Democratic News

Chairman Bingaman's statement at an oversight hearing on the impacts of global climate change on our national energy infrastructure.
 
“Over the last 4 years, the world has witnessed, through numerous tragedies, the vulnerability of low lying coastal regions to natural hazards—including the tragedy that occurring in Burma last week. It is expected that within the next 50 years, we will see accelerated sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and significant coastal erosion. The consequences of these events cannot be underestimated.
 
“As a nation, we have begun to consider mitigation efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as it is now generally accepted that some level of climate change is happening. While much of our attention has been focused on how our current mix of energy resources and technologies contributes to climate change, there has been little focus on how changes in climate will affect our current and future energy needs.
 
“Much of our energy infrastructure has been built based on our knowledge of historical climate conditions but our climate is changing. Energy infrastructure systems which are optimal today may not be in the future. The longevity of our infrastructure argues for us to look long-term in the planning and design of new systems. 
 
“Decisions made today for the creation of new infrastructure need to occur in ways that ensure that such infrastructure is robust enough to cope with, or adapt to changing climatic conditions.  In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that it is very likely that we will see stronger and more destructive hurricanes and typhoons, accelerated sea level rise, and changing weather patterns in the coming years. 
 
“A significant portion of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards and changes in climate. This infrastructure forms the heart of a nationally and globally interdependent energy system.  Our own experience with the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005 demonstrated the vulnerability of our energy systems and the magnified, nationwide effects that a localized disruption can create.
 
“Nearly one-third of the nation’s refining capacity was closed and there was a significant loss of natural gas supplies in the Gulf of Mexico. The disruptions increased U.S. energy prices and threatened to create significant shortages of fuel for home heating and electric power generation in New England.
 
“There is clearly a need to consider how to incorporate future changes in environmental conditions as new infrastructure expansion plans are developed and implemented.
 
“Today we will hear testimony on what is needed to create a more resilient and adaptable infrastructure in response to the inevitable impacts and challenges that climate change will present.”
 
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