"Extra-high voltage transformers are what many experts consider to be the backbone of our modern grid. If this device that we depend on for the lifeblood of our modern civilization was able to be manipulated, if it was able to be turned off, then that could be extremely problematic for us," Center for Security Policy (CSP) President Tommy Waller told Epoch TV's Jan Jekielek during his appearance on "American Thought Leaders."
Waller explained that the power grid is made up of the generation, transmission and distribution systems. Electricity must be transmitted at extremely high voltages to minimize losses over long-distance travel, and the absolutely critical EHVTs are needed to increase the voltage.
He also emphasized that building just one transformer could take up to four years. Once finished, shipping these transformers across the country is not a simple endeavor due to their massive size and weight. In some case, specialized rail cars are used to transport them.
"There are only so many of those assets," Waller said. "We can't afford to lose these for really any reason, whether it's because they were manufactured with malicious intent to manipulate them or if they're attacked in different forms of attacks."
According to the CSP president, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "has been executing unrestricted warfare against the rest of the free world." He added: "One method of unrestricted warfare is looking for these critical vulnerabilities of a society and figuring out how to exploit those."
Waller also revealed that Beijing dumped massive amounts of grain-oriented steel – a material needed for EHVTs – and captured the market for materials to make these transformers. In time, the utility industry eventually turned to China for transformers to keep expenses down.
Back in May 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials seized a 250-ton Chinese-built EHVT from the Port of Houston. It was then sent to the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico for inspection. According to officials, "hardware back doors" built in the device could "secretly allow the Chinese to gain effective control of the transformers."
In the same year, former President Donald Trump released an executive order (EO) declaring a national emergency over threats to the nation's electric grid. The EO banned the purchase or installation of any bulk-power electric equipment designed or built by any company under the control of countries hostile to the U.S., including China.
Incumbent President Joe Biden suspended Trump's EO upon assuming office in 2021, but the ban on Chinese electrical equipment remained in place. The Energy Department said at the time it had "reason to believe that the government of China is equipped and actively planning to undermine the bulk power system."
Waller pointed out that while the Biden administration is aware of the threat the CCP poses to the power grid, Washington's green energy agenda won't help counter the threat. He told the "American Thought Leaders" host that it it is impossible to phase out all traditional gas-powered cars and trucks and replace large, steady power generators with renewables sources such as solar and wind at the same time. (Related: Electricity shortages are coming, warn power grid operators.)
"There will be blackouts if we continue some of the policies that our government has applied upon the nation, just due to physics. [The] grid is so vulnerable to some forms of threat from Mother Nature. Even if we deterred all of our human adversaries from taking it down, it's 100 percent certain at some point the grid will go down because of solar weather."
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