Bracing against the wind  

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Largest Blackout So Far

I was standing in the pharmacy, waiting for a prescription and discussing Bionacles with a 6-year-old, and the lights went out.

I had gone to Duane Reade to pick up a prescription. With the insurance machines down, I didn't have enough money for it. I stressed the importance of needing the pills for me and for my girlfriend, and they let me take it with a partial payment and an IOU.

I went to visit friends on 33rd st. I filled up an older lady's bottle of water from a faucet. It was a dark building that she didn't want to go down into.

I walked back home. And then I heard from some people that the rest of the eastern seaboard was out too.
I did dishes and kept trying to call people.

I went out to talk to someone. I spoke for an hour with two people who were let out of jail because of the blackout. They had been arrested for smoking a joint. Apparently, all of the nonviolent prisoners had been let out of their jail that night. And perhaps the police were too busy helping protect the peace to bother with the three of us, drinking with open bottles, in a park.

My girlfriend was coming in on a late flight, and I was very concerned about here ability to get from the airport to the city. Would she have to sleep there?

I got up chased down a cab under the moonlit sky. I found out from the driver that the gas pumps had, for the most part, stopped working, and that there were few cabs on the road.

I wandered. I realized how few of our city's critical systems had backup power. I saw a few buildings with lights, possibly from a backup generator, and I thought to myself, "I would really like it if my office were in that one".

Why on earth would we connect all our energy grids together without having adequate backup systems? It's seems OK to have energy trading on a fully connected grid, only if, indeed, there is any demonstrable benefit to it, and as long as each municipality has a possibly dormant plant capable of completely handling an outage.

This was a problem that affected around 50 million people.

If you do nothing about this power situation, it's OK. But, to me, it seems illogical to think that by doing and saying nothing, something is caused to happen. You might choose to call your mayor and demand that your city be taken off the national grid as its sole power supply. Or you might choose to use your air-conditioner less often. OR you could invest in solar panels for your house, as a backup power supply for your family. Or you can protest the WTO and the Enron/energy dealings of George Bush - to direct national awareness to the deregulation, privatization, and politics that surround this massive engineering failure.

I am inviting everyone who reads this to learn about this issue, act on it, and let others know about this site, or about the information they have learned.

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