Saturday, September 03, 2005

Jeddah residents outraged by recurring power outage :: Arab News

The failure of service pales in comparison with what has taken place on the other side of globe in New Orleans. Nevertheless, the Jeddah and New Orleans cases raise the same question: Is the value of uninterrupted service high enough to justify the cost?

On especially hot days the electricity system serving Jeddah cannot meet demands on the system created by the heavy use of air conditioning. The result is denial of service - partial blackouts. Somehow I doubt that electricity customers are willing to pay what it would cost to make the system fail-safe. And I suspect we are still a number of years away from a system that would make it feasible to offer individual households the choice of uninterruptable service at a premium price.

Just as we know that Jeddah will experience a few especially hot days each summer, we knew that a massive storm would hit New Orleans some day. We do not build water, communications and transportation systems that can withstand all catastrophes. It's not worth it.

The next question is should New Orleans be rebuilt? I suspect not. I am sure, however, that it is not worth the cost to the public to create water, communication and transportation systems that make New Orleans as safe as living in areas which are less prone to storm damage.

Rebuilding Chicago after Mrs. Leary's cow kicked over a lantern made sense. Putting New Orleans back like it was doesn't.

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