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Aster's avatar

What do you think of Warren Buffett's reply on Mar 14 to this question?

Asked by Aster (15334 points ) March 14th, 2014

This morning he was asked, “you’ve heard of the grid going down I suppose? Could it happen? What do you think of it?” and he answered, “well, sure it could happen. We started from nothing.”
Scared me . Implication , of course, was yes; it’ll go down and we’ll be back to the Beginning in many ways.

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7 Answers

syz's avatar

I remember discussion about this 10 years ago.

Aster's avatar

@syz I don’t care about that discussion. I was asking about what people think of WARREN BUFFETT’S reply of today. There was not even what I’d call a discussion anyway.

GloPro's avatar

If we lost “the grid” then technology, computers, etc would cease to be relevant. If electronic proof of having money became irrelevant Warren would be just another man. Another man with private jets and fenced in smart home mansions, and a ton of other tangible things, but he would be just another man. His worth would be judged on what he had to barter, just like the rest of us. Everything tied up in stocks, bonds, banks, etc. would become irrelevant. I’d still rather be in his shoes…
Plus, without electricity all we would know would be limited to what we could personally access. What is your neighborhood doing? Back to pony express communication. Warren would cease to be relevant to me unless he could get the grid restored.

Cruiser's avatar

@Aster Do you have a link to this story? I cut and pasted the quote in my search engine and nothing came up and I would like some context to get a better feel for his comment. Anyway what I did find was that he is investing heavily into energy companies as we are only going to need more power in the future and makes sound investing sense to him.

I did find this quote interesting and germane to your question…

Warren Buffett only buys utilities in states with a favorable regulatory climate. In other words, he sees the possibility of a death spiral, but he believes regulators won’t let it happen.”

That still doesn’t help me make sense out of his we started with nothing comment.

CWOTUS's avatar

“The grid” is not some massively and totally integrated entity that hovers overhead, suspended only by spindly and rusting towers, teetering there wildly until a rogue puff of wind blows the whole thing onto our heads. “The grid” as it pertains to electric power generation and distribution (and from now on I’ll drop the quotation marks) is a system of various generation stations, transmission lines, distribution points and local substations all connected mechanically and electrically. The grid goes down in various ways and forms and places every day of the week… somewhere. It ain’ no thang. Power poles are knocked over in vehicle collisions; transformers blow out due to age and accumulated damage from exposure to weather; power plants trip off-line because of faults that they’re susceptible to; all kinds of things happen in electro-mechanical world.

Circuit breakers kick in to isolate the damaged area/s, then the trouble is located, crews are sent to repair or replace the damaged infrastructure, circuit breakers closed again to reconnect the formerly damaged area, customers reconnected and powered up, and life goes on. Or the fault at the power plant is fixed, anything connected with the unexpected trip is cleared, and the plant is brought back online and powered up (or in the case of a longer term problem, a plant that was formerly run only in “standby” mode is spun up to full power – sometimes several such plants are spun up – and the lost power is made up that way, while the base load plant is repaired or replaced.

Sometimes the damage is more widespread, as when ice storms or early snowstorms or massive flooding causes widespread damage in an area, and hundreds of thousands to millions are left powerless for varying times while the damage is isolated and contained and enough crews can be rounded up from far enough away to make more and more extensive repairs over a wider geographical area. In those cases it’s still just a function of time and money (as always), as well as being certain that the causes of the damage are past (the crews don’t often go out en masse in the teeth of a blizzard or hurricane, for example), which can stretch out the time element.

But this is why circuit breakers, repair crews, standby power generation and other systems exist in the first place.

On the other hand… there are massive problems with the maintenance and replacement scheduling and plans for huge parts of the national grid, such as aging and overloaded trunk lines and aging and less-capable power plants and too much reliance on particular fuels, sometimes, which can be interrupted. And when those things fail, and the trunk line is down for a week or a month, or the supply of natural gas gets shut off, when you’re relying on more and more gas-fired plants to produce the power for large sections of the country… then it’s going to be dark and cold for awhile.

GloPro's avatar

@CWOTUS read the article first referenced to Aster’s question. Apparently only 9 of 55,000 substations would be all it would take to create major havoc for our country. I’d be interested to know if that changes any of your above statements.

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