Electricity shortages in the third world of the U.S.A.

August 2012

“Rotating outages” of electricity happen routinely in third world countries. Now parts of the U.S., including Southern California, are in danger of periodic loss of electricity for extended periods of time. Southern California Edison is notifying its customers to “start planning now for potential rotating outages [which] can occur whenever SCE is urged by state officials to reduce the energy load.”

Between 1980 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census, the population of the U.S. grew by 36%. However, over that time self-described “environmentalists” have been active politically in blocking the development of new electrical generation and transmission capacity. Southern California and the northeastern U.S., and perhaps other parts of the country, depend on importing electric power from  elsewhere within America to supplement locally generated power, so for such areas inadequate transmission facilities are just as big a problem as inadequate electricity generating capacity.

The time is coming when even environmentalists will feel the pain when electric power shuts down where they live and work.

No new nuclear power plants have been built in the U.S. since the late 1970s. Nuclear power is a source of heating water to create steam to move turbines in the process of generating electric energy. Nuclear power for generating electricity has been anathema to environmental activists. This is puzzling considering that nuclear power plants generating electricity for consumption in America produce no emissions of greenhouse gases and have proven extremely safe to operate in comparison to other forms of energy generation. 1

Starting in the late 19th century, the American “electric grid” infrastructure for transmission of electric power was developed by both state agencies and private electric utility companies. Electricity supplies inadequate to demand was unheard of until recent decades. The need for more electricity transmission capacity has not been met by adequate new supply because of political price controls on electric power rates to consumers. In the absence of such price controls, electric power companies would be virtually certain to add new electric grid capacity because they could pass the cost on to consumers.

In the past 45 years of study of the work of Andrew J. Galambos and Jay S. Snelson, the author of this blog post has observed one phenomenon to which there are so far no exceptions. That is, whenever one sees something that seems bizarre or inexplicable, if one digs deeply enough, and turns over enough rocks, one will find politics as the cause of the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon.

It is bizarre that a people as prosperous as Americans would have shortages of electricity, given the scientific and technical knowledge and the natural resources available in this country.

When you next experience a widespread, planned electrical outage, know that the cause is politics.

If you think that the electricity outage is necessary to save the world from pollution, think again. It is not. Readily available energy is a boon to mankind. Usage of energy causes byproducts that do affect the environment, sometimes negatively. However, more primitive sources of energy, such as burning wood have negative environmental effects as well. Science and technology offer the solution to using energy with minimum impact on the environment. For example, technology has made for much cleaner use of gasoline in motor vehicles and in coal-fired electric power plants. Catalytic converters for automobile exhaust systems and “scrubbers” for cleaning emissions of coal-fired electric power have made a great improvement in cleanliness of both these consumers of fossil fuels.

A law of nature, the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, tells us that use of energy will exhaust the source of energy by converting it from useful to unusable matter, and cause byproducts that must be dealt with, for example the ash from burning wood as a source of heat. The operation of entropy is not a cause for tolerating shortages of usable energy any more than unnecessary restrictions on the production and transmission of energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. In the early 1960s there were two incidents causing total of four fatalities of workmen maintaining nuclear power plants, but no such fatalities since 1964. See Nuclear Accidents, http://www.lutins.org/nukes.html
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