Sunday, December 7, 2014

A failure of Imagination

From the movie The Avengers

Ironman: Tell him to suit up. I'm bringing the party to you. [they watch as Stark draws the giant worm ship towards them]
Black Widow: I don't see how that's a party.
Captain America: Dr. Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry.
Bruce Banner: That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11

Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were both failures-of-imagination.  Both events involved high value targets.  The targets had vulnerabilities that were not defended because the threat was outside the bounds of our collective experience.  After the events, it was painfully obvious how those vulnerabilities had been glaringly obvious for a long, long time.

Like French Generals, we are superbly prepared to fight that last war.  Much of it is political.  Hi-jacked planes and collapsing buildings are salient memories for nearly every adult.  Consequently, we tolerate heavy-handed countermeasures designed as much for show as for effectiveness.

Personally, I think we are expending too much effort in some places and not nearly enough effort in others.


California aqueduct

California drought map
Extraordinary efforts create extraordinary fragility.  22 million people and almost a trillion dollars GDP at the end of a very long hose.  Things will really go in the toilet when pressing the lever does not make the poop disappear. 

And on the other end of the country

Picture from HERE

Natural Gas pipelines.  Photo from HERE
Resilience requires that load be able to "spill" to other resources.  New England has two pipelines feeding from the south and the same two potentially feeding from the north.  It is not just about space heating.  Seamlessly switching over to electric space heating is a non-starter because almost half of the electrical generation capacity in New England is fueled by natural gas.

Hokey religions and ancient (technologies) are no match for a good blaster at your side.  -Hans Solo

The NIMBYs have been pursing solar and wind and renewables rather than more highly connected pipelines.  The technology and the footprint are not quite there.  Fifteen million people and $900B GDP dangling from four connections that can be severed with four bags of fertilizer.  By comparison, Illinois has 17 pipelines south of Chicago and countless more crossing north into Wisconsin.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11 could happen again.  But instead of impacting one harbor or four buildings it could impact 10% of the US population and economy.  Denial will not make the risk go away.  Looking at reality the way our enemies look reality and taking steps to address our vulnerabilities are the only way to avoid future Pearl Harbors and 9/11s.

We should modify Bruce Banner's quote.  It should be:

That's my secret, Captain. I'm always vigilant.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.