Energy security starts with hardening power grids.

Author:Frodl, Michael G.
Position:Viewpoint
 
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* The Mid-Atlantic states from about Baltimore to Norfolk, Va. were hit in late June by what meteorologists call a "Super Derecho"--a giant squall line on land. Trees were toppled within minutes, which abruptly brought down electric power lines.

More than 5 million households lost electricity, and it took utility companies several days to repair wires and restore power.

It was a case of power delivery threatening to assume national security proportions.

But the world was not slowing down for Washington while it was on its knees. Just 48 hours after the violent storm barreled through Washington, tough new sanctions intended to take a serious bite out of Iran's oil industry kicked in. The United States and its European and Asian allies ratcheted up the pressure on Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.

Iran acted defiantly that weekend. It launched long-range missiles in a provocatively timed military exercise meant to intimidate the United States and Israel. The price of crude went back up, as a crisis premium was factored in. And traders were worried that the Strait of Hormuz might be closed due to hostilities.

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If someone in Iran had wanted a fight, U.S. military forces already forward deployed in the region would have been ready to strike back. Significant naval assets were already assembled in the Arabian Sea. At the same time, the bulk of Washington's ruling class was not on the job because of the storm.

Instead, they were attending to the safety and survival of their immediate families, calling utilities to remove dangerous wires arcing on their front lawns, clearing debris, searching for places to recharge electronic devices and looking for ice to keep the food in the fridge safe.

This was not the first time in recent memory that Washington had been shut down by a natural disaster. In fact, the power outages associated with the Super Derecho were the third such incident in a little over a year, and the fifth in two and a half years.

The degree of trouble is even more worrisome when one notes that the "cloud" computing solution adopted by Amazon, and which also supports Netflix and other services, crashed on the night of the big June storm. It seems that Amazon's "cloud" was centered in Northern Virginia, and it simply couldn't withstand the abuse.

Even worse, 911 service was knocked out in Northern Virginia. Residents were instructed to dial their police or fire stations directly, or even to just show up in...

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