Cheap gas, oil craters: 2015 rocked energy sector
The year 2015 has been a tumultuous one for energy throughout the world, including in the U.S. A new era of abundant supplies is emerging here, bringing with it low prices, at least for now. All this comes as the U.S. and other nations take stock of climate change, and the role that producing and using energy plays in the phenomenon.
With that in mind, here’s a look back at 10 big developments in energy in the U.S. in 2015.
1. Oil, gasoline gets even cheaper
With the world awash in oil, U.S. crude fell below $35 a barrel in mid-December, the lowest level since February 2009 and nearly 70% below prices 18 months ago. That’s bad news for oil producers and their workers and investors, but good news for consumers. At an average of $2 a gallon or so nationwide, gasoline cost less this Christmas than it has in seven years.
2. U.S. oil supply peaks, then falls
U.S. oil production hit 9.6 million barrels a day in April, its highest level since 1970, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But output has recently fallen to 9.2 million barrels a day, tracking the decline in oil prices. EIA estimates that U.S. production will continue to slide through the third quarter of 2016 before rebounding later in the year.
3. Banner year for U.S. natural gas
The U.S. will produce 79.6 billion cubic feet of gas a day in 2015, marking the fifth consecutive year of record highs for the industry, according to EIA. Consumption of gas continues to set records, too, with EIA forecasting 76.5 billion cubic feet a day of demand this year, beating a high mark of 73.1 billion cubic feet a day in 2014. Not coincidently, natural gas prices are at their lowest levels in years.
4. Banner year for solar energy, too
The U.S. solar industry expects to rack up a record-breaking 7.4 gigawatts in installations in 2015. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that solar will quadruple in size from just over 24 gigawatts of total capacity to nearly 100 gigawatts by 2020, enough to power 20 million homes. Wind energy continues to grow, too, with installations expected to rise by 13% in 2015.
5. Ups and downs for nuclear industry
Construction continues on four nuclear power reactors in Georgia and South Carolina, the first new units to be built in 30 years. But at the same time, a nuclear plant closed in Vermont and two others, in Massachusetts and New York, will be shuttered soon, all casualties of power markets that increasingly favor natural gas and renewable energy.