Blackout '03: Getting By Without the Grid

There's nothing like a multistate summertime blackout to get environmentalists and industry groups throwing spitballs at one another. Extreme greens wag told-you-so fingers and dream anew about a grid-free country, with homeowners generating their own power courtesy of clean, renewable energy sources. Industry types speak instead about building new nuclear or conventional power plants or muscling up existing ones--and delivering all the juice through a modernized distribution system.

In this instance, both sides are right--to a degree. While centralized power will probably always be with us, the best way to upgrade the energy grid may well involve doing away with some...

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