With two nuclear reactors already creating electricity, Japan intends to open another six by the end of this year.  Only Fukushima type reactors will remain closed.  Prior to the 2011 Fukushima tragedy, Japan had 50 operating reactors.

China has overtaken the US as the world’s largest net importer of crude oil, in a generational shift that will shake up the geopolitics of energy. US net crude oil imports dropped to 5.98 million barrels a day in December, the lowest since February 1992.

The International Energy Agency says Asia will become the world’s second-largest natural gas market by 2015.

Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first. Methane hydrates, or clathrates, are a type of frozen “cage” of molecules of methane and water. Canada, the US and China are also looking into ways of exploiting methane hydrate deposits to extract natural gas.

ENN Group, one of China’s largest private companies, plans to establish a network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks along US highways. With plans to build 50 stations this year alone, ENN joins Clean Energy Fuels Corp and Shell in an aggressive push to develop a North American infrastructure for heavy-duty trucks fueled by cheap and abundant natural gas on that continent.

A new report says Spain, which imports about 99% of its natural gas, has enough prospective resources of this fuel to satisfy current demand for 70 years if it chooses to develop its shale gas.

Germany’s political parties have reached agreement for the regulation of fracking, the process for removing natural gas from shale deposits.  Once the deal becomes law, shale-gas deposits near drinking water aquifers will be prohibited. Furthermore, drilling companies will be forced to fulfill strict environmental regulations. Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said  “We want to restrict fracking, we aren’t trying to promote it.”and that he “can’t imagine that fracking will be allowed to take place somewhere in Germany in the foreseeable future.”

A new study by the US Department of Energy says the transportation sector accounts for 71% of US petroleum consumption and one-third of the country’s carbon emissions.

China’s media said the largest hydroelectric project in the Tibetan autonomous region should start generating electricity this year. The Pondo Water Control described as Tibet’s Three Gorges Dam, will be completed by 2016.

The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant began operation in the United Arab Emirates. Called Shams 1, the 100 MW solar-thermal project will power thousands of homes in the Middle East kingdom and displace approximately 175,000 tons of CO₂ per year.

In 2012 US solar installations totaled 3,3 GW of capacity, bringing the national solar photovoltaics total to 7,2 GW. This was an 80% increase over 2011.

France surpassed 4 GW of installed photovoltaic solar power in 2012. The country added 1.08 GW of new PV capacity in over 34,500 plants.

The European Union (EU) canceled an auction of carbon permits for the first time, causing prices to drop to their second-lowest close on record. The auction was canceled because bids failed to reach a secret reserve price. The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the largest global carbon market, has been plagued by the falling price of carbon permits for years and prices are now 90% below their level in 2009.

As prices for EU carbon permits continue to decline, Germany is planning to cancel some key subsidy programs aimed at increasing reliance on renewable energies. The country’s Environment Ministry is about to cancel several flagship subsidy programs this month including the program aimed at promoting electric cars, a fund for research and development of energy storage technologies, and a program focused on protecting and expanding forestland in Germany as a way to absorb more CO2 out of the atmosphere. Additional programs could be impacted in April.


with h/t Tom Whipple

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