NEED Celebrates 40 Years of Energy Education

Happy 40th Birthday NEED!

This year, The NEED Project celebrates 40 years of energy education.

The Price of a Barrel of Oil Reaches a Historic Low

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declares the novel coronavirus a pandemic. In the days and weeks that follow, Governors in most states give “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders for everyone except essential workers. Schools close and children finish the school year by distance learning. Over 30 million Americans file for unemployment as businesses, hotels, stores, and restaurants close. People working from home no longer commute or travel for business. The world is producing more oil than it is using. Due to the complexity of oil pricing and oil trading, in April, the price of a barrel of oil reaches -$37.63. Some oil sellers must pay oil buyers to take their fuel. Off the coast of Long Beach, California, dozens of full oil tankers remain at anchor in the harbor waiting for refineries to accept their shipments. (,

Record-Breaking Crude Oil Production

In November, monthly U.S. crude oil production averages 12.86 million barrels per day, the most monthly crude oil production in U.S. history. U.S. crude oil production increases significantly during the past 10 years, mainly due to production from tight rock formations developed using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract hydrocarbons. (EIA)

Wind Power Generates More Electricity Than Hydropower
Wind Turbines and High Tension Power Lines

Almost 60,000 wind turbines produce power in 41 states, Guam and Puerto Rico (AWEA). Annual wind generation in the U.S. exceeds hydroelectric generation for the first time. Wind power is now the top renewable source of electricity generation in the country. (EIA) Photo Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Oscillating Water Column Buoy

Ocean Energy’s oscillating water column buoy begins 12 months of open ocean, grid-connected testing at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii. (EERE) Link:

Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Cell Usage
Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Cell Usage

There are more than 26,000 hydrogen fuel cell forklifts in use in warehouses, stores, and manufacturing facilities in the United States. Over 30 hydrogen fuel cell buses are providing transit service in various states including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio. There are about 40 public, retail hydrogen stations where customers can drive up, fuel, and pay just like at a gasoline station, most located in California. More than 7,500 fuel cell cars are on the road. (EERE) Photo Credit: BMW Manufacturing

Leading the World in Petroleum and Natural Gas Production
Oil-Producing Formations in the Permian Basin

Crude oil production in the U.S. increases by 17%, setting a new record of nearly 11.0 million barrels per day and surpassing Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of petroleum. Production in the Permian region of western Texas and eastern New Mexico contribute to most of the growth. In addition, U.S. dry natural gas production increases by 12% to 28.5 billion cubic feet per day, reaching a record high for the second year in a row. (EIA)

Historic Flight for World’s First Passenger Spaceship

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, completes its first spaceflight. This is the first human spaceflight launching from American soil since the final space shuttle mission in 2011. Virgin Galactic operates a reusable spaceflight system, which includes a carrier aircraft and the world’s first spaceship carrying passengers into space for commercial service. (

Self-Driving Cars Around Town

Waymo, the company that emerged from Google’s self-driving-car project, officially starts its commercial self-driving-car service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. The service isn’t open to the general public and human safety operators remain behind the wheel. Waymo claims its driverless vehicles have been roaming the streets under test conditions for more than 10 million miles. (

World’s Fastest, Most Powerful Supercomputer
Summit Supercomputer at Oak Ridge Labs

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer is named the fastest, most powerful supercomputer in the world. Summit is capable of 200 petaflops – or 200,000 trillion calculations per second. (DOE) Photo Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Train
Alstom Coradia iLint

The Coradia iLint, the world’s first passenger train powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, begins commercial passenger service in Germany. This zero-emission train emits low levels of noise and only steam and condensed water as exhaust. ( Photo Credit: ubahnverleih

Solar Industry Jobs

The U.S. solar industry supports over 242,000 workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. (

Wind Industry Jobs
A worker in the wind industry.

