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Obama’s Grid: New Electricity Transmission System Coming Soon
Adam Stein, 2 Mar 09

Think a new electricity transmission system is coming soon? You can bet on it.

The New York Times speculates:

President Dwight Eisenhower is remembered for creating the nation’s system of interstate highways. Judging from the enthusiasm of his secretaries for “smart grid” projects, perhaps President Barack Obama aspires to be known for transforming the nation’s electricity system.

Let me help out this reporter with a super-secret scoop: Obama absolutely aspires to be known for transforming America’s grid. It’s hard to imagine a policy development that could be more over-determined. Let’s review.

  • Reality bites, part 1. Our national grid is antiquated. We’d need a new one even if we weren’t heating the planet.
  • Reality bites, part 2. We are heating the planet. A smart grid is essential to ramping up clean energy production. Putting this another way, if in eight years we haven’t made a lot of progress towards a new transmission system, we’re pretty well hosed.
  • Everyone ♥ infrastructure spending. Contrary to a bizarre idea that’s recently floating around the green blogosphere, the public and politicians alike go all fluttery for big splashy infrastructure projects.
  • Everyone ♥ technological innovation. No politician ever went wrong touting ‘Merican ingenuity and can-do awesomeness.

On top of this, there’s no natural political constituency to oppose smart grid development. There will certainly be plenty of eminent domain battles, regulatory hurdles, and bureaucratic turf wars to gum up progress, but these simply aren’t problems of the same magnitude as the coal lobby.

So, yes, in fifty years time, we will almost certainly all be talking about how it’s about time to replace Obama’s grid.


Adam Stein is a co-founder of TerraPass. He writes on issues related to carbon, climate change, policy, and conservation.

Image credit: Flickr/C.P.Storm.




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