Gov’t prepares for possibility of power outages across US

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Doomsday experts are to run through exercises this month to simulate the possibility of countrywide electricity shortages that would bring the US to its knees.

Titled ‘Black Sky’ catastrophes, they would see electricity down across the US – whether by human hand or whims of nature – in turn causing the collapse of all connected infrastructure and, potentially, the country.

The only solution to this apocalyptic scenario is improving the country’s infrastructure, experts said in DC meetings this week, ahead of the simulation.

And that means more money on everyone’s fuel bills, News4Jax reported. 

FEMA is running a theoretical exercise to figure out what would happen in the event of a months-long nationwide blackout. Pictured: New York during a blackout in 2003

The event, titled EarthEx, is sponsored by FEMA and the Department of Energy and will take place on August 23, according to the official site.

It plans to examine ‘hazards associated with subcontinent scale, long duration power outages, with cascading failure of all our other increasingly interdependent infrastructures.’

‘This creates a grim and difficult dilemma: Restoration of any sector will only be possible with at least minimal operation of all the others,’ the site says.

To that end, ‘all organizations that need to be prepared for long duration power outages’ have been invited to attend the conference. 

They will then perform a series of three-hour exercises that represent 15 successive days of a Black Sky disaster to work out what might happen in their specific area.

That would then allow them to come up with possible solutions that can be implemented in the event of the real thing happening. 

In a real Black Sky experts say, electricity could be out for months, while fuel and food supplies dwindle to nothing.

Such events are called 'Black Sky' scenarios and can mean civil unrest as resources dwindle. Pictured: A blackout in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2010. Some buildings had backup generators

A pre-EarthEx Black Sky preparedness meeting in Washington, DC this week, attracted 200 experts from 24 countries and dozens of states.

Many of them say this kind of event is all too plausible and could be caused not just by the kind of natural disasters seen in film, but also by malicious attacks by hackers.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by the sun, or by a low-level nuclear device, knocking out power is also a possibility, experts warned.

‘Malicious or natural hazards [are]happening at a level that cut off critical resources for too long for society to continue,’ Electric Infrastructure Council CEO Avi Schnurr told News4Jax.

And if the US is to be prepared, then the energy industry will need to up its game, said former Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Stockton.

‘As former President Reagan said, there really is a bear in the woods,’ he warned. 

‘Responding to “Black Sky” events is all about industry in the lead and government in support,’ he continued. ‘Folks, we’re nowhere near where we need to be for that.’

To that end, experts say, energy customers will need to pay up for the improvements required to make the infrastructure capable of withstanding catastrophe. 

Right now that could be as little as $1 a year from each customer, they said. But action needs to be taken soon.

‘There is a moment in the life of every problem that is big enough to be seen by reasonable people and still small enough to be addressed,’ Rep. Trent Franks said. ‘We are in that window, but it is closing.’

Black Sky events can be caused by hackers (seen in stock photo), low-level nuclear devices or natural disasters. Infrastructural improvements are needed, say experts - but that will mean an increase in energy bills across the US

 

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