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Why Can’t We Just Bury All The Power Lines?

Many people in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas are in their third day without power thanks to Friday night’s Derecho. The latest reports from utility companies are saying that it’s likely going to be the end of this week before all the power is restored (assuming we don’t get more storms between now and then, of course) and the weather if forecast to remain hot and humid from now until Saturday at least. Some elected officials are publicly trying to berate the utility companies into fixing things faster, which seems like little more than foolish grandstanding to me but then that’s what politicians do isn’t it. For those who have lost power, it’s all been very frustrating. Whatever food was in refridgerators and freezers has long ago spoiled, and unless there are alternate living arrangements available, one must suffer through some pretty unpleasant weather.

All of this leads David Frum to ask a question that I’m sure many residents of the D.C. area asking, why can’t we just bury the power lines:

Outages are not inevitable. The German power grid has outages at an average rate of 21 minutes per year.

The winds may howl. The trees may fall. But in Germany, the lights stay on.

There’s no Teutonic engineering magic to this impressive record. It’s achieved by a very simple decision: Germany buries almost all of its low-voltage and medium-voltage power lines, the lines that serve individual homes and apartments. Americans could do the same. They have chosen not to.

The choice has been made for reasons of cost. The industry rule of thumb is that it costs about 10 times as much to bury wire as to string wire overhead: up to $1 million per mile, industry representatives claim. Since American cities are much less dense than European ones, there would be a lot more wire to string to serve a U.S. population than a European one.

Frum goes on to question the industry cost estimates and point out that there would be benefits to the project as well:

1. There’s reason to think that industry estimates of the cost of burying wires are inflated. While the U.S. industry guesstimates costs, a large-scale study of the problem conducted recently in the United Kingdom estimated the cost premium at 4.5 to 5.5 times the cost of overhead wire, not 10.

2. U.S. cost figures are a moving target. American cities are becoming denser as the baby boomers age and opt for central-city living, as I discussed in a previous column. Denser cities require fewer miles of wire to serve their populations.

3. Costs can only be understood in relation to benefits. As the climate warms, storms and power outages are becoming more common. And as the population ages, power failures become more dangerous. In France, where air conditioning is uncommon, a 2003 heat wave left 10,000 people dead, almost all of them elderly. If burying power lines prevented power outages during the hotter summers ahead, the decision could save many lives

All of this is well-taken, and as someone who has lived almost exclusively in newer communities where the utilities that used to be delivered by above-ground wires are all buried, I’ve often wondered myself why this isn’t more common. Of course, it’s true that living in a community where the lines are buried doesn’t always guarantee that you won’t lost power, because the  power still has to get to your community somehow and, unless you’re fortunate enough to live close to a utility substation that transmits the power right into underground lines, that means that you’re relying on above-ground transmission lines somewhere along the chain, and if they go down your underground lines aren’t worth a hill of beans. Indeed, many of the communities that were hit with power outages in Fairfax and Prince William Counties in Virginia this past weekend were newer communities with underground power lines. Because the storm had knocked down lines outside the community that they depend on, though, they were in the same boat as if there had been telephone poles in their front line.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the advantages of having underground power lines, and the aftermath of the storm demonstrates it clearly. Older communities in areas like Arlington and across the river in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Rockville, Maryland, are likely to have longer to wait than newer communities thanks to their combination of above-ground power lines and large, older trees. Indeed, when local utilities have attempted in recent years to go through neighborhoods and cut back trees in order to protect power lines from the impact of storms, they have gotten complaints from homeowners who don’t want their trees cut back. Of course, these are probably the same homeowners who complain most loudly when their power goes out and it takes longer for it to come back on than it does on newer communities.

So, in the abstract at least, life in these types of community would be improved to some degree by burying the lines.  The problem I see, however, is that I don’t think this project would be nearly as easy as Frum seems to think that it is. For one thing, the United States is far larger than Germany and has many more miles of power lines to worry about. A project to bury every single line in the country would take a very long time and, Frum’s reassurances not withstanding, cost utilities a lot of money. That money would either have to come from increased rates, or from taxpayer dollars. Add into that the fact that we’re not just talking about electrical lines here, but also telephone and cable transmission lines, and you’ve just increased the number of potential players by a pretty significant degree. It took us decades to wire the country for electricity. Turning around and burying those lines is going to take just as long I would submit, although that’s not necessarily not a reason to dismiss the idea.

Another problem I foresee here is a NIMBY problem. As I noted above, a lot of people complain any time a utility comes through to do the tree cutting they need to do to keep power lines safe from storms. How thrilled do you think these homeowners are going to be when the same utility company comes through the neighborhood tearing up the street and their front yards for lord only knows how long. Legally, there would be very little that could be done to stop it since pretty much every piece of residential property includes utility easements, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be people who would try to stop it, or bug their local political leaders about it every chance they got.

There’s a final piece of the puzzle that would need to be dealt with. The high-powered transmission lines that are so prevalent to in rural areas are just as vulnerable to the dangers of wind storms as that telephone pole in your front yard. Indeed, when a Hurricane swept through Central Virginia several years ago it caused major havoc with a major transmission line in that neck of the woods that took weeks to repair completely. I’m not even certain that its possible to bury lines that carry that much electricity safely, but even if it could be done it would be a major engineering project that would be locked up in battles over easements for years no doubt.

This is a good idea, but I get the impression that it’s not nearly as simple a solution as Frum, and others, think that it is. It would be nice if it were, though.  I’m not saying don’t do it, but I think we need to have a more realistic idea of what we’re talking about undertaking before we move forward.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mattb says:

    A project to bury every single line in the country would take a very long time and, Frum’s reassurances not withstanding, cost utilities a lot of money. That money would either have to come from increased rates, or from taxpayer dollars. Add into that the fact that we’re not just talking about electrical lines here, but also telephone and cable transmission lines, and you’ve just increased the number of potential players by a pretty significant degree.

    This.

