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Daily Kos - Climate Change SOS: Drought, Water & Energy

Op-Ed

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By Representative Ed Markey

Next week, Mitt Romney will accept the Republican nomination in Tampa from a party increasingly dominated by global warming deniers. He will do so from a convention center in Florida that will likely be flooded by rising sea levels and extreme storms by 2030.

GOP leaders are not worried about knee-deep water. That's because they are too busy trying to knee-cap clean energy. The Romney-Ryan agenda calls for a 90 percent cut to clean energy, like wind and solar, yet keeps in place $40 billion in tax subsidies for big oil companies.

It doesn't take a mathlete to realize more money for carbon polluters increases our climate change challenges. These handouts to carbon polluters will give Americans triple trouble when it comes to water: no water, hot water, and rising water.

Let's start with no water. The height of the 2012 drought is on par with the multi-year droughts of the 1930's Dust Bowl and the mid-1950's. Consistent with climate change, July record temperatures and dry conditions turned 65 percent of the United States into drought zones. The USDA declared over 1500 counties in 32 states primary disaster areas this growing season.

This drought is punishing farmers and our agriculture economy. 88 percent of domestic corn crops are being impacted, driving up the prices all families pay for food at the grocery store. It's like a climate change food tax on every single American.

But the drought has another target: energy. The energy sector is dealing with the double whammy of drought and increasing water temperatures.

Even though water resources are scarce, traditional domestic energy production like nuclear, coal, and natural gas fracking have an unquenchable thirst.

The energy sector is the fastest-growing water consumer in the U.S., with studies predicting it will be responsible for 85 percent of the growth in water consumption between 2005 and 2030. Water scarcity, less snow in the winter, lower summer river flows, and higher river water temperatures due to global warming could lead to a 4-16 percent decrease in power plant capacity by 2060.

Just a few days ago, one nuclear power plant in Connecticut had to shut down a reactor because the water used from Long Island Sound to cool the system was just too warm. When the water to cool a nuclear reactor becomes too warm from global warming, that's a clear sign we're all in hot water.

A new poll from the Civil Society Institute, released last week, indicates that 81 percent of Americans are concerned about "increased drought" and extreme weather events. Respondents in ten drought-stricken states indicated that safe drinking water and "the diversion of water for energy production" is their number one worry.

Examining the relationship between water and our nation's energy production, I released a report, "Energy and Water: Connection and Conflict", highlighting solutions to address water resources as the population grows and the climate continues to warm. Solutions like wind and solar not only provide clean energy, they are able to do so without using massive amounts of water.

Understanding water's relationship to energy in a warming world is critical to protecting consumers and ensuring our national security. I have requested that the GAO complete a study of our freshwater resources as well as look into technologies that lessen water use for energy production. We must find more efficient ways to utilize our water resources for domestic and agricultural use.

Debates over water rights are raging between farmers and frackers. Nuclear power plants are shutting down over water concerns. This season's drought is only a harbinger of water wars to come if the United States fails to address climate change.


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