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Report: US Energy Infrastructure a Sitting Duck in Face of Climate Change

Environment  (tags: climate-change, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, energy, endangered, environment, globalwarming, greenhousegases, Hurricane Sandy, politics )

- 1779 days ago -
New report from the Department of Energy shows the vulnerability the nation's energy system faces in a warming world.

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Kit B (276)
Thursday July 11, 2013, 7:49 pm
Photo Photo: Arlington County/cc/flickr) Hurricane Sandy offered a glimpse of what future storms could mean for energy infrastructure.

The nation's energy infrastructure is a sitting duck in the face of climate change.

This is according to a report released Thursday from the Department of Energy that looks at how the effects of climate change--from increasing temperatures, decreased water supplies and rising sea levels--threaten the nation's energy network.

U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather looks at examples where energy infrastructure has already been impacted by extreme weather events.

In the summer of 2010, for example, two nuclear power plants--Hope Creek in New Jersey and Exelon’s Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania--had to reduce power when the cooling waters from rivers was too high. Or take July 2011 when an Exxon pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River was ravaged by flood debris, spewing oil into the river.

And coming temperatures increases, heatwaves, droughts and shrinking water supplies are only set to worsen with runaway greenhouse gases, bringing further threats.

Rather than steering away from water-intensive and water-polluting energy extraction techniques like fracking, the report states that "attendant water demands for their development and production become increasingly important."

"Water is obviously the big question," the Associated Press quotes Jonathan Pershing, deputy assistant secretary of energy for climate change policy and technology, who oversaw the report, as saying. "In drought you don't have enough water. As seas rise, you have too much."

A press release on the report lists more of the upcoming challenges:

Increased risk of temporary partial or full shutdowns at thermoelectric (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) power plants because of decreased water availability for cooling and higher ambient and air water temperatures.

Thermoelectric power plants require water cooling in order to operate. A study of coal plants, for example, found that roughly 60 percent of the current fleet is located in areas of water stress.

Increasing risks of physical damage to power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems from hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more intense and more frequent.

Higher air conditioning costs and risks of blackouts and brownouts in some regions if the capacity of existing power plants does not keep pace with the growth in peak electricity demand due to increasing temperatures and heat waves. An Argonne National Laboratory study found that higher peak electricity demand as a result of climate change related temperature increases will require an additional 34 GW of new power generation capacity in the western United States alone by 2050, costing consumers $45 billion. This is roughly equivalent to more than 100 new power plants, and doesn’t include new power plants that will be needed to accommodate growth in population or other factors.

“We don’t have a robust energy system, and the costs are significant,” the New York Times quotes Pershing as saying. “The cost today is measured in the billions. Over the coming decades, it will be in the trillions. You can’t just put your head in the sand anymore.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers also recently flagged the nation's energy grid and distribution system as being in need of serious investment, giving it a grade of D+ in its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure.

By: Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams |


Past Member (0)
Thursday July 11, 2013, 8:00 pm
In the face of climate change, it would appear all of our gooses are cooked.

JL A (281)
Thursday July 11, 2013, 8:14 pm
I also recall the Nebraska river flood came very close to shutting down their nuclear power the west there are power sharing arrangements between some states (e.g., WA & CA) where peak needs tend to differ--these issues explain why public power is a popular model vs. private industry given the public interest and impacts.

Kit B (276)
Thursday July 11, 2013, 8:36 pm

I would guess the best way to secure your own power is to have solar or wind and hope the storm does not blow off your solar panels. The point of course being that we have not kept up the massive changes in the storms and this should be a major security function of our government. Too busy chasing terrorists?

pam w (139)
Friday July 12, 2013, 9:42 am
Too busy being the slaves of big oil companies?

Arielle S (313)
Friday July 12, 2013, 11:59 am
It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to see what could happen - or to see the jobs that could be provided. Unfortunately, the people who have the power have no compassion or needs ~ they will always have what they need and the rest of us are just in the way.

lee e (114)
Friday July 12, 2013, 1:52 pm
What a mess! Thanks deniers!

David C (131)
Friday July 12, 2013, 5:08 pm
noted and not surprised.....