The U.S. wind industry supports 114,000 jobs across all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Over 25,000 of these people work in Texas.  (AWEA) Photo Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Clean Coal Power

Petra Nova, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system on a retrofitted coal-fired power plant, successfully begins commercial operations. The Houston, Texas electric generating station captures carbon dioxide and uses it for enhanced oil recovery at a depleted oil field 80 miles away. Petra Nova’s success includes capturing over 3.27 million short tons of carbon dioxide, sending it into associated storage, and producing over 3.3 million barrels of oil through enhanced oil recovery at the depleted oil field. The project is part of the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative program. (DOE)

Developing the First Open-Ocean Wave Energy Test Facility

The U.S. Department of Energy awards Oregon State University $35 million to permit, design, construct and operate a full-scale wave energy test facility seven miles off the Oregon Coast on the outer continental shelf in the Pacific Ocean. The facility, PacWave, expects to be operational in 2021. The open-ocean, power grid-connected test facility, will be a pre-permitted site for testing all types of wave energy conversion technologies. It is the first of its kind in the United States. (DOE)

Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore wind farm

The nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm begins operating off Block Island, RI. The project has five wind turbines and a generating capacity of 30 MW. (AWEA) Photo Credit: Jennifer McCann, URI Coastal Resources Center

The Fastest-Growing Job in America
Wind Turbine Technician

Wind turbine technician is America’s fastest-growing job. (AWEA) Photo Credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL

Studying Wave Energy at Nation’s First Test Facility

The first U.S. grid-connected wave energy test facility becomes fully operational at the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, Hawaii. (

World’s Largest OTEC Power Plant
Ocean thermal energy conversion system

The world’s largest grid-connected Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion power plant begins producing electricity for the U.S. grid at the Makai Ocean Energy Research Center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. ( Photo Credit: EIA

A New Way to Store Solar Energy at Home

Tesla’s first-generation Powerwall launches. Powerwall integrates with solar to store excess energy generated during the day and makes it available when you need it, minimizing reliance on your utility. ( Link:

Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm Under Construction
Deepwater Wind Project

The nation’s first offshore wind farm, the Deepwater Wind Project, begins construction off the coast of Rhode Island. (DOE) Photo Credit: Deepwater Wind

First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle for Lease in America

Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle is the first commercially leased FCEV in America. (DOE)

Autonomous Vehicle Prototype

Google unveils its autonomous vehicle, Waymo. The prototype of the driverless car has no steering wheel or pedals. ( Link:

Studying Energy in Ocean Currents

Florida Atlantic University receives permits for offshore ocean current testing in the gulf stream. (

World’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Facility
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station comes online as the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) facility in the world. The facility, in California’s Mojave Desert, generates up to 392 MW. (DOE) Photo Credit: Justin Elliott

Nuclear Reactors Under Construction

Construction begins on two new nuclear reactors at the existing Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia, the first nuclear reactors to be built in nearly 30 years. (DOE)

First Commercial Delivery in Space

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. ( Link:

World’s Largest Hydroelectric Power Plant
Three Gorges Dam in China

The Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River in China, comes online. It is the largest hydroelectric facility in the world, generating the electrical equivalent of fifteen nuclear reactors. (DOE) Photo Credit: Yao Yilong Imaginechina/AP Images

Licenses to Build Nuclear Reactors

In February, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues the first-ever combined licenses to build and operate two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle Power Plant in Georgia (the NRC has not issued a license to build a new reactor since 1978). In March, the NRC issues combined licenses to build and operate two new reactors at the Summer Power Plant in South Carolina. (DOE) Link:

Tidal Power Begins Generating Electricity for the Grid
Tidal Energy Generator

Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project, the nation’s first commercial, grid-connected tidal energy project, begins operating off the coast of Eastport, Maine. (DOE) Link: Photo Credit: TidGen™ Power System

World Record Magnetic Pulse

National Lab scientists achieve a 100.75-Tesla magnetic pulse, setting a world record. The pulse is nearly 2 million times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field. The 100-Tesla multi-shot magnet can be used over and over again without being destroyed by the force of the field it creates and produces the most powerful non-destructive magnetic field in the world. (DOE) Link:

