Climate 101: A warmer ocean adds moisture and energy to a rapidly intensifying monster snowstorm.

The Price of Oil

January 28, 2022

Just prior to President Biden’s arrival in. Pennsylvania this week, a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh.
Yet another reminder of the long term costs in infrastructure, productivity and opportunities – of endless wars for oil and gas in recent decades.
Now we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another conflict, where oil and gas are key issues.

A major study in 2018 quantified the costs in dollars at nearly 6 trillion dollars, but the real costs are so, so, much more.

CNBC, 11/14/18:

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

The U.S. wars and military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study.

That total is almost $2 trillion more than all federal government spending during the recently completed 2017-18 fiscal year.

The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Over 244,000 civilians have been killed. Another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

The $5.9 trillion figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone, according to Neta Crawford, the study’s author.

Below, I recorded John Fabian, a farmer in Rosebush Michigan, who rose at an Isabella County Planning Commission meeting in support of a local wind farm. His story reflects yet another level of suffering and sacrifice imposed on the American people in service of fossil fuel dependence, and his hope for how we might set ourselves free.

CBS Boston:

The official definition:

Bombogenesis occurs when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system creates what is known as a “bomb cyclone.”

What do you need to get bombogenesis? 

Typically, a dramatic interaction or clash of airmasses (warm and cold) and it almost always happens over the milder ocean waters which supply the fuel for the storm to “take off.”

How often does it happen? 

Typically only a few times per year. The last one that comes to memory was October 27, 2021. When it happens close to our coastline, you know it. It almost always means a big precipitation and wind event.

Check out the forecast central pressures (in millibars) for Saturday’s storm – from 1008mb at 4 p.m. Friday to 967mb 24 hours later, a drop of 41 millibars.

Dedicated to Crazy right wing uncles everywhere. Yes, you can have a snowstorm on a warming planet.

Can we be real for a minute?
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been at the epicenter of the war on Earth’s climate for at least a decade.
Russia’s all-but-total dependence on fossil fuels as an income has made them desperate, and dangerous .
Knowing most of the key players in the so-called “Climategate” scandal of a decade ago, I’d guess most of them would be say, in private, at least, that Russia was a leading suspect behind the email hack that upended 2009’s COP meeting in Copenhagen, and was so successful with the media that it depressed public concerns about climate change for half of a critical decade.
In this reading, that scam was a road-test for what we saw rolled out in the 2016 election – again, an email scam, conducted in the same manner, picked up by a still-gullible and somnolent media, and leading to yet another half-decade delay in serious climate action. Means, motive, and MO all in alignment, as I told an NPR call-in days after that election. (below)
Gaming it out at the time, I supressed my dread of what a fossil dominated bad actor with Russia’s capabilities might do as climate action reaches new peaks of urgency, and technology is more than ready to end fossil fuel dominance.
They’ve been at war with us for a decade, we just didn’t know it. That’s what war looks like in this age, and most of the media has not been prepared to recognize it.

Yet we see the results all around us.

The current crisis over Ukraine seems to be motivated by Putin’s Mother Russia complex, yet seems strangely irrational unless there is some poorly understood X factor in the mix. In any case, it might be that this is a bridge too far, and suddenly the decarbonization movement is now one of manifest national security importance for Europe, and the US as well.

Time:

Escalating tensions with Russia are forcing a confrontation with an uncomfortable reality for European leaders: Vladimir Putin holds the cards when it comes to Europe’s energy needs.

The E.U. imports 35% of its natural gas from Russia. As countries like the Netherlands and Germany have wound down domestic fossil fuel production in recent decades—whether because of depleted reserves or environmental policies—Europe has increasingly turned towards cheap and plentiful imports of Russian natural gas, critical for electricity and heating.

The risks of that dependence—long a source of concern for Russia hawks in the U.S. and Europe—have been crystallizing for months. Natural gas prices nearly tripled last year after demand spiked following the end of pandemic lockdowns, plunging Europe into its most severe energy crisis since the 1970’s. The International Energy Agency says Russia has already worsened the situation by deliberately squeezing gas exports. A military conflict over Ukraine may choke supply even further, spelling some painful months, or even years, for Europe.

But some environmentalists see a silver lining here: this moment could, they argue, act as a wake-up call for Europe on the risks of a fossil-fueled world. “If Europe doesn’t want to be exposed to geopolitical risks like this, it needs to reduce its dependence on natural gas as quickly as possible,” says Euan Graham, a gas transition researcher at climate think tank E3G. “It should act as a real springboard to kind of rethink Europe’s relationship with gas.”

Germany, the E.U.’s center of gravity and one of the countries most dependent on Russian natural gas, has long tried to frame its foreign policy and its energy needs as separate issues. But its new government has signaled it might now shelve authorization of Nord Stream-2, a pipeline that would have boosted gas imports from Russia.

