Throughout New York City, about 52,000 of ConEd's 3.2 million customers lost power during the heat wave. Triple-digit temperatures forced residents like 77 year-old Rui Zhi Chen, to seek shelter at one of the city's 400 emergency cooling centers. "It felt like an oven in my home and on the street," Chen said.Among the problems is the US' "lagging infrastructure," which Paul Krugman addresses in his column, "America Goes Dark."
Should Americans view these kinds of scenarios as extraordinary circumstances -- or a warning sign of a darker future?
Experts on the nation's electricity system point to a frighteningly steep increase in non-disaster-related outages affecting at least 50,000 consumers.
During the past two decades, such blackouts have increased 124 percent -- up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995, to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to research at the University of Minnesota.
In the most recently analyzed data available, utilities reported 36 such outages in 2006 alone.
"It's hard to imagine how anyone could believe that -- in the United States -- we should learn to cope with blackouts," said University of Minnesota Professor Massoud Amin, a leading expert on the U.S. electricity grid.
...[U]tilities in New York Pennsylvania and New Jersey averaged 214 minutes of total interruptions each year. These figures don't include power outages blamed on tornadoes or other disasters.
But compare the U.S. data to Japan which averages only four minutes of total interrupted service each year. "As you can see, we have a long way to go," said Andres Carvallo, who played a key role in planning the smart grid in Austin, Texas.
[I]n a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.I will never cease to be amazed that the people who most loudly, garishly, ceaselessly claim to love America and be the "Real Americans" are the ones who evidently won't be satisfied until the United States crumbles into dust and ruin.
...We're told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable. And it's true that state and local governments, hit hard by the recession, are cash-strapped. But they wouldn't be quite as cash-strapped if their politicians were willing to consider at least some tax increases.
...[T]he end result of the long campaign against government is that we've taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.
[Related Reading: Rehabilitating Bush, Crumble, Thank a Progressive for the Luxury of Your Disdain.]