Laurie H (817)
Friday July 12, 2013, 8:25 pm
Climate change is here, regardless of the naysayers!!! What needs to be done, seems to be an uphill battle to accomplish. As you pointed out Kit, we have not kept up with changes the latest monster storms are bringing. TY So Much Kit !!!~

Sheila D (194)
Friday July 12, 2013, 10:33 pm
How about all those with their heads in the sand be given a swift kick to the---Posterior??

Ravenna C (20)
Friday July 12, 2013, 11:42 pm
Bill Richardson, former secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, said that America was “a superpower with a third-world grid.”


Frances Darcy (133)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 1:41 am

Past Member (0)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 4:37 am
I think the greatest risk come from the coastal power plants are at risk from sea level rise (I'm not really into that term, as the land sinking probably has more impact for the US) and the fact that power lines operate less efficiently in higher temperatures. But I certainly hope that they take the opportunity to replace an aging infrastructure with a decentralized system. I wouldn't worry about the deniers, probably both sides have those that water water.

Past Member (0)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 6:26 am

Joanne Dixon (38)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 6:49 am
Anyone actually surprised?

Gene J (290)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 7:43 am
We've had two monster water main breaks this spring alone that virtually paralyzed downtown Minneapolis, those pipes are more than 100 years old and were meant to last 60. The entire nations infrastructure is in the same condition or worse. Super storms with massive amounts of run off will overwhelm and make far worse repairs and still our political representatives fiddle while refusing to invest anything in repairing, replacing and upgrading the vital components of our infrastructure. We'll all pay more for that folly in the long run.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 9:13 am
The time has come for our nation to shift to clean energy. We must demand solar and wind for the entire nation. Pipelines, coal, and nuclear energy will destroy the earth and the human race if we don't take action and demand that our lawmakers and the President move to shift the nation to renewable clean energy sources. Thank you, Kit, for sharing this critically important news. (n, p, t)

Maria S (95)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 2:22 pm
Noted. Thanks for posting.

Muriel Servaege (53)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 3:22 pm
My god! Who is surprised at that?

Gloria picchetti (304)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 3:50 pm
We can clean up every area of the country every year from extreme storms, floods, and fires but the conservatives just keep banking on the cause instead of the solution.

Birgit W (160)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 5:14 pm
Noted, thanks.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 5:28 pm
So, the report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the energy grid and distribution system a D+ for 2013. And, all Congress can discuss is cutting food stamps, fighting over the filibuster, militarizing the border (rather than passing actual immigration bill), kissing Monsanto's butt, raising the interest rates on student loans, continuing the War on Women.....America is literally falling apart at the seams and our complicit Corporatized Do-Nothing Congress is on vacation. Next, they'll be fighting over the national debt again. We are being hookwinked by a Corporate media by them ignoring what is really important.

Or, maybe I'm wrong....maybe Congress really doesn't care about the country or the majority of their constituents. They are beholden to Big Money for their campaign contributions, and when Big Money talks, they act on whatever is the "soup du jour." Why should they care about infrastructure when they live high on the hog in exclusive gated communities eating the best money can buy, flying in private jets, stashing ever more money away gained through their insider trading. (Yes, in case you didn't know, that bill they passed to keep their hands out of the cookie jar was repealed, and they're at it once again!)

Dianne D (490)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 7:20 pm
One of the power companies in my state is asking for approval to make those that have solar have to pay them $100 a month, because "they aren't paying their fair share of power". What? Another power company wanted to raise rates so they could build 2 new power plants about 4 years ago. Now there isn't a need for them. This is pure greed on the part of the power companies. Go solar. Run the greedy corporations out of business.

Colleen L (3)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 8:03 pm
Sure doesn't surprise me. They have been warning us for sometime now.When will they ever think twice about how they deal with it? Thanks Kit

Inge B (202)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 12:11 am

Hartson Doak (39)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 11:35 am
When the grid goes down and the large corporations can no longer ship the crap they want use to buy, then and only then will the infrastructure be rebuilt.

Hartson Doak (39)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 11:40 am
In a former lifetime I was a Quality Control Nuclear Inspector. I worked at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. The money spent on the power plant could have been spent on insulating all the houses in New Hampshire eliminating the need for the power plant. It would have cost less. The utility had to file bankruptcy because of the cost over runs.

Kathleen R (138)
Monday July 15, 2013, 11:33 am
noted & read
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