Top 10 energy stories of 2012

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David Holt
President, Consumer Energy Alliance
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      David Holt

      David Holt is president of the non-profit organization, Consumer Energy Alliance. Consumer Energy Alliance was formed to help support the thoughtful utilization of all domestic energy resources to improve domestic energy security and reduce consumer prices. The mission of Consumer Energy Alliance is to improve consumer understanding of our nation's energy security, including the need to reduce reliance on imported oil and natural gas, maintain reasonable energy prices for consumers, and continue efforts to diversify our energy resources.

      As part of its efforts to build dialogue between consumers and the energy sector, Consumer Energy Alliance played a key role in the recent Mineral Management Service’s (MMS) Five Year Plan for the Outer Continental Shelf. Working with an expansive coalition of energy and consumer groups, CEA helped deliver tens of thousands of public comments in support of thoughtful offshore oil & gas development – including the areas offshore Alaska and Virginia.

      Consumer Energy Alliance now has more than 115 consumer and energy groups as part of its Alliance. Through its various activities, CEA works to continue to expand dialogue and develop joint messaging among the energy and consuming sectors.

Over the past year, energy has moved from newspapers’ business and science sections to their front pages. From the president’s highly controversial decision on the Keystone XL pipeline to new assessments of prolific U.S. oil and natural gas reserves, American energy dominated the headlines this year — and for good reason. High gasoline and diesel prices threaten to curtail the economic recovery and ongoing turmoil overseas has refocused the country’s attention on the importance of energy security.

1. North America on track to become energy self-sufficient within the decade. Since the Carter administration, every president has pontificated about the need for U.S. energy independence, yet each has failed to produce it. Following reports of increased shale energy production, Citigroup issued a report in March that concluded that by 2020 the United States could see domestic crude production and Canadian imports surpass U.S. demand. The report noted that the main challenges facing energy development would be “political rather than geological or technological.”

2. American drivers spend more at the pump than any year on record. Thus far in 2012, the average cost of gasoline has been $3.52 a gallon, exceeding last year’s record of $3.47 a gallon. However, relief for motorists may be in sight: The federal government is predicting gasoline will be $3.43 a gallon in 2013, which would be the lowest average annual gas price since 2010.

3. The “war on coal.” Coal use in U.S. utilities fell dramatically in 2012 as power providers switched to lower-priced natural gas. Pending environmental regulations also contributed to coal’s precipitous decline and led Governor Romney to accuse President Obama of waging a “war on coal.”

4. Obama, Romney campaigns duel over who’s more “pro-energy.” In a year of record-high fuel costs, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that both President Obama and Governor Romney would support domestic energy. Yet few would have predicted that the candidates would try to out “drill, baby, drill” each other in the second presidential debate.

5. U.S. carbon emissions at lowest levels in 20 years. Despite the absence of a federal program to cap carbon emissions, the U.S. Department of Energy reported in August that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in the first part of 2012 fell to 1992 levels. According to the DoE, this dramatic decline was driven purely by market forces, mostly the availability of cheap, plentiful supplies of cleaner-burning natural gas.

6. Low-cost natural gas ignites resurgence in domestic manufacturing. Large supplies of affordable natural gas have prompted manufacturers to reinvest in America. In fact, Dow Chemical has identified over “$80 billion in new spending along with 3 to 5 million new jobs” that have been announced by the industrial sector in response to available and low-price domestic natural gas.

7. Obama blocks Keystone XL but supports Gulf Coast portion. In a move watched closely by environmentalists and labor unions, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline’s application for a presidential permit in January. The president said that the 60-day timeline set by congressional Republicans wouldn’t allow his administration to properly review the proposed project. Just a few months later, he enthusiastically supported the project’s southern portion, extending from Oklahoma to Texas.