2012: A Very Big Year in Energy

The United States, with real prospects of achieving energy independence, has a big economic edge

1 min read
2012: A Very Big Year in Energy

In oh so many ways it was an unedifying year: reaffirmation of U.S. political deadlock, an even worse political sclerosis in Europe, ghastly atrocities in Syria, a festering war in Afghanistan. But in energy, 2012 was a very very good year indeed--at least if you were a U.S. citizen.

This was the year in which it became clear not only that the United States has a real shot at energy independence, after 40 years of just talking about it, but that the U.S. strength in energy gives the country an economic edge across the board. For this blogger, the message first came through loud and clear at a New York Times energy conference, inspired by a new book from energy guru Daniel Yergin, The Quest.

The implications, though vast, are not hard to list.

One already has played out: Presidential candidate Romney tried hard to play the energy hand, but President Obama held all the cards.

Another was the theme of the Times energy conference: the United States now is at an advantage vis-a-vis virtually all other countries, including China and India.

A third, as yet virtually unstated, is the United States can now afford to adopt an aggressive greenhouse gas reduction policy and has no excuse not to. Incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has his work cut out for him.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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