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Weathering the Storm: Report Finds U.S. Energy System Not Ready



April 12, 2011

WASHINGTON - The country's energy infrastructure is not ready to weather the storm of more frequent extreme weather. A new National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report delivers that finding and makes recommendations for improving energy reliability. NWF climate scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt says floods, intense storms, hurricanes, droughts and heat waves have been happening more frequently, and they can disrupt power and fuel supplies.

"Increases in power outages, the vulnerability of our oil and gas infrastructure, how we transport coal across the country, are all going to be affected by the fact that we're having more extreme weather events."

The report links the upward trend in extreme weather to climate change.
Sharlene Leurig, insurance program senior manager with the environmental investor group Ceres says more than 40 percent of the water used in the U.S. is used in energy production, mostly to cool coal-burning and nuclear plants. Some companies have had to scale back production during times of high heat or drought, or been forced to add new cooling equipment.

"Those sorts of unexpected capital costs put real financial strain on utilities. The investors are starting to take notice; they're asking companies to report how they're preparing."

Recommendations for energy security include an assessment of energy industry vulnerabilities, plans for adapting in emergencies, and improved efficiency to reduce dependence on supplies that could be scarce during damaging weather.

Reducing reliance on energy production that requires large amounts of water is another recommendation in the report.

The full report, "More Extreme Weather and the U.S. Energy Infrastructure," is at nwf.org

Deb Courson, Public News Service - VA