    This is a project that industry does not want to tackle — it’s too cost prohibitive and also would require the single shot upgrade of a lot of equipment. Frankly, this is exactly the type o project that will most likely have to be initiated by the government. And there’s little to no interest in this.

    Ahh, the joys of existing infrastructure. It’s a great example of a place where developing nations have the opportunity to temporarily leap-frog more developed countries, thanks to their relative lack of legacy grids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  2. PD Shaw says:

    My city operates the electrical plant and distribution system, and runs it pretty much like I expect private utiltities have been — the older parts of the city have overhead wires and the newer areas are burried. Occam’s razor suggests to me that it costs more to retrofit older areas than require the lines to be installed underground in the first place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. @PD Shaw:

    Indeed, the costs of putting in the infrastructure for underground utilities in a brand new community are likely fairly low on a marginal basis. Trying to retrofit a community that’s been around since the 60s? Yea, that’s gonna be expensive, messy, and time consuming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    One advantage of above-ground lines is that when there’s a problem, they’re easy to diagnose and replace. Underground lines — not so much. A broken line now is a nuisance and inconvenience; a broken buried line is an excavation.

    And while you’re protecting the lines from one set of hazards, you’re inviting a whole new set of them. Earthquakes, burrowing animals, poorly-planned digging, the freeze-thaw cycle that gives us frost heaves…

    It’s not a question of “this will fix all our problems.” It’s more of “will these new problems be easier to fix than the old ones?”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  5. John Burgess says:

    It’s just more than digging up front yards in older communities that’s a problem.

    Take Georgetown and its townhouses. Utility lines run through back yards, not along the street front. There is no access to backyards except through houses as most streets there do not have alleys behind them and there are no side yards. That means no machinery to dig the holes: it would all have to be done by hand.

    Further, many streets are build across hillsides. That means the entry way is a floor (or more) below the grade of the back gardens. This would necessitate carrying all the shovels and crap up stairs and through the house.

    It’s one thing to have your own repair people coming into your house, but are homeowners likely to be please to have city workers coming in and out? That would mean that there’d have to be someone at home while the work was being done.

    It’d probably be easier to move everyone and their belongings out of the houses for three months (government workers, remember), do the work, and move them back in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Mikey says:

    a lot of people complain any time a utility comes through to do the tree cutting they need to do to keep power lines safe from storms.

    Hey, Montgomery County, I think Doug said he knows you.

    I live in Northern Virginia, 1/4 mile from a substation and our power and telecommunications lines are buried. Our lights flickered two or three times and that was it. And this isn’t a particularly new neighborhood, it dates from 1984.

    Still, I can’t disagree that burying all the residential lines would be very expensive and time-consuming, and people who are willing to fork over whatever it takes when the lights are out will usually have a change of heart once service is restored, so it would be difficult to fund something so extensive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  7. anjin-san says:

    Your not advocating that America upgrade some of our infrastructure that was state of the art in the 19th century are you? Dirty commie!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

  8. anjin-san says:

    In the mid-90s, I was still in the restaurant biz. The local PG&E office was across the street. Used to wait on the emergency crews durning the winter months. At one point, the size of the crews dropped dramatically. When I asked what was up, they said half the emergency workers had been laid off as a cost cutting measure. I did a little digging, and found a number of statements from senior PG&E leaders saying service would not be impacted as a result of the cuts.

    This was about the time outages started going from a few hours to over 24 in some cases. Throughout these cuts, bankruptcy, and blowing up a city block in San Mateo, CA, PG&E has found hundreds of millions of dollars for executive & management bonuses.

    When you take this, and add in the refusal in this country to spend on infrastructure, you start to see why businessmen from advanced Asian & European countries can’t believe what they are seeing the first time they visit this country.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 2

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    To pay for that project we’ll use magical unicorns to harvest money from the money gardens on the money hills.

    Then when the pvc piping erodes and the lines become exposed we’ll use robotic gophers to dig wells through which we’ll replace them. Or we’ll use concrete piping in the first instance, in which case when there are earthquakes and the cement cracks we’ll replace them with bubble gum wrappers.

    Of course existing above ground easements and licenses won’t work for below ground power lines. So we’ll just create them out of thin air and without even exercising eminent domain and paying compensation. We’ll order those below ground easements and licenses with national fiats. If property owners complain then we’ll waterboard them until they come to heel.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 20

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: That’s right, anjin. It’s all a corporate right-wing conspiracy. Like everything is.

    Including why your socks keep disappearing in the dryer. The Koch Brothers are stealing your socks.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 29

  11. LCB says:

    @anjin-san: Most utilities have cut back on their permanent line crews and use contract compaines to fill the gap. In our area the service levels have not changed, but the cost of the line crews has dropped. Of course, doesn’t sound like that’s the case for PG&E from what you’ve said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. mantis says:

    In our free market paradise, any infrastructure improvements that don’t result in direct and immediate profit will not be considered. This could only be reasonably accomplished with government intervention, which is evil and wrong and bad and socialism, so enjoy your outages.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 6

  13. al-Ameda says:

    For a few years I worked as a financial analyst for a major utility in the Pacific Northwest, and I can tell you that it – undergrounding of overhead utility lines – requires the public to make an investment, through their utility rates, to having that done.

    It is a great public benefit, from both a safety standpoint, and from a visual standpoint. Once undergrounding is complete, storms do not result in power outages and views are enhanced.

    That said, I do not believe that the public will want to pay for it. The public wants it until they have to pay for it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  14. A few problems to consider:

    1. With transmision lines (more so than lower voltage distribution lines), there could be problems with capacitance and induction effects between the wire and the wall of the conduits and other wires that may prevent burying them.

    2. Safety: the more buried cables you have, the more often people will be injured or killed because they hit one during excavations.

    3. Ease of mainenance: what’s the trade of with how often a system goes down vs. how long the fix takes when it does? If you have above ground lines and a tree falls across the line, it’s relatively easy to figure out where the problem is. If your buried lines go down because water is leaking into the conduit and shorting out the line, it’s going to take forever just to figure out where the problem is.

