Thursday, August 24, 2006

Crumbling Infrastructure

The New York Times:
An elevator lurches to a halt and the lights flicker. Hours pass before a maintenance man can pry the door open and rescue those trapped inside. Once outside they find a city nearly at a standstill, no subways running and traffic snarled. Time to join the millions streaming up the avenues or across the bridges for a long walk home, and scramble to find food for dinner.

That’s what happened to some New Yorkers during the blackout on August 14, 2003, the largest electrical failure in American history. It affected 50 million people across the Northeast. For some it was inconvenient; for others, like those trapped in the elevators or on subway trains, it was alarming; and for an unfortunate few, it was deadly. The investigations concluded that it all started because untrimmed trees grew into three high-voltage power lines. But the ripple effect went on to expose a frail electrical transmission system in a country that consumes more and more electricity. The estimated cost of that single, widespread failure was $12 billion.

Was this a call to arms? Did we fix our electrical grid? Not exactly. Legislators, regulators, and companies have taken baby steps, but hardly enough to restore confidence.