After what seems like decades of worrying about energy scarcity, the country is now coping with an energy boom. True, gas prices are near an all-time high but maybe that's because it receives so much government attention. The natural gas boom, which has proceeded entirely beneath the radar, is redrawing the landscape. Prices are at a a ten-year low and Fortune is running a cover story, "The United States of Natural Gas," with the Statue of Liberty holding a - wouldn't you know it? - gas powered torch. Even coal seam gas is experiencing a boom. The only ominous sign? President Obama has decided to form a Natural Gas Group to examine policy. Oh-oh, here we go again.
One puzzling sideline of the oil price run-up is the fate of oil refineries. No matter how high prices go at the pump, they just can't seem to make any money. An Alaska refinery announced it is closing and Israeli refineries say they are slipping into the red. Delta Airlines, which is having enough trouble in the low-margin airlines business, is rumored to be looking at the bankrupt Conoco-Phillips refinery in Philadelphia, which one industry commentator said was "like a rabbi buying a church." Even China's refineries are struggling and analysts say that may be causing China's economic slowdown. One way or another, refineries seem to be bearing the brunt of the oi price run-up.
News of nuclear power's demise may be premature. Despite all the talk the world seems to go on building reactors. Vermont residents (above) aren't happy about that and rallied over the weekend against the Vermont Yankee plant. But Japan is now about two restart two of it's 57 reactors as it's economy continues to suffer from the loss of nuclear. And advocates of thorium argue that their technology would be much safer and more practical.
Finally, solar energy continues to roar ahead as the Germans report the addition of 1900 megawatts in the first quarter. Areva, which to this point has specialized in nuclear, has contracted to build a thermal concentrated facility in India. William D. Gallo, head of US-based Areva Solar, says that with it's subtropical sunshine and huge power needs, India is poised to be a global hub of solar energy. Things aren't so simple in the Mojave Desert, however, where a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks is blocking BrightSource from bringing solar power from Nevada to southern California. But former NASA scientist John Mankins says all this could be avoided by building solar-power-generating satellites in space.