    4. Density trade offs: it seems like the effectiveness of burying cables is highly dependent on high dense an area is. If you live in an urban or dense suburban area it’s probably a no brainer. I’m far less certain burying the cables in rural areas is a good idea. Laying miles of conduit just to reach one farm is going to be hideously expensive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  15. Mikey says:

    @mantis: Verizon’s investment in the FiOS infrastructure build-out puts the lie to your assertion. Of course companies will consider infrastructure improvements that do not result in “direct and immediate profit.” Sometimes, they don’t make money at all. But unlike the government, they don’t purposely sink billions of dollars into sure losers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 9

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ Jeno

    That’s right, anjin. It’s all a corporate right-wing conspiracy. Like everything is.

    I’ve worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies over the years. During my last corporate stint, my work was good enough to be recognized by the CEO, who runs a 45 billion dollar a year business, and it also got a nod from the board. I worked on my projects with business unit presidents, VPs, and senior directors.

    Currently I am a consutant for three start ups. I work directly with the CEOs of two.

    Perhaps you can fill us in on your career in corporate America, so we can see if there is anything behind your blather. I notice you did not refute any of my claims about PG&E. Do so if you can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Of course existing above ground easements and licenses won’t work for below ground power lines. So we’ll just create them out of thin air and without even exercising eminent domain and paying compensation.

    That’s not true Nick, there are utility easements of all kinds in any residential neighborhood, housing subdivision. I’ve seen them identified and recorded on many parcel maps.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. Jr says:

    If we bury the power lines, then what the hell will Squirrels climb on?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. Dave Schuler says:

    The rule of thumb for estimating the cost of burying electric cables is $1 million a mile in an urban area. Here in Chicago Exelon’s net income was about $2.5 billion last year. ComEd already has about 29,000 miles of buried cable but there’s another 34,000 miles go. The estimated cost for that runs into the tens of billions.

    Short answer: the company can’t afford to bury all of its cables, the state would need to approve a rate increase, and the consumers won’t stand for it.

    If Chicago wants its electrical cabling buried, it will need to do it itself. Considering the city’s present budget shortfall, burying electrical cable probably isn’t a priority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mikey: Low voltage and fiber are not the same as electrical – much easier and cheaper. They lay them not by digging trenches but horizontal boring. They don’t have to worry about heat dissipation. The overhead primary lines can be much smaller and uninsulated – underground requires much heavier gauge and must be insulated greatly increasing the cost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  21. Mikey says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Regarding your point #3, I don’t think it is that difficult to find the location of the problem. The utilities have a testing tool called a Time Domain Reflectometer that can pretty accurately pinpoint a short or break on a length of cable (some of these TDRs can reach out over 40,000 feet).

    Regarding your point #4, that’s absolutely right, and it’s the reason many rural areas do not enjoy the level and speed of Internet connectivity as more suburban and urban areas do. Many people in rural areas depend on satellite connections for their Internet service, but at this point it’s not really feasible to do that for electricity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Love the display of American can’t-do spirit.

    Let’s add this to the list of things that commie Europeans can do, but we can’t, alongside a decent healthcare system, nuclear power, airports not modeled on Greyhound stations, improved fuel standards and primary education.

    The one area where we still lead the world is in bloated, un-earned arrogance and excuses for sucking.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 5

  23. @Ron Beasley:

    I hadn’t considered the insulation issue, that does make things more expensive for sure. It also suggests, I would think, that burying the transmission lines that carry power over long distances would be next to impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. Mikey says:

    @Ron Beasley: Oh, no doubt about any of that. My point was that private enterprises do, in fact, engage in infrastructure build-outs that do not result in immediate profit, and indeed may not result in any profit at all.

    I do agree with most everyone here that burying the existing power lines would be very expensive and in many cases difficult. My neighborhood has the advantage of having had it done when the subdivision was originally built in 1984.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ Mikey

    I used to work for VZW – its a bit more complicated than that. Wireless is still a very young industry, and it is one where the technology has moved forward at a stunning pace. Verizon has indeed spent billions on it’s network, but their motives are to A. stay out in front. B. stay current and competetive, and C. survive. These all have profit attached to them. They are not doing it to make America strong or give their customers the best possible service.

    VZW was formed towards the end of the dotcom/tech boom, with an IPO as a mission critical goal. When I was there, senior leadership was obsessed with the IPO, and much of the companies activity was based on the goal of “getting the numbers to line up for the IPO”. And why not? A successful IPO would mean vast riches for those at the top of the food chain. Well, they were a bit late to the party, there was no IPO, and the C level officers did not get to buy islands. But it was not for lack of trying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  26. Found this interesting presentation on the problem:

    http://www.puc.nh.gov/2008IceStorm/ST&E%20Presentations/NEI%20Underground%20Presentation%2006-09-09.pdf

    A few takeaways:

    1. Less than two percent of distruptions are currently caused by transmission line failures vs. distribution line failures
    2. As I suspected, you pretty much can’t bury transmission lines on a large scale because it’s impossible to push electricty more than about 26 miles underground due to increased capacitance.
    3. Locating problems on buried distribution networks is a big problem due to the way most of our distribution systems are designed. In addition to burying cables, we’d also have to change from something called “radial distribution” to something called “loop distribution”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. mantis says:

    @Mikey:

    Verizon’s investment in the FiOS infrastructure build-out puts the lie to your assertion.

    Not in the slightest; in fact it proves my point.

    Verizon’s FiOS infrastructure rollout was highly structured to maximize short term profit, with installations only happening in very specific markets that would see high early subscription rates. I know this because I’ve tried to get it for myself, but our house is too far from the wealthier area where Verizon is rolled out. It’s only a few blocks away, but they never had any plans to extend it to my street.

    And by the way, Verizon basically stopped the FiOS infrastructure project in 2010. There goes your entire theory. Oops.

