|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 10.30.17
Monday, October 30, 2017 â€“
Lessons from the Storms
The 2017 hurricane season has been the most active and destructive to the United States in a number of years. From Puerto Rico to Texas, storms have caused devastation, some of which lingers long after the hurricanes have dissipated. The challenge of rebuilding is daunting.
As part of the rebuilding process, we should learn how to better prepare for similar events in the future. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, is committed to evaluating preparations for and responses to these storms. We hope that thoroughly understanding what worked and what didnâ€™t in the 2017 hurricane season will help the country prepare for future natural disasters. The lessons learned from this year can have positive impacts across the country, not just in those areas vulnerable to hurricanes.
On October 24, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responded to Puerto Rico. I had the opportunity to chair this hearing as the Vice Chairman. We learned that the hospital ship USNS Comfort has not been fully utilized. The Food and Drug Administration also detailed setbacks to Puerto Ricoâ€™s medical products industry, which is important to the supply both in Puerto Rico and in the rest of the United States, and its plans to address potential shortages while manufacturers restore their operations.
The Energy Subcommittee, on which I also serve, will follow suit on November 2 by reviewing how energy infrastructure weathered the storms. I expect there will be important lessons at this hearing. Throughout this year, the Subcommittee has held hearings on the electrical grid, and Puerto Ricoâ€™s struggles with restoring power have highlighted the gridâ€™s vulnerabilities as well as possible solutions.
One of several innovations put forward to get Puerto Rico back online is the use of microgrids, defined by the Microgrid Institute as â€śa small energy system capable of balancing captive supply and demand resources to maintain stable service within a defined boundary.â€ť Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently brought attention to microgrids when he suggested that small modular nuclear reactors would suit Puerto Ricoâ€™s needs: â€śWouldnâ€™t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of C-17 [military cargo] aircraft, transport it to an area like Puerto Rico, and push it out the back end, crank it up and plug it in?â€ť* The idea may sound far-fetched, but this technology is actually in development in the national labs overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy and may be on the U.S. market by the middle of the next decade. Besides nuclear, renewable power could fuel microgrids as well.
Microgrids make sense for an island like Puerto Rico, but there are other contexts where they would be suitable. While the technology could be used anywhere, if flooding, a snowstorm, or another catastrophe cut off a town in the mountains from the rest of the electrical grid, microgrids could keep the lights on until conditions returned to normal.
Weâ€™ll take a look at how microgrids might help Puerto Rico and consider how they could be used as part of disaster response in the future anywhere in the country. This is just one example of how we can better understand what works and what doesnâ€™t. If the lessons learned from these storms better prepare us for the next one, these tragedies will not have been in vain.
The â€śWindshield Phenomenonâ€ť
A recent study published in the scientific journal PLOS One suggests that insects are in decline. One way this finding has been made more tangible is the â€świndshield phenomenon.â€ť You would once have plenty of bugs splattered on your windshield driving down a highway, but now there are fewer bugs to meet their demise as you head on down the road.
While insects are an important part of any ecosystem, I am glad this study has come out now and not, say, a year ago. If it had, the Obama Administrationâ€™s Environmental Protection Agency may have sought to ban windshields to protect the insects, or perhaps mandated that all cars be outfitted with a soft net mounted a few inches in front of their hoods and windshields so bugs would be protected from the windshield until they could fly away safely.
For History Lovers
For those of you who love history, a friend recently sent me an interesting article about Greek resistance to the Axis powers in World War II. The Greeksâ€™ tenacious defense changed the course of the war. You can read the article If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at
* â€śPuerto Rico Eyed As Electricity Grid Innovation Testing Ground,â€ť https://www.bna.com/puerto-rico-eyed-n73014467356/