Friday, October 19, 2007

Climate instability has impacts on energy sector: new report out

US News and World Report: The energy sector is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a report released this morning by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program in coordination with the Department of Energy.

The report summarizes the known potential effects of climate change on energy production and use in the United States. It also identifies areas for future research. The report concludes that while U.S. need for heating will shrink over time, the demand for cooling will grow.

Since nearly all cooling is provided by electricity (while heating is met by a variety of sources, such as natural gas and fuel oil), demands for electricity will likely increase. The report also finds that reduced snowfall in mountain areas in the West will reduce hydroelectric power, and changes in precipitation patterns could complicate thermal power-plant cooling and reduce efficiency. Sea-level rise could affect power plants along the coast, and warming in Alaska could impact energy exploration, production, and transportation.

The report was unable to conclude what effect warming might have on the development of renewable energy alternatives, such as solar and wind power. Energy prices are likely to escalate, but effects could be mitigated through adaptation strategies if problems are identified and addressed promptly.

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