This week, host Daniel Raimi talks with Emily Grubert, an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and an expert on what’s known as the “energy-water nexus.” They discuss a 2018 paper that Grubert coauthored with Kelly Sanders, which provides in-depth research on the life cycle of water consumption for every major fuel source in the United States. Raimi and Grubert compare and contrast the different water profiles of coal, oil, gas, biofuels, and other sources of energy. They also discuss the implications of water use in hydraulic fracturing and other increasingly prominent energy production processes.
Listen to the Podcast
Top of the Stack
- “Water use in the United States energy system: A national assessment and unit process inventory of water consumption and withdrawals” by Emily Grubert and Kelly T. Sanders
- "Who Speaks for Crazy Horse" by Brooke Jarvis
- Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
- The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Full Transcript
Daniel Raimi: Hello and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources for the Future. I'm your host, Daniel Raimi. This week, we talk with Dr. Emily Grubert, assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Emily's an expert on many things, but today we'll ask her about how water is used in the energy system—a subset of the topic, sometimes called the Energy-Water Nexus. We'll talk about a 2018 paper Emily coauthored with Dr. Kelly Sanders that provides intricate detail on the life cycle water consumption of every major fuel source in the US. We'll compare and contrast the different water profiles of coal, oil, gas, biofuels, and more, and talk in detail about water use for hydraulic fracturing. A quick production note, some of the audio quality in today's episode is a little below our usual standards. That's my fault and I apologize, but we thought Emily's insights are well worth the trouble of a little scratchy audio, so stay with us.
Okay, Emily Grubert from Georgia Tech … University, is that the right way to say it?
Emily Grubert: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Daniel Raimi: Georgia Institute of Technology, I'm sorry.
Emily Grubert: We try not to abbreviate it as GIT, but Georgia Tech.
Daniel Raimi: Georgia Tech. Okay, I'll just stick with Georgia Tech so I don't trip over myself anymore. Thank you so much for joining us today on Resources Radio.
Emily Grubert: Thank you so much for having me.
Daniel Raimi: I'm really happy that we're here together. We're actually sitting in a hotel room in Boise, Idaho, where we were both at a conference, and it's been a really nice day of learning and now it's five o'clock and it's time for happy hour and it's time to talk about water-energy nexus.
Emily Grubert: It's a great place to talk about the water-energy nexus too.
Daniel Raimi: It is, it's a very water intensive state, right? Lots of hydropower here in Idaho.
Emily Grubert: Yes, absolutely.
Daniel Raimi: So we're going to talk about, as I mentioned, the energy-water nexus, and we're going to talk in particular about a paper that you coauthored that came out last year. But first we always ask our guests how you got interested in energy and environmental issues in the first place.
Emily Grubert: Yeah, so I actually grew up in an energy family. My dad is a petroleum engineer and on the other side of my family, my grandfather and my great grandfather were also both petroleum engineers. I was born in Bakersfield, in the middle of a pretty dense collection of wells down there, and didn't necessarily think too much of it until I got to college, and then people started talking a lot more about some of the environmental impacts of energy. Climate change started to become a little bit more present in my awareness and I realized that this was stuff that I liked, that I had some exposure to and realize that I liked. So, that's really how I got into it. I took a class that was very focused on field trips and we just basically went around California going to power plants and that was a pretty transformative move for me as well.
Daniel Raimi: That sounds fantastic. Are the high schools in Bakersfield, aren't they called the oilers?
Emily Grubert: I think that's right. We actually moved away when I was really young, so petroleum engineering family, I moved about every three or four years.
Daniel Raimi: I remember I visited Bakersfield, and I went to one of the country music museums—
Emily Grubert: Oh, nice.
Daniel Raimi: —And also saw that one of the high schools was called the oilers.
Emily Grubert: That makes sense. It’s a surprisingly big city now, too.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. So we're going to move away from Bakersfield, and not talk about Merle Haggard too much. And instead we're going to talk about the energy water nexus. So we're going to refer to a paper that you, as I mentioned, published last year with Kelly T. Sanders, the paper is in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The paper is called—so people can look it up, we'll have a link at the bottom of the show—but just in case you want to Google it right now, their paper is called “Water Use in the United States Energy System: A National Assessment and Unit Process Inventory of Water Consumption and Withdrawals.”
