Happy Halloween! But ... what's powering your pumpkin?

Happy Halloween: Trick or treat? Solar or oil? Even Halloween jack-o'-lanterns have joined the energy debate. When the Department of Energy promoted clean energy and efficiency as pumpkin-carving suggestions, the US oil and gas lobby served up its own Halloween ideas. 

Jim Cole/AP/File
Jack-o'-lanterns wait to be set up for the Keene Pumpkin Festival earlier this month in Keene, N.H. The Department of Energy's Halloween stencils depict wind turbines, solar panels, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and other emblems of alternative energy.

Forget candles, these Halloween pumpkins are all about wind and solar – or oil and gas.

This Halloween, the debate over the future of US energy has made it all the way to the jack-o'-lantern. On one side is the US Department of Energy, promoting clean energy and efficiency with a set of energy-themed stencils for pumpkin carving. Not to be outdone, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas lobbying firm, has released its own set of stencils to make a "high energy pumpkin" blazoned with the image of an oil barrel or a full gas tank.

So the question this Halloween isn't so much trick or treat? It's renewables or fossil fuels?

Judging by DOE's stencils, the future is in cleaner energy and less of it. The stencils depict wind turbines, solar panels, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and other emblems of alternative energy, with DOE encouraging would-be carvers to "energize your neighborhood" this "Energyween." It's a fitting end to October, which was designated National Energy Action Month by President Obama in late September. 

"[S]o while you’re stocking up on pumpkins, fall sweaters and Halloween candy, it's also a great time to think about actions you can take to save energy and money at home," reads a post announcing the stencils on DOE's website from earlier this month.

Shorter days and cooler weather come together in October to begin a steady annual rise in electricity use as homeowners turn up the heat and keep lights on longer. In 2011, commercial and residential lighting made up about 12 percent of the nation's total electricity use. In 2009, space heating made up 41.5 percent of total residential energy use.

But the stencils don't exactly offer a comprehensive look at US energy – at least not according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the nation's oil and gas companies.

"[W]hen the Energy Department blog highlighted ways to 'energize your neighborhood' with a series of energy-themed pumpkin stencils in time for Halloween – but didn’t include any for the sources of 62 percent of the energy Americans use – we thought maybe it was some kind of holiday trick," reads a post on API's website. 

Renewables made up 12 percent of the nation's electricity mix in 2012, and while solar and wind showed tremendous growth last year, most analysts predict fossil fuels will continue to dominate the electric grid in coming decades.

So it's a tall order for the Obama administration, which wants to reduce the 40 percent of carbon emissions that come from fossil-fuel power plants. It's no surprise, though, that it's turbines and photovoltaics on DOE's Halloween pumpkins, instead of oil and gas. 

Happy "Energyween!"

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