Energy and Natural Disasters

Over the last few months we have witnessed numerous catastrophic natural disasters in the Caribbean, Mexico and United States. Destruction has been catastrophic leading to the loss of life and widespread damage to property; and some places are now in full-blown humanitarian crisis. These awful events alert us to just how flimsy the infrastructures of our modern world can be in the face of nature in all its fury. We depend on water, energy, communications, transportation, health care and retail networks to maintain orderly life, and when they are gone, society can quickly devolve into chaos.

Particularly, when energy is unavailable, pretty much everything else is affected as communication systems, stores, hospitals and homes all need electricty to function. The electrical grid of Puerto Rico, for example, is said to have been destroyed by hurricane Maria, and the island could be without power for many months.

Disaster recovery on large continents is easier and faster than on island nations, because you can drive in with relief supplies and personnel from regions that are unaffected. If a whole island if affected then you are dependent on help coming by air and sea, which can be much slower.

An Reuters article yesterday reports that some leaders are seeing the rebuilding of the infrastructure as an opportunity to move towards more renewable sources of energy. Here’s an excerpt:

On Friday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said his team is looking at alternative ways to bring power back on the island, including by using microgrids, small power networks that can work independently of the main grid.

Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for Puerto Rico, said solar-powered microgrids, as well as buried power lines, could allow for a more rapid recovery after storms.

Puerto Rico currently relies on imports of fuel oil and coal as an electricity source. More solar does make sense for a sunny island, as do microgrids and underground power lines. Depending on above-ground power lines in hurricane prone is risky, as transmission poles don’t do well in powerful winds. Of course, I wonder about LENR as a potential power source also. I am hopeful that we are getting close to commercial LENR with the E-Cat, and Andrea Rossi is now saying that he and his new partner are now looking towards electricity production in early applications.

Still, the E-Cat nor any other LENR source is not there yet, so it’s understandable that it is not being figured by most leaders into a possible way to mitigate against the potential ravages of nature. But if and when it does become available, then I would think that one of its most attractive features is that it could be less vulnerable in situations of natural disaster.

Meanwhile the recovery continues, and I hope that it can be carried out efficiently to reduce the widespread suffering that is currently taking place.

  • guessed

    Thoughtful and timely post. Sense of the scale of suffering, vulnerability of humans, dependence on and fragility of infrastructure and the limits of what technology can do to in catastrophe. Images of solar panels in a hurricane…

    • Omega Z

      “Images of solar panels in a hurricane”

      Hope you have a very wide angle camera. Maybe one with panorama abilities and long range to see those floating in the water. Never mind the latter. They will be under the water… 🙂

  • Sure, replace efficient, cost effective electricity sources with costly, inefficient solar panels on your roof that only produce electricity on sunny days. At night we all break out the lanterns, shut down our computers, televisi
    ons, and electric stoves, and we all start singing camping songs because we cannot afford Elon Musk’s expensive, energy inefficient, polluting to produce batteries. In Puerto Rico everyone is made of money, right? And, of course, we all know that roof top solar panels are impervious to category 5 hurricanes, …right? They are all made of high strength steel, not plastic and glass and delicate membranes and coatings, right?

    If LENR can be made to work for a home electricity generator, it can be hardened against both hurricanes and EMP. Solar panels are as destructible as windows. I love my pocket size photovoltaic powered calculator, however, and use it many times a day. No one forced me or bribed me to buy it. *USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB* and keep government out of the energy business. They have enough to do starting useless wars and wasting money on a massive scale.

    • Omega Z

      we all know that roof top solar panels are impervious to category 5 hurricanes, …right?

      I was going to point that out. Now all I can do is post about agreeing with your point. 🙂

    • MikeP

      Wind turbines and solar farms don’t do well either …

  • scottlshman

    .

    They must be grateful for president Trump’s immediate assistance in sending food, clothing, blankets, tents, etc.

    There you go, more false news.

    .

    • Omega Z

      They are about a 1000 miles off the U.S. coast with insufficient sea going transport for quick response and replenishment of goods. In addition, you have resources tied up on the mainland with Texas, Parts of Louisiana and Florida.

      Question is why no one ever plans ahead. Yes, they talk about doing things different after a disaster, but that is quickly forgotten and they build back to the previous scenario. In a few years you’ll have a repeat. This is normal whether that is easily foreseeable. We know it will not if happen again in a few years.

      We build homes and towns along rivers where the water level is just a few feet below ground level. Then act shocked when winter thaw arrives and heavy spring rains flood our homes when rivers rise 10/20 feet.

      We build homes in low lying valleys and pave the ground with concrete and wonder why we have flooding(apparently we aren’t satisfied with Olympic size swimming pools). We build homes right on the beach where Hurricanes often hit and wonder how could this happen. We build homes on the edge of Bluffs that continuously erode and wonder why our homes end up in a pile of rubble at the bottom.

      In Miami they build housing and business out on sand bars and complain they are at risk of erosion and the monumental cost fighting it . Did no one tell them that sand bars come and go. And we think we are the intelligent species. huh. I think I’ll build me a mansion on the edge of a volcanic crater. It’s a great view. What could possibly go wrong. Help me- Someone please help me replace my mansion. It was destroyed by a lava flow…. I had no idea that would happen.

