Energy and Natural Disasters

Over the last few months we have witnessed numerous catastrophic natural disasters in the Caribbean, Mexico and United States. Destruction has been catastrophic leading to the loss of life and widespread damage to property; and some places are now in full-blown humanitarian crisis. These awful events alert us to just how flimsy the infrastructures of our modern world can be in the face of nature in all its fury. We depend on water, energy, communications, transportation, health care and retail networks to maintain orderly life, and when they are gone, society can quickly devolve into chaos.

Particularly, when energy is unavailable, pretty much everything else is affected as communication systems, stores, hospitals and homes all need electricty to function. The electrical grid of Puerto Rico, for example, is said to have been destroyed by hurricane Maria, and the island could be without power for many months.

Disaster recovery on large continents is easier and faster than on island nations, because you can drive in with relief supplies and personnel from regions that are unaffected. If a whole island if affected then you are dependent on help coming by air and sea, which can be much slower.

An Reuters article yesterday reports that some leaders are seeing the rebuilding of the infrastructure as an opportunity to move towards more renewable sources of energy. Here’s an excerpt:

On Friday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said his team is looking at alternative ways to bring power back on the island, including by using microgrids, small power networks that can work independently of the main grid.

Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for Puerto Rico, said solar-powered microgrids, as well as buried power lines, could allow for a more rapid recovery after storms.

Puerto Rico currently relies on imports of fuel oil and coal as an electricity source. More solar does make sense for a sunny island, as do microgrids and underground power lines. Depending on above-ground power lines in hurricane prone is risky, as transmission poles don’t do well in powerful winds. Of course, I wonder about LENR as a potential power source also. I am hopeful that we are getting close to commercial LENR with the E-Cat, and Andrea Rossi is now saying that he and his new partner are now looking towards electricity production in early applications.

Still, the E-Cat nor any other LENR source is not there yet, so it’s understandable that it is not being figured by most leaders into a possible way to mitigate against the potential ravages of nature. But if and when it does become available, then I would think that one of its most attractive features is that it could be less vulnerable in situations of natural disaster.

Meanwhile the recovery continues, and I hope that it can be carried out efficiently to reduce the widespread suffering that is currently taking place.