WASHINGTON – While Washington is abuzz this week with investigations into several scandals, a summit on a much graver threat that could affect the lives of some 160 million people is underway on Capitol Hill.
The annual International Electric Infrastructure Security Summit began Monday with panel discussions on the vulnerability of U.S. power grids to potential threats.
The summit opened with a chilling video calling into question the U.S.’ preparedness to handle the threat of electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, and severe space weather that could cripple the U.S. technological infrastructure to a debilitating degree.
“We are only one act of madness away from a social cataclysm unlike anything our country has ever known,” said conference moderator Rep. Trent Frank, R-Ariz.
Electric Infrastructure Security Council Founder and CEO Avi Schnurr warned summit attendees, “Governments and corporations are used to dealing with crises by experiencing them and gradually learning how to respond. EMP and severe space weather are in a different category. We are talking about a black swan event, which is not effectively survivable.”
Throughout the day, panelists drew attention to just how unprepared the U.S. is to handle such a threat.
As one speaker explained, water supplies, food, gasoline, transportation, emergency services, medical care and financial services would essentially come to a standstill in the event of an EMP attack or severe space weather catastrophe.
Dr. Robert Hermann of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack warned, “EMP is one of a small number of threats that could hold at risk the continued existence of U.S. civil society.”
As WND reported, scientists have predicted an increased number of solar flares in the near future as the sun approaches its peak activity. The intense solar storms are expected to last as long as until 2020.
For the U.S., the increase in space weather activity draws concern, as it is a technologically based society dependent on critical electronic infrastructure, which could be severely damaged in the case of a massive solar flare or EMP.
With an EMP generated from the sun’s flares – some of which can be up to 10 times the size of the Earth – the unprotected grid, including transformers, electrical components and automated control systems that everyone takes for granted in their everyday lives, could either be severely damaged or fried, taking months if not years to replace.
NASA estimates that a direct hit to Earth from one of these enormous flares would have a catastrophic impact on the nation’s critical infrastructures over a very wide geographical area.
In the first year alone, NASA estimates, such a disaster could cost just the U.S. upward of $2 trillion. It also would take from four to 10 years to recover – if that even would be possible – and affect the lives of some 160 million people, threatening starvation and death.
Some EMP experts say that such a catastrophic event could wipe out America’s urban centers, due to their total dependency on critical infrastructures for electricity, communications, food and water delivery, oil and gas, transportation, automated banking and financial institutions and even emergency services.
Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., warned the EIS Summit, “The likelihood of a severe geomagnetic event capable of crippling our electric grid is 100 percent.”
The timely conference takes place shortly after the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed to revise its existing cyber security standards for the nation’s electric grid. The revision would expand existing rules to more than 60 addition companies that link to the grid.
As Bloomberg reported in April, the agency voted to begin the process of updating existing critical infrastructure protection standards.