    Know why they pulled back? Verizon’s general counsel told congress in March that it was because, “Wall Street punished us for investing in FIOS.” That’s right. The free market killed the FiOS project because it didn’t generate enough short term profits.

    Plus FiOS is not some improvement to an existing system that benefits everyone, it’s a subscription service. It is installed and customers pay for the service. With electric, you’re talking about a service everyone already gets, and would continue to get with no noticeable change in service, if lines were moved underground.

    But unlike the government, they don’t purposely sink billions of dollars into sure losers.

    Like what, for instance? The rural electrification project? Sure, it didn’t make the government any money, but it sure helped a lot of people. Stupid government…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  28. anjin-san says:

    @ LCB

    Once upon a time, PG&E was a great company. Today it is a train wreck. The San Mateo disaster is a case study in rank, and probably criminal incompetence. (lucky for them they have Sen. Feinstein running interference for them) The people who have led PG&E to this sorry place have been punished with large bonuses and generous pensions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  29. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mikey: I live in a subdivision that was built in 1968 and was one of the first to have underground utilities. About 5 years ago the system started to fail on a regular basis and there were outages lasting hours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Actually the heavier gauge wire is the real cost driver.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. anjin-san says:

    @ Ron

    It’s hardly surprising that an early implementation that is nearly 50 years old is having failures. One of the first questions to ask would be what was the ROI on the original investment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. @Ron Beasley:

    Based on the presentation, the real cost driver is that an underground transmission line ends up “wasting” most of the current fighting capacitance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Ron Beasley says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That to, no argument here. The irony is I can see the pole where the electricity goes underground to my neighborhood. The most common cause of power outages here is squirrels shorting out transformers at the sub station.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    It’s hardly surprising that an early implementation that is nearly 50 years old is having failures. One of the first questions to ask would be what was the ROI on the original investment.

    I would think that you would depreciate the life of that undergrounding project over a 40 to 50 year term. In many cities water, sewer and electrical infrastructure is up for replacement now. San Francisco is really struggling with utility infrastructure now – it’s old, time to reinvest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. John D'Geek says:

    My father has been working in the electric business almost as long as I’ve been alive. I asked him about this once, and his answer was simple (and duplicated in several comments above): It’s not that easy.

    Yes, it prevents ice buildup (which snapped a lot of cables last Halloween around here), trees falling, and so forth, but it does come with its own set of problems. They can find the general area of the problem, but then they’ve got to do some digging to diagnose the exact problem.There are water levels, water proofing, etc etc.

    And on top of that, apparently when problems like the recent ones do occur, they’re more likely to be in parts rather than wires — substations, transformers, and other buzzwords that I don’t pretend to understand — which must be obtained elsewhere when they blow.

    They import workers from around the country when this stuff happens, 18 hour days. But if they need more transformers than they happen to have in reserve, well … hope you’ve got blankets.

    Ironically enough, being “country folk” myself, I worry less about them than the “city folk”. When your electric goes out that often, you buy a backup generator. Or get a wood stove. Or use that fireplace that came with the 19th century farmhouse you bought. Can’t get to the store for a while? Good thing you’ve got at least got a couple weeks of food ready. Okay, so maybe no milk … but you can deal. Kids’ll have to eat Oatmeal instead of Cheerios.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. MarkedMan says:

    Under at least some utility schemes, repair is a cost plus operation for the providers. You have to take that into account when you consider what they claim.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. David M says:

    I’m not sure why we’re still having a discussion about whether or not burying lines is a good idea, as I don’t think it would be standard in new subdivisions if it wasn’t better.

    Burying existing power lines probably is beyond the financial capability of most local utilities, although it does seem like it could be part of some much needed national infrastructure spending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. john personna says:

    Heh, 36 comments and no one has said “stimulus!”

    Not that I’d back it on that basis .. not unless we all got optical fiber as part of the deal ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. James in LA says:

    If we’re going to spend a berjillion dollars, better to spend it weaning folks off the grid entirely than replace it with a massive beast that has the same interconnected vulnerabilities. Best to be thinking of the grid as the backup supply, not the main source. That is where the future lies.

    It begins with a bucket of white paint for all those roofs in the SW… that’s a few jobs right there…

    A permanent industry in power conversion is just waiting for the taking. Make a universal network of interconnected, scalable pieces: solar, wind, waves, geo thermal, running water, hot lava, batteries, H2 fuel cells, green algae.. whatever is at hand. The mastery of this sort of modular design will be in high demand in the future. Plug n Play Power, where the grid is but one of many inputs.

    Pay for it by turning cities like LA into water producers through large-scale desalinization of a sort that water could be sold to surrounding states. Reverse the aqueduct system. LA has so much wealth it could be built in 3 weeks. OK, OK, but five years from now….?

    There are jobs out there, oodles of them, in energy conversion alone. We just have to, you know, want to go our and make them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  40. Ron Beasley says:

    @David M:

    I don’t think it would be standard in new subdivisions if it wasn’t better.

    I don’t know about where you live but here it is mandated by the government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. michael reynolds says:

    1863 and an intercontinental railroad is under consideration until the OTB commentariat points out that there’s a whole bunch of Indians and mountains and rivers and stuff in the way.

    1903 and the OTB’ers pour cold water on manned flight. “What, and build aerodromes in every city?”

