How the energy industry spent its holiday vacation

While you were whooping over your Wii, the energy industry exulted in a few holiday gifts of its own. Just before Christmas, a federal appeals court gave ExxonMobil a $2.5 billion break, slashing in half the $5 billion in damages that had been awarded to thousands of Alaskans affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The (ridiculously profitable) corporation has appealed the size of the award several times since it was first handed down in 1994, and this cut is the largest yet. Thanks, yer honors! Renewable-energy operations, for their part, were showered with gifts from a southern California utility, which signed the biggest wind-power contract in U.S. history, and the state of New York, which put $15 million toward construction of the country’s first cellulosic ethanol plant. And finally, in a classic case of re-gifting, Royal Dutch Shell announced that former U.S. Interior Department Secretary and industry-lover Gale Norton would join the company as general counsel. Mmm, fruitcake.