      Anyway, I feel for all the people in Texas, Louisiana, Florida. Puerto Rico and elsewhere, But lets change what we are doing. All these disasters can be minimized with a little foresight.

      • Leonard Weinstein

        Omega Z,
        They did try to plan ahead, but the supplies had to be held off the islands, or they risked being damaged. Also the extensive damage at multiple sites (as you stated plus Mexico with the earthquake) exceeded a reasonable ability to have everything needed on hand. It appears that repair is progressing reasonably rapidly, and supplies delivered fast as possible.

        • Omega Z

          Also, Puerto Rico was not the only islands hit.
          As to planning a head, I was referring to when the rebuilding starts that they should build for better survival when the next 1 hits. Some facilities should be built like bunkers.

    • Leonard Weinstein

      Scottishman,
      Considering that there were major hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and a major earthquake in Mexico, as well as the two hurricanes in the islands, the total response has actually been reasonably good, but is finite and limited. Puerto Rico had an inadequate infrastructure before the damage, and this greatly slowed a good response in getting supplies into many locations. There are even supplies that have been delivered to ports there that can’t get carried inland until roads and bridges are repaired. It is very easy to be critical when you have a bias, and do not understand facts, but it would be better if you went to help and also donated funds rather than sitting back and throwing stones.

      • Omega Z

        I agree. Obviously for those in need there is no fast enough.

        However, all considered, I think they’ve done a great job.
        Consider. most of the help has to pass through the very areas on the mainland that is recovering itself. That 25% of U.S. refinery capacity had been shut down and probably all of it still isn’t up to capacity and mainland fuel shortfalls needed replenished.

        Then goods need to be shipped and collect at seaports for loading onto ships. These ships then have a 1200 to 1600 mile sea journey cruising around 15-20 miles an hour. On arrival to Puerto Rico it then needs unloaded and distributed to all reaches of the island along with the smaller nearby islands that make up Puerto Rico.

        You also have around 10,000 FEMA and Marines present and engaged in rescue and rebuilding, making roads passable and airports usable, getting hospitals up and operable.They also need many of the same supplies to be able to do their task. Food, shelter, water, fuel, transportation maintenance etc…

        Resources are stretched thin including ship availability. Puerto Rico was not the only ones hit. There’s also the American and British Virgin Island along with some French islands among others. This is a huge monumental task.

        It’s easy to be an armchair disaster manager. Real life would make most people sit down and cry.

  • HS61AF91

    I come back to a recurring thought of mine, concerning suppressed technologies, due to fear of adversaries getting them, or monopolies currently controlling energy generation becoming overcome by introduction of them. This storm/quake/tsunami phenomenon that now permeates nature, is not tapering off. What better time or reason to unveil any of these suppressed inventions that will save American lives, and bring about a more independent way of life for everyone. I have commented in my Stars and Stripes comments in this vein, to little response, although agreement with the unleashing of suppressed technologies was applauded. Combined with the advent of E-Cat introduction, such action will go far in uprooting the entrenched ways and means of dealing with life ending natural disasters.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    Why not do hurricane damage reduction? (6:00 min.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKl9rqw1Ykw

  • Omega Z

    The Jones Act was a gift to the Unions. It is about union crews getting union wages. It has NOTHING to do with tariffs, fees, and taxes. However, it also keeps the U.S. from being totally dependent on foreign entities for moving goods within our borders. Note the Jones Act only effects U.S. (port to port). You can transport goods from any other ports in the world directly to or from Puerto Rico on anyone’s ships.

    Trump granted the waiver. You really think that matters. Do you believe there are hundreds of small and intermediate foreign cargo and transport ships just setting off shore just hoping for such an occasion. Not to mention the situation will change and the waiver expired long before these vessels are available. They aren’t just setting there empty you know. Most all are booked up months in advance. This is all silly political nonsense.

    Puerto Rico- and they are entitled to the same government response as any state. Puerto Rico also receives all the same Federal benefits as any other State including all the welfare assistance.

    “denied full political representation”

    True. Puerto Rico is not a state, therefore have no Senators to represent them. They do however have a “non voting” Representative in the Congress. If they want full representation, they must submit to become a state and then the U.S. Legislature grant or deny that request.

    The issue is this. Puerto Rico isn’t sure it wants to become a state. Being officially Represented in the U.S. Legislature among 50 other states has little benefit and officially becoming a state requires the citizens to pay federal taxes and follow any other federal mandates required of states. Most think they already have the better deal. All the benefits without taxation.

    As to Puerto Rico’s economic situation. That has everything to do with banks continuing to loan them money when they new it could never be repaid and a LOT of Corruption among Puerto Rico’s politicians.

  • Warthog

    “Although the United States has long benefited from the geographical
    reach they provide … [island territories] have been taken for granted
    and denied full political representation.”

    There have been multiple referenda in Puerto Rico on the question of becoming a state or remaining a territory. In all such thus far, the voters have chosen to remain a territory. They have all the “representation” they are entitled to as a territory. Hawaii, OTOH, chose statehood.