It is challenging
to imagine the blackouts as anything but technological accidents--oversights of
management and engineering quickly and inevitably corrected. Yet these failures
were far from random. The blackouts exposed to public view an intersection of
long-term developments which have often been overlooked, underestimated, or studied
as disconnected phenomena.
Our first debate concerns the historical
significance of the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 for the electric utility
industry. Historian Richard
Hirsh of Virginia Polytech opens the discussion by placing that massive cascading
power failure within the context of the electric utility industry circa 1965.