Consider your own preparations for any Y2K-related issue. With less than a year to go before the next millennium arrives, the Internet, as well as most of the old media, are saturated with stories about solving and/or preparing us for the Y2K bug: the computer error that will cause non-compliant machines to misinterpret the "00" in 2000 as 1900.
In what seems like either willful or unintentional ignorance, few of these articles make any mention of the role renewable energy sources (solar, wind energy, geothermal, biofuels, energy crops, hydroelectric, hydrogen, electric or solar vehicles) will play in reducing much of the stresses our fossil and nuclear fuel-dependent power grid may undergo beginning on January 1, 2000. Such stresses include possible brownouts and outages occurring without warning and impacting entire cities, suburban enclaves and rural communities. The suggestion has been made that power may be diverted from rural, low population areas to high population sectors should serious outages seem inevitable.
Solar and other renewables haven't been national energy priorities since the 70s' oil crisis and do not seem to figure prominently in the current administration's Y2K preparation scenario. Even when natural or human-made disasters strike, neither FEMA nor other agencies turn first to renewables as logical alternatives to put in place before the next disasters strike. Perhaps it will take a total shutdown of all power systems for governments and the utilities they claim to regulate to implement a comprehensive shift to a responsible energy system based on renewable resources and energy efficiency free from pollution and radioactive wastes.
Over the next year, this website/column will address that glaring omission and provide browsers and readers with practical steps they can take locally to ensure the uninterrupted flow of energy to their homes, businesses and the organizations they depend on in their daily lives. Links will be provided both on the Y2K issue itself, on what banks (paper records of all transactions should be stored safely), all levels of government and other entities are doing to either solve or prepare for the Y2K problem.
by John Downey
To hear the government talk, there's nothing to fear from Y2K. But that doesn't mean caution isn't in order. Insiders say that the administration is moving to back up phone, electrical and even water systems with independent sources just in case the computer bug becomes infectious. Also, computer and technical stafffs at most federal agencies will be working around the clock as 2000 is rung in to make sure the store stays open. Overseas, several US facilities in danger zones-such as Ukraine and other former Soviet nuclear states-will be emptied.
US News & World Report, November 1, 1999
Japan Warns Public to Stockpile for Y2K Bug
- Reuters headline, Oct. 29, 1999
In a few short weeks, years of global governmental and corporate technical fixes and expenditures of almost a trillion dollars for the computer bug will be put to the test. If we believe such pundits as the Gartner Group, we face only "a series of spotty problems" concentrated in less developed countries (Popular Science, Fall, 1999). Mass media outlets tend to follow this corporate-government line, taking their various releases at face value and rarely digging for the contradictions and long-range implications of their statements. The administration and Congress have passed the Y2K Act, "requiring that, "before filing suit, a potential plaintiff must send written notice to the potential defendant and give the defendant a chance to fix the problem. Situations in which plaintiffs can recover punitive damages are limited as are damages for lost profits".
So we are left with personal decisions such as whether or not to stockpile life-sustaining items or, as most seem to be doing, simply deny that there's a problem and go on with life. For the tiny minority who look for more creative solutions we have the following previews of future columns:
There are other positive developments to focus on over these next years but, in future columns, we will attempt to find the most practical, actionable examples of each of those noted above and share its mistakes and successes with all of you. Until then, enjoy the last days of the old era and welcome to the first stirrings of what could be a golden age.
Written By:John Downey. To ask a question, you can send E-mail to him.
John Downey is an online researcher/analyst, technical writer/editor and the former host/producer of WFMU-FM's Solar Sanity. He is the author of a series, "Harvesting the Sun," and was co-editor of an edition of the consumer guide, "Shopping for a Better World".
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