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!