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Ike's granddaughter calls for modern electrical grid

Feb 12, 2009 - George Hohmann - Charleston Daily Mail

Susan Eisenhower
Susan Eisenhower is a well-known consultant on energy. AP

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Susan Eisenhower, a noted consultant on energy matters, said a modern electricity grid would boost the nation's economy in numerous ways, just as the Interstate highway system, which was conceived by her grandfather - President Dwight D. Eisenhower - changed the country.

"The Interstate highway system is the pride of this country," Eisenhower said Tuesday at a gathering of business leaders in Charleston. "It is the talk of the world. I don't think any other country has a system quite like this. The interstate aspect is analogous to the system we'll need for electricity."

"This is one of those really exciting modernization ideas that won't require federal dollars," said Eisenhower, a Republican who supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "I know President Obama supports a modernized grid. I want to make sure he knows it is possible to finance this with private sources. The efficiencies gained and the return on investment can make this work."

"To modernize the system, some regulatory changes will be needed that will be challenging for sure, but no more so than the requirements that were needed for the Interstate highway system."

She said that getting a modern electricity grid built also will require leadership at every level and the rresident "has got to set the tone."

Eisenhower quoted an IBM executive who said that if Thomas Edison came back to life today, he would recognize the nation's electric grid as the one he left.

She said the national grid is a patchwork of local grids. It is remarkable how difficult it is to move excess power from Colorado to Utah or the other way around, she said.

It is reminiscent of her grandfather's trip across the United States in 1919, she said. "That July they left downtown Washington, D.C. and, pushing hard, they got to San Francisco two and a half months later.

"By 1956 he had commanded forces in Europe and noticed the way the Germans could move military material with ease. He signed into law the National Highway Defense System Act that created the 46,000-mile network of Interstate highways. The decision to create this national network created unprecedented opportunities for economic development."

Eisenhower said the interstate highway system added $6 of productivity to the nation's economy for every $1 invested. Just like the highway system, "an enhanced electric grid can add value that can't even be anticipated today," she said.

The nation's electric grid is rightfully called "the backbone of the economy," Eisenhower said.

She said her grandfather "was the first president - maybe the last president - to create a definition of national security that went beyond the military. He defined national security as military capability, economic health and our moral authority in the world. You know we're OK on Number One. Number Two and Number Three are more challenging."

Eisenhower said she believes the need for a modernized grid can be fairly characterized as an economic security issue.

Eisenhower, 57, is president of the Eisenhower Group Inc. She spoke to about 100 business leaders at the Marriott.

The West Virginia Roundtable, a nonprofit organization of chief executive officers, hosted Eisenhower. She said American Electric Power, the Dilenschneider Group and the Eisenhower Group made her appearance possible.

Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.