Emily Grubert: And if I can interject really quickly, a non-paywalled version of this is also on my website.
Daniel Raimi: Fantastic. So maybe we'll put a link to that version in the show notes. So to get us started, can you define the term energy-water nexus for us? I hear it tossed around all the time, but people sometimes use it in different ways. So can you tell us how you're thinking about it?
Emily Grubert: Definitely. So the energy-water nexus, I think there are a couple of different groups that look at this. Basically it's just a characterization of the fact that energy and water systems are interrelated. The part of it that I look at is really the water for energy part of it. So we use water to cool power plants, we use water to extract resources, things like that. There's also a group of people that look much more at the amount of energy that we use for water systems.
So heating, treating, moving water, that kind of thing that I don't really look at quite as much, but generally those are the two big focus areas.
Daniel Raimi: That makes sense. And you've been studying this stuff for years or-
Emily Grubert: 10 years, something like that.
Daniel Raimi: Can you actually tell us your sort of graduate school and career path? Like how did you end up at Georgia Tech? Because I know you studied in Texas, right? And then California?
Emily Grubert: I did. So I'm from California. I went to school out there for my undergrad, then basically moved to Texas to go to UT Austin for a couple of years, doing a masters degree out there. Part of the motivation there actually was that I was starting to get very interested in water, and water energy stuff in particular. And it was becoming clear that spending a little bit of time in Texas would be useful, during really the advent of the fracking boom and things like that.
So there was a lot going on in Texas, I moved out there for a couple of years, then moved back to California, actually went and worked for a bunch of resource industry companies as a consultant for a couple of years, and then did grad school at Stanford, postdoc at Berkeley. So I didn't have to leave too much. And then I moved to Georgia back in January.
Daniel Raimi: All right, fantastic. So let's get into some of the analysis that you've done here, and to sort of define a couple terms at the outset, you and Dr. Sanders in the paper make what I saw as a really crucial distinction between the idea of water withdrawals in the energy system, and water consumption in the energy system. So what's the difference between withdrawal and consumption, and why does it matter?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, it's a great question. It's one of these things that energy people think matters a lot, and it does matter a lot in energy, and it matters much, much less in other contexts actually, which is kind of interesting. So the distinction that we're drawing, and we're using a very specific definition for consumption and withdrawal, is essentially—when you take water out of a system, that's a withdrawal. When you take water out of the system and don't return it, that's consumptive use.
For most industries, consumption is the only thing that we really pay a whole lot of attention to, but for energy system stuff, it becomes actually interesting to look at those instances where you take water out of a system and put it back, so don't consume it. That particularly comes up quite frequently with power plant cooling. So you take water out, cool your power plant down and then put it back in the river that you took it out of. That's pretty rare in other industries.
Daniel Raimi: And so in that instance, we're talking about water that comes into the plant in the form of water and leaves in the form of water, or leaves in the form of steam?
Emily Grubert: In this case, leaves in the form of water. So the part that's leaving in the form of steam would be considered consumption, because it's not going straight back into its proximate source. The other distinction that we actually draw that I think is pretty important from a definitional perspective is the water that you take out of a given source and put back into a different source as liquid water is also consumptive, because it's no longer available in the original basin. So something like taking groundwater and discharging it to a surface water body, or taking water out of one river and putting it into another river, would also be considered consumptive under that kind of mass based definition.
Daniel Raimi: Okay, that makes sense. So I'm going to ask you questions mostly about water consumption for the next few minutes. But if you want to talk about water withdrawals, and sort of throw them into the mix as well, please feel free to do so. So one of the things in the paper that is so valuable, is that you characterize the largest water consumers in the United States in the energy system. But zooming out from the energy system for a moment, can you tell us about some of the largest consumers of water in the US as a whole, and then take us into the energy system and talk about how water is consumed in different parts of the energy system?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the really important things that is not necessarily that obvious is that we don't actually track water consumption closely as a country. And so a lot of the baseline, denominator types of things that we did in this work, and that you see elsewhere, are based on guesses because we don't actually meter that kind of water.
