The cause of the blackout was allegedly a freak accident due to a dilapidating infrastructure: a piece of metal breaking loose from a power line 43 miles from the District of Columbia. From neighborhoods to national museums, prestigious colleges and government offices, it left about 8,000 D.C. residents sitting in the dark. Everyone except, of course, the President of the United States, who barely noticed a flicker thanks to high-tech standby power that kicked on within seconds of the outage.
Until now, most Americans, if asked where the least likely location for a blackout would be, might have agreed with Washington D.C. This simply goes to show how inaccurate our assumptions can be when it comes to the reliability of our nation’s power infrastructure.
Emergency responders in nearly every American community, such as police departments, fire stations and hospitals are well aware of our infrastructure problems and the consequences of power outages. They know that at any moment, anywhere, the power could inexplicably go out. Therefore, they almost always have a standby generator at the ready to be certain they can do their jobs effectively, no matter how long an outage lasts.
And while the future of American electricity might see the development of new energy sources such as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal power plants, such progress might take decades and could cost billions, if not trillions of dollars. The truth is that the transmission system that moves power across the country was built mainly in the 1950s and ‘60s. It may not be completely capable of handling the electrical loads of tomorrow, and based on ongoing government studies and statistics, it too may need to be replaced.
Such a massive undertaking to reform our energy system is very much possible. American ingenuity and perseverance have equipped us with the tools to make it happen if we choose to do so. Until then, however, it may be wise for American homeowners to invest in some backup power of their own in case of an outage.
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