The struggle for 3.5 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico is "getting worse by the day", my guest who recently returned from the island tells me on today's BradCast. So, I'm afraid, is everything else, it seems, as the President of the United States continues to put the nation on a war footing (potentially, a nuclear war footing) in advance of his upcoming trip to Asia. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
A disturbing new report over the weekend cites the U.S. Air Force readying a Louisiana military base to place "nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert" for the first time since the end of the Cold War in 1991. Why? What is the imagined threat that makes such a dangerous (and expensive) posture necessary? Particularly as nuclear armed land- and submarine-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are already in place by the hundreds or thousands and would surely provoke response from adversaries real and perceived?
And, of course, all of that, even as Americans are still fighting for their lives in Puerto Rico, thanks in part, to a shortage of relief funding. Yes, power remains out for some 80% of the island, more than a month after Hurricane Maria made her devastating landfall. We're joined today by former Puerto Rico Energy Commissioner, RAMON CRUZ, who is now on the Sierra Club's National Board of Directors and serves as an advisor to the United Nations on climate policy.
Recently back from the island, Cruz, a Puerto Rican native, details the deteriorating situation on the ground, particularly away from the capital of San Juan, and warns, as he did in his recently published op-ed for The Hill, that the "vultures" are already descending "to feast on the opportunities presented by the recovery efforts."
Cruz tells me that things in the interior of the island are "getting worse by the day," despite Trump grading his own federal relief efforts with a "10" out of 10 last week during a press avail at the White House. "Ultimately, who cares about what grade he gives? There's still people that [lack] all these necessities. It's really infuriating. The fact that they lost everything, and they still are drinking contaminated water, in ways that are completely preventable. That's the real disaster. In that case, if I could give negative points, I would give that."
He notes that his own father, for instance, who lives just 40 minutes from San Juan "still has no electricity, cell or water service" and many in mountain towns "have received a visit from the authorities only once, if any, and to bring a couple of water bottles and some canned sausages." The relief effort is failing, he charges, citing, for example, a delivery of "100 pallets of solar panels, but it still will take at least a month to go through the shipping process" before they can actually be deployed.
Cruz details why PR's power grid took such a hit from the storm, why it is so difficult to restore it to the already-deficient state it was in prior to the storm, and how decentralized energy micro-grids, relying on clean, renewable energy and battery storage, are now more important than ever, even as opportunists begin to take advantage of relief funds and the desperate Puerto Rican people.
"A lot of these [power generating stations] are decades old," he notes. "So you have these monstrosities of this very centralized system. They're very inefficient, they operate with some of the dirtiest fuels, and they should have been changed, should have been retired [a] long time ago. But because of several reasons --- everything from mismanagement, corruption, lack of capital, lack of creativity, bad business models, etc., they were not changed. And now you see these kinds of effects."
"In terms of human power, you have a lot of able Puerto Ricans to help," Cruz argues. "As a policy person, I think Americans in the mainland could help a lot by putting pressure on their elected officials to send a decent relief package to Puerto Rico, or to hurricane-affected areas. And to have, for example, a climate adaptation plan. I think everywhere on the coast, everywhere that is vulnerable to climate change, to global warming, there should be a plan for how to deal with essential infrastructure." That, he says, is "extremely important" but lacking in Puerto Rico and, unfortunately, too many other locations which could find themselves, before long, in as bad or worse condition than Puerto Rico...
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