Climate change and infrastructure

The US Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in January that calls into question the way energy companies are preparing, or not preparing, to deal with the many different aspects of climate change.

Multiple and often compounding effects of climate change are likely to threaten U.S. energy infrastructure, the GAO report suggests. There are a number of different effects listed that, when added together, are already creating problems for energy production and distribution companies. Warming trends are likely to wreak havoc on the U.S. electricity industry by driving up demand in spiky ways varying from season to season while water shortages in some regions will create problems for cooling electric power generators, reducing electricity supply while increasing consumers’ demand for electricity, the GAO said.  (GAO report link).

The report also sees a rough road ahead for other parts of the economy linked to energy from weather-related events–including floods, droughts, and storms.

Climate News followed the report with a more detailed look at industry perspectives. The report is based on US data, but most of the world’s energy production facilities and resource hubs are located in coastal areas, or areas that will be greatly affected by climate changes, so this is obviously a global set of issues to consider.

World oil production and consumption

As of 2010, the latest year for accumulated figures, the top ten oil producers are:

The numbers associated with each producer is the figure for thousands of barrels of oil per day. This is an average production number across the year.

The consumers of that oil?

A great site for energy production and consumption statistics is here at the US Energy Information Agency.

2012 the year of infrastructure

There is a strong and growing concern for infrastructure development, repair, and change in the United States and abroad. News media and political campaigns have joined professional engineering societies and regional development groups to call for renovation and renewed focus on energy, transportation, water and other infrastructures.

Internationally there are major efforts in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indian and several African countries to expand and rebuild infrastructure systems. Pipeline projects connecting Canada and the US are also gaining wider notice as changes in gas development technologies makes more resources available but access remains limited without adequate transportation conduits. Government and industry leaders in the UK and EU are wrestling with a lack of comprehensive and scalable approaches to maintaining what exists or building new capacity.

The global recession hampered public-private funding efforts for large projects and long deferred maintenance has become a critical problem in every corner of the world. Global project development firms like Booz Allen are making more public, more widely promoted statements about moving forward in key infrastructure projects like transportation and energy.

In a new online and traditional media push leaders at Booz Allen are pressing for change. “Much of America’s critical infrastructure is failing—threatening our economic growth, national competitiveness and even our national security. In the past, we excelled at imagining infrastructure—witness the Erie Canal and the national highway system—and now we need to re-imagine America’s infrastructure with new ways of approaching the issues.”

Groups like the American Society for Civil Engineers now routinely make headlines with their evaluations of transportation and water infrastructure systems with “report cards” filled with bad and failing grades. Political posturing in the US, not something new, stopped different proposals for funding from moving through the legislature.

But the coming year may see changes in public and political stances on infrastructure systems. Elections in the US and elsewhere may force these often neglected systems into a spotlight.