Full Title: Fueling America and the Energy Water Nexus
Author(s): Richard Lawson, Blythe Lyons, John Lyman, and Mihaela Carstei
Publisher(s): Atlantic Council
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
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The Atlantic Council’s Energy and Environment Program released a report entitled: “Fueling America and the Energy Water Nexus: How and Why it Impacts the Nexus and What Next,” which highlights the issues that were brought to light in the November 2011 workshop Energy Water Nexus Primary Fuels for Power and Transportation in the US.
A substantive dialogue has emerged in the United States under the rubric of “the energy and water nexus,” representing the deepening understanding of the circular relationship between water and energy. Both are essential building blocks of US economic and physical security, and interface with efforts to improve health and prosperity. On a national level, the criticality of this relationship to economic and public prosperity is often ignored, as energy and water impacts are largely specific to a watershed or a local surface water source. Simply put, energy security and the availability of water are both critical elements of US national security. Furthermore, ensuring adequate water supplies underpins the production of energy resources, which remains a major driver of the US economy.
The confluence of political, economic, technical, and energy resource constraints in the United States has reached an inflection point. The nexus has become a national issue because finite water resources are stressed by a range of policies and events. To address these growing national concerns, the Atlantic Council initiated a series of workshops to examine the various facets of the energy and water nexus and what solutions are at hand. In May 2011, the Council’s initial workshop focused on the nexus from the perspective of thermoelectric power production. A second workshop was convened in November 2011 to examine the nexus from the vantage point of the extraction and processing of primary energy and transportation fuels.
This report builds on the Council’s analysis in “Energy for Water and Water for Energy” which examines the power production connection to the nexus and looks at the nexus from the fuels perspective. It examines the drivers behind the looming crisis, namely, the US energy portfolio, the water needs of these energy sources, and water scarcity realities. For each of the primary and transportation fuels-conventional oil and gas, unconventional oil and gas, biofuels, hydro fuels, geothermal fluids, coal and uranium-the report examines their role, how water is used in extraction and processing and what impacts these operations have on water quantity and quality.