That said, the fairly obvious biggest consumer of water in the United States is agriculture. Depending on how old of estimates you look at, things like that, it's probably close to about 80 percent of total water consumption. So, that's a big one. And that's mostly irrigation water. Another thing that might be kind of interesting to mention is that usually when we talk about consumption, that is kind of anthropogenic uses. So not counting things like rainwater. There are a variety of different ways that we account for the difference between rainwater and something that a person actually has to go get, and treat, and move. But in this conversation, I'm only talking about the blue water really, so the part that people are directly intervening with rather than rain water.
Daniel Raimi: That makes sense. And so agriculture dominates over everything else. When we start to get into the energy system, which parts of that system, or, which fuels maybe, however you want to characterize it—which are the largest consumers of energy on an aggregate basis, and then, which are the largest consumers on a per unit basis? So for each joule of energy that is embedded in the primary energy content of the fuel, how much water is consumed? Or however you want to characterize it.
Emily Grubert: Yeah, absolutely. So maybe the unsurprising big one, although it is somewhat surprising given how small of a role it plays in the overall energy system—but irrigation for ethanol is huge. And that one turns out to be, obviously because it's irrigation related very much to agricultural water use, but it turns out to be fairly significant with our energy sector usages as well. That's true both from an overall perspective and also from an intensity perspective. So ethanol is both a major overall water consumer and a very, very intensive one.
The water intensity of ethanol delivered to the consumer—so in the form of basically additive to gasoline. So even before it's converted in a car, it’s probably about an order of magnitude higher than the average water intensity of energy in the US. A couple of the other really big ones on the water consumption totals, hydropower maybe is not a super surprising one either. And that's usually related to evaporation. We go to some length in this paper to characterize pretty carefully whether the evaporation should be attributed to hydroelectricity generation, versus other uses of dams and reservoirs systems. And also actually to characterize whether this is a net or gross evaporation. So the numbers that we present are actually net numbers, which takes into account the fact that before you put a reservoir there, maybe there was a forest there, the trees are using some water, things like that. So these are about the lowest estimate numbers that you would probably use depending on what definitions you like the best.
Daniel Raimi: Right. So biofuels, number one. Hydropower, number two.
Emily Grubert: Hydropower I think comes out as three total. So an interesting distinction—the other really big one in here is conventional oil systems. And the big caveat that I want to draw there is that most of that water is not fresh. And this again is coming back to what I was talking about in terms of consumption. A lot of the time, what we see is that a large amount of water is actually being taken out of reservoirs that contain both water and oil, and then being disposed somewhere else. But the vast majority of that is not fresh. And so from an overall water consumption perspective, it's huge. From a freshwater consumption perspective, it's less of a big deal.
Daniel Raimi: Right. So I'm going to ask you about hydraulic fracturing in a moment, but first, we're not talking about hydraulic fracturing here, we're talking about water that's embedded in the oil and gas reservoirs underground. It's already sort of full of oils and gas and metals and other nasty stuff. And it comes up to the surface at the oil well, and it has to be managed at the surface. That's the consumption that you're talking about.
Emily Grubert: Yeah, exactly. And that water actually is much more associated with conventional oil rather than unconventional oil that you would use hydraulic fracturing with as well, just because of the nature of some of those reservoirs.
Daniel Raimi: Right, that's great. And this actually makes me think about Bakersfield again, because when I visited central California to do some research on oil and gas issues, I drove around the oil fields in central California, and you see these really long, really kind of Dr. Suessian shaped pipes that move steam around the oil fields and consume water for enhanced oil recovery.
Emily Grubert: Which is actually even another use separate from the reservoir production.
Daniel Raimi: Right. And so that water, that enhanced oil recovery water, that's typically freshwater, is that right?
