8/28/2005

Daily Kos: Hurricane Katrina and Peak Oil - Our Economy In Shambles?

Hurricane Katrina and Peak Oil - Our Economy In Shambles?
by freelixir [Subscribe]
Sun Aug 28th, 2005 at 12:57:44 CDT

There is something strange and powerful about Hurricane Katrina. For all the talk of peak oil and gas prices, and what we can consciously and actively do about them, we are now in a position of paralysis. We are incapable of changing the course of this hurricane, and also unable to get in its way. And it seems to be on a direct course to wreck (at least temporarily) our economy.

Yesterday, I was puzzling over Friday reports that oil prices went down, due to Katrina looking like it would miss the Gulf of Mexico oil operations. I was puzzling on this because at the same time a new wave of stories were breaking that Katrina has turned west, directly in the path of key oil infrastructure, perhaps almost 30% of it in the U.S.


"The real issue - that I don't think the nation is paying attention to - is that through the city of New Orleans, through the Gulf of Mexico, we probably deal with almost a third of the nation's domestic oil that is produced. And that will most likely be shut down," [Mayor of New Orleans] Mr. Nagin said.

"So, this can have a significant impact on oil prices going forward," he added.

* freelixir's diary :: ::
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Reading that blurb definitely sobered me up this morning, as I already knew that oil operations in the Gulf were targets, but hadn't realized the extent of New Orlean's involvement (obvious really in reflection), and the overall disastrous impact if the dikes break and New Orleans is submerged:


The city's distinct terrain makes it particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, heavy rains and high winds of a hurricane. With more than a million people in its suburbs and center, the city is surrounded on three sides by water, and lies below sea level in a bowl-shaped basin. Pumps would fail if the storm surge of up to 25 feet overwhelmed the city's levees.

"That's why we are taking this unprecedented move," Mayor Ray Nagin said at a news conference that was broadcast live. "The storm surge most likely will topple our levee system."

So, that really got me thinking, so I poked around some more. Here is what I found:


If Hurricane Katrina holds true to predictions and tracks north through the toe of Louisiana's boot, much of the nation's oil and natural gas infrastructure will be exposed to 140 mile per hour winds, 30- to 50-foot waves, and water current speeds of around 20 knots all the way from the surface to the sea floor.

"This storm is going to pass through the meat of the oil and gas fields. The whole country will feel it, because it's going to cripple us and the country's whole economy," said Capt. Buddy Cantrelle with Kevin Gros Offshore, which supplies rigs via a fleet of large crew vessels.

The equipment located in the storm's likely path includes the bulk of the nation's oil and gas production platforms, thousands of miles of pipelines and -- perhaps most importantly for national gasoline prices -- much of the country's refinery capacity. In addition, the south Louisiana coastline serves as the entry point for around a third of the nation's imported oil.

Talk about a single point of failure. I don't know what Pat Robertson thinks about this, in terms of God's wrath for one too many Mardi Gras celebrations, but this is surely going to be humbling for us if predictions remain true to mark. At the moment, we can do nothing about this. Nothing. Makes you think about the legend of Atlantis, and the possibility that they were hit with a huge hurricane they never saw coming, destroying the whole place, wiping away all the settlements and structures, killing just about everyone, and leaving it submerged. At least we can track these things and get people out, save lives.

But we can't save the infrastructure. And one wonders what would have happened if there was some kind of military or terrorist strike against New Orleans, but maybe our military and civilian planners have thought this out. Whatever the case, we have a single point of geographic failure in the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans area, and it's looking increasingly likely it's going to get tested.

Whatever happens, we need to start engaging and dealing with our activities that accelerate global warming, and we especially need to focus on transforming and rebuilding our energy economy, and the energy economy of the future, to be more sustainable, resilient and distributed (in terms of production and refinement). If we innovate and encourage self-sustaining local and regional centers of energy production and distribution, as with the emerging models of solar and other renewables, we will be in a far better place, whether we are being targeted by hostile militaries, terrorists, or the unfathomable power of Mother Nature.

Oh, and let's all hope and pray that the worst-case does not happen, especially for those people who stand to lose everything if their homes and possessions wash away.

Daily Kos: Hurricane Katrina and Peak Oil - Our Economy In Shambles?

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