TMLutas' blog posts can now be found at Flit(tm)

August 22, 2003

Distributed Power and the Smart Grid

Posted by TMLutas

Thanks to Tyler Cowen of the Volokh Conspiracy for noting this Washington Post article about distributed power.

As the article mentions, 8% of US power is currently generated by distributed means, usually under the label of cogeneration. So we're not talking about rinky dink, pie in the sky alternative power schemes but something that is contributing significantly to today's grid and is likely to increase in future.

Unfortunately, the limits of our dumb grid show up quite quickly in the article too. The University of Maryland had local, distributed generation but when they disconnected from the grid recently due to power fluctuation, they found that they had no way to quickly shut down enough non-essential consumers of electricity (like UPS batteries) and ended up taking their local grid down after 3 minutes due to overload. A smarter grid would have been able to shut down a fraction of the air HVAC plants and rotated what was running and what was not so that temperatures remained tolerable but the grid would have stayed up.

Casus Belli

Posted by TMLutas

In Iraq we have Islamists pouring over the border to fight the US forces and the start of the new Iraqi armed forces. To me, it's surprising that nobody notes that for Iraq's border states, this is a tremendously risky business. These fighters are either going through Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia with the blessings of the regime, which is a direct act of war, or these states are incapable of controlling their own borders to stop such people. If the latter, a persistent inability to halt such troop flows is also a legitimate cause of war.

In all the discussions of honeypot and flypaper strategies, whether the US will withstand the assault or turn tail and pull out too early, nobody seems to seriously look at the problem from the fact that failing to stop armed fighters from crossing over into your neighbor's territory is a grave threat to international peace. Where's the UN? Where are the peace protesters? Where are the NGO's devoted to human rights?

The first step to restoring normality is to recognize that a situation is not normal. The current bizarre abnormality of the Middle East has Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, at best, being failed states who cannot control their borders. At worst, what we have is an undeclared asymmetric regional war. But why aren't we all talking about it? Why aren't we holding the political class of these countries to a normal standard? Why isn't any faction in the West devoted to any side in this conflict taking note of this?

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