So how much did that Kentucky ice storm cost?
Millions of people without power, plus of course, their factories, shops, offices, banks, government installations, plus the call-up of the whole Kentucky National Guard... on and on, the costs skyrocketed.
Main problem? Power lines. Wires on top of poles, the way we have distributed electricity since the first days of the telegraph set the standard. Power line wires run by and through trees. They not only collect unsupportable ice weight during bad ice storms, but the trees around them are worse, crashing down on millions of lines.
So here we are at the crucial crossroads of a decaying infrastructure that can't function through a normal weather phenomenon (what? a "fifty year storm?"), and an economic meltdown that demands government spending to replace all the missing consumer spending. Simple idea:
Let's start turning overhead power lines into underground power lines. Then bring on the storms, the juice will keep flowing. We have the technology to do it safely and efficiently. And Heaven knows we have the manpower to start all that trenching and laying of cable. A whole generation of electrical technicians can be fostered. The people now replacing all those broken poles and re-stringing all those cables can easily be repurposed to the undergrounding project.
It makes economic sense from both the stimulus and the productivity angles. And (horrors!) it makes sense from the esthetic angle.
Let's move power distribution 'way further along than just the "smart grid;" let's put an emphasis on the local grids that bring all that smart juice into our homes and businesses. They should work rain, shine or ice.