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   New report warns that terrorists could black out an entire section of the U.S. by attacking our power grid. Or, they could just wait for the next moderate rain storm

17 Nov 2012 10:20 AM   |   2700 clicks   |   Portland Press Herald
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NewportBarGuy    [TotalFark]  
I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!

17 Nov 2012 09:36 AM
MemeSlave     
Or they could bomb key intersections on the interstates, and fubar traffic and food deliveries for weeks. This is like that XKCD cartoon where the guy uses a pipewrench to bypass 4096 bit encryption.

17 Nov 2012 10:22 AM
KarmicDisaster    [TotalFark]  
I probably should warn you that there are a lot of things that COULD happen. For example, I should warn you that your neighbors could surround your house during the night with torches and burn it with you in it.

17 Nov 2012 10:25 AM
brimed03     
NCIS did it.

17 Nov 2012 10:25 AM
Communist_Manifesto     

NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!


I think one reason people are reluctant is that it is a lot harder to do than they think. Boulder, CO had Xcel try and do it. Now excel is trying to get another 15 million or so outta Boulder because they had some serious cost overruns. That being said it still needs to happen the power grid is the single most important thing in America. A nationwide blackout for any extended period would cause the world economy to collapse.

17 Nov 2012 10:25 AM
Jon iz teh kewl     
just go to fpl.com and then log in as root
then click power off

17 Nov 2012 10:25 AM
Tor_Eckman    [TotalFark]  

NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!


No doubt. But the lasting effects of a large scale physical attack on the right substations and/or transmission towers would not be helped much by such an investment. As the author of the article states, the chances of such an attack are slim, but the consequences would indeed be dire. And really all it would take would be knowledge of critical subs and lines and a fairly small amount of explosives. Or a dozen or so RPGs. Substation transformers are usually located outdoors due to the amount of heat then generate, and are too big to hide or protect. Transmission towers are what they are. You can't really do much to protect them.

So as someone who manages and controls the grid for a large utility in Pennsylvania, I would applaud such an investment in the system. But it would not protect us from a coordinated, well planned attack from outside.

17 Nov 2012 10:26 AM
Unoriginal_Username     
Did someone just get around to watching the latest Die Hard?

17 Nov 2012 10:27 AM
ZAZ    [TotalFark]  
Or they could catapult a bucket of squirrels into a power station.

17 Nov 2012 10:28 AM
DBrandisNC     
I work on NBC's Revolution, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

17 Nov 2012 10:28 AM
david_gaithersburg     
G. Gordon Liddy addressed this in one of his books pre-911. A dozen well placed rifle shots into a few step-transformers and most of the nation would be in the dark for six months.

17 Nov 2012 10:29 AM
Mr. Eugenides     
All of our Telecommunications, water, sewage, road, rail and electric infrastructure will remain vulnerable simply because there's no way to adequatly secure the large fixed emplacements required to support them. Even if you turn the command and control centers into bunkers, you can disable them by using a backhoe to cut through some tiny copper of glass fiber lines.

17 Nov 2012 10:29 AM
Kurmudgeon     
Beware the Derecho Liberation Army!

17 Nov 2012 10:29 AM
Harvey Manfrenjensenjen     

NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!


Because there is little to no political gain in fixing things that don't make for handy photo ops. A new highway, bridge, community center, aircraft carrier, etc. all provide nice backdrops for speeches; doubly good when you've named it after a popular politician in your party. In fact, having an aging power grid is useful to politicians; it gives them an example of "aging infrastructure that we must fix now!" and something to bash the other party with, but then they dole out those extra dollars the aforementioned highways, bridges, etc. Rinse and repeat. 

The other problem is visibility. If it works, it's kind of hard to prove ("Well, if we hadn't done it we would have had.... um, I don't know... nine more power outages?") and when there is a power outage, it's a lightning rod (so to speak) for people who like to biatch and moan ("You promised that if we spent this money we'd never be without power again!" "Well, no, what I said was..." "Shut up! You promised!").

17 Nov 2012 10:31 AM
netcentric     

ZAZ: Or they could catapult a bucket of squirrels into a power station.


You my friend are a terrorist.

17 Nov 2012 10:32 AM
david_gaithersburg     
And as always, The Onion is prophetic. Link

17 Nov 2012 10:34 AM
ZAZ    [TotalFark]  
Seriously, this time.

There are two problems. We can't fix the vulnerability of a single transmission line at a reasonable cost. We can build a system that isn't perpetually on the edge of collapse because there's no revenue in building a margin for failure.

