Saturday, January 5, 2013

Top energy stories of 2012

In Rewind YouTube Style and science year in review 2012, there was one topic I intentially omitted--energy.  I did that because I already knew that the Nablopomo theme for January would be energy, so I was saving the stories.  I also held off because the the best list of stories available had not been finalized yet; it was still being voted on by readers.  It's now January and the top ten has been announced, so I no longer have any reason to delay.  Without any further ado, here are The Top 10 Energy Stories of 2012 as voted on by the readers of the Christian Science Monitor and Consumer Energy Report.
1. Revolution in US oil and gas production continues
 2. Hurricane Sandy and the Aftermath
 3. New CAFE standards doubled to 54.5 MPG by 2025
 4. India blackouts leaves 680 million people in the dark
 5. Low natural gas prices stimulate US economy
 6. California Implements Cap and Trade
 7. China in North America’s Oil Sands
 8. Obama Rejects Keystone XL Extension, Endorses Southern Leg
 9. Obama reelection
* 10. US Carbon Emissions Plummet
The five stories that were voted on but which didn't make the cut were:
  • Rigs shifting from natural gas to oil,
  • EPA rejects RFS waiver request
  • Sanctions on Iran
  • California gasoline shortage
  • BP settlements

The common theme among all these stories was that they had to do with fossil fuels and the effects of extracting, transporting, and burning them, not with renewables, except maybe the last two, which still have major fossil fuel components to them.  In the short run, that's good, as it means we have enough fossil fuel to make the transition away from them.  In the long run, it's bad, as we could definitely pump enough greenhouse gases to really heat up the planet.

Follow over the jump for more energy stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science in 2012 edition) on Daily Kos.

MIT Technology Review: What Mattered in Energy Innovation This Year
Notable advances in renewable energy pale compared to the impact of shale gas.
By Kevin Bullis on December 29, 2012
Although renewable energy made impressive advances this year, its impact has been dwarfed by the changes caused by the surplus of cheap, abundant natural gas made possible by hydrofracturing—fracking—of shale deposits. It will also be hard for renewables to equal the impact of shale gas in the coming years.

As utilities shift electricity production from coal plants to natural gas ones, carbon dioxide emissions have dropped to levels not seen for 20 years. In China, the government has set ambitious goals to scale up fracking and shale gas production there as well.

Similar drilling technology has led to a surge of oil production in the United States that could have it rivaling the production of oil in Saudi Arabia. It’s led to credible estimates that within a couple of decades—with the help of rigorous fuel economy standards—North America could produce as much energy as it consumes.

Shale gas is having a major impact on renewable sources of energy as well. For example, as a result of cheap natural gas, some companies that had been founded to produce biofuels from renewable sources—and entrepreneurs who had dedicated much of their lives to developing such technologies—have given up and turned instead to making fuels with natural gas. At the same time, cheap natural gas has made it far more difficult for renewable sources of energy to compete.

Meanwhile, the prospects for solar, wind, biofuels, and advanced vehicles took a decidedly bearish turn this year.
Again, the same theme of fossil fuels dominating over renewables.  What about a list of energy stories culled from Earth Island Journal: The Top Ten Environmental Stories of 2012?
Superstorm Wallops the Big Apple
The Drought
The End of Peak Oil
Fracking Gone Wild
Good Gas Mileage
Keystone Delayed
Four of the top ten are explicitly fossil fuel stories, three of them are duplicates of the first list, and two more are climate change stories in which fossil fuel is implicated.  It's the same theme as above.

So is there any good news for renewables?  Yes, there is.

The Guardian (UK): Top 10 green energy bright spots of 2012
From wind turbines to the US great green fleet, here are the top green energy stories of the year
Oh, good.  At least there's some good news about sustainable energy!

As for the fossil fuel stories, I have more to say about them later.  Stay tuned.

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