    1956 and the OTB commentariat puts the kibosh on the interstate highway system, pointing out that we already have roads, there are no gas stations on most of the proposed system, plus nowhere to eat. “Why, just the cost of setting up feeding stations would be prohibitive!”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 3

  42. Racehorse says:

    Someday there will be a way to send electricity out like radio, tv, and cell phone signals. Tesla was working on this. Until then, we will have to be content with power lines and buried cable. Ours is buried. Of course, when there is construction or cable installed, they have to locate it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  43. john personna says:

    @Racehorse:

    Someday there will be a way to send electricity out like radio, tv, and cell phone signals

    I wouldn’t want to be wearing braces when they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: Stormy Dragon makes an excellent point: at a time when we are facing energy shortages should we really be pushing something that is less efficient?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Ron Beasley says:

    @john personna: And I’ll have to retire my tinfoil hat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. @michael reynolds:

    It’s amazing you managed to fit in that electrical engineering degree what with your book tour taking up so much of your time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Ron Beasley says:

    @anjin-san: Verizon had to do FIOS because the twisted pair infrastructure could not compete with coaxial cable – if they were going to remain competitive with Comcast et.al. they had no choice. It cost them about $5,000 a house – I would imagine that’s a pretty sorry ROI. Here in the Pacific NW they sold the system to Frontier which is losing customers and is so leveraged that Comcast will probably buy the system for cents on the dollar in a few years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  48. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Most of the railroads never made a profit. The same goes with the airlines.

    Also, the U.S. has over 500 airports that have some sort of commercial airline activity. Do you really think that Finland or the Netherlands has 500 airports.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  49. @David M:

    I’m not sure why we’re still having a discussion about whether or not burying lines is a good idea, as I don’t think it would be standard in new subdivisions if it wasn’t better.

    Because it’s not just a case of burying the existing lines. An underground system has to be designed fundamentally differently than an aboveground system. It’s also not clear that an underground system is anymore reliable: it appears you end with about the same amount of downtime in either case, you just trade more frequent shorter outages with the aboveground system for less frequent longer outages with the belowground system. The main benefit appears to be primarily asesthetic: new subdivisions are going with underground wiring mostly because it looks nicer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  50. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Most of the railroads never made a profit. The same goes with the airlines.

    Yes, and that’s why both rail and air are such terrible ideas. We were fine with the stagecoach.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s amazing you managed to fit in that electrical engineering degree what with your book tour taking up so much of your time.

    Relax, dude, just having a little fun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  52. Drew says:

    John dGeek

    You are closer to most in my opinion. Good point. When I lived in New Canaan, CT whenever the trees came down so did the power. The system is archaic. But it’s more than wires.

    Michael “money grows on trees” Reynolds. Why don’t we divert dollars from transfer payments to infrastructure……….., oh, that’s right, caring. Well, just write a couple more pages a day and send the money in and all will be well with the electrics…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  53. @michael reynolds:

    Sorry, one of my beserk buttons after too many years of dealing with business majors who think you can just ignore the laws of physics with a sufficiently “can do” attitude.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  54. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Just please don’t ever again use the word “engineer” in connection with me. I’m in the arts, and we’ll do whatever we damned well please with your so-called “laws of physics.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  55. Dave Schuler says:

    The reason that it took as long to build the transcontinental railroad as it did was that no one would finance it. Lincoln described the estimated $10 billion cost as “heart-stoppingly high”.

    What finally happened is that a flim-flam man named Doc Durant got the federal government to front part of the money thereby reducing the risk and cobbled together enough investors to get the job done.

    Same in this case. Even if the project made technological sense it would take government guarantees to get it off the ground or, in this case, in the ground. I think that government at all levels has different priorities at this point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  56. An says:

    @ super

    The Pony Express was a huge money loser. Maybe we should have just stuck with deer trails, barges, and carrier pigeons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  57. jan says:

    @John D’Geek:

    “Ironically enough, being “country folk” myself, I worry less about them than the “city folk”. When your electric goes out that often, you buy a backup generator. Or get a wood stove. Or use that fireplace that came with the 19th century farmhouse you bought. Can’t get to the store for a while? Good thing you’ve got at least got a couple weeks of food ready. Okay, so maybe no milk … but you can deal. Kids’ll have to eat Oatmeal instead of Cheerios.”

    I would categorize your post in the self-reliant department. A humorous musing is that with the onset of a cataclysmic event, I would hazard to say that more Rs & I’s would survive than Ds. As a political demographic, it is the former who usually seeks solutions within themselves, rather than waiting for government intervention.

    Like you, we have wood stove(s) and fireplaces providing much of our heat in the winter months — including stacks of seasoned wood. We rotate food we have in storage, and have a mini medical stockpile of supplies, along with solar radios and flashlights. A generator is something we have discussed, but have yet to make a final decision — propane, gas, how big/small? While it’s one thing to discuss the demerits of aging infrastructures, utilities above ground versus below ground (yes, that would be very expensive), there are also other vulnerabilities out there such as solar flares, cyber type terrorism, EMP attacks that could also create havoc for our modern way of life. Also, I beleive we import most of our transformers from China, which doesn’t seem too smart.

    @James in LA:

    Pay for it by turning cities like LA into water producers through large-scale desalinization of a sort that water could be sold to surrounding states. Reverse the aqueduct system. LA has so much wealth it could be built in 3 weeks. OK, OK, but five years from now….?

    I liked your ideas — a little sci-fi, but creative and futuristic with possibilities attached. Desalinization has always interested me. I often wondered why there wasn’t more energy put forth in dealing with this kind of water purification, ahead of some water crisis shortages that people have speculated about for years. It might be called ‘preventive’ energy crisis thinking. But, then again, we give so little thought to preventive medicine (especially with free HC on the horizon), why bother.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  58. An Interested Party says:

    …I would hazard to say that more Rs & I’s would survive than Ds. As a political demographic, it is the former who usually seeks solutions within themselves, rather than waiting for government intervention.

    Except of course for all the money Uncle Sugar pours into those Republican red states that send less back to the federal government in return…I would ask you if you ever get tired of facts intruding on your fantasies, but I would hazard to say that we all already know the answer to that one…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  59. JKB says:

    Never fear, the federal government is here.

    They’ve imposed a reliability requirement on the power distributors. So the distributors, such as the TVA, are going through and clearing to the ground their easements. Homeowners are complaining but Uncle Sam has spoken Or rather he’s looking for his million dollar trees.

