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We can make a reasonable argument that our entire country is dependent on two interrelated technologies: electricity and the internal-combustion engine. 

Virtually every aspect of our daily lives is affected by one of these. Without electricity, we would eventually be without our phones, our computers, the internet, air conditioning, the ability to cook safely indoors and, obviously, TV.

We might be able to run our households for a time with that backup generator sitting in the garage … until we run out of gasoline. And we can’t get more gas at the local level because the pumps run on electricity, and the pumps that drive the mass-distribution pipelines are also electrically operated. 

Unless we have ready cash, we couldn’t even pay for the gasoline — if we located some — because the credit cards are dependent on electric systems to function.

Within a few weeks, we would be living in 1850. The food in our refrigerator would spoil, the grocery store would be empty, and we would have consumed the canned goods in our pantry.

If you live in DeLand, you have likely been impacted by the severe storms we occasionally experience. We might lose power for a couple of days, but the outage never lasts long enough to be life-threatening.

As we saw in Texas this past winter, it was a far more serious situation. People were literally burning their dining-room furniture to keep their children from freezing to death. The collapse of the local energy grid went far beyond an inconvenience. It was life-threatening.

We just experienced an event that affected us all to a degree. One of the major gas-supplying pipelines was shut down, not by a hostile government or one of our traditional “enemies,” but by some common criminals … blackmailers … with some specialized skills and a laptop. The result, real or imagined, was a shortage of gas. And we reacted accordingly by buying up all the gas we could, even gas we didn’t need immediately.

We did the same thing with beef, toilet paper, wipes, masks and hand sanitizer over the past year. All these items come to us via trucks, which run, obviously, on gas. These shortages cause us to become less concerned about our fellow man, and more inclined to hoard in the interest of our own families.

Whatever your politics might be, you should be aware of the fact that we are on the ragged fringe of collapse where these two technologies are concerned. If a few hackers can shut down a huge and critical pipeline, we are vulnerable across the nation.

If a severe winter storm can cause Americans to freeze to death, we are vulnerable. Our government must deal with these situations aggressively.

Politicians are currently arguing about whether or not to spend money … and how much … on infrastructure, however it is defined. We have to have gasoline, and we have to have electricity. Both systems are fragile. I don’t want to return to 1850 … do you?

— Houck lives in DeLand.

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