So what’s the big deal with losing the electric grid? – Part 2

OKay my fellow Piratey types we are breaking up an extremely long article into smaller bites because there is a crap load of information and each section deserves its own space and comments. this is the second installment in this series and again I know I said smaller bites and this section is what some would call a novel in its own rite but just read it Matey’s you will gain knowledge and that is what it is all about cause they cant take that away from you!

This article is written by a fellow named Jonathan Hollerman is a former USAF SERE Instructor. Although he is not NAVY, he does have immense knowledge and the ability to convey it better than I so we are posting it here over the objections of our Salty Dawg (PROUD NAVY). our Beloved Captain Morgan (Air force)  over ruled the Dawg and here we are. I think you will like this series and if you want to find out more about Mr. Hollerman he has generously planted his site throughout the series of articles. Enjoy and LEARN!

 

So what’s the big deal with losing the electric grid?

By: Jonathan Hollerman

     When Americans do lose electricity for an evening, it is an irritating adventure in most households with Mom and Dad scrambling to find a flashlight so they can find the candles packed away in some dingy box in the basement.  The baby is crying because she is scared of the dark. Little Suzy is trying to comfort the baby but is irritated because she was in the middle of sending an email to her BFF.  Little Johnny is angry because he didn’t get a chance to save the video game he was playing.  Dad curses as he stubs his toe on the bed looking for the flashlight.  Eventually, things calm down and the family votes on a board game to play until the lights come back on.  Three hours later, the lights mysteriously come back on and the family scatters from the kitchen table.  Mom heads back to the kitchen to finish the dishes while dad plops back down in front of the college football game.  Suzy and Johnny run back to their rooms and zone out on their electronic devices, while the baby plays alone in her play pen.  Sadly, the board game sits unfinished on the dining room table along with the first meaningful conversation the family has had in months.  Unless you live in rural Alaska, this is probably your idea of “the grid going down.”

When I tell people that we could easily lose the electric grid for more than a year, their eyes typically glaze over and they nod their head thinking back to the last time the power went out at their house.  They have no clue that their ENTIRE life completely revolves around electricity.  Most Americans (especially kids) have never even pondered what life would be like without electricity because it’s always just been there.  It’s almost unfathomable.  They don’t realize the absolute death, destruction, mayhem, starvation, murder, looting, raping, and pillaging that would ensue within weeks after the grid going down.

The fact is, most American’s just can’t connect the dots from Point A to Point C because they don’t understand why this would be any different than 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, The Great Depression, etc….  “This is America!  We’ll work together like we’ve always done!”  That is typically true in a localized disaster when everyone’s belly is full and FEMA is mobilizing and coming to the rescue.  But if the national electric grid goes down, there is no one coming to help because the rescuers, government, and military are in the same boat as you with no electricity to function.  Once true starvation sets in to the general population and with no help in sight, it will quickly become every man for himself.

Before I try and paint a picture for you of what life would be like after the grid goes dark, you need to understand why we could lose it so easily.  The electric grid in this country is very vulnerable and its Achilles heel is the HV (High Voltage) Transformer.  HV transformers are essential for the grid to operate because they are what step up and step down the power into usable loads.  What this means is that you can’t take your toaster oven and connect it directly to the large High Voltage (HV) power line exiting the Nuclear Power Plant because your toaster would blow up.  The high voltages exiting power plants typically travel large distances to another HV transformer which steps down the power into usable loads.  It is then stepped down again at a distribution substation before being sent on your local power lines where it will be stepped down once more (by the smaller transformers you see on the power poles) and sent into your home at usable load.  There are currently over 2,200 HV transformers across the United States.

The HV transformers are massive, typically weighing between 200 and 400 tons each.  They are unique to each substation and must be custom-built to spec.  America’s HV transformers are made overseas and take between 6 to 18 months to build and deliver, assuming there are no back orders on the raw materials they need.  The transportation logistics are also extreme with special rail cars, cranes, and trailers needed to haul the heavy load.  Power lines need to be moved and each bridge they cross has to be inspected before crossing.  These transportation logistics can sometimes add months onto the lead time of replacing one of these HV transformers.  Imagine the logistics of moving a transformer with no police escort, no one to inspect the bridges, and massive traffic jams of “out of gas” cars blocking the roads.