    Rather than the cost of underground lines as trees are a problem for them as well, just clear the easement of all vegetation which is generally 20-50′ ether side of the power lines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  60. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “San Francisco is really struggling with utility infrastructure now – it’s old, time to reinvest. ”

    Too bad for them the time to reinvest has come when we as a nation have decided the only things worth investing in are huge paychecks for executives and tax cuts for rich people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  61. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I would ask you if you ever get tired of facts intruding on your fantasies, but I would hazard to say that we all already know the answer to that one…

    The same could be said for you. Also, why do some of you use the collective ‘we’ when making a comment. Are there a group of you on one computer? Or, can’t you simply utter something solely as your own opinion, stated in your own words?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  62. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “Most of the railroads never made a profit.”

    Hmm. Ever hear of Henry Huntington? Leland Stanford? Cornelius Vanderbilt? The men who “built” the railroads became very, very rich — in the case of Vanderbilt, the richest in the world.

    If the railroads never made a profit, it wasn’t because there was no money there. It was because there was someone at the top who was skimming it off for himself.

    But that could never happen today…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  63. An Interested Party says:

    The same could be said for you.

    Oh? Feel free to point out any facts that refute anything I’ve written, if you can…

    Also, why do some of you use the collective ‘we’ when making a comment. Are there a group of you on one computer? Or, can’t you simply utter something solely as your own opinion, stated in your own words?

    Actually, that is done merely to point out how most people who read and comment on this blog think you’re full of shit, as numerous comments have made clear…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  64. al-Ameda says:

    @wr:

    Too bad for them the time to reinvest has come when we as a nation have decided the only things worth investing in are huge paychecks for executives and tax cuts for rich people.

    We have an entire generation of working class people who figure that their path to success is by winning the lottery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  65. anjin-san says:

    But, then again, we give so little thought to preventive medicine (especially with free HC on the horizon)

    I belong to Kaiser, and they are actually pretty good about preventive, and very supportive of HCR.

    In fact, a large component of HCR is making preventive care available, so that we can prevent or catch things early, thus eliminating costly downstream treatment of serious illnesses that could have been mitigated. You know, a colonoscopy & polyp removal vs. a colostomy bag and dying of colon cancer.

    As for “free health care” – Polly want a cracker?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  66. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “We have an entire generation of working class people who figure that their path to success is by winning the lottery. ”

    I’d say that was true 20 years ago. Now the tragic fact is that the game has been so completely rigged that winning the lottery really is their only path to success.

    On a complete unrelated subject, did anyone notice that while Doug and company have scrupulously avoided mentioning it, the head of one of the world’s biggest banks just resigned because his bank was participating in a global conspiracy to rig the LIBOR rate, thus stealing billions from, well, everyone who wasn’t a bank executive? And everyone knows there will be no jail time, and the stolen cash won’t be clawed back, because these are the elite, and the laws don’t apply to them anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  67. Argon says:

    My town’s power utility made a major effort to properly trim trees near power lines. The town next door that contracted power out to a large corporation didn’t. With last October’s ice storm, most of our residents had power while the other town was out >90% for half a week.

    Above ground power lines aren’t all that bad… But you’ve got to be diligent about keeping them clear. A town that coddles NIMBYs or allows contacted companies to a avoid trimming trees properly is a town that goes dark a lot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  68. JKB says:

    @wr:

    Well, there was a bit of corruption. From a contemporary author:

    Our legislators have been blind to the lessons of history, or have been corrupt. They have been ignorant of the political and social laws, or they have been wanting in rectitude. In the period of thirty years, ended in 1880, Congress gave to railway corporations over 240,000 square miles, or 154, 067, 553 acres, of the best public lands in the States and Territories of the Union – an area double that of the whole kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, including the adjacent isles.
    On the 17th of March, 1883, the Chicago Daily Tribune published a history of these land grants compiled by Mr. Henry D. Lloyd, under the following summary:
    “The story of the dissipation of our great national inheritance- thrown away by Congress, wasted by the Land Office, stolen by thieves. A land monopoly worse than that of England, begotten in America. English monopoly is in families; American monopoly is in corporations; and corporations are the only aristocrats that have no souls, and never die.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  69. JKB says:

    @wr:

    “Too bad for them the time to reinvest has come when we as a nation have decided the only things worth investing in are huge paychecks for executives and tax cuts for rich people.”

    I was under the impression that the City Council in San Francisco was very Progressive. Surely, they could levy a tax upon the citizens of San Francisco and get that infrastructure replaced. The nation really has nothing to do with it. City infrastructure is a local problem to be solved by local taxes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  70. michael reynolds says:

    Just please don’t ever again use the word “engineer” in connection with me. I’m in the arts, and we’ll do whatever we damned well please with your so-called “laws of physics.”

    Just out of curiosity, are there people here so dim they’re down-voting me because they think I’m actually disregarding the laws of physics? Just curious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  71. Dave E. says:

    @michael reynolds: “…are there people here so dim they’re down-voting me because they think I’m actually disregarding the laws of physics?”

    No. It’s because you’re an asshole. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but it is what it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  72. anjin-san says:

    @JKB

    San Francisco does not have a city council. Thanks for playing…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  73. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave E.:

    You do realize everything I wrote in this thread I was kidding, right?

    I’m not denying I’m an asshole, but not in this thread. I could point out some genuine assholery if you like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  74. Dave E. says:

    @michael reynolds: Guess I missed the kidding hidden in the smug mockery and cynicism. My mistake.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  75. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave E.:

    If I may explain in a non-smug and non-mocking way. . . On this blog I’m a known quantity, so I think most people get when I’m kidding (which is not always.) If you know someone personally you tend to know when they’re teasing and when they’re serious. A certain shared vocabulary is developed and there’s a certain understood sensibility.

    I apologize if I came across like an assh*le. I was just playing around. I’m a professional writer and I come here for breaks in between writing a scene or dealing with editor’s notes or whatever. It’s like a palette cleanser. It’s still words but not words I’m being paid for, so not work per se. Play. Fun. Which sometimes takes the form of real, genuine arguments, and sometimes is just goofing off.

