You've probably heard about our outdated energy grid and the need to create a new, "smart" one. Here's what the problem-and a possible solution-look like.The first map here shows our current high-voltage transmission lines. These are like the freeways for energy. As you can see, they're far from comprehensive. Most importantly, they don't do a good job of connecting New Mexico and Texas (two areas with great solar power potential) or Oklahoma, Kansas, and the other plains states (where there's great potential for wind power) to the rest of the country. So even if we started harvesting that clean energy we couldn't distribute it effectively.Below is a picture of what a new energy grid might look like.Along with just doing a better job of connecting the future sources of clean energy with the rest of the country, a "smart" grid, as typically envisioned, would have better real-time metering and built-in redundancy that would help prevent power outages and security threats.It's unclear what the price tag for this "smart" grid would be, but The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that "electricity disruptions cost the economy upward of $100 billion each year in damages and lost business," and that's to say nothing of problems the old grid presents for clean energy and the environment. Suffice it to say it's probably worth it.Both maps come from a new report on building a smart grid from the Center for American Progress. If you have 20 minutes, this is as good-and readable-a primer as you'll find on the issue.Via Matt Yglesias.