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2012 in numbers

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Jonathan Thompson | Dec 31, 2012 05:30 AM

Dear Readers: I have grim and terrible news to share with you. I was taking a look at my trusty wall calendar, the one put out by local electric coop, to see what kind of photo of a lineman playing with high voltage lines was on the next page, when I noticed there was no next page. That’s right, my calendar ENDS after December 31. Nothing more.  Nada. Which means that the Mayans were right, they just had their dates mixed up.


So there I was, in the type of contemplative, retrospective mood that the apocalypse tends to inspire, when I realized that if I could cobble together the right combination of numbers, I would unlock some celestial vault, in which the secret to saving the world -- a 2013 calendar from the local coop -- was waiting. So here goes: Some of my favorite and least favorite numbers from 2012. Most have to do with energy, but some have to do with, well, other stuff (yet it’s all related, of course).

1: My ranking of “Energy Independence” amongst the most overhyped buzzwords uttered in 2012. Politicians have been touting their desire to achieve independence from foreign oil imports since the days of Nixon, but this year, as new drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques hit paydirt across the nation, the phrase took on new meaning.

Dozens: The number of times pundits, “experts,” and media outlets erroneously declared that the U.S. is now a “net energy exporter.” They were referring to the fact that the U.S. became a net “fuel” exporter, meaning we export more refined oil products -- diesel, gasoline, kerosene, etc. -- than we import. We also export far more coal than we import. But that’s not enough to offset the millions of barrels of oil per day that we get from foreign countries.

174: Number of drill rigs operating in North Dakota in Dec. 2012.

12: Number of drill rigs operating in North Dakota a decade earlier.

4,000: Number of people a planned housing development in North Dakota will be able to accommodate.

2.8: Unemployment rate in North Dakota in Nov. 2102. The national rate was 7.7 percent.

310 million: Number of barrels of oil produced in the U.S. in October 1970.

194 million: Number of barrels of oil produced in the U.S. in September 2012.

316 million: Number of barrels of crude oil and products imported into the U.S. in September 2012.

10.8 million: Number of barrels of crude oil and products imported into the U.S. per day in Dec. 2012.

2.9 million: Number of barrels of crude oil and oil products exported by the U.S. per day in December 2012.

125 million: Tons of coal exported from U.S. mines this year, a record. Though the buzz is all about potential exports to China, quite a bit of the exports are actually going to Europe, where Germany’s phase out of nuclear power is leading it to use more coal.

32: Percent of U.S. electricity generated by coal in April of 2012, the lowest share in decades. Coal’s shine has been rubbed off by cheap natural gas, at least for as long as natural gas stays cheap.

$14.50: Price per million BTUs for natural gas in December 2005.

$3.30: Price for natural gas in December 2012.

$920,000: Amount of shortfall in La Plata County, Colo., budget due to falling natural gas prices.

48: Percentage of average snowpack in the upper Colorado River Basin at the end of November.

: Percentage of average snowpack in the upper Colorado River Basin at the end of December, following a series of moist storms that pounded the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies.

#1: Rank of the period from August 2011 to August 2012 amongst the warmest 12 month periods on record for the United States.

3.35: Degrees F by which that period was warmer than the 20th century average.

100: Number of bears killed in the Glenwood and Aspen, Colo., area in 2012, a record. That's three times last year's death count (during a very wet year), and a bit less than twice the count in 2009 (when it was dry). 

Well, there you have it folks. And guess what, not one new calendar. Damn. I’ll see you on the other side.

Photo of a sign in Marin County, California, by the author.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor for High Country News, and is preparing for the second apocalypse of this month by spending time near the San Andreas fault. His Twitter handle is @jonnypeace.

Robert Laybourn
Robert Laybourn Subscriber
Jan 02, 2013 09:18 AM
Interesting and informative numbers. I am using a 16 month calendar, so maybe I am gaining an extra four months a year? I guess the otherworldly alien 'astronuts' that trained the Maya were laughably fallible.

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