Emily Grubert: Oftentimes, yeah. If it's steam, it's probably fresh just because making steam out of salty water is kind of challenging from a corrosion perspective, but also the central California fields actually have relatively fresh produced water as well. It's not actually fresh, but it's to the extent that you can irrigate some crops with it, that kind of thing. But yeah, those fields often will produce about a hundred barrels of water per barrel of oil. So pretty water rich areas, high water cut.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, absolutely. So when we were preparing for this interview, I sent Emily a list of questions and one of them, the one that I'm about to ask is what I characterized as the inevitable fracking question, because I think both of us have spent enough time talking to people about hydraulic fracturing where this question always comes up. So let's talk about it. People ask me when I do talks about fracking, they ask me all the time, it always comes up in a talk—the amount of water consumed in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, and how much that compares to other fuels, and how much water consumes it on an aggregate basis. And essentially the question is, is this a lot of water and is it a problem? And so yeah, what's your take on that?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, it's a really interesting thing that I think highlights the poverty of some of our metrics here actually, because from a total water volume perspective, it's actually not that high compared to a lot of the other water that we dedicate to various parts of the energy industry. That said, it is often relatively high quality water in relatively isolated places that maybe don't have a lot of water resources available, so it can be very locally impactful. And I think that, that's something that sometimes gets lost here is that the volume maybe is less of an interesting metric than a scarcity impact kind of thing. But if you're just looking at quantity, water for hydraulic fracturing is relatively low for oil actually.
What's interesting is that because of the freshwater that gets injected for steam, flooding, things like that, a lot of the time, even if you're not accounting for produced water, hydraulically fractured oil is less water intensive than conventional oils. That's not true for gas necessarily. And this gets into a little bit of challenges associated with what we refer to as unconventional gas. So there's some coalbed, methane and stuff in there too. But generally it is true that a hydraulically fractured natural gas is more water intensive than natural gas that isn't. At least when we're talking about this from the horizontally drilled multi-stage high volume hydraulic fracturing perspective.
Daniel Raimi: Right, and we're also talking about national aggregates here, and of course regionally there's lots of variation, right? Some formations like a lot of water in the hydraulic fracturing process, some need less. And so there's this wide variation.
Emily Grubert: I think the other thing to highlight here too is that it was a new industrial use of water. And so even though you can often look to the ways that we think about water being used in the energy sector and say—hey, coal often on the upstream side is actually more water intensive than hydraulically fractured natural gas, sometimes by a lot depending on where you are. That has been a water use that people have become accustomed to. It's been going on for a very long time and it's in regions where that's expected. With the hydraulic fracturing boom, it was a new use in newly industrialized places that maybe weren't set up for it in quite the same ways. So local impacts can be high, but the total number of gallons is pretty low.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that makes sense. And the cold water consumption that you're talking about, when I was reading your paper and rereading it recently, I was wondering a little bit about the details of how that water is actually consumed. Can you talk a little bit about how freshwater is consumed in the upstream coal mining and processing processes?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, and this is a really interesting one too that kind of comes back again to how you define consumption. There are some states where actually the water that gets generated during coal mining is considered to be a production of water. Essentially what happens is that where we're mining, coal tends to be relatively close to the surface, and just because of the nature of coal, it's often actually within the water table. So in order to mine the coal, you have to pump a lot of water out of it.
And so generally what happens is that, that's pretty fresh water. A lot of the time people point out the coal is essentially a Brita filter, and so sometimes that water is actually very clean, but it has to get pumped out of the mine and then discharged somehow, so it's no longer available in the location where it previously was for future users. From that perspective, it is considered consumptive by a mass-based definition, but people will often bring up that this is a non-discretionary byproduct.
If that water weren't actually in the coal mine, you wouldn't have to bring water in order to produce the coal. Whereas with a hydraulic fracturing situation, you actually have to bring water to the site in order to actually proceed with your task. So with coal, you do have a water consumption, but you'd rather avoid it, if you could.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that's great. And that reminds me of like—energy nerds are going to love this, because it reminds me of the ultimate energy-water-nexus factoid, which is that the steam engine was originally developed to pump water out of coal mines.
Emily Grubert: Yep, definitely.
Daniel Raimi: I think that's right, at least.
