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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview with James Lewis, Technology Expert

Aired August 15, 2003 - 08:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get perhaps some more insight, as, once again, we're standing by, waiting for Mayor Bloomberg to begin his news conference at City Hall here in Manhattan.
Talking a little bit more about the technology side of this and what might have gone wrong, let's bring in James Lewis. He is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Program.

Thank you for joining us this morning.

JAMES LEWIS, CSIS: Thank you. And good morning.

KAGAN: We've heard, of course, from many -- good morning to you as well, a sunny and getting-very-warm morning here in New York City.

You're already starting to hear the politicians cry out and say, once the power is back on there will be a lot of questions to be answered about what went wrong and how it can be prevented in the future. Any clues from your standpoint now about what you can see what went wrong to start?

LEWIS: Yes, the problem is really, you know, systemic underinvestment in the transmission grid. We haven't been putting the money into it. People have known this for at least a few years. And so, I'm not sure why Congress really shouldn't be surprised, because there has been testimony routinely on this subject. But I think what you'll see is not so much where is the money going to come from, but who is going to be willing to let it be spent in their backyard.

KAGAN: In fact, we heard the now present governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, he was the energy secretary, he called the electrical grid of the U.S. a "third-world grid." Do you think that's a fair assessment?

LEWIS: I don't think it's a fair assessment, because if you'd been in a third-world country, you'd find that these sorts of things that happened in New York are routine. And so, we're not near a third-world country.

On the other hand, the transmission grid hasn't kept up with the increasing demands for electrical power that you see in the U.S., as people keep adding appliances, computers, fax machines, air conditioners. We haven't kept the system up to date. So, it might be adequate for, say, the 1980s or even the early 1990s, but it is definitely out of date.

KAGAN: And so, what's it going to take to bring it up to date to prevent something like this happening again?

LEWIS: I think we're going to need to do two things. The first thing is we need to do a little more research, because some of the technologies used in the power grid could definitely be improved. You know, there is a lot of loss from the power lines just from leakage of electricity. So, research would be good.

Second, investment. We're going to have to pay some money, probably in the order of doubling the amount we spend now to improve the transmission grid.

And third, we're going to need political solutions to the gridlock, the political gridlock that has kept people from making improvements.

So, those are the things that we're going to need to do.

KAGAN: OK, Dr. James Lewis, I'm going to have to say, I can't hear you in my ear anymore, but I can see from the screen that your lips have stopped moving. So, I'm going to say thank you for joining us, Dr. James Lewis, from the Technology Program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thank you for that.

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