American Energy in the Age of the Superstorm

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Powerlines and a sub station near the Gila Indian Reservation in Arizona. (Kevin Dooley/flickr)

After Hurricane Sandy, it's become pretty clear that major storms are here to stay, causing billions of dollars in damages and leaving coastlines vulnerable to destruction and power outages. And the old antique that is the American power grid seems powerless against the recurring forces of mother nature. 

The Obama administration is also safely back in the White House, and their interest in slowing the negative effects of climate change could spell a renewed interest in the natural gas industry. 

Jeffrey Leonard is the CEO of the Global Environment Fund, a growth capital-oriented investment firm.

"I think what Sandy taught us," Leonard says, "is the dependence that we all have on electricity today." Though most people think of energy as something that comes out of the ground, we are reliant on an electricity grid that Leonard says has been ignored. "The first step is to pay attention to the electricity infrastructure. Sandy taught us the vulnerability of that infrastructure, as many people even today in New Jersey still don't even have power - electricity - back at their houses."

"While there are management issues, it's a much bigger and more systemic challenge. We've not reinvested in our electricity grid in any substantial way for some thirty to forty years," Leonard says.

"It's like preventive healthcare," Leonard says, "We're going to pay gradually overtime for preventive maintenance and upgrade, or we're going to way for catastrophic failure."

Ironically, there are projections that say that the United States will be the biggest energy producer in the world by 2020 - but with our antiquated grid, it will be difficult to take advantage of. "We may be swimming in energy, but still left in the dark," Leonard says.


Jeffrey Leonard

Produced by:

Joe Hernandez

Comments [3]

els from Wilton, CT

So good to hear your compassionate producer brought to light the plight of the older folks holding up in their homes w/o power, proper nourishment and, in many cases, meds. There is a huge untold story here. I lost a 90 year old friend who experienced 18 days w/o power, a tree on her house and other serious issues with last year's 'Irene' and 'Lee' - those storm events zapped energy she may have accessed to live months or longer. My mother in Parma, Ohio, is drained from 7 full days w/o power with the ungirdled winds of 'Sandy.'

Nov. 15 2012 03:47 PM
lesliemf from nyc

1. Replace the grid with BloomBoxes from Bloom Energy, a CA company whose energy boxes already power Google, Walmart and parts of the military.
2. Replace diesel and oil motor fuel with renewable natural gas made from garbage, organic waste, cow poop etc.

Nov. 14 2012 03:27 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

As far as cyber attacks go, I don't see a need to connect our power stations to the Internet. If there needs to be communication between stations and control rooms these connections should be done through encrypted radio/microwave frequencies or dedicated fiberoptic cables.

These exclusive methods will help isolate our infrastructure from remote attacks and make it easy for us to monitor the actual antennas or cables from anyone trying to physically tap into our computer systems.

Nov. 14 2012 09:41 AM

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