If Russia invades Ukraine and enters a military conflict with NATO powers, natural gas prices could well double from their already high levels, says Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president of global gas research at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “There’s no telling how high [prices] will go and there’s very little Europe could do to prevent the increases.”

The E.U.’s big fear is that U.S. sanctions, which may limit Russia‘s ability to use dollars or international payment systems, would make it difficult for customers to pay for natural gas orders and cause hold-ups. In a worst case but less likely scenario, Russia could retaliate to sanctions by deliberately slashing gas flows to Europe. “In the Armageddon event that Russia kind of halves exports,” said Di Odoardo, “Europe could only last around six weeks [in cold weather] with the level of storage that they have,” before power outages and rationing would begin in some countries.

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I spoke to Daniel Swain of UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on January 7.
California’s all important snowpack accumulation was doing pretty well at that moment. Things have changed.

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Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens U.S., joins CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ to discuss her meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday over Democrats’ Build Back Better bill.

Of course, this is critical in the US as well, but the current crisis shows how efficient homes are a national security issue everywhere.

Financial Times:

As Europe enters its coldest months, business and households face gas prices that have more than quadrupled since last year. This could grind on indefinitely if European leaders do not end their dependency on fossil fuels.

The gas price crisis and mounting geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine have once again highlighted that Europe needs a secure, local supply of renewable energy and to cut down gas consumption, much of which goes on heating our homes.

Over 40 per cent of the gas the EU imports is used for heating buildings, and a third of European homes use gas for heating. Reducing energy demand through better insulated homes and accelerating the take-up of renewable heating will help put Europe’s energy dependencies on a new footing.

Before the gas price crisis — and before the pandemic and the highest inflation in decades — 50m Europeans, or one in four households, were already struggling to afford heating. Even those families not personally threatened by energy poverty were directly affected. Gas companies across Europe have folded or shut their doors to new customers. In one case in the Netherlands, 90,000 customers saw their bills suddenly double after their provider was taken over.

Brussels has already pledged a “renovation wave” as part of the EU Green Deal. Now it is time for member states to launch this in earnest. Shortly before the end of last year, the European Commission proposed new legislation to renovate the most energy-hungry buildings ahead of yet another EU leaders’ meeting that discussed the energy price crisis. There is about €1.8tn available, including €670bn from the recovery fund, a third of which is earmarked for climate action. Surveys show that people want to live in energy-efficient homes, and they are looking to their government to speed the transition to greener buildings.

Clean energy activists have been warning about grid security since the 70s, at least.
At the state level, Russia already showed some years ago the ability to infiltrate and sabotage the grid in Ukraine, for instance.
Sub-state actors also capable of major disruptions.
Islandable micrograms become more practical with penetration of distributed energy systems. Above, Marine General Richard Zilmer (ret) was former Commander of US Forces in Anbar Province, Iraq. I paired him with Kevin Beeson, a thoughtful local official in Gratiot County, MI, home to several good-size wind farms.

Utility Dive:

  • Domestic terrorists have developed “credible, specific plans” to attack the U.S. power grid and view it as a “particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors,” according to a security briefing issued Monday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and first reported by The Daily Beast.
  • The alert warned of “physical damage” to electrical infrastructure, raising the specter of the 2013 sniper attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf substation that damaged 17 transformers.
  • The long lead time needed to replace large transformers is a threat to U.S. grid resilience, and in 2015 Congress directed the creation of a strategic reserve for critical power system equipment. “Congress would be wise to revisit this program and ensure that it properly addresses the risks we face today,” Mark Carrigan, cyber vice president of process safety and operational technology cybersecurity at Hexagon PPM, said in an email

Electric utilities say they are prepared for both physical and cyber attacks on their systems, and that the DHS warning is not a surprise.

“The threat of physical attacks targeting critical infrastructure is not new,” Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Vice President for Security and Preparedness Scott Aaronson said in a statement. Industry coordination with government partners “helps to ensure vigilance and gives us the ability to respond quickly should situations evolve.”

“Threats of this type and many others from a wide range of extreme groups are an ongoing risk and something states have worked to address” by collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other federal authorities, National Association of State Energy Officials Executive Director David Terry said in an email.

EEI, which represents investor-owned utilities, has a security partnership with the government through its CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council which allows power companies to “share actionable intelligence and to prepare to respond to incidents” that could impact the grid, said Aaronson.

DOE’s Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response office “has proven to be an exceptional partner for the states and energy industry in dealing with these issues,” Terry said.

The DHS warning of “physical damage” is a reminder of the Metcalf attack almost a decade ago. Though the grid impacts were modest, $15 million in damage was done by more than 100 rifle shots and the attacker was never found.

“The major concern is that large transformers, which are critical to grid operations, have a long lead time from order to delivery, often longer than 12 months,” Carrigan said in an email.

A widespread outage is “unlikely,” Carrigan said, unless the attackers have specific grid knowledge and carry out a coordinated attack at dispersed locations. But “the potential for a prolonged outage is possible depending upon the scope of an attack,” he said.

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