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The Department of Energy issued its own evaluation of our energy future and the news looks just about as good as the IEA report last week. The DOE sees domestic oil production headed upwards to 7.5 million barrels per day from the current 6 mbd. The most controversial conclusion, however, was that the economy would benefit from gas exports. Democrats and other free-trade opponents have worried that consumers would pay higher prices. But the DOE argues – Ricardo, Hume and Adam Smith did in the Age of Enlightenment – that international trade and comparative advantage benefit both parties.

The developing world is beginning to embrace solar energy. Ghana announced it will host Africa’s largest solar project – a 155 MW facility – and India is planning to build 9 gigawatts in the next five years. Middle Eastern countries are also embracing solar. German-designed solar ovens are even baking tortillas in Mexico.

Congress is finding energy efficiency a bipartisan issue as the House passed a bill and two Representatives formed a group to promote efficiency in government buildings. GreenBiz finds that state and municipal policies are driving retrofits in older buildings. Perhaps most important, GE is showcasing a new combined-cycle gas turbine that can be revved up and down to meet the vagaries of wind and solar energy. Previously only very expensive, gas-consuming single-cycle turbines could perform this feat.

Coal continues its downward spiral as NRG cancelled plans to build an 800-MW plant in Texas. S&P says coal-to-gas switches in utility boilers will continue at the same pace through 2014. The Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad has mothballed plans to build a new rail line into the Powder River Basin because of declining coal demand and even the coal-powered Badger Ferry (above) on Lake Michigan seems destined for shutdown. But Fox Business reports the strange result of all this is that as coal gets cheaper, more of it is being burned in Europe as Germany and others try to cut back on nuclear.

Finally, the European Union has joined the International Smart Grid Action Network. Italy is holding a big smart grid conference and the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded 400 grants to utilities for smart grid projects. Mitsubishi is partnering with the University of Southern California on an experiment to integrate electric vehicles onto the grid but Electric Power & Light reports that the big concern of municipal utilities around the country is the cost of all this to ratepayers.

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