Last year, Elliott Management's Paul Singer highlighted "one risk that stands way above the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence" - an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). As Michael Snyder previously details, our entire way of life can be ended in a single day. And it wouldn’t even take a nuclear war to do it. All it would take for a rogue nation or terror organization to bring us to our knees is the explosion of a couple well-placed nuclear devices high up in our atmosphere. The resulting electromagnetic pulses would fry electronics from coast to coast.
In the past here at Peak Prosperity, we’ve written extensively on the threat posed by a sustained loss of electrical grid power. More specifically, we've warned that the most damaging threat to our grid would come from either a manmade or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
A good friend of mine, Jen Bawden, is currently sitting on a committee of notable political, security and defense experts -- which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others -- who are equally concerned about this same threat and have recently sent a letter to Obama pleading for action to protect the US grid.
We talk a lot about Peak Cheap Oil as the Achilles' heel of the exponential monetary model, but the real threat to the quality of our daily lives, if not our lives themselves, would be a sustained loss of electrical power. Anything over a week without power for any modern nation would be a serious problem. A month would lead to chaos and many deaths.
When the power goes out, everything just stops. For residential users, even a few hours begins to intrude heavily as melting freezers, dying cell phones, and the awkward realization that we don't remember how to play board games nudge us out of our comfort zone.
However, those are just small inconveniences.
For industrial and other heavy users, the impact of even a relatively short outage can be expensive or even ghastly. Hospitals and people on life-assisting machinery are especially vulnerable. Without power, aluminum smelters face the prospect of the molten ore solidifying in the channels from which it must be laboriously removed before operations can be restarted.
Many types of nuclear power plants have to switch to back-up diesel generators to keep the cooling pumps running. And if those stop for any reason (like they run out of fuel), well, Fukushima gave us a sense of how bad things can get.
And of course banking stops, ATMs are useless, and gas stations cannot pump gas. Just ask the people of New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
A blackout of a few hours results in an inconvenience for everyone and something to talk about.
But one more than a day or two long? Things begin to get a bit tense; especially in cities, and doubly so if it happens in the hot mid-summer months.
Anything over a week and we start facing real, life-threatening issues. National Geographic ran a special presentation, American Blackout, in October 2013 -- it presented a very good progression covering exactly what a timeline of serious grid disruption would look and feel like. I recommend the program for those interested.
We're exploring this risk because there are a number of developments that could knock out the power grid for a week or more. They include a coronal mass ejection (CME), a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, a cascading grid failure, and malicious hacking or electronic attacks.
Others Are Waking Up To The Danger
Recently, we've been contacted by a well-connected group of powerful people who have formed a commission to study the matter, and have recently made a public and urgent appeal in an open letter to President Obama to take this threat seriously.
This letter was sent to the President over the Memorial Day weekend. It begins (emphasis mine):
Dear Mr. President,
We need your personal intervention to provide for the protection of the American people against an existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP).The consequent failure of critical infrastructure that sustain our lives is a major national security threat and would be catastrophic to our people and our nation.
The national Intelligence Council, which speaks for the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, published in its 2012 unclassified Global Trends 2030 report that an EMP is one of only eight Black Swan events that could change the course of global civilization by or before 2030. No official study denies the view that an EMP is a potentially catastrophic societal threat that needs to be addressed urgently. America is not prepared to be without water, electricity, telephones, computer networks, heating, air conditioning, transportation (cars, subways, buses, airplanes), and banking.
All the benefits of our just-in-time economy would come to a deadly halt, including the production of petroleum products, clothing, groceries and medicine. Think about cities without electricity to pump water to their residents.
Given the deadly drama that would accompany a such major and sustained grid-down event, you’d think that the US would be spending lots of money to safeguard against one happening. But you’d be wrong.
A bit further in the letter they warn about the vulnerability of nuclear reactors, a risk that causes me a lot of personal concern:
We urge you immediately to issue a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) directing your National Security Advisor to lead a focused interagency effort to provide, in connection with your current budget execution activities and future budget requests, a specific program to address this natural and manmade threat. In particular, this PSD should direct that hardening technology, well known in the Department of Defense, be exploited by all agencies with responsibility for maintaining the electric power grid. It is imperative that plans are immediately implemented to protect America’s at least 100 nuclear reactors and their co-located spent fuel storage facilities from an EMP.
As a reminder, an EMP can also come from a natural cause such as a coronal mass ejection from our sun -- something we’ve covered in detail here in repeated interviews with NASA scientist Lika Guhathakurta (hereand here) as well as in numerous reports centered on the electrical grid and/or warfare:
But the bigger risk, in my mind, is that a military confrontation induces one (or several) players to use an EMP as a means of warfare. With the US poking the Russian bear, and now considering military options to confront China over the islands they are building in the South China Sea, it's not out-of-the-question that one of these world powers could consider using an EMP as a means of retaliation..
A nuclear EMP device is thought to have the potential to completely ruin an unhardened electrical grid for as long as it takes to repair/replace all the ruined electrical items affected. This is especially concerning in the case of large scale transformers, which are specially made in just a few places with very low manufacturing throughput capacity that could take a year or more (and that’s assuming the plants are still up and running after the attack).
RESIDENTS ANGRY AFTER URBAN MILITARY TRAINING SHAKES NEIGHBORHOOD WITH EXPLOSIONS AHEAD OF JADE HELM 2015
“In these circumstances, those federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” under two conditions.
A U.S. official said the Obama administration considered but rejected deploying military force under the directive during the recent standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters.
“IT IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE LARGEST UNDERTAKING WE’VE HAD AS FAR AS AN EXERCISE FOR THE MICHIGAN ARMY NATIONAL GUARD IN A LONG TIME”
If we are not heading into a recession, why does our economy continue to act as if that is precisely what is happening? As you will see below, we learned this week that factory orders have declined year over year for six months in a row. That is something that has never happened outside of a time of recession. We have also seen new orders for consumer goods fall dramatically. In fact, the only time we have seen a more dramatic decline in that number was during the last recession. And when you add these two items to what I have written about previously, the overall economic picture becomes even more disturbing. Corporate profits have fallen for two quarters in a row, our exports fell by 7.6 percent during the first quarter of 2015, and U.S. GDP contracted by 0.7 percent during Q1. Even though Barack Obama and the mainstream media are willingly ignoring them, the truth is that these numbers are absolutely screaming that we are going into a new recession.
Sometimes, a picture is worth more than a thousand words, and I believe that is certainly the case with the chart that I have posted below. It comes from Zero Hedge, and it shows that factory orders have declined year over year for six months in a row. The only times when this has ever happened before have been when the U.S. economy has been in recession…
These charts that I just shared with you are rather compelling. How anyone can see them and still believe that we are in an “economic recovery” is beyond me.
When the economy starts to turn, there are certain things that we look for. As I have written about over and over on my website, so many of the exact same patterns that we have seen emerge just prior to previous economic downturns are happening again right now.
For the moment, the mainstream media is assuring everyone that everything is going to be just fine and that they should go out and spend lots and lots of money.
But instead of spending your money on frivolous things like boats, electronic toys and expensive vacations, I believe that now is the time to get prepared for the great economic crisis which is currently starting to unfold.
Right now, I know that most people don’t actually believe that life in America is about to dramatically change.
So many of the things that people (including myself) have been warning about for so long are about to happen. Our politicians and national leaders have turned a deaf ear to all of the warnings and have continued to conduct business as usual. Soon, the error of their ways will be apparent to all.
We are heading into the greatest economic crisis in U.S. history, and there is going to be no coming back to the false, debt-fueled “prosperity” that we are enjoying today.