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Following a sniper attack on electricity transformers last year in California, policy makers are now expressing concerns over the vulnerability of our power grid to a terrorist attack.
A Wall Street Journal story, “U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack,” reported on a study conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that concluded the U.S. could experience a nationwide blackout if a small number of power transmission stations were damaged.
The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.
The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation’s three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.
While an attack on our power grid is a risk, policy makers must not ignore the threat posed by the enemy from within; the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA regulations are forcing hundreds of coal-fired power plants to close and the removal of a significant amount of power threatens the reliability of our power supply.
Matthew Wald’s story in The New York Times, “Coal to the Rescue, but Maybe Not Next Winter,” explores the impact of the loss of coal power on the price and reliability of our electricity supply.
Underlying the growing concern among consumers and regulators is a second phenomenon that could lead to even bigger price increases: Scores of old coal-fired power plants in the Midwest will close in the next year or so because of federal pollution rules intended to cut emissions of mercury, chlorine and other toxic pollutants. Still others could close because of a separate rule to prevent the damage that cooling water systems inflict on marine life.
For utilities, another frigid winter like this one could lead to a squeeze in supply, making it harder — and much more expensive — to supply power to consumers during periods of peak demand.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, told utility regulators in a speech on Feb. 11 that the recent frigid weather had provided “a glimpse of the challenge that lies ahead.” American Electric Power, which serves Columbus and a vast area of the Midwest, was running 89 percent of the coal plants that it must retire next year, she said.
“That raises a very serious question,” she said. “What happens when that capacity is gone?”
Obviously, the loss of coal plants that were needed this year will threaten the future reliability of power in many states. The Midwest region is not the only area that will suffer from the loss of coal-based electricity.
In a previous post on my recent Real Clear Energy commentary, “Blackouts and Worse: Dem Policies Killing New England,” I exposed the power shortage issues in that region because of the lack of energy diversity.
Through the EPA, President Obama is fundamentally transforming our electricity market. The consequences will be higher electricity prices and the likelihood of power shortages.
While we can’t afford to ignore the possibility of a terrorist attack on our power grid, policy makers should not be ignoring the real threat posed by the EPA.