Why is this information important?  This information is important because most of the threats to the electric grid could easily take out 300+ transformers at once.  A Super EMP attack would likely take out all of them.  If the electric grid were taken down in the US, then the few manufacturers in the US that technically “could” produce the HV transformers wouldn’t have electricity for their factories and all the transformers would still have to come from overseas.  Even if ramping up production, electricity wouldn’t be restored before 6 months at the earliest and most of the country would still be without power for more than a year.

Most government and media reports acknowledge that looting and rioting would be rampant but choose to focus on the “trillions” of dollars it would cost in commerce and the cost to repair the grid.  The problem with this scenario is that social order would break down within a week of losing the grid and a total societal collapse would be inevitable within a month once people really started to starve.  Most experts believe between 6 and 9 out of every ten Americans would die the first year due to starvation and sickness.  America as we know it wouldn’t survive six months without electricity, so who’s going to be around to fix the grid and who are they fixing it for?  I predict the government would focus on getting the power restored to important cities and military bases first and most of rural America could go years before seeing power.

The severity of what life would look like after a grid down situation depends on which scenario was the culprit.  A cyber attack or physical attack on our infrastructure could leave the electric grid down for months and in some rural locations, years.  A massive solar storm or small EMP would leave the grid down for six months to a year in most locations, but a Super EMP could cripple the grid for years in most locations and fry most of the electronics we depend on.  When dealing with a Super EMP attack, scientists have varying views on what percentage of small electronics would be affected.  Either way, any blackout lasting more than a week will result in major metropolitan areas descending into utter chaos and total anarchy.  Anything longer than a few weeks and, in my opinion, the country will never fully recover.  It will be survival of the fittest from that point forward.

Before we get into how losing the grid would affect you personally, let’s discuss how it would affect the country as a whole.  Today, America is the richest country in the world, and every other industrialized nation leans on the US for our buying power.  Since 1944, the US Dollar has been the world’s reserve currency and is what the central banks use to set exchange rates and the price of oil and other commodities.  In recent years (due to irresponsible financial policies by our government) countries like China, Russia, and others have been working to replace the Dollar on the world stage which would have disastrous consequences for the US.  The only reason they haven’t been very successful to date is because they can’t offer up a more viable alternative.

I believe the US Dollar would be replaced as the world’s currency very soon after a grid down scenario.  Think about it: no American has the ability to buy anything from stores or the internet without their credit cards or access to their money.  Stores can’t be restocked due to the shut-down of our interstate transportation system (no gas stations are functioning).  Essentially, this shuts down all our imports from overseas.  Our Stock Market would unofficially crash (unofficially because it would be closed for business without electricity).  This would crash every other market around the globe and Asian countries would especially nose dive without Americans being able to buy their exports for the foreseeable future.  A lot of overseas factories would be forced to shut down, putting their employees out on the street without jobs, further exacerbating their countries’ woes.  Weeks after the grid goes down, your dollar bills are most likely going to be worth pennies.

I believe the ensuing global financial collapse would seriously hamper the ability of our UN partners from coming to our aid in the aftermath.  I’m sure some European countries and maybe even Russia and China would pitch in for a short while, sending us ships with food, but for how long?  They are going to be experiencing their own societal collapses and record unemployment.  They are going to need to focus their resources on helping and feeding their own populace.  Even if they did send large amounts of food for an extended period of time, how would that food get distributed?  We would have 300+ MILLION starving Americans scattered across a huge land mass with no infrastructure or way to transport food throughout the country!  You’ve seen the movies and videos when we deliver food to starving refugees in developing nations.  It’s total mayhem with the stronger men beating up women and children to get a small bag of rice.  Could you imagine a container ship of food arriving in New York City’s harbor with TEN MILLION angry and starving people stampeding the docks?  Again, it would be total mayhem, and my suggestion is that you stay far away from these types of scenarios because they will be absolutely deadly environments.

