Energy Security Current Issue
What the 9/11 Commission missed
the main conclusions of the 9/11 Commission is that in order for the
U.S. to prevail in the war on terror it must develop a
multidisciplinary, comprehensive, and balanced strategy, which
integrates diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law-enforcement,
economic policy, foreign aid, homeland defense, and military strength.
IAGS' Gal Luft argues that a key component is missing.
Saudi Arabia in Crisis
IAGS' Anne Korin presented a strategy for reducing U.S. dependence on Saudi oil as part of
a conference hosted by the Hudson Institute on July 9, 2004. Watch the event (Anne's presentation
starts at 02:38:35.)
Energy Security in East Asia
outlook for energy security in the Asia-Pacific looks particularly
troubling, with rising levels of oil consumption and an even stronger
rise in demand. IAGS Research Associate Richard Giragosian analyzes the
energy security risks faced by the region and the agreements and
strategies adopted by Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines
On the technology front
How utilities can save America from its oil addiction
global oil market approaches its peak, and at a time when increases in
global demand require that an additional Saudi Arabia worth of oil be
brought into the market every five years, utility companies which have
traditionally viewed themselves as providers of "power" for lighting
homes or powering computers, can now break the dominance of Big Oil in
the transportation energy sector and introduce much needed competition
in the transportation fuel market. Gal Luft explains how.
Comparing Hydrogen and Electricity for Transmission, Storage and Transportation
study titled "Carrying the Energy Future: Comparing Hydrogen and
Electricity for Transmission, Storage and Transportation" by the
Seattle based Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment (ILEA,)
evaluated the energy penalties incurred in using hydrogen to transmit
energy as compared to those incurred using electricity.
The report's main premise is that since hydrogen is not an energy
source but an energy carrier its economic and environmental qualities
should be compared to those of electricity, the only other commonplace
energy carrier. It therefore compares the actual energy available when
hydrogen and electricity carriers are employed and finds that
electricity delivers substantially greater end use energy, concluding
that "electricity offers more energy efficient options that might
preclude mass-scale emergence of hydrogen technologies."
Study: Coal based methanol is cheapest fuel for fuel cells
A recently completed study by University of Florida researchers for the
Georgetown University fuel
cell program assessed the the future overall costs of various fuel
options for fuel
cell vehicles. The primary fuel options analyzed by the study were
hydrogen from natural gas, hydrogen from coal, and methanol from
coal. The study concluded that methanol from coal was the cheapest
option, by a factor of almost 50%.
Major improvement in fuel economy and range of Honda's fuel cell vehicles
The 2005 model Honda fuel cell vehicle achieves a nearly 20 percent improvement in its EPA fuel
economy rating and a 33 percent gain in peak power (107 hp vs. 80 hp) compared to the 2004
model, and feature a number of important technological achievements on the road to commercialization of fuel cell vehicles.
Biodiesel fueled ships to cruise in Canada
A Canadian project will test the use of pure biodiesel (B100) as a fuel
supply on a fleet of 12 boats of various types and sizes, 11 boats on
pure biodiesel (B100) and one on a 5-percent blend (B5).
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The Connection: Water and Energy Security
energy security of the United States is closely linked to the state of
its water resources. No longer can water resources be taken for granted
if the U.S. is to achieve energy security in the years and decades
ahead. At the same time, U.S. water security cannot be guaranteed
without careful attention to related energy issues. The two issues are
inextricably linked, as this article will discuss.
Energy security rests on two principles – using less energy to provide
needed services, and having access to technologies that provide a
diverse supply of reliable, affordable and environmentally sound
energy. Many forms of energy production depend on the availability of
water – e.g., the production of electricity at hydropower sites in
which the kinetic energy of falling water is converted to electricity.
Thermal power plants, in which fossil, nuclear and biomass fuels are
used to heat water to steam to drive turbine-generators, require large
quantities of water to cool their exhaust streams. The same is true of
geothermal power plants. Water also plays an important role in fossil
fuel production via injection into conventional oil wells to increase
production, and its use in production of oil from unconventional oil
resources such as oil shale and tar sands. In the future, if we move
aggressively towards a hydrogen economy, large quantities of water will
be required to provide the needed hydrogen via electrolysis.
Water security can be defined as the ability to access sufficient
quantities of clean water to maintain adequate standards of food and
goods production, sanitation and health. It is of growing importance
because the world is already facing severe water shortages in many
parts of the developing world, and the problem will only become more
widespread in the years ahead, including in the U.S. Just as energy
security became a national priority in the period following the Arab
Oil Embargo of 1973-74, water security is destined to become a national
and global priority in the decades ahead. Central to addressing water
security issues is having the energy to extract water from underground
aquifers, transport water through canals and pipes, manage and treat
water for reuse, and desalinate brackish and sea water to provide new
Other, indirect, linkages between energy and water
exist as well. Energy production and use produces emissions that can
pollute surface and underground water supplies. The ability to move
freight via inland waterways impacts the amount of energy required to
move our nation’s goods because movement by waterway is much less
energy intense per ton than the alternatives of rail and truck. If
competing water uses limit use of such waterways, we will use more
energy to move our goods and energy security will be impacted.
