If the nation lost electricity, it would cause an instant and lethal paralysis that would go beyond inconvenience of the kind parts of New England have just experienced—and which left me charging my cell phone in my car.
Nonetheless, limited and scattered blackouts of the kind I have been caught in are a reminder of what alarmists (though unsettling, they’re not always wrong) have been warning. If there is no electricity, there is no light, no water, no sewage, no gas and diesel, no heating and cooling—even gas and oil systems rely on electric pumps and fans. If such a blackout were sustained, slow death through starvation, or fast death through disease and armed gangs ravaging the cities and towns for food, would be the result.
A curtain-raiser is Puerto Rico. Just look to its agony: The mitigation is that there is help from the rest of the United States—imperfect and maybe inadequate, but still help.
In a national blackout, Canada and Mexico might be as affected, and the catastrophe would be complete.
Such a blackout—very unlikely but not inconceivable—is posited to come from a hostile power using a nuclear weapon targeting the special vulnerability that comes with electricity and computerization. The hostile power would not target cities, as in the past, but instead would detonate a nuclear bomb high in the atmosphere, creating an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which would do the damage. It would cause destructive electric surges, fry electronics and render most things, which support daily life in 2017, inoperable.
The phenomenon has been known since the earliest days of nuclear weapons development, during the World War II Manhattan Project. Atmospheric tests by both the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962 gave the world hard evidence. The new urgency comes because some believe North Korea will try an assault as soon as it perfects its long-range intercontinental missile.
One of the people who takes the EMP threat seriously is nuclear proponent and public policy advocate Richard McPherson of Idaho. He wrote to President Trump proposing that Puerto Rico become a test bed for an EMP-hardened electrical grid.
Engineers believe they know how to do this, but the cost would be prohibitive, according to experts I interviewed at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), respectively the research arm of the electric industry and its trade association.
Robin Manning, EPRI vice president of transmission and distribution infrastructure, says they’re studying the EMPs and a progress report is expected in a few weeks.
Full article: What A U.S. Electric Grid Attack Looks Like (OilPrice)