Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Storm Cuts Power to 250,000 Homes in Washington Capital Area

I published an open memo to President Obama (reprinted in my local neighborhood newspaper, The Northwest Current) in May 2009. It recommended using stimulus money to bury power lines. Had the administration taken my advice, a quarter-million homes in and around Washington, DC would not have been in the dark after last Sunday's storm:
Memo to President Obama: Use Federal Stimulus Funds to Bury Urban Power Lines

TO: The President
RE: Using Stimulus Funds to Bury Power Lines
DATE: May 18, 2009

The night before last, a big thunderstorm knocked down some trees that cut power to our urban block in the Nation's Capital. We were without power for some 10 hours before repair crews fixed the problem. The experience reminded me of complaints from participants in a seminar that I teach for families of international diplomats. Every year, some of the foreigners posted here express shock and dismay that their power goes out during storms in Washington, DC. Europeans and delegates from the former Soviet block simply cannot believe that the richest and most powerful country in the world allows its capital to suffer power cuts and blackouts "like a third-world country." I used to just shrug my shoulders and repeat the mantra that "burying power lines is very expensive..."

However, given the massive spending on the stimulus package and the need to create jobs in the USA, it would seem to me that there would be no better time than right now for the Obama administration to announce a federal program to bury power lines in urban areas. These are jobs that can't be moved to China or India, and the benefits will be felt as soon as residents of Washington, DC no longer need to stock up on candles and flashlights every time there is a bad weather forecast.

Furthermore, from a national security point of view it would seem to be a no-brainer that buried power lines are less subject to disruption from terrorism than those hanging on flimsy telephone poles. Needless to say, if climate change predictions are correct, increasingly severe weather would result in more power outages affecting above-ground transmission wires. Not to mention the disruption power cuts cause to the disabled dependent on electrically-powered medical equipment.

Burying power lines with stimulus funds would create jobs, improve national security, and enhance the quality of life in urban areas. At the same time, the latest FiOS and other high-tech connections could be installed, providing infrastructural improvements requisite for the industries of tomorrow where people are living today, perhaps lowering electricity rates in the bargain..Last but not least, it would no doubt help improve the image of America in the hearts and minds of diplomats posted here from around the world.

To those who say it can't be done, let us remind them of your campaign slogan: "Yes, we can!"