January 6 News: Gas Prices to Keep Climbing in 2012 as Global Demand Increases

Other stories below: A coal-fired plant eager for pollution rules; Keystone pipeline puts Obama in a pinch

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Forecast: 2012 Worst Year for Gas Prices

To the dismay of drivers across the country, 2011 went down in the record books as having  the most expensive gasoline average ever, $3.513 for the year, 72 cents per gallon higher than 2010′s yearly average, according to GasBuddy.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst, projects that by Memorial Day, the national average will be between $3.86 to $4.13 per gallon, and that prices in 2012 will come close to or set new all-time highs. If that happens, drivers could spend $200 to $300 more for gas this year.

Inflation adjusted data from the Energy Department’s U.S. Energy Information Administration confirmed that 2011 was a record year. The real annual average for a gallon of regular gas last year hit $3.56, up from $2.90 in 2010, according to the EIA. From its data that begins in 1919, the previous record high was in 1981, at $3.45.

A Coal-Fired Plant That Is Eager for U.S. Rules

As operators of coal-fired power plants around the country welcome a court-ordered delay on tighter pollution rules, the owner of a retrofitted plant here says that the rules cannot come too soon.

The company, Constellation Energy, says it is an issue of fairness. A little more than two years ago, it completed an $885 million installation that has vastly reduced emissions from two giant coal-burning units at its Brandon Shores plant here, within view of the city’s downtown office towers.

The goal was to comply with a Maryland law, but the company also anticipated that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would adopt similar limits. The agency followed through last year, completing a rule on sulfur and nitrogen emissions that was due to take effect on Sunday.

Scientists back ‘significant broadening’ of climate research amid tight budgets

U.S. scientists want to expand research into climate change to focus on its social effects and ways to adapt to a changing planet, but tighter budgets may crimp those plans, the National Academy of Sciences reported Thursday.

The 10-year plan reviewed by the academy represents a “significant broadening” of the federal Global Change Research Program, which includes researchers from across the U.S. government. Thursday’s report by the academy’s National Research Council generally supports the proposal but warned that researchers may have to overcome fiscal as well as scientific hurdles.

“The proposed broadening of the program’s scope from climate change only to climate change and ‘climate-related global changes’ is an important step in the right direction,” the review committee concluded. But it cautioned that “in an era of increasingly constrained budget resources, those questions of how will become paramount.”

Why gas mileage has barely budged since 1980

It’s sometimes suggested that American car companies have quit making more efficient cars and trucks in recent decades. But that’s not strictly true, according to MIT economist Christopher Knittel. In a new paper for the American Economic Review, building off his earlier research (PDF), Knittel calculates that automakers actually boosted vehicle fuel efficiency a whopping 60 percent between 1980 and 2006. Engine technology got better by leaps and bounds. It’s just that most of those improvements went toward making cars bigger and more powerful — and, as a result, all those advances barely increased gas mileage.

Knittel notes that automakers have made a slew of striking advances on the internal combustion engine over the past few decades — from variable-speed transmissions to front-wheel drive — that have drastically increased efficiency. But automakers mainly took advantage of those breakthroughs to build larger cars and light trucks with more powerful engines. Between 1980 and 2006, the average curb weight of vehicles increased 26 percent, while horsepower rose 10 percent. Average gas mileage, by contrast, improved just 15 percent.

Keystone Oil Pipeline Deadline Puts Obama In A Pinch

When Congress gave the White House a tight 60-day deadline for approving or rejecting the controversial Keystone project, it seemed like a Christmas gift to TransCanada, the company building the pipeline that would carry oil from Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

But TransCanada says it didn’t ask for this deadline and it doesn’t know how to handle this unwanted gift.

“We’re heading into uncharted territory,” says James Millar, a TransCanada spokesman.

Last year, environmentalists and ranchers in Nebraska succeeded in delaying the Keystone XL pipeline by arguing that it put a huge aquifer at risk. The company is looking for a new route through Nebraska, and it doesn’t expect to have it pinned down until next fall.

The unrequested deadline was just the latest consequence of how politicized the Keystone pipeline has become.

“We have essentially become the lightning rod for that broader debate around the consumption of fossil fuels,” says Millar.

Brazil is flooded once more

The rain is falling heavily in Brazil and people are concerned that the tragedy that struck last year might be repeated.

Just 11 days into 2011, flash floods and landslides killed 902 people across the state of Rio de Janeiro. It was the most deadly natural disaster in Brazil’s history. Worst hit was a mountainous region 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. 300mm (12 inches) fell in just a few hours, triggering flash flooding and landslides which buried people under a wall of mud

This year the rains have turned heavy once more. The states of Mina Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo are all being hit by the severe weather. An average of 125mm (4.9 inches) of rain is expected in the whole month of January, but some locations are reporting this amount of rain in just 24 hours.