Water and energy are linked in yet another way. Energy, in absolute
terms, is not in short supply in the world. The world’s total annual
use of commercial energy is on the order of 400 quadrillion BTUs
(Quads), and the sun pours about 6 million Quads of radiant energy into
the earth’s atmosphere each year. What is in short supply is cheap
energy, energy that people can afford to buy. Exactly the same can be
said about water. Water, in absolute terms, is not in short supply in
the world. The earth is a water rich planet, and annual human and
animal consumption is much less than 1% of the world’s total water
supply. What is in short supply is cheap potable water, clean water
that people can afford to buy.
Energy and water policy can also be expressed in similar terms. The
first priority of energy policy should be the wise, efficient use of
whatever energy supplies are available. The same is true of water –
priority should be given to the wise, efficient use of whatever water
supplies exist. It is after focusing on efficient use of existing
resources that attention must be focused on new energy and water
supplies that meet sustainability and environmental requirements.
It is important to understand that water security is a growing threat
in the 21st century, and to understand the implications for energy
supply. We begin with a brief review of the global water situation.
The earth’s total water supply is estimated to be 330 million cubic
miles, and each cubic mile contains more than one trillion gallons (see
The problem is that 96%, or 317 million cubic miles, is found in the
oceans and is saline (35,000 ppm of dissolved salts). Another 7 million
cubic miles is tied up in icecaps and glaciers, and 3.1 million in the
earth’s atmosphere. Ground water, fresh water lakes, and rivers account
for just over 2 million cubic miles of fresh water. The net result is
that 99.7% of all the water on earth is not available for human and
animal consumption. Of the remaining 0.3%, much is inaccessible due to
unreachable locations and depths, and the vast majority of water for
human and animal consumption, much less than 1% of the total supply, is
stored in ground water.
An important feature of the earth’s supply of fresh water is
its non-uniform distribution around the globe. Water, for which there
are no substitutes, has always been mankind’s most precious resource.
The struggle to control water resources has shaped human political and
economic history, and water has been a source of tension wherever water
resources are shared by neighboring peoples. Globally, there are 215
international rivers and 300 ground water basins and aquifers shared by
two or more countries.
Water-related tensions around the world can have significant
implications for U.S. national security. In the Middle East, for
example, water is a source of conflict not only between Israel and its
Arab neighbors, but also between Egypt and Sudan, and Turkey, Syria,
and Iraq. Many have forgotten that the progression towards the 1967
War, whose impact lingers to this day, was triggered by the water
dispute between Israel and Syria over control over the Jordan River.
Water conflicts add to the instablity of a region on which the U.S.
depends heavily for oil. Continuation or inflammation of these
conflicts could subject U.S. energy supplies to blackmail again, as
occurred in the 1970s.
Population growth and economic development are driving a
steadily increasing demand for new water supplies, and global demand
for water has more than tripled over the past half century. Globally,
the largest user of fresh water is agriculture, accounting for roughly
three quarters of total use. In Africa this fraction approaches 90%. In
the U.S. agriculture accounts for 39% of fresh water use, the same
fraction used for cooling thermal power plants.
Future prospects are not encouraging. Global water withdrawal in 2000 is estimated to be
1,000 cubic miles (4,000 km3),
about 30% of the world’s total accessible fresh water supply. By 2025
that fraction may reach 70%. Over pumping of ground water by the
world’s farmers already exceeds natural replenishment by more than 160
km3, 4% of total withdrawals.
How serious is the situation today? The World Health Organization estimates that, globally,
1.1 billion people lack access to clean water supplies, and that 2.4 billion lack access to
basic sanitation. 1,000 m3
is the per capita annual amount of water deemed necessary to satisfy
basic human needs. In 1995 166 million people in 18 countries lived
below that level. By 2050 potable water availability is projected to
fall below that level for 1.7 billion people in 39 countries. Water
shortages now plague almost every country in North Africa and the
There are significant health impacts of water shortages.
Water-borne diseases account for roughly 80% of infections in the
developing world. Nearly 4 billion cases of diarrhea occur each year.
200 million people in 74 countries are infected with the parasitic
disease schistosomiasis. Intestinal worms infect about 10% of the
developing world population. It is estimated that 6 million people are
blind from trachoma, and that the population at risk is 500 million.
How much energy is needed to provide water services? As stated earlier,
energy is required to lift water from depth in aquifers, pump water
through canals and pipes, control water flow and treat waste water, and
desalinate brackish or sea water. Globally, commercial energy consumed
for delivering water is more than 26 Quads, 7% of total world
consumption. Some specific examples follow:
1. Lifting ground water
power needed = (water flow rate)x(water density)x(head)
For example, lifting water from a depth of 100 feet at a flow rate of
20 gallons per minute, and assuming an overall pump efficiency of 50%,
requires one horsepower.
