Philadelphia’s Second Largest Power Outage Event, Climate Change, and Why the Keystone XL Pipeline Matters

As I am writing this short blog post about climate change and whatnot, I am sitting in a Montgomery County Starbucks with 30-40 others who have lost their power due to our latest extreme weather event.  This storm dumped around a tenth to a quarter inch of ice on top of Philadelphia’s northern and western suburbs, and caused over 600,000 (and counting) to lose their power.  

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, this storm ranks second to Superstorm Sandy on a list of weather related power outage events.  The Daily News ranked the following storms that has affected PECO customers, the area’s largest utility company :

1. 800,000 lost power, Superstorm Sandy, Oct. 29, 2013
2. 575,000-plus, ice storm, Feb. 5, 2014
3. 520,016, ice storm, Jan. 7, 1994
4. 511,000, Hurricane Isabel, Sept. 18, 2003
5. 511,000, Hurricane Irene, Aug 2011
6. 483,000, wind, lightning, July 18, 2006
7. 408,000, Hurricane Floyd, Sept. 16,1999
8. 400,000-plus, winter storm, March 20, 1958
9. 369,511, Hurricane Hazel, Oct. 15, 1954
10. 334,987, tornado, May 31, 1998
11. 320,215, wind, lightning, July 16, 1980
12. 225,000, winter storm, Feb. 10, 2010

As you can see,  9 of the 12 largest weather related power outage events occurred between 1990 and now, and 8 of those 12 happened after 1998.  I am sure that the growth of Philadelphia’s suburbs plays somewhat of a moderate role in these large power outage events, but I am convinced more than ever that these weather related events are happening because of man made climate change.

The United Nations Climate Programme shows that the ten hottest years since records have been kept have occurred after 1998, and 2013 was the 6th hottest year since records have been kept.  The International Panel on Climate Change predicts that storms will keep getting stronger as our oceans continue to warm, and this can be demonstrated in the chart at the top of the page.  That chart maps out the amount of billion dollar storms over the past two decades and it’s obvious where the trendline is going.  This logic doesn’t just stop in the colder seasons.  A 2012 Slate article points out that:

Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft U.S. National Climate Assessment

Going from the micro, local scale to the macro, worldwide scale this is why the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline matters for those living in and around Philadelphia and everywhere else.  The actual construction of the Keystone Pipeline may not contribute to an increase in climate change, but the Keystone Pipeline will aide and abet the worsening effects of climate change because it is transporting one of the dirtiest forms of energy to the global market.  The exploitation of the Canadian Tar Sands is a carbon bomb that will push our climate over the tipping point of 2 degrees fahrenheit, which will in turn cause more storms and more power outages on the local level.

Unless PECO, utility companies or the Pennsylvania state government wants to the upgrade electrical infrastructure by putting all electrical wires under the ground,  expect more storms to cause more power outages in the Philadelphia region as the climate continues to get warmer and warmer.

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About Sean Kitchen 594 Articles
Assistant Editor of the Raging Chicken Press and living in Harrisburg pursuing journalistic opportunities. You can send tips to SeanKitchen@RagingChickenPress.org and reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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