Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

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@#$% Politicians


So now the pols are trying to blame each other for the blackouts, or find some poor power plant operator who happened to be chairless when the music stopped. Sheesh. When 100 plants go down at once, it's not because one of them was screwed up. They were all running on the ragged edge, and normal variation was going to push one of them over. Then once the first one went down its load was dumped on another which had no reserve left to help out, and it went down. So the whole collapse spread until it reached choke-points. That gave operators a chance to do the power system equivalent of cutting a mountain climber's line so he doesn't pull the whole group down.

The system's coming back up, quite quickly when you consider these 60-cycle-per-second generators have to all be synchronized and their connections are down. And we'll be in the same positon as Thursday, one hot day or system glitch from bringing it all down again. If you want the system to stay up all the time you have to build in extra capability. We used to have that but the population's been growing and everybody's buying more gadgets, so now it's gone. That's the same thing that took down California's grid (aggravated by a set of regulations that were the moral equivalent of turning your life savings into gold bars and stacking them on the front porch).

It's not like the warnings weren't there. Gray Davis got briefed on the weakness of the power system a year before the blackouts. All the power operators publish how much reserve they have, and it's been shrinking for years.

So whose fault is it? That's easy:

The environmental activists who've tried to prevent any power plants from getting built.
The EMF fear-mongers who've prevented power lines from being built.
The neighborhood associations who've blocked both of them.
The anti-nuclear activists who've taken finished power plants off-line.
The regulators who refuse to let the price of electricity have anything to do with the cost to produce it.
The conservation activists who took the money for new power plants and plowed it into advertisments for reducing power use.
And, of course, the polticians who were fine with a more fragile system as long as the disaster wouldn't happen until after the next election.

How to fix it? That's easy too. Build more power plants. Tell those objecting to shut up. Build more transmission lines. Pay compensation to those in the way of the new construction, if they don't delay it. Track usage every year and make sure there's always margin above the peak usage. Accept that this means spending money.

All those pointing fingers have three pointing back at themselves, and they are the cause of this mess.

Tags: engineering, politics
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