In a nutshell, I believe our country would cease to exist in any realistic fashion shortly after losing the grid.  The EMP Commission Report and Lloyd’s of London talk about how it would cause trillions of dollars in damage to our economy.  With half the US population dead from starvation, sickness and murder after six months and 80 to 90 percent dead after the first year, why would you even fix the grid and who’s going to accept our worthless dollars to help us?  EMP Commissioner Lowell Wood calls an EMP attack a “giant continental time machine that would move us back more than a century in technology to the late 1800s.”  The problem is that our infrastructure is completely different than the 1800’s.  We aren’t set up to live like the people did 150 years ago.  It’s not like you can pull out your Sears and Roebuck catalog and order a horse drawn plow or kerosene lantern?  Do you see what I mean?  We don’t even make the tools and supplies anymore that one would need to live before the age of electricity.

Most people expect to see the US government step in during a national crisis like this, but don’t hedge your bets on that because it CAN’T happen.  The Department of Homeland Security or DHS is responsible for taking control in the case of national disasters.  They have plans in place for all types of scenarios; however, as of today, they have not put together a plan for an EMP attack, solar flare, or long term loss of the electric grid.  FEMA is only designed for localized tragedies and disasters like hurricanes, not for a national scenario like a grid down event.  Right now the US government only has 6 million MRE’s (emergency meals) stock piled for just such emergencies.  How long do you think 6 million MRE’s are going to feed a country of over 300 million?  Not even a day.  What about the military, you ask?  Most people are unaware that 99% of the US military is completely reliant on the civilian electric grid.  Most bases have diesel generators for backup that would last a few hours and a day at most.  Read the report I linked to where the US military is trying to get mini nuclear reactors for each base to make themselves more self-reliant.  Hint:  it’s not going to happen in the next decade at best.  In fact, the DOD report states specifically:

“DOD is unable to provide its bases with electricity when the civilian electrical grid is offline for an extended period of time.  Currently, domestic military installations receive 99 percent of their electricity from the civilian power grid… Most military bases currently have backup power that allows them to function for a period of hours or, at most, a few days on their own. If power were not restored after this amount of time, the results would be disastrous.  First, military assets taken offline by the crisis would not be available to help with disaster relief.  Second, during an extended blackout, global military operations could be seriously compromised… During the Cold War, this type of event was far less likely because the United States and Soviet Union shared the common understanding that blinding an opponent with a grid blackout could escalate to nuclear war. America’s current opponents, however, may not share this fear or be deterred by this possibility…  Even with massive investment in efficiency and renewables, most bases would not be able to function for more than a few days after the civilian grid went offline.”

So you think the US government is going to step in and save you?  They are not going to help you in a grid down scenario because they are in the same boat as you.  The government CAN NOT feed 300 million Americans without our critical infrastructure or being taken offline.  You are on your own.  My bet is the politicians will be shipped to some underground mountain to ride out the storm while you and I figure out how to survive on our own.  When the grid goes dark and you start picking up government reports on your battery-powered radio telling you that all is well and help is on the way, do not believe them!  I have just given you the evidence that proves otherwise.  These messages will be designed to try and keep people calm and they will lie as long as they can to achieve that end and prevent panic.

Lastly, if you have any survival skills whatsoever, the WORST thing you can do is go to the (FEMA style) camps where they promise food and safety.  These “Green Zones” will be overcrowded, and rife with disease and violence.  If you have no other options, then go ahead and roll the dice, but when the people there start to starve and realize the government lied to them and can’t feed them, it’s going to get really ugly at those locations.  Look at the Super Dome after Hurricane Katrina with the violence, theft, rapes, murders, and overflowing unsanitary conditions.  It’s an ugly scenario and that was a localized disaster that only lasted a few days.  Could you imagine weeks and months of living like that?  Most people who go there will eventually die or flee the horrible living conditions and disease.

 

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