Burning Fossil Fuels Imperils Our Ability to Burn Fossil Fuels

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/13492637@N07/2213003265/">HVargas</a>/Flickr

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Pretty much every power plant requires water to work. Coal, natural gas, nuclear, and even some types of renewable energy need water to create steam and to cool down. These plants account for more than 40 percent the fresh water drawn from lakes and rivers in the US each year. But climate change limits access to that water and poses a major threat to our ability to keep power plants running, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

If plants don’t have enough water, they can’t operate. The report notes that the summer drought in Texas in 2011 forced one power plant to cut its hours of operation, while others had to pump in water from new sources, which led to fights over rights to water. Last summer, a power plant in Tennessee had to shut down because it was too hot, while others had to scale back production because of heat and drought.

The report makes clear that these large power plants are basically stuck in a horrible cycle. Many of them burn fossil fuels, which heat up the planet. A hotter planet leads to more droughts, which make it harder for the power plants to operate.

The report is optimistic about opportunities to change that cycle. It notes that if the US significantly lowers its carbon output—with more renewables, better efficiency, and newer power plants—we could cut power plants’ water consumption by 85 percent by 2050. That would also, of course, slow down global warming.

Read the full report here.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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