The Secure the Grid Coalition is an ad hoc group of policy, energy, and national security experts, legislators, and industry insiders who are dedicated to strengthening America’s electrical grid. The Coalition aims to raise awareness to the threat of EMP as well as pass legislation to strengthen the grid. Advocates for strengthening the grid, Peter Pry (first hour), Michael Maloof (second hour), and William Forstchen (hours 3 + 4) discussed the progress being made to protect the US power grid from catastrophic failure, and the dire consequences if we don't.
There has been congressional interest in legislation to protect the grid, such as the Grid Act of 2010, which passed the House with strong bipartisan support. "But Washington is so broken," said Pry, that if the electric power lobby can find one single senator they can control, "they can put a hold on a bill, and they don't even have to take public responsibility for it-- they can do it anonymously. That's what happened to the Grid Act in 2010." Recent cyber attacks on the American government are testing how the US will react, and probing the country's defenses-- such attacks could set the stage for an EMP or cyber attack by a country such as North Korea that could damage our grid, he warned.
An EMP, which is a high energy burst of electromagnetic energy, could be released by a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere, and might completely knock out or fry any unprotected electrical system, as well as crucial automatic control systems, Maloof explained. In the event of a long term grid shutdown, there would be a cascade of catastrophic events that would sweep across the country, wiping out urban centers, with nine out of 10 people dying within the first year, he reported. Maloof noted that 2013's Shield Act would implement protection of the electrical infrastructure, but it's stalled in a House committee chaired by Michigan Representative Fred Upton (contact info).
Forstchen observed that a powerful solar flare, such as 1859's Carrington Event, in which telegraph lines actually caught on fire, is going to hit us sooner or later. A major solar event, in contrast to an EMP attack, would impact the entire planet, and the subsequent power losses would lead to curtailed food and water supplies, the outbreak of disease, and the breakdown of society, he outlined. With solar flares, there'll be some advance warning, but with an EMP attack, there would be sudden drastic effects, such as all planes within range of the detonation, immediately falling out of the sky, he cautioned. Forstchen advised being prepared to survive on your own for three to six months, as well as working within communities, and on the state level. Maine, he pointed out, has passed their own bill that requires the state to start upgrading its power grid.