What Is Real Security ?

Reliance on fossil fuels and their extended pipelines contributes to our insecurity. Even where fuel is extracted from politically stable regions, it must be safely transported via accident-prone ships, trucks, rail, or pipeline. On October 4, 2001, a drunk shot a bullet through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, shutting it down for 60 hours and spilling 285,000 gallons of oil. Previously, the pipeline has been shot at on over 50 occasions. A disgruntled engineer’s plot to blow up critical points then profit from oil futures trading was thwarted by luck two years ago. How, then, can America become less vulnerable to attack and more resilient to mishaps that do occur? How can we prepare for a future that may hold increasing uncertainty, unrest, and even violence? The answer may be found by basing engineering on nature. Natural systems are efficient, diverse, dispersed, and renewable, hence, inherently resilient. …  Central power stations, no matter how well engineered, can’t supply really cheap electricity and simply cannot be made secure. The power lines that deliver the electricity cost more than the generators and cause almost all power failures. On-site and neighborhood micro-power is cheaper and eliminates grid losses and glitches. Rooftop photovoltaic systems, fuel cells, or biomass-fed microturbine or engine generators can be built on site to provide power for individual buildings or neighborhoods. When such systems fail, the effect is small and localized. If several small systems are interconnected, one failure may hardly be noticed. Widespread disruption of such a network would be difficult because it would require too many agents and too much coordination.  (03/29/02)
more…