Emily Grubert: I think so. At least this is the apocryphal story I have also heard.
Daniel Raimi: Yes. Okay, well hopefully one of our listeners will set me straight in an email or something. Last question about fracking before we move on is, the other follow on question that people often ask me on this issue is the idea of water that remains in the water cycle versus water that is taken out of the water cycle.
Emily Grubert: Yes, that's a great point too.
Daniel Raimi: So with hydraulic fracturing, the water that is pumped into the wells, it much of it returns to the surface and it has to be disposed of. It's not going to get setback into a stream or river. It might be recycled in another hydraulic fracturing operation, but in general it's not going to be put back into the system elsewhere as maybe evaporation from a nuclear power plant or a hydropower dam might.
Emily Grubert: Essentially a permanent sequestration.
Daniel Raimi: So how important do you think of water consumption for hydraulic fracturing, with that context in mind?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, it's a really interesting question. I think one of the counterarguments that I've heard a number of times is that actually the water that gets generated by combusting the natural gases is a not insignificant total percent of the volume that gets used. So you do have a generation of water from combusting hydrocarbons, that actually turns out to be a higher number than I think a lot of people realize.
There are some fuel cycles where that might account for something like 30 percent of the total water that gets put into the system to extract a resource. We actually have these numbers in the paper too that we've reported separately in case people want to look at them. But yeah, the sequestration thing is real. So this is also one of those places where it becomes kind of interesting to think about deep well aquifer tapping, where you're removing fossil water from ground water for other uses. That's technically taking stuff that was sequestered from the hydrologic cycle and putting it back. So there's actually quite a lot of transfer because of human activity between those two systems. But it is true that when you are hydraulically fracturing, a lot of the time you're putting that water away forever.
Daniel Raimi: That's so fascinating. Can I just ask you to maybe be on call every time I do a talk on fracking, and if someone asks me a hard question I'll just phone a friend and call Emily. So let's move on now from some of the technical discussions about water consumption and water withdrawals in different parts of the energy system to more policy relevant questions.
You've studied this so much more than I have, so I might be totally ignorant here, but my sense is that there's not a whole lot of public policy that directly addresses water consumption in the energy system. So can you talk a little bit about the role that public policies do play in shaping energy related water consumption, as well as maybe what role policy should play in helping us make these decisions?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, that's a great point. And you're feeding into the work that I spend most of my time on really, which at a higher level is that I really am very interested in how multicriteria, environmental and social impacts get funneled through a lot of the policy decisions that we make. So part of the reason that I got interested in water as associated with energy specifically was really looking at a lot of climate policies that weren't accounting for a lot of basically co-benefits or disbenefits associated with various climate-oriented actions.
I think we often see climate policies being the thing that leads a lot of environmental actions, because traditionally a lot of the issues that we've had that are not climate-related are pretty directly correlated with climate change emissions. So air pollution in particular, things like water pollution from combustion, et cetera, those tend to track climate emissions pretty well.
Water is an unusual one because it's not actually that much of a direct relationship. It's not entirely true. I think a lot of us get pretty excited about the fact that some of the faster growing renewable electricity resources in particular, so solar and wind being the really big examples here, are very low water resources, but something like ethanol isn't. And there are a lot of different biomass and geothermal options that are actually very water intensive, solar thermal, also very water intensive. And so I think from a policy perspective, even beyond just talking about water, just making sure that we're thinking a little bit about what the key various outcomes of a given policy might be, and making sure that we're kind of accounting for those on the upstream, is pretty important. So yeah, the boom in ethanol is pretty directly tied to a low carbon fuel standard and an ethanol mandate in the form of the renewable fuel standard, that a lot of people have critiqued for the fact that it created such a water-intensive industry in some ways.
Daniel Raimi: And sort of on that same line of thinking, with a lot of ambitious climate mitigation scenarios, what you see in some of the modeling efforts out there is we get large scale bioenergy, often with carbon capture and sequestration. So bioenergy, I think in most scenarios, we're mostly thinking about sort of woody biomass rather than ethanol and biodiesel and such. Can you talk a little bit about water consumption for woody biomass? It's usually used for generating electricity and steam.
