(NaturalNews) For years experts have been warning that the U.S. electrical infrastructure is vulnerable to both manmade and natural threats. Either from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon fired at the U.S. by an enemy, or from a solar flare caused by major sunspot activity, all the technology that supports our advanced society - from our electrical, banking, water and communications systems, among others - are currently at risk of being totally, and irreparably, destroyed.
Finally, a group of GOP lawmakers are taking the threat seriously and have proposed a plan intended to protect the nation's power grid from such threats. Per the Washington Examiner:
Dubbed the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act, the legislation would push the federal government to install grid-saving devices such as surge protectors to protect against an attack.
Increased solar flare activity will continue
"It is critical that we protect our major transformers from cascading destruction. The Shield Act encourages industry to develop standards necessary to protect our electric infrastructure against both natural and man-made EMP events," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who is offering up the bipartisan bill, according to the website.
The threat to the nation's electric infrastructure posed by EMP has increased as solar activity has increased in recent years, culminating in the form of solar flares, which are essentially powerful bursts of radiation, according to NASA, which monitors solar activity along with NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013. Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity," NASA said in a press release in May. According to the space agency, several "mid-level" flares have been seen in recent years.
In 2010 NBC News reported that solar activity was on the rise and, more importantly, how that activity could affect technology on earth:
Streams of charged particles that fly off the sun can interfere with electronics on Earth and satellites orbiting our planet. For example, during a particularly intense solar storm in 1989, power to an entire Canadian province was knocked out. Since then, other storms have knocked a handful of satellites out of service.
"The problem is solar storms [and] figuring out how to predict them and stay safe from their effect," Lika Guhathakurta, chairperson for the organization International Living with a Star, during a July 2010 meeting in Bremen, Germany. "We need to make progress on this before the next solar maximum arrives around 2013."
Ninety-three million miles separate the earth and sun, but that distance is not as great as it seems, in space terms.
"Spacecraft and ground-based observations have determined that Earth is actually located within the sun's outer atmosphere, where it is constantly being battered by solar winds and hail storms of energetic particles," NBC News reported.
EMP attack would destroy our way of life
Defense Department officials, lawmakers and experts are also concerned about EMP damage from a nuclear weapon. They have said a relatively small nuclear device detonated above the U.S. could devastate our electrical infrastructure.
"This could be the kind of catastrophe that ends civilization - and that's not an exaggeration," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said during a meeting of the House Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus, which was hosted by Franks.
He added that he did not think Americans were taking the threat very seriously.
"The reason I began focusing on this a decade ago is there are very few events you can't recover from. You can recover from 9/11, you can recover from Pearl Harbor. This is really different," he said, according to Politico. "This creates such a collapse of our fundamental productive capacity that you could literally see a civilization crash and tear itself apart fighting ... internally."
The loss of our power grid would throw civilization back to the Middle Ages, Gingrich has said. The former House Republican leader says were that to happen, "millions would die" in the first week.