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Whistling past the graveyard

There’s a larger point to be made about the Moore County power outage, and Denninger makes it.

Question: Why couldn’t this be immediately fixed?

Answer: They don’t have spares for the parts that were damaged.

Why do they not have the spares?

Because we sent our supply lines overseas, we made no provisions to have spares, and the regulators at the state and federal level sat on their hands and played with themselves instead of requiring that providers of critical services, such as electricity, had a sufficient stock of spares to cover both routine failures and those caused by weather or low-grade assaults perpetrated by small numbers of people.

This is the gross incompetence we have throughout our society.  It is the manifestation of “oh nothing bad will ever happen so we don’t have to be prepared for it” that has shown up in all manner of other places, such as the cars that are completed except for chips in their engine computers without which they will not run, and thus they’re sitting in a field unsold.

Rather than insist that such critical items be produced here in the United States, including all precursor components over the last couple of decades we did nothing of the sort.  We allowed the nickel to be “saved” and then pocketed by the shareholders, directors and officers while offshoring supply to China and other places which have no duty to US citizens.

We then went further in our official malfeasance and performed no audits or forced corrective action when the spares were not available and resupply looked possibly challenged, to the point that vehicles are stacked up and can’t be sold for want of a chip and now power is out in an entire county because the switchgear and transformers in two bog-standard substations that feed the area were damaged and the power company has no spares available to immediately replace them.

What you should learn from this is that this sort of disruption is tiny compared to what ever one hundred dedicated men, uncorrelated and thus unable to be interdicted in advance could do any time they decided to.

Further, while I’m sure they’ll find the parts somewhere in the US and restore power if the damage was to fifty counties instead of one the odds are high that said parts would not exist at all in the United States and might not be available in sufficient quantity to actually restore service to everyone for months or even longer.

A commenter over at Aesop’s joint hammers it in deeper.

Just in case you all are not aware of the reality of our power grid and the companies that maintain them. Regional depots have maybe 1 or at most 2 of those larger HV transformers sitting in a warehouse, these are the ubiquitous monsters about 10×10 ft that convert the high tension down to more usable voltages for local distribution in our towns and factories. The smaller pole mounted units, perhaps in the few hundreds per depot, seeing they are a more common failure point due to heat, leaks, lighting strikes, trees falling or wayward ordnance.

What this means is that if there is ever a real effort to damage our grid by enemies, foreign or domestic, there is not enough replacement equipment on the ground in the entire country to fix it quickly.

Now the cute kicker or as they say, “and now the rest of the story”. Most of our grid maintenance parts come from, yep, the PRC. And guess who will conveniently have “issues” in ramping up production for the export market, especially when they themselves are using most of the factory output internally (remember those 5 new coal plants going live/week over there)? Yes good sirs, we are royally screwed if any untoward events suddenly ramp up.

Bayou Pete brings it on home for us.

As a former Civil Defense sector officer, trained in disaster planning and recovery, allow me to assure you, that commenter is absolutely correct. His words apply to every country on the planet. The electrical utilities simply can’t afford to stockpile large quantities of replacement transformers. The bigger and more expensive the transformer, the fewer they’ll have on hand. Even simple components such as the glass insulators used on high-tension electrical cables criss-crossing the country are only stocked in limited quantities. If random individuals were to pause alongside rural roads and shoot out, say, a thousand of those insulators, there’d be the devil to pay to replace them all in the short term.  If they shot out ten thousand…forget about it. There aren’t enough power crews, let alone insulators, to repair that sort of damage in anything less than weeks, possibly months.

At this writing, there’s somewhere north of 35,000 North Carolinians sitting in the dark, in 30-degree weather, who won’t be getting their electricity restored until Thursday, as of the last estimate I saw. Not good. Not good a-TALL.

BOTTOM LINE: The US electrical grid, not just in semi-rural Eastern NC but nationwide, is fragile, hopelessly out of date, and entirely vulnerable to being taken down with preposterous ease—interminably, no training or specialized tools necessary, by any motivated passerby with a point of his own to make. Make of all that what you will. As Peter says: food for thought, indeed.

Update! AP puts it bluntly: “A LESSON IN ASYMMETRIC WARFARE IN MOORE COUNTY.” Pretty much, yeah, for anyone inclined to interpret it as such.


2 thoughts on “Whistling past the graveyard

  1. Inflation, meaning the expansion of the Money Supply above what productivity and profits growth would suggest, is an insidious phenomenon that has effects beyond the immediately apparent rising prices.

    As prices rise eventually Demand is restricted. Economies of scale run in reverse, in an unwinding of an economic virtuous circle. In order to find ways to avoid this, producers begin to try to hide it. They reduce quantity, as in shrinkage of food item volumes, or they nickel and dime on quality, like poor paint jobs and bad rustproofing on automobiles. At some point even that becomes untenable. So they literally look for shortcuts.

    The outsourcing to slave labor is one of those shortcuts.

    However, the inevitable consequence of the unwinding of the virtuous circle of productivity, the vicious cycle of declining productivity and quality, is driven ever onward by Inflationary Forces.

    Turns out Foreign Slaves in shitholes like the PRC have even LESS cares about quality, attention to detail, or even working very productively. So the vicious circle starts tearing up the Foreign Labor market and the Slavedrivers find themselves cutting corners even more severely. At which point along comes a Neo-Maoist like Xi who sees an advantage to shut down internally and grab all the power for himself, and the Foreigners far away be damned, as he sees a chance to take them down at little cost to himself and his inner cadre. So if a few eggs get broken there and a lot of eggs get broken here, it’s no big deal to him because he gets his very own personal Power Mad Omelette served up to his liking.

    Several Sociopathic Lunatics have taken over in DC, Beijing, Davos and Brussels and we are at a critical juncture in the History of not only America, not only Western Civilization, but of all Humanity.

    Remember, as the post points out, we are collapsing around a Nuclear Armed world now. The Fear of the Soviet Union collapsing in 1989 and going nuke mad in the process has now spread to become a reality in a half dozen nuclear armed Nations. The US, The PRC, The UK and much of Europe approach this winter in a very precarious position.

  2. The US electrical grid, not just in semi-rural Eastern NC but nationwide, is fragile, hopelessly out of date, and entirely vulnerable…

    And ours is one of the very best.

    Why is it this way? Remember that in every state, electrical utilities are highly regulated by state government and to some degree by the federal government, and both are aware of the issues and refuse to do anything about it.

    Once again, it is government regulation that causes the biggest problems.

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