Soaring Oil Prices

Crude oil markets sustain high price levels in 2011. The spot price of Brent averages $111.26 per barrel, marking the first time the global benchmark averages more than $100 per barrel for a year. (EIA)

World’s Largest Natural Gas Producer
Graphic of Natural Gas Production

The United States surpasses Russia to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas. (DOE)

Final Space Shuttle Mission
Space Shuttle docking at the International Space Station

NASA uses hydrogen gas as rocket fuel to deliver crew and cargo to space for 30 years. On July 8, 2011, the Atlantis Space Shuttle launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the 135th, and final, mission of the space shuttle program. (NASA) Photo Credit: ISS Expedition 28 Crew, NASA [public domain]

Natural Disasters Affect Energy Use

The Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami causes an accident and shutdown at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Without nuclear power, Japan turns to thermal energy for power generation. Japan’s LNG consumption increases 27%. (EIA)

Electric Vehicles Hit the Road
Nissan Leaf

The Nissan LEAF is the first mass-produced, modern production, all-electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. (DOE) Photo Credit: "Nissan Leaf Charging" by pchow98 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

First Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle for Sale in America
Chevy Volt Dashboard

The Chevy Volt is the first plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) built and sold in the U.S. It has a gasoline engine that supplements its electric drive if the battery runs low, allowing consumers to drive on electric for most trips but use gasoline to extend the vehicle’s range. (DOE) Photo Credit: John Biehler

Another Coal Mine Accident

A mine collapse in northern Chile traps 33 miners half a mile underground. After 69 days, everyone is rescued. (

New Safety Measures for Offshore Drilling

Secretary of the Interior Salazar announces a 6-month hold or “moratorium” on deep water drilling. The drilling ban ends in October after new safety rules for offshore drilling and new requirements for oil spill response and containment are adopted. (EIA)

Deadly Offshore Drilling Rig Accident
Deepwater Horizon Fire

While drilling an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico, an explosion and fire occurs on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 crew members. Oil leaks from the unfinished well into the ocean for months. (EIA) Photo Credit: US Coast Guard

Deadly Coal Mine Accident

An underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia kills 29 miners. This is the worst mining accident in the U.S. since 1970. (EIA)

Self-Driving Cars
Google's Self Driving Car

Google begins developing a self-driving car. ( Photo Credit: Roman Boed

Developing Electric Vehicle Batteries and Building Charging Stations
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 allocates $2 billion to develop electric vehicle batteries and related technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy adds another $115 million to build electric charging stations across the country. This helps reignite the electric vehicle industry. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy invests over $31 billion to support clean energy projects and infrastructure updates nationwide. (DOE) Photo Credit: The Valley Hospital

Great Recession

A worldwide financial crisis occurs, it is the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. (DOE)

Record High Oil

Oil prices reach a new high – over $145 per barrel. Gasoline prices break $4.00 per gallon. (EIA)

Reducing the Cost of Wind Energy

The first 105-meter (345-foot) wind tower is installed in the U.S. by Enel Green Power North America. The new technology, along with the increased availability of large rotors, contributes to a 90 percent reduction in the cost of wind energy since 1980. (AWEA)

Electric Sports Car

A small Silicon Valley startup, Tesla Motors, debuts a luxury electric sports car that will go more than 200 miles on a single charge. Less than 2,500 vehicles are produced, by retrofitting the battery and electric motor into a European sports car. (DOE)

Hydroelectric Powerhouse

The U.S. ranks among the top four countries in the world for hydroelectric generation, along with China, Canada, and Brazil, generating 44% of the world’s electricity from hydropower. (DOE)

Record Coal Production
How Coal is Formed Graphic

Coal production sets a record high of 1.16 billion short tons. (DOE)