As I said in one of the storm threads, utilities are good at handling revenue-related events with less than 5 year recurrence and awful at handling non-revenue events or long term planning. Routine tree trimming, fine. Tree trimming for 20 year ice storms, no can do. Moving utility poles so a road can be widened isn't revenue and doesn't get done until the state threatens to revoke permits. Planning for 10-50 year events costs money and provides no benefit, with benefit measured in the 0-5 year time frame.

So we have a system where a lightning strike in Quebec takes the Northeast offline.

17 Nov 2012 10:35 AM
BeerGraduate     
Will someone PLZ think of the turrists?

17 Nov 2012 10:38 AM
BolshyGreatYarblocks     
Or we could, you know, let demand outstrip supply and fatuously suppose that the same number of power plants can service an expanding population. Throw in thunderstorms, inept hiring practices, stir and let sit for up to 10 years.

17 Nov 2012 10:42 AM
cwolf20     
Meanwhile. Old reports that fark posted articles about, said the same thing

17 Nov 2012 10:43 AM
DoctorCal    [TotalFark]  

Harvey Manfrenjensenjen: Because there is little to no political gain in fixing things that don't make for handy photo ops. A new highway, bridge, community center, aircraft carrier, etc. all provide nice backdrops for speeches; doubly good when you've named it after a popular politician in your party. In fact, having an aging power grid is useful to politicians; it gives them an example of "aging infrastructure that we must fix now!" and something to bash the other party with, but then they dole out those extra dollars the aforementioned highways, bridges, etc. Rinse and repeat.


What a fine hypothesis. Pity it's so out of sync with reality.

17 Nov 2012 10:43 AM
starzman2003     

NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!


Because people are short-sighted and don't think long-term. It's more of a "OMG, it's going to cost how much right now?! REJECT ALL THE THINGS."

17 Nov 2012 10:44 AM
stratagos    [TotalFark]  
When I first started working at SCE - a few years after 9/11 - I was shocked to find out exactly how vulnerable the grid was, how long it would take to make repairs if the wrong thing blew up, and how there was fark all they could do about it, except have plans in place and access to the necessary spares. It apparently would take longer to rebalance supply and demand than to make repairs in some cases - you can't just flip a switch and dump a few hundred megawatts into the system without something ready to use the juice.

Fortunately, knowing the grid is vulnerable is different than knowing exactly how to cause the maximum disruption - so some yahoo in isolation isn't likely to start the apocalypse.

17 Nov 2012 10:49 AM
Clemkadidlefark     
Jeevus Crisco, how long are we going to talk talk talk about this instead of just armoring the dan grid?? I'll bet Farkers have known about EMPs for at least 20+ years.

17 Nov 2012 10:51 AM
HotIgneous Intruder     
Blah, blah, blah.
Nation of whiny assed titty babies.

Keep 'em skeered, right?

17 Nov 2012 10:53 AM
Craps the Gorilla     

Unoriginal_Username: Did someone just get around to watching the latest Die Hard?


You beat me to it.

17 Nov 2012 11:07 AM
LordOfThePings     
The terrorist trees have already won.

0.tqn.comView Full Size

17 Nov 2012 11:07 AM
sillysillysilly     
NewportBarGuy

Actually there is no amount of software re-development that could prevent this. Give me $300 usd and I can take down 1 state, give me $1000 and 2 guys I can take down 3 to 4 states. Give me $30,000 and 5 guys and I can take down 20 or more states.

People think that having PLC controlled electric grid is what makes us vulnerable, in reality it is the integrated grid that does it. Remember a year or so ago southern calif. was dropped for 2 days due to an error of a switching network. One failure did that.

17 Nov 2012 11:08 AM
rorypk     
Gotta wonder about the ability of foreign terrorists to even attack the country. A single pipe bomb at a mall, sporting event, or school would mess this country up real bad. Yet it hasn't happened. Maybe we've been mislead towards the severity of the threat in order to have a huge military budget. Seems like all those sleeper cells we heard about after 9/11 might not exist?

17 Nov 2012 11:12 AM
Aidan     

ZAZ: Seriously, this time.

