It’s among the greatest threats facing America today, U.S. Congressman Trent Franks states bluntly: a tremendous electromagnetic pulse, either naturally occurring or from a small nuclear device detonated outside the atmosphere.
A large enough pulse (EMP) could destroy the electric grid, notably the rare and very expensive transformers that form the grid's backbone. Without them and the power they deliver, a vast swath of American technology and every system that relies upon it would go dark for months or even years, some fear -- essentially sending the country back to the stone age.
And we’re utterly unprepared for this potentially catastrophic threat, said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy and former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan.
“A pre-industrial society, which is what we would be reduced to, would not have the ability to sustain itself as we do today,” he told FoxNews.com.
A 2004 panel bluntly described the effects of a "Carrington Event," named for the largest solar storm in history, an 1859 solar blast that shook the planet. Bill Graham, chairman of the panel, said as many as 9 out of 10 of could be killed in the aftermath, Gaffney said.
“Think of people in cities with no access to food or water, no sewage, no access to transport to get out of there … those become dead zones in a matter of weeks or at most months. And the population living off the land elsewhere may be able to sustain itself, but nowhere like what we have at the moment,” Gaffney said.
“It’s really grim,” he told FoxNews.com.
To address this threat, Congressman Trent Franks and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich introduced a bill Tuesday to protect the grid. Called the SHIELD Act, or the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage, the bill would push the federal government to install grid-saving devices, surge protectors that could save the transformers and power system from EMPs.