Emily Grubert: That's a great question. So the paper that we wrote was really focused on a 2014 base year. And in that context, what we found was that essentially none of the woody biomass that's being used for power generation, whether domestically or exported, is actually being explicitly irrigated. It's usually put in places that have enough rainfall to support those industries. And so it didn't show up as an extra water consumption.
If you take that to its logical conclusion, that may no longer be true. And I think one of the really interesting things about a bioenergy with carbon capture and things like that is that you start to put really intensive water requirements at the power plant. So for cooling, and then just given the parasitic load associated with carbon capture systems, that actually has a really massive water implication for what you're seeing at the power plants. You can design power plants that use less water, but that has to be a decision that you make upfront. And it's not necessarily going to be driven by an emission standard.
Daniel Raimi: That's so interesting. So, for people who might not have gotten that reference to parasitic load, we're not talking about vampires or ticks or anything. But the energy that a carbon capture and sequestration unit consumes, I think that's what parasitic load is referring to here. Can you talk... I know nothing about this. So what are the water consumption requirements associated with adding that type of technology to an existing power plant?
Emily Grubert: This is debated to some extent because, since we don't have a ton of at-scale carbon capture facilities, it's a little hard to say exactly how energy intensive they are. Some of the numbers that I've seen, though, suggests that parasitic loads—so this amount of electricity, or really the amount of steam that you're diverting from electricity generation in order to run, you're generally aiming based carbon capture system could be somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of the post-steam conversion output of a power plant. Given that most of these thermal processes are about 30 percent efficient, that can start knocking on the door of increasing your total fuel load and your total cooling load by in the range of maybe 50 to 90 percent. So it's a not insubstantial increase both in fuel requirement and in cooling requirement. It's true for coal too.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that's so fascinating. Are there specific policy measures that you wish were out there, or you wish policymakers would keep in mind? Whether it's at the state regulatory level, when we're thinking about electricity, or maybe it's at the federal level when we're thinking more broadly about the energy system—are there policies out there that seem like the first step you would take if you were queen for a day?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, it's a great question. I work on life cycle assessment largely, and I would like to see more life cycle assessment taken into account in a lot of policy regimes. Part of the reason I work on life cycle assessment is because I think that the method and the data sources that we have for it are not actually quite ready for policy yet. So a lot of my time goes into trying to make sure that by the time people are ready to use them, they're actually good enough to use for policy. But we still have a lot of data gaps. We still have a lot of gaps about how you actually deal with multicriteria decision making and who gets to decide these types of things.
But yeah, in a perfect world, I think focusing on these multicriteria decision support tools that do account for more of the system than we usually do is pretty important. And I guess just to bring it to the water for energy stuff, I think something that goes unnoticed a lot at the time is that because we are so much more aware of the amount of water that gets used at power plants, is that the majority of water actually consumed for energy systems is actually upstream of that conversion process. Whether that's a refinery or a power plant, it's about, I think our findings for 2014 were about 65 percent of the water is actually upstream at that point, but most of the conversations we have are about power plants.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. Do you think that's because we see the steam rising from power plants? Is it that simple, or are there other factors that are driving us to focus more on power plants when we shouldn't be focusing elsewhere?
Emily Grubert: My impression is that because the energy information administration, they do what they do and they're focused on a lot of those power generators and collect a lot of data from them already. There's a really good opportunity where they actually do ask questions about water use. Most users of water in general actually don't know how much they're using. And for this project, I think one of the things that was most interesting in some ways was that when we couldn't calculate an amount of water, I would often just call up operators and ask them, hey, how much water do you use? A lot of the time they couldn't tell me, this is not something that people keep track of, but because EIA is what it is and does what it does, they actually do ask power plants to keep track of that. And so we just have much better data records there.
Daniel Raimi: That makes so much sense. And the work you're doing is helping to plug these gaps in such a useful way.
