Gas prices took a pause as demand in both China and the US slackened a bit. But the Department of Energy struck a discouraging note with the prediction that prices will rise close to $4 over the next few months. It's those summer blends, which always push things up at the pump. Diesel may hit $4.21. The chorus of criticism continues to mount and the White House isn't saying much these days in its own defense. Ken Silverstein at EnergyBiz suggests that President Obama switch the subject to the smart grid.
And speaking of the smart grid, it's doing pretty well these days at global spending is reported to have risen to $46 billion last year. Munich is one of the many "smart cities" around the world dedicated to implementing the technology. But there could be problems. Are smart meters vulnerable to false data? Meter hacking is already costing millions of dollars. But extending the technology to smart water may come next.
China is scouring the world for energy resources. Al Jazeera reports the Chinese are looking for oil supplies in the Andes. The Russians have built a gas pipeline into China but the two countries are now haggling over the price. Car sales are expanding but the Chinese still pay much more for gasoline than in the United States. Still, China's impact on world demand is likely to become a permanent phenomenon.
Renewable energy is at a turning point as Congress has finally ended the program of production tax credits. This leaves wind and ethanol high and dry. State mandates continue but there is a growing recognition that they drive up the price of energy. Diane Cardwell of The New York Times reports that renewables will survive, but in "patchwork." And PV Magazine asks whether the creation of 75,000 jobs as reported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory was worth the stimulus investment of $9.7 billion?
Finally, the coal industry is undergoing wrenching changes as domestic demand continues to decline while exports expand. The US sent more than 100 million tons abroad last year, more than double the amount in 2006 and the highest level since 1991. All this is good news for the industry as demand declines at home. Power4Georgians has agreed to cancel a coal plant in Washington County - perhaps because the Vogtle Nuclear Reactors were recently received federal approval. But DOE reports that the conversion from coal to natural gas continues and the issue of coal ash still remains in limbo. But Michael Levi of the Council of Foreign Relations asks whether all these exports won't simply undermine the progress being made in curbing climate change.