There are two problems. We can't fix the vulnerability of a single transmission line at a reasonable cost. We can build a system that isn't perpetually on the edge of collapse because there's no revenue in building a margin for failure.

As I said in one of the storm threads, utilities are good at handling revenue-related events with less than 5 year recurrence and awful at handling non-revenue events or long term planning. Routine tree trimming, fine. Tree trimming for 20 year ice storms, no can do. Moving utility poles so a road can be widened isn't revenue and doesn't get done until the state threatens to revoke permits. Planning for 10-50 year events costs money and provides no benefit, with benefit measured in the 0-5 year time frame.

So we have a system where a lightning strike in Quebec takes the Northeast offline.


Ah HERE we are.

Yes, there appears to be no political (or electoral, let's be honest) will to spend money on preventative infrastructure. And since everything is focused on the short term, it just doesn't get done.

Point: New York blackout happens in 1977 because Niagara can't handle the feedback from an NE power station going offline. Blackout happens AGAIN in 2003 because... Niagara can't handle the feedback from a NE power station going offline! (as you said)

shiat, they even said some hospitals didn't have operational generators in 2003! My god!

As for tree trimming, I'm waiting for one tree to fall in my yard and hit the pole. Had my electricity company out twice to look at it and both times they said not their problem because it was too far away (but it's really tall and is already leaning precisely toward the pole. It WILL hit the pole). Grinds my teeth just thinking about it!

The avoidance of extra effort to avoid problems is prevalent at a low and high level. Infuriating!

17 Nov 2012 11:21 AM
hsburns30     
Unfortunately, this isn't news since it's been known about for at least a few years. Yet I am unaware if anything has been done about it.

17 Nov 2012 11:28 AM
kertus     

NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!


Read: One Second After by William R. Forstchen for an even stronger reason.

17 Nov 2012 11:30 AM
DontMakeMeComeBackThere     

Harvey Manfrenjensenjen: NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!

Because there is little to no political gain in fixing things that don't make for handy photo ops. A new highway, bridge, community center, aircraft carrier, etc. all provide nice backdrops for speeches; doubly good when you've named it after a popular politician in your party. In fact, having an aging power grid is useful to politicians; it gives them an example of "aging infrastructure that we must fix now!" and something to bash the other party with, but then they dole out those extra dollars the aforementioned highways, bridges, etc. Rinse and repeat. 

The other problem is visibility. If it works, it's kind of hard to prove ("Well, if we hadn't done it we would have had.... um, I don't know... nine more power outages?") and when there is a power outage, it's a lightning rod (so to speak) for people who like to biatch and moan ("You promised that if we spent this money we'd never be without power again!" "Well, no, what I said was..." "Shut up! You promised!").


Pretty much this. Amazing how many people don't understand how ... political... politics is. No, your guy DOES NOT honestly believe in helping people and making the world a better place, not unless it's politically expedient.

17 Nov 2012 11:39 AM
johnryan51    [TotalFark]  
Educate me. Why are the taxpayers responsible for the grid and not the private corps. Don't the companies make profit off the grid. I'm not picking a fight, I really don't know.

17 Nov 2012 11:42 AM
INeedAName     

stratagos: When I first started working at SCE - a few years after 9/11 - I was shocked to find out exactly how vulnerable the grid was, how long it would take to make repairs if the wrong thing blew up, and how there was fark all they could do about it, except have plans in place and access to the necessary spares. It apparently would take longer to rebalance supply and demand than to make repairs in some cases - you can't just flip a switch and dump a few hundred megawatts into the system without something ready to use the juice.

Fortunately, knowing the grid is vulnerable is different than knowing exactly how to cause the maximum disruption - so some yahoo in isolation isn't likely to start the apocalypse.


Perhaps you could tell me more...

/Not a turr'rist
//Just wants to know more about which key sections of the US power grid would need to be knocked out in order for the entire country to shut down...
///Seriously though, not a turr'rist

17 Nov 2012 11:48 AM
leevis     
I have a sudden urge to cause blackouts on the coasts. Or not, I'm actually too lazy to even knock out my neighbor's power.

17 Nov 2012 11:49 AM
sillysillysilly     
johnryan51

It is becaue the government gave the electric companies a monopoly on the power grid before. You had one option and one option only. Now you have an option of power providers; but notice there are not power lines for each and every company, they share the same original system. The option is who does the power generation....the dilivery is still a monopoly. So it is not the power company anymore that is responsible for the transmission lines but rather a highly regulated, underpaid company and or gov. body that owns the system network of how it gets to your house.

