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Ed Driscoll

Boom, Boom, Out Go The Lights

June 26th, 2013 - 8:41 pm

“Solar Flare poses huge threat,” Glenn Reynolds writes in the latest edition of his weekly USA Today column:

So this week the news is consumed with the Supreme Court, the immigration bill, Edward Snowden and the NSA scandals, and the IRS scandal and the lingering Benghazi scandal. But behind the scenes there are things going on that may be much more important. Earth-shakingly important, even.

No, I’m not talking about the threat from asteroid strikes. This time, though, I’m talking about a different kind of civilizational threat: A solar flare that could wipe out the communications and electrical grids while frying a wide variety of electronics, quickly sending us back to the 19th Century.

Which the environmentally correct Obama administration – or at least its current Secretary of State — views as a feature, not a bug. On the other hand, as Glenn adds:

There’s now a bill aimed at doing something to harden our systems and prepare for such events. It’s called the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act (SHIELD Act for short, in one of those now-unavoidable legislative acronyms). It is aimed at seeing that those big transformers basically get the heavy-duty equivalent of surge protectors to prevent damage in the event of either a solar storm or EMP attack.

Perhaps because I lived through the Great Northeastern Blackout when I was a kid, I’ve always been aware of the risk of power going out. I’m glad that folks in Washington are starting to pay attention, too.

Hardening and updating America’s infrastructure is always a good idea. Or at least on paper it is; as the Chicago Boyz econo-blog notes however, government infrastructure projects — particularly in deep blue regions — are frequently examples of “Engineering for Failure.”

(Just ask California’s Jerry Brown.)

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