National Geographic gives us its list of the six most overlooked energy stories for 2011


1. Oil Development Grows in Africa

This fall the world learned that Mozambique had the world’s largest natural gas discovery in a decade. The country could become a major liquified natural gas exporter.

Other countries benefiting from oil finds are Uganda and Somalia on Africa’s east coast and Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia on the west coast of the continent.

2. Efforts to Fight Energy Poverty

Of the world’s 7 billion people, one in five does not have access to electricity. And nearly half of the people on Earth still cook on traditional stoves fueled by wood, peat, waste, or dung. Yet the International Energy Agency estimates that financing universal energy access would cost only about 3% of the current total global investments in energy.

3. Illicit Drugs are Energy Guzzlers

Indoor marijuana operations are energy guzzlers. In the U.S. they use $5 billion in electricity to power lights, fans, and other equipment. Although, ironically, some have migrated to solar power to get off the grid and remain undected.

4. The Emergence of Green Jet Fuel

This year saw the first commercial flights using biofuels in Asia, Europe and North America.  In addition the US military also tested biofuels in its jets and ships. The motivating factor is to reduce the cost of fuel with oil over $100 per barrel while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions.

5. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS ) Roadblocks, but Continued Hope

While no one has yet found a way to make carbon capture and storage work, research is continuing and the United Nations and Canada put funding programs in place to get projects moving. CCS is the holy grail of the coal industry, the only mechanism that will keep it afloat in light of the strong opposition to the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Yellowstone River Spill

On July 1st, ExxonMobil ‘s 12-inch (30.5-centimeter) pipe buried below the Yellowstone River was severed and an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude oil was released into the river. 6 months later officials are still evaluating the damage to the environment.  Opponents to pipelines, and especially the Keystone XL Pipeline, have seized on this incident as an example of the dangers of continuing with an oil based economy.

To this list Earth’s Energy would add one more story that we believe is under represented in the world’s media and blogs.

7. Waste to Energy

We believe this issue is important enough to have a weekly column devoted to it: Waste to Energy News

Einstein taught us that mass = energy. And the 21st century is teaching us that the mass of trash in the world’s landfills, the mass of human and animal waste, and the mass of biomass in our forests can all be converted into useful energy – biofuels, electricity and heat.  Methane gas from landfills and human and animal waste is now lighting up and heating tens of thousands of communities around the world or being used as fuel to run truck fleets. Forest debris and wood chips are being converted into wood pellets that are replacing coal in European and Asian coal-fired power plants. The end result is renewable electricity and biofuels, a reduction of deadly methane emissions and other pollutants into the atmosphere, and energy savings as well as revenue streams for cities and companies and farms around the world.  While not as sexy as solar or wind, the conversion of waste to energy may be one of humanity’s most important accomplishments in the energy field.















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