Friday, March 29, 2024

Is the U.S. on the Verge of Becoming a Pre-Civilization?

What would the U.S. be like in a post-energy world? What will it be like if the lights really do go out?

One of the many new things I learned about the power grid this year is how interconnected it all is. That is, our energy grid in the U.S. is comprised of three grids. There is a West Coast grid, a Texas grid and the rest of the country connected in a single grid. Each grid is comprised of power plants, energy distribution substations and lots of power lines.

The more I learned about energy generation the more concerned I have become over the future of life as we know it. Today's Wall Street Journal carries an op-ed titled, The Coming Electricity Crisis. The subtitled expresses my concerns precisely: Artificial-intelligence data centers and climate rules are puusing the power grid to what could become a breaking point. 

But it's not just data centers that are the problem. It's everything. Anther article says the Biden administration's EV mandates are going to bring down the grid because we aren't creating power plants fast enough to meet the need. And why not? We've known for years about this need for more energy. Part of the hangup is NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard.  Part of the hangup is that it takes about 100 times as many regulation clearances to get nuclear plants running as it does other kinds of plants. So it takes twice as long to roll them out, if they can be rolled out at all because of the legal challenges at every level.

Here in Minnesota we are de-commissioning coal plants while maintaining a mandate against any new nuclear power plants.

So what will living in the United States be like if the energy grid permanently collapsed? Are you ready? First off, it would be extremely challenging and would lead to widespread disruption and hardship. 

Here's a short list of impacts:

Loss of Basic Services
: Lighting, heating, cooling, and refrigeration would cease to function. Hospitals would struggle to operate, and access to clean water could become compromised as water treatment plants rely heavily on electricity.

Communication Breakdown
: You can forget about your cell phones, telephones and internet services. 

Transportation Challenges
: Once our cars run out of gas, then what? Trains and airplanes rely on electricity in some form. All air traffic control centers would come to a halt. 

Economic Collapse: The economy would naturally suffer due to the inability to power businesses and industries. Production and distribution of goods would grind to a halt, leading to shortages of essential items and skyrocketing prices for what remains available. Where will we get our toilet paper? No more avocados.  

Social Unrest: Food riots? When grocery store shelves are depleted, what then? 

Health Risks: Forget about surgeries. Perishable medical supplies needing refrigeration will disappear.

Alternative Energy Sources: Some people say communities will need to rely on alternative energy sources such as solar power, wind power, or localized microgrids to meet their energy needs. Unless you are already set up, however, few will have the expertise or materials to make that happen.

Government Response: No question the government would likely declare a state of emergency but without media who will hear that? No doubt each political party would likely blame the other party and spend more energy jawboning than accomplishing anything else.

Ayn Rand's novella Anthem
(SPOILER ALERT) takes place in an imaginary future where the two heroes escape from the "civilized" fallen society and discover in the forest a house from the forgotten past. They are amazed at the contrast between the civilization that preceded their and the one they had been living in, which was supposedly "better."

I've not read the book in 50 years but the impressions it left are still with me today. Here in the U.S. we think life is better than anywhere in the world. Yet our schools are failing, our roads disintegrating, and crime in our cities multiplying like cancer cells in a petri dish. The intangible factor that concerns me most is the loss of our ethical foundations, that is, a common belief in the notions of right and wrong. Machiavellian ethics have more sway over our leaders today than the Biblical virtues or humility, generosity, truthfulness, kindness, mercy and compassion. The moral decay has left us awash in a tidal wave of spew.


Getting back to my primary concern: the energy grid... 

"Projections for U.S. electricity demand growth over the next five years have doubled from a year ago. The major culprits: New artificial-intelligence data centers, federally subsidized manufacturing plants, and the government-driven electric-vehicle transition."

And a little further, the editorial board writes:

"Don’t expect the power to come from New York, which is marching toward a power shortage as it shuts down nuclear and fossil-fuel power in favor of wind and solar."

Today, March 29, 8 percent of our Minnesota energy is coming from solar and 23 percent from wind. More than half is coal and natural gas. But we're shutting down the coal. Shouldn't we wait till we have something in place to replace it? 

No comments:

Popular Posts