Emily Grubert: Hopefully so.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, absolutely. And so last question before we go to our top of the stack question, which is sort of similar to the last question I asked, which is, what if anything really worries you about the way that we currently use water for energy in the United States? What are the things that you think are most troublesome?
Emily Grubert: Yeah, that's a good question. I think we don't necessarily have a great sense of where our water consumption is interacting with scarcity, and I don't think we've necessarily thought hard enough about what climate change means for that availability in the future. I think particularly I've been doing a lot of work on hydropower lately and watching the way that hydropower generation can fluctuate just as a result of water availability from year to year is pretty stark.
And so I think to the extent that we're actually committing to thermal plants and other things that use water, being a little bit more aware of where that is, where that's going to be 30 or 40 years from now, and who else is competing for that water is something we don't necessarily talk about quite as much as I would like. All that said, I think we have slightly higher priority things in the energy system to some extent. So this is important—I think we need to track it and we need to be aware of it, but it's not necessarily the highest priority thing that we've got going on.
Daniel Raimi: Right. It shouldn't stop the train on other important issues, but we need to focus on it while we move forward on climate.
Emily Grubert: Yeah, to some extent. There are times when we should stop the train, but not every time.
Daniel Raimi: Okay, great. So let's close out then with our last question, which is what you've been reading or watching or listening to, what's at the top of your literal or metaphorical reading stack? And I will start with an article that I read recently in The New Yorker. It's probably a couple of weeks or months old at this point because I'm way behind on my New Yorkers, but it was a really wonderful article, which was called “Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?” It was by the author Brooke Jarvis, and it was about the famous Lakota Indian, Crazy Horse whose name was, I'm going to mispronounce this, I apologize, Tȟašúŋke Witkó.
And we've talked about national monuments before on this show, and there's a private monument being built to Crazy Horse around Rapid City, South Dakota. It's supposed to be something like four times the size of the Statue of Liberty. This like, really enormous, wild monument. And the article describes how the sculptor of the monument is actually not a native Lakota or another Native American, but instead he and his family have sort of moved to control the construction of this monument in ways that are not necessarily amenable to the Lakota tribe and the other tribes who are in the area.
And so it's this really interesting article about the complex and sometimes problematic relationship between the US's desire to celebrate Native American culture, and also sometimes its history of not respecting itm in ways that we might like it too. So I highly recommend the article. It's written wonderfully because it's in The New Yorker, and it's really fascinating. So “Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?” But how about you Emily? What's on the top of your stack?
Emily Grubert: So, a couple. I've been working through my cli-fi stack actually, but a couple of standouts from the last months or a year or so, Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins is wonderful, and this looks at what might happen in the American West in a post-water availability world. So to keep with the theme of today, very much focuses on, it's a post-apocalyptic, very dry environment. Along the same lines but with a very different approach to storytelling, I think also The Water Knife, and I'm going to pronounce his name wrong, so I apologize, but, Paolo Bacigalupi, is also just an incredible storytelling effort that really looks at what happens when you run out of water in the American West. That one focuses a lot more on militaristic interventions and people hoarding water and living in ways that are reflective of the scarcity of the resource, but both really excellent reads.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, fantastic. We'll make sure to put links to both of those books on the show page as well as the paper that we've been talking about, and I really encourage you to check it out. It's such a useful paper, and there's this great Excel table that you can download that I use all the time that helps you understand how water is used in different parts of the industry.
Emily Grubert: So glad to hear that.
Daniel Raimi: So, Emily Grubert, thank you again so much for joining us on Resources Radio.
Emily Grubert: Thank you so much for having me.
Daniel Raimi: You've been listening to Resources Radio. If you have a minute, we'd really appreciate you leaving us a rating or a comment on your podcast platform of choice. Also, feel free to send us your suggestions for future episodes. Resources Radio is a podcast from Resources for the Future. RFF is an independent nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC Our mission is to improve environmental energy and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement.
Learn more about us at rff.org. The views expressed on this podcast are solely those of the participants. They do not necessarily represent the views of Resources for the Future, which does not take institutional positions on public policies. Resources Radio is produced by Elizabeth Wason, with music by me, Daniel Raimi. Join us next week for another episode.