Last month I left you with a question, remember? It went something like “how would your life be impacted if the entire county lost all electric power for six months?”
Well, what did you come up with? Right off we know the lights would go off and the TV wouldn’t come on, then you’d notice the refrigerator is not working and the stove and furnace won’t light. What is that strange sound? It is the sound of silence! That is very spooky to the flatland city folks that have moved in here when the grass was green and the birds were chirping. Immediately panic begins to set in. The power has been off for over 15 minutes, why hasn’t somebody fixed it? Do they expect me to take a shower in cold water?
What many do not realize is how much we depend upon electricity to maintain our basic lifestyles of today. For example, how do you gas up your car? It is by an electric pump with an electronic payment system. This would also impact your portable emergency generator when it runs out of gas. Even your water availability is affected as pumps, treatment and distribution has electronic controls. The big disaster will be when you can’t recharge your smartphone, oh mercy me!
There are just a lot of things you don’t realize you take for granted that you think someone will make sure you get what you want, when you want it. Electricity is one of those, just like water, turn the faucet and voila, there it is! Well, maybe not!
The need or want for electricity in our modern everyday lives is right up there with water, food and air these days. The challenge is how do we effectively harness and use the electric energy that is all around us in the creation that we are a part of for a little while?
We have built generators to harness the energy around us and make it temporarily available for heating, lighting, communication, and motors that we all take for granted that they are just there and always will be. Well, surprise, surprise, recently much of the country awoke on the chilly side and many people missed their hot shower. What happened? Many “green” generators failed and turned blue with the cold. The electric “grid” could not meet the demand due to so many non-green generators having been shut down. It was reported that the Texas power grid was within 4 minutes and 37 seconds of a total collapse that would take many weeks or longer to restore. You have heard of “demand management.” Well, that did not work well for many in Texas that got electric bills for up to $10,000 for the month, and they got little or no electricity from the system.
Are we learning anything from this recent natural weather event that has affected so many lives recently? Probably not, but we should. To begin with, we have to realize that man does not control the environment, although Bill Gates and environmental NGOs think they do. Man must use the intellect God gave him (some missed the free handout day) to survive what the environment throws at us.
Most do not realize how convoluted and fragile the electric grid is. Every day, most states have power failures somewhere. They can be minor to major. On Feb. 22, when I started writing this, 48 out of 50 states had failures. The top five were Washington, Kentucky, Oregon, Texas and Mississippi for total of at least 72,547 people out of electricity in just those five states. On that day, Colorado had 222 out of service. We are becoming more electrified while taking more dependable generation facilities out of production, leaving no backups while raising the cost to the consumer. What is wrong with this picture?
It is interesting how we are so concerned what we are doing to the environment, that we don’t prepare for what the environment can and is doing to us. The sun produces solar storms that emit electromagnetic waves or impulses that can and do damage electronic equipment. First recorded one was in 1859 when a major solar storm took out the telegraph equipment all across the U.S., melting telegraph lines, keys and severely shocking many operators. This was named the “Carrington Event.” With today’s sensitive equipment, a similar storm would cause unimaginable damage for very long periods of time to rebuild.
In fact, in July 2012, NASA and European spacecraft watched an extreme solar storm erupt from the sun and narrowly miss the Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” announced Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado at a NOAA Space Weather Workshop two years later.
It would behoove us to look into developing some local level of electrical generation for emergency back-up and extra support for high demand times. Solar is nice, but not at night when the high demand time is up in winter months.
One source that is ignored is a municipal solid waste (MSW) power plant. There are 75 such plants operating in 25 states, mostly back East. Last year the landfill took in 22,664.84 tons, or 436 tons per week, of MSW. An average of 85 percent is burnable as fuel to produce 550 kilowatt hours per ton.
Last year we paid $1.3 million to simply bury that fuel. This is all considered “renewable” fuel. In addition to power there can be marketable byproducts. It is always better to gain control over your own destiny rather than leaving it in the hands of those who seek to control you with a political pen!
Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.