Gasoline prices in California have escalated to record highs, spiking 50 cents a gallon in a week and prompting Governor Jerry Brown to advocate laxer smog rules so oil refineries can boost supplies of less expensive fuel blends. Regular gasoline in the state has soared to an average of $4.67 a gallon, a staggering 22 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA’s nationwide fuel price survey.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 continue to claim lives more than a year and a half later, not from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, but from forced evacuations in areas that received insignificant amounts of radiation.

Shareholders of Canadian oil firm Nexen voted Thursday to favor a $15.1-billion takeover that would place the company into the hands of the Chinese state-owned CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation), although the merger still requires approval by the Canadian government. In a 99-percent assenting vote, shareholders approved the $27.50 per-share offer, bestowing China with its largest overseas energy acquisition ever.

Rory Reid, the eldest son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is the chief representative for a Chinese energy firm planning to build a $5-billion solar plant on public land in Laughlin, Nevada. ENN Energy Group, a clean-energy firm that manufactures a range of renewable energy solutions, is seeking to construct its solar panel facility on a 9,000-acre stretch of land on a Clark County desert plot.

The controversy stems from the fact that Clark County officials voted to sell ENN the public land for $4.5 million, even though it was appraised at $38.6 million. Conveniently, Sen. Reid has been one of ENN’s most prominent supporters, having helped mobilize the firm during a 2011 trip to China.

Hundreds of activists showed up at a hearing about so-called “smart meters” held by the Texas Public Utility Commission this week, with most of them seeking a way to opt-out from receiving one of the controversial electricity meters that critics link to serious privacy and health concerns. A Republican member of the state legislature even promised that if the PUC refused to allow consumers a choice, he would introduce legislation to force its hand.

The federally backed meters have long been a source of controversy and criticism in Texas, which has rolled out millions of the devices in recent years and is reportedly almost 90 percent finished with its state-wide installation scheme. Hundreds of outraged citizens sent comments to authorities before the hearing demanding that their concerns be addressed. Most wanted the option to refuse a smart meter at the very least, with some seeking an “opt-in” system instead.