|| Newsletter of the
of World Citizens
Power Transmission: False Fear or Global Solution?
By: Peter Meisen, President, Global Energy Network International
Fear is a prime motivator of mankind, whether the
fear is real or unfounded. Since 1979, electromagnetic
fields (EMF) have been vilified by some environmentalists
as a cause of childhood leukemia. Power transmission
lines were suspected as the carriers of this unseen
danger, and utility opponents blocked projects and
advocated the re-routing or burial of lines -- at
tremendous additional expense to the power companies
and ultimately to the consumer.
Now, after 500 independent studies and millions spent
to examine the impacts of EMFs, the National Research
Council of the National Academy of Sciences reports
that no direct link can be found between cancer and
exposure to these fields. Their research will continue,
as they determine whether other factors involved in
urban life may cause a statistical increase in leukemia
If transmission lines had been found guilty, modern
society would be turned inside-out, since everything
with an electric cord has an electromagnetic field
surrounding it. The closer we stand to a home appliance
or wire, the stronger the field. By doubling your
distance from the source, you decrease the EMF strength
by a factor of 4. Given this equation, "prudent
avoidance" became the industry watchword.
We put some balance back into the debate by examining
the benefits of power transmissions to our quality
of life. Simply stated, almost everything we do requires
electrical energy lighting and air-conditioning;
pumping water and treating sewage; communications
by telephone, TV, radio and the Internet; the pumping
of gasoline and air traffic control systems; construction
of buildings; banking and stock markets; even the
printing of this newspaper. We see how our lives rely
on electricity when we lose it as a result of system
failure or weather-related outage.
For virtually all people who live in our developed
world, transmission lines provide the "freeway
of electrons" that deliver this energy for our
daily use. Whether power is generated by coal, gas,
nuclear, wind or hydro, the only way to move this
power is through these interconnected power networks.
In stark comparison, two-billion people in the developing
world have no electricity. One third of humanity has
never switched on a light bulb! In a typical family,
the women and children walk miles every day to collect
firewood for cooking and water, the latter of which
is not even potable.
Nothing improves the quality of life faster in a
village than the introduction of electricity
for a water pump, a refrigerator, for medicine and
food, and to light up the health clinic and schoolhouse.
Research shows that when a developing society reaches
2000 kilowatt-hours/person/year, a threshold is reached
that bolsters the society out of the "developing"
status. (The average American uses 12,000 kwh/year;
in Europe and Japan. use is 6,000 kwh/year.)
Twenty years ago, design scientist Dr. Buckminster
Fuller, known for the geodesic dome, "Spaceship
Earth" and Buckyballs, studied global solutions
for peace, population stabilization and sustainable
development. His premier global strategy was the electrical
interconnection of power networks around the world
in today's vernacular, a World Wide Web of
Electrical interconnections have proven benefits.
They can mean: lower bills for customers, as utilities
buy cheaper power from neighboring companies and pass
some of the savings onto the consumer; improved system
reliability; offers better power quality protecting
the circuitry of electronic equipment; by deferral
of additional generation capacity, stockholder returns
are enhanced; and the ability to tap the abundant
renewable energy resources.
Power transmission is essential if we are going to
utilize some of the world's bountiful renewable energy
(solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass) to
meet the growing demand in India, China, Southeast
Asia and other developing regions. By their nature,
renewables are site specific, often in remote regions
and neighboring countries. Long distance power transmission
now enables us to tap this clean energy and move it
wherever we want to work or live.
In some cases, this has become the cheaper option
for utilities and fulfills the environmentalists'
desire for cleaner energy. Recently, electrical linkages
followed the trend toward peace between age-old enemies.
East and West Germany linked systems after the fall
of the Berlin Wall, Israel and Jordan after the Washington
Declaration, and now Iran and Turkey are planning
to connect power grids for their stated mutual benefits.
Electrical interties are a physical connection between
countries that can enhance international cooperation,
trade and peace.
Numerous experts at the United Nations, World Bank
and engineering institutions have since corroborated
Fuller's vision the linking of electrical
systems as a compelling global strategy for peace
and sustainable development. Even Al Gore, as Senator,
stated that "a global energy network makes enormous
sense if we are to meet global energy needs with a
minimal impact on the world's environment."
The reasoned study from the National Academy on EMFs
enables the beneficial effect of electricity to be
promoted without the fear-mongering of the past. The
two-billion people without electrical power deserve
a chance for a better life. The First World can use
transmission lines to shift to cleaner energy resources.
Dr. Fuller's comprehensive design strategy is a vision
that benefits everyone. Electric power transmission
offers opportunities unforseen just a few years ago,
and can be the cure for some of the world's most pressing