The energy scene is usually regarded as too complicated for everyday discussion — best left to technicians, scientists, government officials and giant corporations as long as the lights stay on, machinery turns, cars and buses roll and the thousand and one needs of a largely electric world are satisfied.

Yet beneath the surface lurk dark forces that can topple governments, destroy nations, trigger massive violence, start wars, promote disasters and inflict unimaginable suffering.

The energy year just ending had all these features.