2. Pumping water through pipes
power needed = (water flow rate)x
(water density)x(H+HL) where H is the lift of water from pump to outflow and HL is the
effective head loss from water flow in the pipe.
example, moving water uphill 100 feet at 3 feet per second through a
pipeline that is one mile long and 2 inches in diameter, requires 4.8
3. Energy needed to treat water
Average energy use for water
treatment drawn from southern California studies is 652 kWh per
acre-foot (AF), where one AF = 325,853 gallons.
4. Energy needed for desalination
There is broad agreement
that extensive use of desalination will be required to meet the needs
of a growing world population. Energy costs are the principal barrier
to its greater use. Worldwide, more than 15,000 units are producing
over 32 million cubic meters of fresh water per day. 52% of this
capacity is in the Middle East, largely in Saudi Arabia where 30
desalination plants meet 70% of the Kingdom’s present drinking water
needs and several new plants are under construction. North America has
16%, Asia 12%, Europe 13%, Africa 4%, Central America 3%, and Australia
0.3%. The two most widely used desalination technologies are reverse
osmosis (RO; 44%) and multi-stage flash distillation (MSF; 40%). Energy
requirements, exclusive of energy required for pre-treatment, brine
disposal and water transport, are: RO: 5,800-12,000 kWh/AF (4.7-5.7
kWh/m3) and MSF: 28,500-33,000 kWh/AF (23-27 kWh/m3).
U.S. water withdrawals in 2000 are shown in Fig. 2. Power plant cooling
is the largest user, when total withdrawals (fresh plus saline) are
counted. A 500 MWe closed-loop power plant requires 7,000 gallons per
minute (10.1 million gallons per day). Of the 195 million gallons per
day used in 2000 for cooling thermal power plants, 70% was fresh water,
and 30% saline (only about 3% of this water is actually consumed
through evaporation). Nationally, power plant cooling and agricultural
irrigation each accounted for 39% of fresh water use.
Sustainable withdrawal of fresh water is currently an issue in the U.S.
The fast growing demand for clean water, coupled with the need to
protect and enhance the environment, has already created shortages in
some parts of the U.S. and will make other areas of the U.S. vulnerable
to water shortages in the future. For example, California’s allocation
of Colorado River water has been reduced because competing urban,
agricultural and environmental interests could not agree on a
conservation plan. The Ogallala fossil water aquifer in the Central
Plains is being depleted by agricultural and urban extraction, with no
effective recharge. An increasing number of water disputes are taking
place as well in the eastern U.S. - between Virginia and Maryland,
Virginia and North Carolina, and among Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Large-scale sea or brackish water desalination is being implemented in
Tampa, Florida, and is being planned for sites in California, Texas,
Utah and Hawaii.
Competition for fresh water is already limiting energy production. For
example, Georgia Power lost a bid to draw water from the Chattahooche
River, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a Massachusetts
power plant to reduce its water withdrawals, Idaho has denied water
rights requests for several power plants, Duke Power warned Charlotte,
NC to reduce its water use, and a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant is
planning to use wastewater from coal mines. Other utilities are warning
of a power crunch if water availability is reduced.
In response, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research
and development arm of the private electric utility sector, has
initiated a major new research program that will address the connection
between fresh water availability and economic sustainability. As a
first step, EPRI, which has projected that the world will need 7,000 GW
of additional electrical generation capacity by 2050 (today’s total is
just over 3,000 GW), undertook a screening study aimed at
characterizing the probable magnitude of the quantity of water demanded
and supplied, as well as the quality of such water, in the U.S. for the
next half century (2000-2050). This screening study, published in 2002,
concluded that “…the water budget of the United States in the next 50
years is more uncertain than the currently available predictions
suggest,” that “…the cost of insufficient water availability over the
next 50 years can be huge,” and that “…water availability can severely
constrain electricity growth.”
It is important to emphasize again that we can no longer take water
resources for granted if the U.S. is to achieve energy security in the
years ahead. This is true of other countries as well, and reflects the
strong linkage between water and energy, as well as a growing water
security crisis world-wide. Water and energy are also the critical
elements of sustainable development, a major goal of U.S. foreign
policy. Without access to both, economic growth and job creation cannot
take place and poverty cannot be averted.
If our nation is to achieve water and energy security, the linkage
between the two must be recognized and acted upon. This will require an
enhanced partnership between the federal government, which has primary
responsibility for energy security, and the states, where water issues
have historically been addressed. The federal government and the states
both have much to contribute to such a partnership, which is urgently
Dr. Allan R. Hoffman, Senior Analyst, U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE), served as associate and acting deputy assistant secretary for
Utility Technologies in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy of the DOE and is an IAGS Advisor.