July 12 News: Record Heat Waves, Sea Level Rise, Superstorms And Wildfires Endanger Electric Grid

A utility crew works to restore power on Long Beach Island, N.J., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, after communities on the island sustained damage from Superstorm Sandy. (Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky)

The Department of Energy, which released a study Thursday warning of increased blackouts and energy disruptions in a warming world, is launching a new effort to push investors, regulators and utilities to prepare for extreme weather. [USA Today, The Hill]

U.S. energy supplies will likely face more severe disruptions because of climate change and extreme weather, which have already caused blackouts and lowered production at power plants, a government report warned Thursday.

What’s driving these vulnerabilities? Rising temperatures, up 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and the resulting sea level rise, which are accompanied by drought, heat waves, storms and wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It (climate change) is a very serious problem and it will get worse,” says Jonathan Pershing, who oversaw the report’s development. While impacts will vary by region, “no part of the country is immune,” he says. He adds that climate change is exacerbating extreme events.

“Sea level rise made Sandy worse,” Pershing says, noting that it intensified flooding. When the superstorm slammed the East Coast last year, it took down power lines, damaged power plants and left millions of people in the dark.

The Georgia Public Service Commission voted in favor yesterday of a plan that will require the state’s largest energy provider to increase its solar power capacity by 525 megawatts by the end of 2016. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

Air pollution kills more than 2 million people worldwide per year, with sooty particles and ozone causing the most deaths, according to a new study. [Guardian]

A vast area of ocean — either around East Antarctica or south of New Zealand — could soon be turned into a marine sanctuary. But because the areas are home to commercial fishing, the proposals face some hurdles from involved countries. [NPR]

A law that requires federal buildings to be mostly free of fossil fuels is facing threats again from the natural gas industry, with somewhat unexpected help from two energy efficiency groups. [InsideClimate News]

The Mayflower pipeline crude oil spill in Arkansas was caused by outdated welding, according to a ExxonMobil. [Wall Street Journal (subs. req’d)]

Next year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will have to have the “biggest artificial snowmaking system in the world” because of concerns that the region will not have enough snow. [NPR]

Shale gas extraction in Poland is turning out to be much more difficult than previously expected. [Economist]

Jellyfish are threatening tourism and marine life as overfishing and warmer waters allow historic population blooms. [Spiegel]

A 278-square-mile iceberg bigger than Chicago broke off of Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier on Monday. [Guardian]

A new study suggests that injecting water underground — as is common practice in shale oil and gas fracking, as well as geothermal power production — can prime faults and cause earthquakes of a magnitude of 4 or 5. [Guardian, Daily Climate]

Maine’s oil spill fund is nearing dangerously low levels as oil companies ship their product by rail, taking advantage of a loophole in state law. [Reuters]

Smart grids can help save money in the U.S. by making electricity production more efficient, but they can save lives on battlefronts like Afghanistan by allowing generators to not waste fuel when they are not needed. [Marketplace]

On Monday, Tesla Motors will join the NASDAQ-100 stock index after turning a profit, increasing market capitalization, and paying back its government loan early. [CleanTechnica]

BP’s bill for paying back thousands of Gulf oil spill claimants is larger than it expected, so the company is appealing, claiming many Gulf businesses are receiving settlements for “exaggerated or even fictitious losses.” [The New York Times

Solar installation in California increased by 26 percent in 2012. The state is now equipped to produce enough energy to power 150,000 homes. [LA Times]

A Republican House staffer recently wrote an award-winning op-ed urging action on climate change — but did so anonymously for “job security reasons.” [Grist]

9 Responses to July 12 News: Record Heat Waves, Sea Level Rise, Superstorms And Wildfires Endanger Electric Grid

  1. prokaryotes says:

    ‘Climate change will force UK to be dependent on imported crops as droughts hit farmers’
    SHRINKING water supplies in Britain could devastate food production in the England by the 2020s, Government advisers have warned.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Solar and wind power plants are not very vulnerable to extreme weather, since there are no tanks and pipes containing explosive fuel that can burst.

    This should be factored into utility accounting, along with health care costs, deaths, and global warming costs from burning fossil fuels. The methodology here is solid. All that’s required is a good and aggressive team of attorneys to call fossil fuel burning to account in court, preferably before a jury. It can be done, but is expensive, and the jurisdiction needs to be chosen carefully. Everybody seems to have given up on this path, but that’s defeatist.

    Big Greens won’t do it, because they are too mixed up with fossil fuel donors. This would be a good project for someone like Gelbaum or Soros.

  3. Ida Sætersmoen says:

    You will be out of groundwater in the Midwest too in 2050. 30% of Spain is a desert in 2050 and you are on the same latitude.

  4. Ida Sætersmoen says:

    I still hope we can stop this. Get the CO2 level in the air down from 400 ppm to 300 ppm as soon as possible with CCS now some years and nevner let it go above 300 ppm thereafter.

  5. Jim B says:

    >>A Republican House staffer recently wrote an award-winning op-ed urging action on climate change — but did so anonymously for “job security reasons.”<<

    Well that's very telling. The fact that I read this blog every day and post infrequently makes me wonder if I'm on watch lists somewhere.

    But hey, you're all on the lists too so we're in this together. I take a little comfort in that.

    And in the end, we're all in this together.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    “Each measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has its own cost, and to make things simple, the NRTEE places them in three categories: low cost (less than $50/tonne), medium-cost (between $50/tonne and $100/tonne) and high-cost (more than $100/tonne). Here’s what low-, medium and high-cost measures mean:”

  7. Paul magnus says:

    “Despite the concentration of low-cost reductions, the pursuit of some high-cost emission reductions suggests that governments have been willing — knowingly or not — in some cases to implement policies that tackle more than just the “low-hanging fruit”.

  8. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Change is the order of the day. Power producers should adopt to change of weather and extreme patterns while planning major projects.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  9. Michael Pope says:

    A characteristic of coal-fired power stations is that they must be located in close proximity to their fuel source (coalmines) and a water supply for cooling. However, as countries transit towards the use of renewable energy it becomes possible for energy to be generated among or close to consumers. Generators can be owned by households (roof-top photovoltaic cell displays), local government authorities (larger solar displays) or utility companies harnessing wind, solar or geothermal sources.

    As jurisdictions transit from fossil fuelled to renewable energy sources, it is incumbent on planning authorities and utility owners to ensure that an appropriate distribution systems is developed and replaces the clunky long distance grids of yesterday. Regional and local grids can accept energy feed-in from both utility and domestic electricity generators and provide improved storage capacity to ensure continuity of supply.

    While fossil fuelled energy requires a grid covering long distances to deliver to consumers, renewable energy generation does not. The former uses an inefficient grid loosing up to 9% of energy fed into it. The latter can be distributed by high-tech regional and local micro-grids able to ensure much more efficient distribution of electricity. Moreover, local and regional grids, while still exposed to extreme weather events are less vulnerable since they traverse shorter distances and can be protected by location underground.