Yesterday afternoon, the lights went out in Southern California.
Not only the lights, but everything powered by electricity, for millions of people from Baja California in Mexico all the way to Orange County in southern Los Angeles. No lights, no air conditioning, no Internet, no landline telephone service. People trapped in elevators, people eating the ice cream from the freezer before it melts. No gas for your car because the pumps require electricity. Traffic jams because of failed signal lights.
Why did it happen? Initial reports were unclear as to the cause of the blackout. But what is clear is our society’s tremendous dependence on vulnerable, complex systems to deliver services now essential for daily life. What was science fiction a hundred years ago is now fundamental to our society and economy.
12-18 hours later, the power is back on and the Great Blackout of 2011 is simply a source of stories to tell your pals at work on Monday. The cause was utterly trivial–possibly an error by a single utility employee–that spiralled out of control.
But what if the problem couldn’t be fixed?
My just-released novel PETROPLAGUE asks this frightening question, not for electricity, but for the other great pillar of modern industrial society, petroleum. What if Southern California lost its gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel? What if the loss was irreversible? And worst of all, what if it spread beyond the sunny LA basin to the rest of the country or the world?
View the PETROPLAGUE trailer at right, or read a preview at amazon.com.