There’s nothing like six days without electricity in the middle of a record heat wave to leave one with the feeling that somebody must be doing something wrong. I shouldn’t really complain too much. Some of our neighbors had trees crash through their houses during the storm, and others went more than a week without power afterwards. And when the utility trucks rolled up our street at 10 pm last Thursday night, it was obvious that the crews – brought in from all over the northeast, including Canada — were working as hard as possible in extremely difficult conditions.
So who should we blame? My former CFR colleague Stephen Flynn, now at the Northeastern University, has a pretty good set of answers in a report titled Powering America’s Energy Resilience, which was released in May by the Center for National Policy. Vulnerability to the kind of lengthy power outage we just experienced, the report argues, is a failure of collective responsibility; the United States has simply not made it a priority to sustain and improve the infrastructure that is vital to our daily lives. Former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson once described the United States as “a superpower with a third-world grid.”