    No reason you should have known all that, but honestly I think what we have here is an honest misunderstanding. I take no offense and hope you don’t either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  76. Dave E. says:

    @michael reynolds: Fair enough, Michael. You did come across as an asshole to me and I didn’t get your joking. Since you have the guts to set the record straight though, and take no offense, no offense here either. Good night, Michael.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  77. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: “San Francisco does not have a city council. ”

    They apparently have some group of idiots, hopefully elected, who can ban Happy Meals so they can raise taxes to harden infrastructure if they so desired. The exact form of the city governance is not critical to my assertion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  78. bobtuse says:

    @michael reynolds: Please consider “palate” cleanser over “palette”. You are a professional writer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  79. Solomon2 says:

    As someone who has called PEPCO repeatedly over 15 years complaining about decaying power poles and overgrown trees, I can testify that only in the past two years, under political pressure, has this utility started to clean up its act. For some years the management was more interested in playing games of merger and high finance than service; thus they neglected preventative maintenance in favor of the bottom line, to the detriment of all.

    There is another side of the story, however: citizens who possess trees on their property that threaten trunk lines but refuse to cut them down for the greater good of the community; every time a branch falls on a line, a thousand customers lose power. This can happen repeatedly, over and over, for years. Sometimes the offending homeowner copes with the situation by buying a generator: that way he is protected while the rest of the community suffers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  80. anjin-san says:

    @JKB

    They apparently have some group of idiots

    I will bow to your superior knowledge on a topic you have so much personal experience with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  81. anjin-san says:

    A humorous musing is that with the onset of a cataclysmic event, I would hazard to say that more Rs & I’s would survive than Ds.

    I am having a hard time seeing a group of people who invest so much energy in whining about their victimhood as rugged survivors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  82. michael reynolds says:

    @bobtuse:

    Good catch.

    Worse yet, I used to be a restaurant reviewer. I do know the difference but brain my working right not sometimes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  83. Fernandez says:

    The future is underground, you do it little by little. You can’t ignore the volatile and costly relationship between power lines and Mother Nature. For how long will we look the other way and pass on the problem to the next generations. We need to get the creative and progressive nature back into our hearts and minds. Even my old neighborhood in the Caribbean has underground power lines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  84. anjin-san says:

    Even my old neighborhood in the Caribbean has underground power lines.

    And there you have it. The US is in danger of going the way of the Soviet Union – a third world country with lots of nuclear weapons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  85. wr says:

    @JKB: Why keep infrastructure projects at city level? I demand that each block be in charge of its own infrastructure. How dare those moochers in other parts of the city try to get me to pave their roads! Do they think we live in a civilsation, for Heaven’s sake? As a newly minted libertarian, I refuse to accept the concept of any two human beings working together for any reason whatsoever, no matter how much that work will benefit both of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  86. jan says:

    @anjin-san:

    “I am having a hard time seeing a group of people who invest so much energy in whining about their victimhood as rugged survivors. “

    If you haven’t noticed R’s naturally lean towards survivalist’ trait’s. They look skeptically upon government coming in and handing them food/water/medical supplies on a moment’s notice. So, these are generally the people who put food aside, have generators, have good common sense skills in working with nature and hardships. They tend to be the Eagle Scouts, the rural folk in red states who provide fly-over country for the social progressive elite crowd to scan down on as they meander across the skies from west to east coastlines.

    The other day I watched an old movie called ‘The Patriot,’ with Mel Gibson. I saw it years ago, and was quite taken by it then. However, as I viewed it now, with all the newly imposed governmental bureaucracy formally sanctioned, it took on a current-day relevance.

    The colonists revolted to make this country free from Britain because of the taxation without representation, or the peoples’ consent. The same thing is happening now. And, General Cornwall, in the movie, really reminded me of President Obama, in his hubris and insensitivity to the people who were opposing him. In his mind these were nothing but farmers and peasants who were thwarting the British will, and they had to be quelled, at any cost.

    The tea party movement are similar to these same ‘farmers and peasants’ in their open protests and active dissent towards the government. And, you people, the social progressives, look down your nose at them, in the same superior way that Cornwall did to the American Revolutionists.

    In one poignant scene, Gibson, after reading Cornwall’s diaries, commented what a brilliant strategist he was. He went on to say that the only weakness he could detect was his pride. A man nearby scoffed, “I’d prefer stupidity.’ And Gibson went on to say, ‘Pride will do.’

    Pride, arrogance, that is the weakness of the social progressives and Obama as well. Whether it proves to be their undoing, remains to be seen. But, the R’s, IMO, are more resourceful and committed, not having to be paid to vote, and hopefully they will see a way to deter the United States in returning to it’s early roots, except now it would be from a domestic rather than an overseas government enslavement.

    The best to you on 4th of July!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  87. An Interested Party says:

    If you haven’t noticed R’s naturally lean towards survivalist’ trait’s. They look skeptically upon government coming in and handing them food/water/medical supplies on a moment’s notice.

    Unless of course they’re corporate fat cats waiting for a bailout or a tax break, or a senior telling the government to get its hands off his Medicare, or someone in a really rural area wanting the post office right down the dirt road, no matter how costly or inefficient that is, or the governor of a red state looking for federal help after a natural disaster, etc. etc. etc….

    The colonists revolted to make this country free from Britain because of the taxation without representation, or the peoples’ consent. The same thing is happening now.

    Oh? So you’ve lost your right to vote for your congressional district’s representative and your state’s senators?

    And, you people, the social progressives, look down your nose at them, in the same superior way that Cornwall did to the American Revolutionists.

    …also in the same superior way that you look down your nose at social progressives…

    Pride, arrogance, that is the weakness of the social progressives and Obama as well.

    Once again, dear, despite your delusions, pride and arrogance are weaknesses held by people on both sides of the political divide…

    …except now it would be from a domestic rather than an overseas government enslavement.

    Oh my…so when do you start comparing yourself to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  88. anjin-san says:

    They look skeptically upon government coming in and handing them food/water/medical supplies on a moment’s notice.

