Friday, February 14, 2014

Conservative Washington DC paper warns of complacency about power grid

On Friday, February 14, 2014 (Valentine’s Day), the Washington Times published, on p. B4, an op-ed by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., “Protecting the electric grid: Failure to harden the U.S. infrastructure invites catastrophe”, link here.   The piece responds to a few articles that appeared in the Wall Street Journal recently, particularly concerning the Metcalf Substation attack in California in April 2013 (Issues blog, Feb. 5, 2014; “cf” blog, Feb. 7, 2014) 
Gaffney quite properly puts an international aspect on this.  True, all major western nations need to pay attention to this, not just the US.  He points out that one of the biggest threats could be a high-altitude EMP blast, motivated by an Iran (or North Korea, or even Syria, or some non-state offshoot) that wants to see an Earth without America.  NORAD might stop that.  More to the point is the idea that the Sun could simulate an EMP attack (the first time I’ve seen that metaphor) with a solar storm and subsequent coronal mass ejection. I’m not sure that we came that close to a Carrington event in 2013 (missing it by a week, he says). 

He also points out that smaller EMP attacks, arranged by terrorists, could be staged with flux guns.  The Washington Times printed a story in 2009 showing such a device (a 2001 photo) that the military has at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, near Elkton, MD (30 miles NE of Baltimore).  Anyone can go to the museum and see it.  Perhaps it is a stretch to imagine that a Tsarnaev-style terrorist could have made and deployed one of these instead of a pressure-cooker device.  Maybe the motive would be different.
I’m lucky, at 70, to live in an advanced technologically-driven western world in which I can be “valuable” without having to bow to social competition.  I can’t count on that forever. The silver lining is that the technology to protect the grid from these horrors is within our grasp, were it not for our politicians and bean counters.  

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