A Smarter Bowl

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

Steve Benen contrasts the blackout at this year’s Super Bowl with the near-blackout at the 2011 Orange Bowl, in which smart grid technology helped keep the lights on. He hopes that the high-profile failure from Sunday will stimulate interest in infrastructure development:

[W]e don’t yet know enough about what happened in New Orleans to say for sure whether smart-grid technology might have prevented the Super Bowl fiasco last night. But as Brad Plumer explained, we do know that smart grids can prevent blackouts: “And that’s no small thing. Blackouts, after all, have become frustratingly common across the country. Between 2005 and 2009, there were 349 power outages in the United States that affected at least 50,000 people. That’s up from just 149 outages between 2000 and 2004, according to Massoud Amin of the University of Minnesota. Problems with the power grid now cost the economy some $150 billion per year.” …

The problem, of course, is that these investments are expensive, and congressional Republicans have come to believe public investments are … bad. … Of course, the private sector has no incentive to make such investments on its own, since the costs are high, and the return on investment comes slowly over time. As a practical matter, the reality is unavoidable: either the government does it, or it doesn’t happen.

(Photo: The San Francisco 49ers mascot stands in the tunnel during a power outage during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. By Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)