    Really? Perhaps you can send us to some links about Republicans refusing government aid after they have been the victims of a disaster. Now we know Republicans think you should refuse to give people aid after a disaster (Joplin), but that is something different.

    the rural folk in red states

    Ah yes. The ones the urban folk in the blue states subsidize.

    The other day I watched an old movie called ‘The Patriot,’ with Mel Gibson

    Used to really enjoy his work. But he is such a hateful, bigoted prick that I will no longer watch it.

    Pride, arrogance

    You might want to grab a mirror hon.

    Jan, seriously – you sound like you have been hitting the pipe :(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  89. anjin-san says:

    Jan, I have to ask, since you so admire the rural folk in red states, what in the world are you doing in Sonoma? I mean you are 15 minutes up the road from an arrogant elitist snob like me who lives only for the dream that he may enslave all the rednecks via government fiat…

    You know what they call you in flyover country? A snobby, rich California bitch. Get real.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  90. jan says:

    @anjin-san:

    ‘You know what they call you in flyover country? A snobby, rich California bitch. Get real.”

    I don’t care if we were next door neighbors, anjin, we would continue to have opposing opinions and most probably lifestyles and expectations of others. You seem to separate everyone into classes, color, and wealth, assuming that, by such a compartmentalization, they will naturally all have the same mind sets, human worthiness and similar behavior. Consequently they can all be conveniently judged as one, according to these very subjective categories.

    You’re wrong.

    People are drawn to each other by a chemistry that includes their own cultivated philosophies, life experiences, temperament, accumulated number of biases, etc.. IMO, calling people out like you do is naively obtuse, and poisoned by your own pompous views of the world.

    Regarding my comment about more R’s surviving than D’s, it was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a musing, with only a sliver of truth creating a posting here. A generality like that, of course, has many exceptions. However, in my experience with people, it is more often than not the ones who work with their hands, the ones who craft and run small businesses, the ones who not only ‘think’ but also ‘do,’ who seem to possess greater ingenuity and tenacity in working themselves out of hard times. Also, when you live in a small community, the people seem more self-motivated by the spirit of volunteerism than dependence on outside government intervention.

    For instance, where I am currently, the only theater for many miles around, was completely restored by funds and volunteer work by local citizens. A friend of ours hand-made and donated light fixtures. The library in town was also a project of the people here, including murals on the walls, books on the shelf. I helped a friend host a child activity there last Wednesday — all volunteers. We have a volunteer fire dept. When the pier came down in a storm, a few decades back, the female mayor wrote and received grants to rebuild it. The community pitched in once again. The current Wharf Master admits to the pay not sufficing, but says it’s all part of giving back to the community just to keep everything efficiently running, and the fisherman able to make a livelihood from an operational pier. Also, around here, people can their own food, grow gardens, some are off the grid completely, others rely heavily on solar or generators. There is such a compilation of skills, creativity, civility, and no one seems to care about race, how much the fellow standing next to them is worth, nor where they might fit on the class spectrum.

    It’s a refreshing, healthy environment, one which I think would pull together in the event of a catastrophe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  91. anjin-san says:

    Of course you have never met me Jan, but even at a distance, you are a poor judge of character, and you view people through the bias of your political views, which seem to color everything about you.

    I am basically a middle aged, California hippie at heart, though I do admit to a fondness for sports cars and high end audio gear (something not uncommon among the Marin strain of hippies).

    And really, someone who is as consistently smug, condescending, and self-congratulatory as you are should be very careful about calling other pompous. And please, lets see something/anything that I have said that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that I “categorize everyone by race”. I am sure my wife, who is of a different race than me, will find that interesting. Probably also my oldest friend, who is also not a gringo.

    My goodness, you really do like to go on about your specialness, don’t you? Well, we all do what we can. Today we took a friend of ours to a BBQ – he has mental health issues, and not two nickels to rub together, so we do what we can to look after him. Oh wait, how can that be possible – what with me being such a class obesessed elitist? Then I took my mother dinner, much of it made with organic produce from our plots in the local community garden, here in the small town in which I live.
    Then I drove my mother in law back to the townhouse we bought for her, which seems odd, because I am just a liberal who only wants free stuff from the government.

    Now I have some work to do, because I own a small consulting business. Hate to burst your bubble, but you are not nearly as unique as you seem to fancy yourself to be, nor are the virtures you extoll the sole property of folks who share your political views.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  92. anjin-san says:

    @ Jan

    You seem to separate everyone into classes, color, and wealth, assuming that, by such a compartmentalization, they will naturally all have the same mind sets, human worthiness and similar behavior.

    You do realize that some of your own comments on this thread exhibit exactly what you are calling out here – don’t you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  93. grumpy realist says:

    Actually, we should get away from a distributed power system and go more for point generation of power. Which could be done via solar arrays and co-gen systems (if you have gas.) Hoisting power across miles and miles of resistive wire is a damn fool way of doing it and very less effective.

    You don’t even have to have pipes laid down for the gas–can use canisters if you really need to.

    Oh, and Jen? That beat-your-chest-self-reliance with the burning wood stove doesn’t work very well outside of a rural area, where wood is regularly available. I suggest you take a look at the history of European cities and why they used coal, rather than wood.

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  94. PCL says:

    Mr. Frum makes a good point, but I don’t think a blanket national program to bury all non-HV lines is likely to happen, nor is it the most cost effective approach to this issue. In my lifetime, while the electrical wires in my area have remained on poles, gas lines have been run (underground, of course) and the old lead and steel water piping has been replaced. There is no reason not to require that when the roads are dug up for any other reason, conduits shall be buried for both electrical and data lines which are now on poles. The wires themselves could be re-run through these conduits whenever they would have been due for a major overhaul anyway. Digging up the streets is a major undertaking, both in terms of cost an inconvenience. There is no reason to dig once for water pipe, then gas, then wires if one dig can bury two or three of these for nearly the same price.

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