Talking about all things energy, from clean tech, to biofuels, and policy.

U.S. Falls Short in Global Energy Efficiency Rankings

By Alex Kasin

The nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report this week ranking the top 12 global economies in terms of their energy efficiency. The U.S. was 9th, trailing not only the United Kingdom, which ranked 1st, but also behind the European Union and China.

The report, called the “International Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” analyzed the efficiency of the 12 largest global economies, which included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. These 12 economies consume 63 percent of the world energy and are responsible for 62 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the ACEEE used 27 metrics to produce the rankings. Those metrics were organized into four categories – buildings, industry, transportation and national effort -- in which the economies were also ranked. The U.S. was last in transportation.

The 2012 ACEEE International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, showing how the U.S. ranks compared to other nations. Click image to enlarge. Credit: ACEEE

The LA Times said that instead of expanding public transportation, the U.S. “focuses on road construction” and “has been slower to adopt fuel-efficient vehicles,” possibly leading to its low ranking. In total, the U.S. scored a 47 out of 100, leading to its 9th-place finish, while the U.K. had a 67 out of 100.

The report said that the U.S. has made “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,” in the past 10 years, according to the press release...

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Fukushima Disaster ‘Man-Made’ and ‘Avoidable’

A report released by a panel from the Japanese parliament declared that the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was avoidable.

Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of 2011, the plant suffered damage and radioactivity was subsequently discharged into the areas surrounding the power plant.

The New York Times said that before releasing its 641-page report, the panel, called the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation, had upwards of 900 hours of hearings and interviews. The panel talked to 1,167 people.

Instead of citing the unusually large tsunami as the source of damage at the plant, which is what the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), blamed, the report suggested that the earthquake could have been responsible for much of the damage. The commission viewed Tepco’s concentration of the blame on the tsunami and “not on the foreseeable quake” as “an attempt to avoid responsibility,” the New York Times reported.

Despite having knowledge that the plant was at risk of a far more powerful earthquake than it was designed to withstand five years before the 2011 disaster, Tepco and nuclear regulators still did not take necessary precautions. The report said, “there were many opportunities for taking preventative measures before March 11. The accidents occurred because Tepco did not take these measures” and the regulators did not push them to do so, according to the New York Ti...

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Arctic Offshore Oil Exploration Could Be Imminent

By Alex Kasdin

According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, off-shore oil exploration in Alaska could be imminent.

According to the New York Times, Salazar indicated that Shell would most likely get to start off-shore exploration near Alaska’s North Slope this summer, once they jump a few more hurdles. “If Shell meets our standards and passes our inspections, exploration activities will be conducted under the closest oversight and most rigorous safety standards ever implemented in the history of the United States,” Salazar told the Associated Press. According to the Los Angeles Times, if Shell does start drilling, it will be the first time offshore drilling has occurred in the Arctic in nearly 20 years.

Credit: Neftegaz.ru

In 2008, Shell purchased the right to drill in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea off of the coast of Alaska. Numerous lawsuits and permit appeals later, Shell has yet to drill.

In addition to Shell’s exploration, the New York Times said that within the week, the Interior Department will also release an offshore leasing plan for the next five years that will allow for more Arctic oil and gas exploration and drilling. However, these new leases will only go on sale in 2016 and 2017.

The Los Angeles Times reported that in the four years before these leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas become available, there will be additional scientific study and analysis. The Interior Department said that this analysis would ensure that the places made available for exp...

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Survey Says? Affordable Energy Top of Mind in U.S.

By Alex Kasdin

With the 2012 presidential election looming, Americans are starting to focus on the issues that are most important to them. For 8 in 10 Americans surveyed in a recent poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center, one of those issues is energy: only the economy, education, and healthcare ranked higher. Affordable energy is so important to Americans that fewer than 20 percent of people listed a summer vacation or a new smartphone as a higher priority than lowering their energy bill. According to the poll, they’re saving energy by using less electricity and using more efficient appliances, among other things.

What they’re not doing, however, is buying more fuel-efficient cars or hitching rides to work with their friends. In fact, people said altering their transportation habits to save energy was one of the hardest lifestyle changes they could make. Transportation is second only to industry in how much energy it uses, though, which means Americans will probably have to do more than turn off the lights to make a dent in their energy costs.

The Cornell Survey Research Institute, meanwhile, has also just released its own energy-related poll. This one focuses on New York State residents’ attitudes toward natural-gas drilling, and the results show that New Yorkers don’t want more of it. In recent years, gas prices have dropped thanks largely to new drilling techniques, especially fracking. But fracking has been criticized for the damage it does to the environme...

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Image of the Day: Germany Sets Solar Power Record

German solar power plants set a world record in late May, producing 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour, meeting nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday needs, according to the head of a renewable energy think tank. That amount of energy is equivalent to 20 nuclear power plants operating at full capacity. Germany has abandoned nuclear power after the disaster in Japan at the Fukushima plant. The country will explore other renewable energy sources instead.

Credit: Creative Commons/Horst Kiechle