure. But one is obvious: Congress didn't pass the energy bill. The basic idea of the energy bill was that the problem was lack of transmission infrastructure. So, throw money at energy companies. In particular, give energy companies unprecedented tax breaks. (As mentioned in my post yesterday, some of those breaks are in the Senate version of the ETI repeal legislation rather than the House's bigger benefits for foreign operations of US corporations.) But, moderate Republicans in the Senate balked at the giveaway, so the bill died.

In any event, the bill didn't deal with the institutional problems, particularly deregulation in a non-transparent market. (The recently released Enron trader tapes — “stick it to Grandma Millie” — certainly proved this point.) Fortunately for me, I now live near a dangerous nuclear reactor (Turkey Point, I didn't make the name up), so I don't have to worry about transmission (although, of course, a quick power drain could shut Turkey Point down like the plants up north went down last August). But for you all, I'm scared. A quick Google search turned up a pretty comprehensive Harvard site on the blackout, Harvard Blackout Site. It lead me to the site of a group with a fascinating name, Power Engineers Supporting Truth, PEST Site , and even more fascinating analyses.

I would love to learn more from somebody who really know what she is talking about!

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One Response to Heartland in Darkness?

  1. Jean says:

    I remember SERI (solar energy research institute) in Golden, CO before Reagan. The dismal shutdown of research in alternative energy began with the bad actor. Now, however, there is some research being done on how to integrate wind energy into a deregulated electrical grid. Much of this work is being done by economists.

    On another note, you are certainly correct that nuclear plants are not safe. My cousin, with whom I studied engineering at the Univ of Colordao, died at 36 years old of a rare lung cancer now attributable to chemical contamination at Rocky Flats. She left 2 little girls.
    Six years before that my father died of mesothelioma, which is an asbestos cancer. HE was a geologist, and worked cutting asbestos shingles one summer 40 years before he died. It was then, in 1986, that I first became seriously interested in law, after reading the Reports to the Senate Subcommittee on Asbestos Related Diseases. But family and engineering kept me from following that interest. I finally did it, though. In May, 2003, I graduated from UM law school, with honors. However, I have been ill myself as a result of chemical toxins in my body. I have been diagnosed with connective tissue disease, and various other autoimmune diseases. My body is reacting to and trying to rid itself of toxins, which it cannot do. So I have deferred the multistate exam yet one more time, until next February (I recently got out of the hospital).

    I can tell you what I think of corporations doing the ‘right thing’ without regulation, but only by market ‘pressure’. And what happens to alternative energy when oil corporations are more important than clean independent energy sources. Oh, for what its worth, there is NO such thing as “clean coal” — no matter what the ads say.

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