Supercharged storms coming out of the Caribbean are only going to get more supercharged and more destructive, vastly so, due to the ever-emerging impacts of global warming. The world is facing higher sea levels and so more devastating storm surges. Coastal flooding has more than doubled in the last 30-plus years from gasoline car emissions and every household appliance running off of burned coal. Warmer air on top of warming water will have more moisture, powering storms that are becoming significant threats to millions. So it’s worth noting that Harvey shut down so many refineries in Texas, just as its wind turbines continued apace.
20% OF TEXAS REFINERIES GO DOWN IN JUST DAYS, DELAYS IN SUPPLY TO LAST THRU WINTER
Interestingly, our fossil fuel system does not function very well with extreme weather conditions or their impacts. Hurricane Harvey shut down so many refineries in Texas that they accounted for one fifth of all daily US gasoline production disappearing for the duration. By last Friday so many refineries had suffered damage that their main pipeline delivery system was shut down. That pipeline delivered 3 million barrels a day to the east coast, representing a colossal shortage in domestic supply. Half a millions barrels a day of that capacity will stay down possibly until Spring.
IMPORTS TO FALL DRASTICALLY SHORT, FUEL PRICES TO JUMP, HORRIFYING POLLUTION FROM DAMAGED REFINERIES
Reuters quoted a market analyst as saying, “Imports can’t make up for this. . . This is going to be the worst thing the U.S. has seen in decades from an energy standpoint.” Not only is gasoline going to be more expensive as a result, but the pollution dangers from the damaged refineries are horrific.
TEXAS TURBINES KEPT PRODUCING POWER, A FUNCTIONAL OPTION FOR A FUTURE OF SUPERSTORMS
But guess what? Texas’s wind turbines weathered Harvey. Some were pushed to the max by its powerful winds, but they just went on making electricity! Turbines shut down if the wind is 55 mph or more, but most wind farms affected by Harvey were able to keep operating. One shut down because the electrical wires were knocked down, not because the turbines stopped working!. On an average day, Texas gets 20% of its electricity from wind. That only fell to 13% the day of Harvey’s landfall.
Harvey also menaced a nuclear reactor, a la Fukushima, but we dodged that bullet this time. Nuclear reactors no longer make any sense, and they remain dangerous and vulnerable to extreme weather events. Even if wind turbines did get damaged by a storm, they don’t explode or spread around radioactive fallout.
ENERGY CORPORATIONS INVESTING IN ALTERNATIVE FUTURE PRODUCTION
Duke Energy has just abandoned plans for a nuclear reactor and is instead putting $6 bn into solar and wind.
So it turns out that not only would a rapid turn to 100% green energy, as California plans, forestall further global heating, it can help keep us safe during the extreme weather caused by . . . burning fossil fuels in the first place.
THE FUTURE IS ALREADY A DANGEROUS PLACE, AND WE’RE STILL HEADED THERE
The problem of fossil fuels and global heating is only going to get worse. The National Institutes of Health warns,
“The public health impacts of climate change in U.S. Gulf Coast states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—may be especially severe and further exacerbated by a range of threats facing the coastline areas, including severe erosion, subsidence, and—given the amount of energy production infrastructure—the ever-present potential for large-scale industrial accidents. The Gulf Coast population is expected to reach over 74 million by 2030 with a growing number of people living along the coastlines. Populations in the region that are already vulnerable because of economic or other disparities may face additional risks to health . . . The Gulf region is expected to experience increased mean temperatures and longer heat waves while freezing events are expected to decrease. Regional average temperatures across the U.S. Southeast region (which includes Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina as well as the Gulf Coast) are projected to increase between 4 °F to 8 °F (2.2 °C to 4.4 °C) throughout the century. Hurricanes and sea level rise, occurring independently or in combination with hurricane-induced storm surge, are major threats to the Gulf Coast region . Some portions of the Gulf Coast—particularly coastal Louisiana and South Florida—are especially vulnerable to sea level rise due to their low elevation.”