DOE: U.S. Energy Sector at Risk from Climate Change

Rising temperatures and sea levels will profoundly impact the U.S. energy sector in coming years, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a report released on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The report called for more research and innovative that can mitigate the effects of climate change on power and fuel supplies.  At issue are the increasing number and severity of storms and coastal flooding, which causes problems for crucial oil and gas installations.

October 2012’s Superstorm Sandy exposed the East Coast’s vulnerability to intense storms after massive power outages crippled petroleum pipelines and left consumers empty at darkened gas stations.  Flooding from the storm created havoc for homeowners and commuters.

Additionally, the nation’s electrical distribution system could quickly become degraded because of rising temperatures; and water scarcity may shut off new drilling technologies if they aren’t developed sooner rather than later.

Even the current shale oil and natural gas boom, driven by water-intensive hydraulic fracturing, may have to address the increasing likelihood of droughts and competition for water from communities, consumers, and agriculture.

The DOE says that cooperation between federal and local governments in making energy infrastructure more weather resistant is essential in making an end run around the consequences of climate change.  However, the study did acknowledge that business plays an important role in energy programs.  For instance, funding for major infrastructure upgrades would have to come from the private sector, with the DOE offering guidance to help both states and companies make the best investment decisions.

The report didn’t include a timeline for implementing its recommendations, but it should help focus at least federal efforts, if not private ones.

Practices and technologies that have already improved resilience to climate change are the deployment of dry cooling technology for thermoelectric power plants, more energy-efficient building technologies, and storm-hardened energy infrastructure.

One suggestion that would lessen the impact of shifts in weather patterns and availability of natural resources include technologies that reduce the need for water use in oil and gas production, and that increase the resilience of offshore oil and gas equipment and distribution systems, according to the report.

Other opportunities outlined by the study consist of improved information gathering and sharing that support best practices and more effective stakeholder engagement.

The backdrop to this report is more energy-related stirrings in Congress.  The Hill reports that the Senate will debate a comprehensive energy efficiency bill during the last week of July 2013. The bill would authorize an array of initiatives designed to encourage energy conservation by the federal government, manufacturers, and homeowners.

Recommendation for businesses to create voluntary model building codes for new buildings is included in the bill, along with incentives for manufacturers to install more energy-efficient technologies at their facilities.

Chief among the bill’s contents, however, is a directive for the federal government, one of the largest energy consumers in the world, to use more energy-saving practices at its buildings. Ironic because Bloomberg reports that a party-line vote on government spending on renewable and other green energy programs would be halved under the fiscal 2014 Energy-Water Development appropriations bill passed in the House on Friday July 19. Included in the bill is a plan to drop the incandescent light bulbs federal regulation under the fiscal 2014 Energy-Water Development appropriations bill.

The $30.4 billion bill would bring across-the-board cuts to the Energy Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other energy- and water-related agencies and offices. It would also resuscitate a controversial plan to dispose of nuclear waste in a remote area of Nevada. The White House has threatened a veto of the bill because the cuts are “Draconian” and would put a halt to efforts to stem the potentially devastating impact of climate change.

To read the full DOE report, click here

To read the full Reuters article cited in this story, click here

To read the full The Hill article cited in this story, click here


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