Also the gov has a vested interest in not letting bad things happen.

17 Nov 2012 11:54 AM
netcentric     
The Gov't might have a 'vested interest' in not letting bad things happen. But they brought down a large part of So Cal's grid when one Air Force Jet accidently popped a chaff pod....

Strips of metal chaff landing on a power grid cause a lot of havoc.

Tinsel + Cessna = headaches

17 Nov 2012 12:07 PM
orclover     
In other news the terrorist continue operation 'annoy the fark out of the infidels'.

17 Nov 2012 12:28 PM
Phony_Soldier     

DBrandisNC: I work on NBC's Revolution, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.


You should feel bad about working on that show.

17 Nov 2012 12:30 PM
RoyHobbs22     
I'm guessing the PPH hasn't scared the hillbillies in Maine enough lately.

17 Nov 2012 12:52 PM
Giltric     

Tor_Eckman: NewportBarGuy: I remain convinced by the scientific/techie dudes that investing about $10 billion in our energy grid would give us an awesome return on investment, and allow them to put in modern safeguards to protect that grid.

I really don't understand why we haven't done it yet. Sure, the act of paying for it and all the construction sucks and is not sexy, but the end result would be pretty hot!

No doubt. But the lasting effects of a large scale physical attack on the right substations and/or transmission towers would not be helped much by such an investment. As the author of the article states, the chances of such an attack are slim, but the consequences would indeed be dire. And really all it would take would be knowledge of critical subs and lines and a fairly small amount of explosives. Or a dozen or so RPGs. Substation transformers are usually located outdoors due to the amount of heat then generate, and are too big to hide or protect. Transmission towers are what they are. You can't really do much to protect them.

So as someone who manages and controls the grid for a large utility in Pennsylvania, I would applaud such an investment in the system. But it would not protect us from a coordinated, well planned attack from outside.


Its easier than you think. Just take down 50 feet of primary and 2 transformers that cut through private property. PPL will show up at the call box in front of the gated property and leave notes instead of actually following the instructions on the callbox to gain access to the property to fix the problem. Im sure it would keep 1300 people without power for days if not weeks.

The hicks from Elliot knew how to use the callbox though.

17 Nov 2012 01:03 PM
MBooda     
terrorists could black out an entire section of the U.S.

Not news to Moran & Mack.
oldradioshows.orgView Full Size

17 Nov 2012 01:06 PM
FormlessOne     
Never mind "terrorism" - one good solar flare would be enough to cause months of outages.

But, hey, the risk vs. return says it's far cheaper to gamble than to play it safe, and so we keep our lines above ground, unshielded, with limited ability to deal with deliberate or environmental surges across a wide area.

17 Nov 2012 01:12 PM
kd1s     
If you ever want to get REALLY scared go read the NERC documents. In essence it does NOTHING to protect the infrastructure and is almost purely a forensic tool, nothing more.

And most utilities use SCADA devices tied to the net to manage their power networks. You can see where I'm going here.

17 Nov 2012 01:14 PM
bossuniversalAA     
what a terrorist might look like
img.photobucket.comView Full Size

17 Nov 2012 01:25 PM
rooftop235    [TotalFark]  
I wish this fear mongering BS would just stop.

17 Nov 2012 01:27 PM
rooftop235    [TotalFark]  

sillysillysilly: NewportBarGuy

Actually there is no amount of software re-development that could prevent this. Give me $300 usd and I can take down 1 state, give me $1000 and 2 guys I can take down 3 to 4 states. Give me $30,000 and 5 guys and I can take down 20 or more states.

People think that having PLC controlled electric grid is what makes us vulnerable, in reality it is the integrated grid that does it. Remember a year or so ago southern calif. was dropped for 2 days due to an error of a switching network. One failure did that.


People like you need bullhorns to shut up the fools who think more software will do the trick. :-)

17 Nov 2012 01:29 PM
rooftop235    [TotalFark]  
encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.comView Full Size

17 Nov 2012 01:37 PM
DBrandisNC     

Phony_Soldier: DBrandisNC: I work on NBC's Revolution, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

You should feel bad about working on that show.


There is no part of me that feels bad about cashing checks from working on a silly TV show.

17 Nov 2012 01:44 PM
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