Hurricanes Threaten Our Aging Energy Infrastructure

We’ve been in hurricane season for a while now, but tropical development is about to ramp up as we enter the most active period. August and September are known as the most common months for hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean. Last year, towards the end of August, Hurricane Isaac threatened to make landfall on the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Ultimately, the tropical storm missed Florida and swerved to hit Louisiana. Then we had Hurricane Sandy, which came in late October and made it in the books as the second-costliest hurricane in U.S history.

“Superstorm Sandy” affected 24 states, and cost the U.S. about $65 billion in damages. Over eight million people lost power during the storm. As the most active part of hurricane season, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has come out with a number of online resources that show the projected path of storms how a storm might impact energy infrastructure. This map shows how onshore facilities and offshore platforms were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy highlighted the fragility of the aging American energy infrastructure. Years of under-funding and neglect resulted in the biggest barrier to recovery after the storm. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S. a D+ on its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The organization estimates that the nation needs to spend $3.6 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 – that’s $1.6 trillion more than current funding allows.

Hurricanes can be especially destructive when they pass offshore production rigs and pipelines, coastal refineries, power plants and energy import and export sites. A report released last month from the Department of Energy looks at how extreme weather and climate change threaten the nation’s energy network. Investing in infrastructure is crucial for public safety, economic stability, and energy security. Time is ticking and we need to address our faltering energy system.