Frosty Wooldridge


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Americans take electricity for granted!  They enjoy it without interruption.  It provides them with unlimited energy at work, home and play. Electricity allows comfort heretofore unknown to humanity before the 20th century. 

In 1970, the United States featured the finest nationwide electrical grid known to any civilization.  In a short 39 years: “It’s not the best anymore,” said Otto Lynch, chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“The Twin Crises: Immigration and Infrastructure” by, Volume XIX, No.2, pages 24-28, Winter 2009, by Edwin S. Rubenstein—addresses electrical infrastructure.

Lynch said, “The nation’s electric power grid is aging. Power lines with an expected life of 50 years are still in use 80 years after installation, and wooden poles that should have been replaced after 30 years are rendering as much as 20 additional years of service.  The system faces new challenges as the population grows, industrial activity increases, and demand for power rises.”

Rubenstein reported, “The need for more generating capacity was starkly demonstrated by an electricity shortage in California in the first half of 2000--the most severe energy crisis in the U.S. for many years. This was followed in August 2003 by the most extensive blackout in U.S. history, affecting 50 million people across a wide swath of the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada.”

Since 2000, the U.S. added 26-29 million people driven primarily by legal and illegal immigration. Within the next 10 years, another 30 million people expect to call the USA home—again driven by unrelenting immigration.

The problem: too many people

“Why haven’t electric utilities built sufficient supply?” said Rubenstein. “Many factors can be cited as explanations, but a good place to start is at the source of all power: electric generators. They are costly and must be sized according to the population served. If a million people are added to the U.S. population, then utilities must come up with another $1 billion for a billion watts of new electric generators.  If 142 million are added, the expected population growth between now and 2050, utilities must come up with an added $142 billion just to keep generator capacity at recommended per-capita levels.”

As you can see, we face horrendous challenges beyond most folks’ understanding.  And, get this: most Americans don’t have a clue, don’t want to know and really, don’t care.  As long as their electricity flows today and the toaster and coffee maker work, no problem!

However, no matter how much we ignore it, our electrical future stands nostril-deep in trouble.  Again, it’s a Faustian Bargain that we all face, but we all ignore. While we disregard it, we watch it grow in severity.

For example, California expects to add 20 million people in 30 years. With the above information, how do you think they will be able to maintain energy supplies for close to 50 million people? They burst at their demographic britches at 38 million today!

“Could demand reduction in California have prevented their electrical crisis,” Rubenstein said. “Not a chance! As noted, California’s population growth at [1,700 per day, 600,000] per year, more than offset the reduction in per-capita electricity demand.  Bottom line: California’s flawed energy deregulation scheme only masked the primary culprit—explosive population growth.”

Reality check, please!

“Fossil fuels are used in 71 percent of U.S. electricity production, led by coal at 49 percent, natural gas at 20 percent and oil at 2 percent,” Rubenstein said. “Nuclear power underlies 19 percent and hydropower runs 7 percent.  That leaves the carbon free renewable of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass at 3 percent. The inexorable reality is that 90 some fold increase in renewable energy infrastructure would be required to generate 100 percent of our energy from zero-carbon energy resources.”

For anyone visiting California, you cannot breathe a clean breath of air in Los Angeles or San Francisco.  The ugly brown cloud over those cities stands as a stark reminder that population overload creates a Pandora’s Box of consequences for all inhabitants.  That scenario repeats itself in Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, New York and dozens of other cities.

On top of that, we expect to add 100 million people in the next 26 years to the United States.  My question: does anyone with brains more than a bowl of oatmeal understand what we draw down upon our civilization?  I shake my head with what I understand and with what I see our Congress and top leaders doing:  ignoring the core causes of our energy dilemma at all costs in some kind of arcane hope that some new Einstein might solve the problem at the last second before our civilization collapses.

My question remains: and what if he doesn’t. What do we do then?






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