The Department of Energy has been hacked! DOE revealed a mid-January cyber-attack but says no classified data was compromised. Only some employees’ personal data was stolen. Still, it’s a worrying incident. China is a possible suspect, since they recently hacked The New York Times as well. Is there a cyber-war in our future (above)? Would it be possible to shut down the grid and turn the whole country into a Super Bowl blackout? It’s not science fiction anymore.
And speaking of the Super Bowl, investigators still haven’t quite figured out what happened. Entergy, the power company, says its equipment detected an abnormality in a substation that was feeding the stadium and shut things down. In any case, Beyoncé’s electricity-heavy act does not seem to be the precipitating cause, as some have suggested. Nor does the Bowl’s vaunted energy efficiency measures appear to be at blame. Would a smart grid help? It certainly couldn’t hurt. But windmills and solar probably wouldn’t have been much help.
Despite the still murky origins of the power failure, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has made the incident the kickoff for “Energy 20/20,” the Republican Party’s energy plan. If there’s something familiar about the whole thing, it’s not surprising. The GOP wants to open up offshore oil, accelerate the development of tight oil, drill, baby, drill. Murkowski says the goal is to free the country from OPEC. Support for wind and solar would be limited to research instead of production subsidies. Very little about nuclear. Murkowski said natural gas would lead to cleaner burning than coal but there would be no deliberate attempt to limit carbon emissions. The Natural Resources Defense Council calls it “a playbook form the past.” If Mitt Romney had won, it might have a chance.
On the other side of town, President Obama and his team seem primed to tackle climate change, which will be a whole different ballgame. They seem to be starting with a lead as Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports carbon emissions are down 13 percent and back to the level of 1994. But is that just the result of a stagnant economy? Democrats in the House of Representatives have decided to bypass the Republican and form their own climate task force to assist the President. The real trick will be to continue keep carbon emissions falling while reviving economic growth. But then the President did say he could do two things at the same time.
Finally, a vast oil battle is heating up in California as the word emerges that the Monterey Shale may be the biggest oil play in the country. California always gets the best of everything but is the state too far gone on conservation-and-renewables to care? Writing on Platts, Brian Scheid suggests trying to block natural gas exports may be illegal. An interesting idea there. And the Las Vegas Review-Journal asks what’s wrong win the domestic coal market? Doesn’t it have something to do with carbon emissions? Perhaps the most significant long-range trend: In another year or so, China may be burning more coal than the rest of the world combined!