Flooding is already affecting many areas and as the rains continue to fall, the risk of mudslides is also rising.


14 Responses to January 6 News: Gas Prices to Keep Climbing in 2012 as Global Demand Increases

  1. Ole Sumfleth says:

    The 2011 average gasoline price here in Germany was €1.52 per Liter ($8.05 /gal with 2011 average dollar/euro rate), with peaks going as high as €1.70 /L (~$9/gal). Norway even hit more than $10 a gallon (but, well, they are crazy rich, so that doesn’t really count).

    There is a big market over here for fuel-efficient cars (which almost always means small diesel engines with special aerodynamics packages, but not necessarily small cars). The Kia Rio CRDi 1.1 has a government rating of 74 mpg combined city/hwy. It kinda makes me sad that such a market doesn’t seem to exist in the states. Even VW only offers the standard diesels.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Netherlands Dike Break Fears Force Hundreds To Evacuate

    Europe map has to be rewrittin pretty soon…

  3. BBHY says:

    There are quite a few electric cars coming out this year, so gasoline over $4 would give that market a nice push.

  4. Michael T says:

    Hansen et al. have released an updated draft version of the November paper “Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice” in which they intend to submit for publication:

    Hansen’s other papers and discussions can be found at his website:

  5. prokaryotes says:

    Lol, look at this “flip-flopper”

    Mitt Romney Fights With Reporter After Being Exposed As A Liar

    Presidents are made of other blood.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Master’s today, “December 2011 jet stream pattern the most extreme on record
    The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). …….This winter’s remarkable AO/NAO pattern stands in stark contrast to what occurred the previous two winters, when we had the most extreme December jet stream patterns on record in the opposite direction (a strongly negative AO/NAO).
    “. Reminded me of this :

    Warning signs

    One of the common warning signs of an impending tipping point is when a system takes longer to recover to equilibrium after it is disturbed. Most systems exist in temporarily stable states of equilibrium. If the system is perturbed by some force and pushed in a new direction, it usually moves back toward equilibrium quickly. But if the system is approaching a tipping point, it tends to take longer to recover its balance.

    Another universal warning sign is when fluctuations in the system slow down. For example, in a climate approaching a tipping point, the weather tends to look more similar day to day leading up to the big change. In a brain before an epileptic seizure, neighboring patches of neurons look more like each other than they would in a regular brain. Prior to major economic change, stock markets in different areas start to act similarly to each other.

    While fluctuations take longer in these systems, they often are greater in magnitude. That is, under normal circumstances fluctuations tend to be short and small. When a drastic transition approaches, conditions fluctuate between greater extremes, and the fluctuations take longer to pass.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Remarkably dry and warm winter due to record extreme jet stream configuration

  8. Doug Bostrom says:

    Prof. Katherine Hayhoe now being pursued by the cranks at the “American Tradition Institute” (“tradition” as in diligently protecting the residents of Salem, MA ca. 1650 from witches and warlocks).

    (and why do I have to read an overseas newspaper to find out what’s going in the U.S. as it passes through the seemingly endless cloud of stupid?)

  9. David B. Benson says:

    So after a $885 million upgrade that coal burner is going to keep spewing CO2 for a long time to come.

  10. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    “To the dismay of drivers across the country, 2011 went down in the record books as having the most expensive gasoline average ever”

    Get used to it. We have passed peak oil, and very soon we will be on the decline.
    “Olivier Rech developed petroleum scenarios for the International Energy Agency over a three year period, up until 2009. This French economist now advises large investment funds on behalf of La Française AM, a Parisian assets management firm.

    His forecasts for future petroleum production are now much more pessimistic than those published by the IEA. He expects stronger tensions as of 2013, and an inevitable overall decline of oil production “somewhere between 2015 and 2020″, in the following interview.”

    World wide recession and record prices for gasoline, sort of says the mismatch between supply and demand is a supply side problem.

    Unfortunately when the economy starts to recover it would appear fuel prices will rise and cause a return to recession.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Ex-journalist explains why print and TV news have turned into sensationalist bullshit factories. (

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?
    Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.

  13. paul magnus says:

    Brazil floods again. Columbia floods continuously… crazy weather everywhere. Again.

    I think when we hit temps around 1998, 2005, 2010 there is no escape from this level and intensity.

    And it looks like we are about to pass through this ceiling now. Which means that this is going to be the norm pretty much now on.

    When we start to see peaks above this then things are going to be worse.

    Eaarth has arrived with a vengeance 50yrs before expectations.