Where Are We Now? A Year After The August 14, 2003 Blackout

Michael Giberson

A host of newspaper articles and essays mark the one year anniversary of the August 14, 2003 Blackout.

On Thursday, August 12, the Cato Institute’s Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor argue against linking electric industry reform agendas to the blackout on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. The blackout resulted from a combination of local failures, they say, and was not the product of industry restructuring. Posted online by Cato.

A somewhat similar theme appears in a column by David Nicklaus at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (who quotes Cato’s Van Doren): “We’re up a tree about how to fix the power grid.” (Find column in list)

It will be no surprise to most readers to find that Cato’s writers struck a contrarian position. While Van Doren and Taylor suggest a complex system like the transmission grid likely “will forever remain vulnerable to such mishaps,” most reports suggest we are at risk a year later because Congress has failed to make reliability rules mandatory.

A sampling of articles:
Peter Coy, BusinessWeek Online: “Why a Blackout Can Happen Again.”
Justin Bloom, Washington Post: “Bandaged Grid Still Vulnerable.”
Roger Witherspoon, The Journal News: “Officials say lessons from 2003 blackout unlearned
Tom Johnson, The Star-Ledger: “Still Stressed
Brad Foss, on USATODAY.com: “Frustration grows over lack of electric reliability standards

Your tax dollars at work: In a related story, Jack Naudi of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes of research aimed at uncovering weak points in the transmission grid: “Computer program would spot attack on power grid