WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global warming may produce stronger hurricanes that could disrupt U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and damage ports and pipelines along the coast that move fuel supplies, a new government report said on Thursday.
The report from a team of climate change experts and scientists at seven Energy Department laboratories is the first to provide details on the impact global warming could have on the U.S. energy sector.
The report warns of more strong storms like hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 that destroyed over 100 offshore production platforms and damaged almost 600 pipelines.
As a result, a large chunk of U.S. oil and natural gas production was shut in for months, onshore pipelines were unable to transport gasoline supplies to major cities and pump prices hit record highs across the country.
“Increases in storm intensity could threaten further (energy supply) disruptions of the sorts experienced in 2005,” the report said.
In addition to seasonal damage from stronger storms, rising sea levels due to global warming permanently threatens many oil refineries, liquefied natural gas terminals and coal import and export facilities located along the U.S. coasts.
“Rising sea levels could lead to direct losses such as equipment damage from flooding or erosion or indirect effects such as the costs of raising vulnerable assets to higher levels or building future energy projects further inland, thus increasing transportation costs,” the report said.
As for the effects of climate change on U.S. energy consumption, a rise in average temperatures in most regions of the United States means more energy will be needed for cooling than for heating.
“In general, the changes imply increased demand for electricity, which supplies virtually all cooling energy services but only some heating services,” the report said.
However, electricity supplies generated by hydropower could be reduced in the West where producers depend on melting snow to turn turbines. But they could increase in other regions that rely on rivers filled by rain.
Warmer temperatures in Alaska could make waters navigable year-round to the oil fields in the state’s North Slope, so tankers could transport more supplies to the lower 48 states, the report said.
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