Ten years ago, I and about fifty million other people in the Northeastern quadrant of the North American continent experienced a major blackout. I was at work when the power crapped out and, being a cubicle drone, was unable to accomplish anything sans power. It being a beautiful summer day, I had ridden my bicycle to work, and my ride home was actually quicker than a typical ride- I didn't have to stop for any red lights and actually gave a hearty Nelson Muntz laugh while passing a line of stopped cars on Route 119 on my way to the South County Trail. Dinner was a hearty barbecue that utilized the perishables in the fridge. After dark, I decided to take a long walk in order to take in an uncharacteristically vivid night sky, and wended my way to McLean Avenue to check out the bars, which were operating by candlelight. All told, it was a lovely time, people were enjoying themselves, and there was none of the looting that took place during the 1977 New York metro area blackout. Stores were giving away free ice cream, people were hanging out, barbecuing and having a good time.
My great and good friend J-Co, one of my high-school buddies, was working in Manhattan at the time and, being stuck in the city with the loss of commuter train service, spent the night sleeping in a church after hitting the pub. He eventually returned home the next day, taking the commuter bus home to his abode in the Northeastern Yonkers neighborhood of Crestwood. When he got off the bus, he immediately popped into a grotty old-man bar to check out the news (and, truth to tell, grab a beer). Apparently, all conversation stopped when a youngish guy in as tie stepped through the door.
The next day, I knew the power had returned when I heard the subtle hum that accompanies the appliances. I returned to the office the next day, a few hours later than my typical start time, but it was a leisurely day, everybody was too busy yakking about the blackout to accomplish much.
The extent of the blackout was mind-boggling, and I have come to the conclusion that the power grid should be decentralized and supplemented by rooftop solar panels. Every region of the country should pursue appropriate alternate means of electricity generation, with small scale solar arrays, wind turbines, and hydroelectric plants being developed. For New York City and the Hudson Valley, small low-flow turbines should be installed in the huge aqueducts that bring water to the city- hell, even skyscrapers could install low-flow microturbines to capture energy from the flow of waste water. While the U.S. hasn't experienced such a major blackout in the intervening years, there should be an effort to modernize the power system in the states. It would be good for the environment, and would provide thousands of good jobs.