The nationwide power grid down drill known as GridX II revealed that America is vulnerable to an attack on its electrical system, with tens of millions of people potentially left in the dark for weeks if an attack materializes, preliminary results show.
The massive multi-nation test of the electrical grid conducted Nov. 13-14 discovered in no uncertain terms that much if not all of the United States would be left without power if a man-made or cosmic-type natural disaster hit the power grid. The US government participated in the drill.
Off The Grid News readers are not likely shocked by the GridX II findings, but the hordes of Americans who go about their daily lives expecting the lights to always turn on with a flip of the switch should see this as a wake-up call.
During the drill, government and electrical officials pretended that tens of millions of Americans were left in the dark and hundreds of transmission lines and transformers were damaged or destroyed, as a computer virus was injected into the system. Transformers also were bombed during the simulation, The New York Times reported.
All total, 150 people “died” during the simulation – probably not a very realistic scenario for such a widespread outage in which grocery stores would be emptied, with looting and chaos to follow. Grocery stores only keep supplies for about three days of normal shopping.
The power grid is often called America’s glass jaw because of the nation’s reliability on it but also due to its many weaknesses, such as its vulnerability to a domino effect because it is interconnected. The famous Northeast Blackout of 2003 began with a tree limb falling in Ohio and, after a a chain reaction, ended up with 50 million people losing power, including those in New York City and parts of Canada.
Although a decade has passed since the federal government realized there was no direct authority to deal with such a scenario, that problem has not been resolved. During the past three Congressional legislative sessions it has been suggested that the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission (FERC) be granted the power to regulate power grid operations, but a vote has never been taken. The SHIELD Act, the first real attempt to enhance and protect the power grid, remains stalled in Congress.
Henry Cooper, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative under President George H. W. Bush told World Net Daily:
The electric power lobby has managed to block passage of these bills, now proposed in the third Congress in a row. … Such activities as NERC’s Grid Ex II exercise are academically interesting, but actually do little to deal with this serious threat, now well known for over a decade, including by our enemies and terrorists.
As both the American Blackout original film by National Geographic and the Lights Out Saga independent film (still in production) reveal, life as we know it would cease to exist if the nation is left without power for only a short period of time. If America loses power the nose dive the economy would take would be of epic proportion, the masses would starve, and many would fall victim to violent acts by both criminals and desperate starving folks who had never committed a crime in their lives.
The grid could be attacked any number of ways, including a GridX II-type cyber attack. One example would be a terrorist using something as simple as a USB thumb drive to upload a virus into power plant computers. That was the premise for a novel by former US Senator Byron Dorgan, who believes America is vulnerable to an attack on the grid. A physical attack could happen if someone uses a bomb or other explosive device to destroy essential equipment that often is located miles from cities and populations. That remoteness alone could make the system vulnerable.
But there are other ways large sections of the grid could be impacted for weeks or months:
- An electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP), which could be used by a terrorist or a rogue nation. An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. It would happen following the detonation of a nuclear bomb high above cities via a missile, frying the power grid. Congress formed a commission to study and issue a report on such a possibility.
- An earth-directed solar flare. A major solar flare took place in 1859, causing telegraph systems to fail and even shocking telegraph operators. The solar storm was so significant that Northern Lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.
The electric system has improved some since the blackout of 2003, but not nearly enough. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the current U.S. electrical grid a grade of D+ when it evaluated the system for security and other vulnerabilities. There are about 5,800 power plants and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the US, many of them decades old and a large portion of them connected to one another. The D+ grade meant that the grid was in “poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life.” It further meant a “large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration” with a “strong risk of failure.”
“America relies on an aging electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems, some of which originated in the 1880s,” the report read.