June 1st, 2011
04:55 PM ET

Letters to the President: #863 'Master blaster says power off!'

Reporter's Note: I don’t think the White House ever has power outages. But they do have letters from me…every single day. That should be draining enough.

Dear Mr. President,

Perhaps you have heard that our news bureau over by the Capitol suffered a pretty serious power failure yesterday; as in, we pretty much have none. Apparently this affected a sizeable portion of this part of the city (including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ha!) and, at last word, we’re not going to have all the lights back on until some time tonight. (Here’s a strange thing though, the automatic faucets in the restrooms are still working…even in the dark! Go figure.)

As a result a colleague and I had to retreat to her home to work on our news story for last night. It was fine. We had plenty of power for our computers and phones there plus a box of Wheat Thins, so in some ways it was nicer than being at the office.

Still, the whole business has me thinking about infrastructure again. I still don’t fully understand what went wrong, but apparently this was somehow linked to the increased demand on the system by air conditioning units. Or something like that. Could have been a squirrel in the generator for all I know.

The point is, something that should have worked did not. And it is costing a ridiculous amount of lost work time (not that I’m complaining,) lost productivity, and at a time when our nation can least afford it.

The American Society of Civil Engineers routinely puts out a report card listing all the weaknesses in our infrastructure, and politicians mention these problems all the time in speeches. But somehow I get the feeling that precious little is actually being done.

Related: Special coverage of Building Up America on CNN.com

I’m not griping about losing power at my office. I understand these things happen from time to time. What I am saying is that the number of power outages in this country is soaring and has been for a couple of decades, and I hate the idea of us becoming one of those countries where people simply can’t rely on having electricity when they step up to an outlet. For all of our talk about rebuilding the economy, I can think of few things that could pull the plug any quicker.

Call if you get a moment. Or if the phones are working. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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