A Destructive Hurricane Season

Hurricanes Katrina (August) and Rita (September) cause massive damage to the nation’s petroleum and natural gas infrastructure. In September, U.S. residential natural gas prices reach a new high of $16.66 per thousand cubic feet. (DOE) Link:

Energy Policy Act of 2005

Congress passes the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which promotes the use of coal through clean coal technologies, requires increasing use of renewable fuels for transportation, and new measures to reduce pollution from gasoline and diesel. (DOE)

First Hybrid Electric Vehicle Built in America
Ford Escape Hybrid

The Ford Escape Hybrid is the first hybrid electric vehicle manufactured in the U.S. (DOE) Photo Credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

First 3-Megawatt Wind Turbine

Vestas installs the first commercial 3-megawatt wind turbine in the U.S. (AWEA)

U.S.-Led Invasion of Iraq

The invasion of Iraq disrupts crude oil supplies. (DOE)

Zero-Emissions Coal Goal

President Bush announces the United States will sponsor a $1 billion, 10-year demonstration project to create the world’s first coal-based, zero-emissions electricity and hydrogen power plant. (DOE)

Great Blackout

The nation’s largest-ever power outage leaves 50 million people in the Northeast and parts of Canada without electricity for several days. (DOE)

Astronauts Install Solar Panels in Space
International Space Station Solar Array

At the International Space Station, astronauts begin installing solar panels on what will be the largest solar power array deployed in space. Each “wing” of the array consists of 32,800 solar cells. (DOE) Photo Credit: NASA

Recycling Helps Reduce Emissions

The EPA establishes a link between global climate change and solid waste management, noting that waste reduction and recycling can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (DOE)

Tall Neutrino Discovery

Fermi Lab scientists observe the tall neutrino subatomic particle. (DOE)

Traffic Jam
Traffic Jam on a Highway

Americans own 220 million cars (DOE) Photo Credit: U.S. DOE

First Hybrid Electric Vehicle for Sale in U.S.
Honda Insight EV

The Honda Insight is the first hybrid electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. (DOE) Photo Credit: khengsiong

Electric Utility Deregulation Begins

States with electric utility deregulation allow consumers to choose their electricity provider. (DOE)

Asian Financial Crisis

The Asian financial crisis has worldwide economic effects. The demand for petroleum products declines and oil prices fall. (DOE)

First Free-Range Rover on Mars
Mars Pathfinder Rover

On July 4th, the Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars to deliver Sojourner, the first free-range robotic rover, to the surface of the red planet. It operates for three months, sending data and images back to Earth. (NASA) Mars Pathfinder via

World’s First Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Toyota Prius Engine

The Toyota Prius debuts in Japan as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle. It isn’t available worldwide until the year 2000. (DOE) Toyota Hybrid engine via

Demonstrating CSP Technology
Solar Two PV installation

The U.S. Department of Energy, along with an industry consortium, begins operating Solar Two—an upgrade of its Solar One concentrating solar power tower project. Operating until 1999, Solar Two demonstrates how solar energy can be stored efficiently and economically so that power can be produced even when the sun isn’t shining. It also fosters commercial interest in power towers. (EERE) Photo Credit: Solar Two

Quark Discovery
National Accelerator Lab

Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab discover the top quark subatomic particle. (DOE) Photo Credit: Fermilab

Nuclear Power Generates 20% of U.S. Electricity

109 nuclear power plants operate in the U.S., generating about one-fifth of the nation’s electricity. (DOE)

First Distributed Power System on the Grid

Pacific Gas & Electric installs the first grid-supported photovoltaic system in Kerman, California. The 500-kilowatt system is the first distributed power effort. (EERE)

Recycling Grows
Recycling garbage can

Fifteen states adopt recycling legislation. (DOE) Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Federal Waste Reduction

President Bush issues Executive Order 12780, which stimulates waste reduction, recycling, and buying recycled goods in all federal agencies. (DOE)

Middle East Conflict Affects World’s Oil

Iraq invades Kuwait causing crude oil prices to increase. (DOE)

A Breath of Fresh Air

The Clean Air Act Amendments require gasoline and diesel fuels to be less polluting. (DOE) Link:

California Leads in Wind Power
California Leads in Wind Power

California has more than 2,200 megawatts of wind energy capacity installed - more than half of the world’s capacity at this time. (DOE) Photo Credit: San Gorgonio Pass wind farm near Palm Spring, CA, Photo by Kit Conn

Oil Spill Damages the Environment
Workers cleaning up oil spill on shore

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker runs aground, spilling 240,000 barrels of crude oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. (DOE) Photo Credit: NOAA

Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant

The world’s largest solar thermal facility is built in Kramer Junction, California. The solar field contains rows of mirrors that concentrate the sun’s energy onto a system of pipes circulating a heat transfer fluid. The heat transfer fluid is used to produce steam, which powers a conventional turbine to generate electricity. (EERE)

Worst Nuclear Disaster in History

Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident occurs in the former USSR (now Ukraine). (DOE) ABC video from 1986:

OPEC Lowers Price of Crude Oil

OPEC lowers the price of crude oil for the first time, by increasing production. Oil consumption grows quickly while prices remain low. (DOE)

A Future for Clean Coal

Congress passes The Clean Coal Technology Act, providing money to study the feasibility of using clean coal technologies on a commercial scale. (DOE)

Improving Fuel Economy
EPA Charts

In 1974, in response to the oil crisis, a regulation passed requiring auto manufacturers to meet a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standard by 1985. This CAFE standard requires a fuel economy of 27.5 miles per gallon for all new cars and light trucks. (DOE) Photo Credit: EIA

Nuclear Overtakes Hydropower

Nuclear replaces hydropower as the second-largest source of electricity in the United States, after coal. (DOE)

First Biomass Power Plant
Newspaper Clipping

The first (biomass) wood-fired power plant built primarily to generate electricity, begins operating in Vermont. (DOE) Photo Credit: The New York Times Archives

Sun Shines on Concentrating Solar Power Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy, along with an industry consortium, begins operating Solar One, a 10-megawatt central-receiver demonstration project in California. The project establishes the feasibility of power-tower systems, a solar-thermal electric or concentrating solar power technology. The demonstration project runs until 1988. (EERE)

First Megawatt-Scale PV Power Station

The first photovoltaic megawatt-scale power station goes on-line in Hesperia, California. It is a 1-megawatt capacity system. (EERE)

First Large Wind Projects

The first large wind projects are built in Altamont Pass and Tehachapi, California by multiple wind energy developers. At this time, little is known about siting practices, and the interaction between wind and wildlife is poorly understood. (AWEA)

Price of Crude Oil Set by Supply and Demand

The U.S. government ends price controls on crude oil and petroleum products. Supply and demand now set domestic crude prices. (DOE)

First Solar-Powered Aircraft
A Drawing of the Solar Challenger

Paul MacCready builds the first solar-powered aircraft—the Solar Challenger—and flies it from France to England across the English Channel. The aircraft has over 16,000 solar cells mounted on its wings, producing 3,000 watts of power. (EERE)

Nuclear Overtakes Oil

For the first time in the U.S., nuclear energy generates more electricity than oil. (DOE)

World’s First Wind Farm
High tension power lines

U.S. Windpower installs the world’s first wind farm on the shoulder of Crotched Mountain, New Hampshire. The wind farm has 20 turbines and a total generating capacity of 600 kW. (AWEA) Photo credit: Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center

Happy Birthday NEED!
Jimmy Carter signing proclamation forming National Energy Education Development Project

The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project begins on March 21, 1980 as a one-day celebration as a Joint Congressional Resolution recognizes National Energy Education Day. In the same year, President Jimmy Carter issues a Presidential Proclamation stressing the need for comprehensive energy education in our schools, a reduction in our dependence of fossil fuels, and increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies. (NEED)