Energy in the News: Friday, January 13

Friday, January 13, 2017

Trump nominees should answer these climate questions

Climate Central, feat. Mark Barteau

Tuesday marked the start of confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees. The grueling sessions allow senators from both parties to probe nominees’ backgrounds, question their views and priorities for the agencies they’ll be tasked with running, and weigh their expertise.

One potential flashpoint for a number of nominees is climate change and clean energy. Many of Trump’s nominees — and Trump himself — have widely expressed climate science denialism and questioned the value of clean energy.

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Species diversity reduces chances of crop failure in algal biofuel systems

University of Michigan News, feat. Brad Cardinale

When growing algae in outdoor ponds as a next-generation biofuel, a naturally diverse mix of species will help reduce the chance of crop failure, according to a federally funded study by University of Michigan researchers.

Algae-derived biocrude oil is being studied as a potential renewable-energy alternative to fossil fuels. U-M ecologist Bradley Cardinale and his colleagues found that growing multiple algal species in 180 aquarium-like tanks helped stabilize biocrude production and made the system more reliable and efficient.

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Where Trump's Secretary of State falls on climate change

Marketplace, feat. Barry Rabe

Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson only divested from his company last week. The prospect of an oil executive leading international diplomatic ties has caused a lot of concern for those worried about climate change, a major international issue. It's still unclear what impact his appointment would have on policies.

Much of that stems from the lingering uncertainties over what the Trump Administration’s policies will be, said Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners.

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Motions of grass blowing to produce energy

KBFX-TV, feat. U-M College of Engineering

If you look at nature, it’s always moving. When the wind blows, it’s moving. When the water is flowing, it’s moving.Things are in motion and that is, essentially, free energy for us. We just need a way of capturing it.

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Scientists have a new way to calculate what global warming costs. Trump’s team isn’t going to like it.

The Washington Post

How we view the costs of future climate change, and more importantly how we quantify them, may soon be changing. A much-anticipated new report, just released by the National Academy of Sciences, recommends major updates to a federal metric known as the “social cost of carbon” —  and its suggestions could help address a growing scientific concern that we’re underestimating the damages global warming will cause.

The social cost of carbon is an Obama-era metric first addressed by a federal working group in 2009. The basic premise is simple: Scientists agree that climate change will have all kinds of impacts on human societies, including natural disasters and effects on human health, productivity and agricultural output, all of which have economic consequences.

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Court rules for EPA in fight over Mich. power plant upgrades

E&E News

A federal appellate court sided yesterday with U.S. EPA for the second time in the agency's long-running fight over whether upgrades to a large Michigan coal-fired power plant counted as a "major modification" that should have triggered additional regulations.

In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a lower court's summary judgment in favor of DTE Energy Co.

The ruling is the latest chapter in the 2010 lawsuit brought by EPA after DTE claimed an overhaul of a generating unit of its 3,300-megawatt Monroe power plant was routine maintenance that didn't need a preconstruction permit under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) program.

DTE had also argued that the replacement of boiler parts wouldn't increase emissions enough to require new pollution controls.

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Business leaders unite against line under Lake Michigan

E&E News

A group of 10 Michigan business leaders are asking Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to support the decommissioning of an oil pipeline under the Great Lakes.

State officials have commissioned two studies on the risks posed by Line 5, a pipeline owned by Canadian energy giant Enbridge Inc. that spans the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The studies will also look for alternatives that could replace the line.

Formed this week, the Great Lakes Business Network is asking Snyder to support removing the pipeline, which was built in 1953 and carries about 540,000 barrels a day between Sarnia, Ontario, and Superior, Wis.

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Mich.'s reactor shutdown not sounding climate alarms

E&E News

Threats to close nuclear plants in Illinois and New York triggered hundreds of millions of dollars in annual subsidies to keep the plants open in a last-gasp reprieve to save the jobs, taxes and carbon-free energy they produce.

In Michigan, the likely loss of hundreds of jobs and taxes from the early closure of Entergy Corp.'s 810-megawatt Palisades nuclear plant in the fall of 2018 is likewise causing hand-wringing about the economic consequences.

But the impact on greenhouse gas emissions? Not so much.

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U.S. receives first plans for small nuclear reactors

E&E News

A small Oregon company asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday to push the nuclear power industry past a "significant milestone" for clean energy.

The Portland-based company NuScale Power LLC is asking regulators to certify its design for a small, water-cooled nuclear reactor that it says is designed to remove major safety problems and replace retiring coal-fired power plants in populated areas.

After filing 12,000 pages of technical information with the NRC, NuScale asserted in a statement that its reactor could "create thousands of jobs" in the United States because it's small enough to be built in a factory before being shipped to construction sites worldwide.

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Carbon capture takes 'huge step' with first U.S. plant

E&E EnergyWire

President-elect Donald Trump said during his campaign "there is a thing called clean coal." In the United States, he just got exhibit A.

Today, NRG Energy Inc. announced that its Petra Nova project, the world's largest retrofit of a coal plant with carbon capture technology, is operational southwest of Houston.

Petra Nova is the first demonstration of capturing CO2 at scale from coal generation in the United States, and is double the size of the only other global project to do so — SaskPower's Boundary Dam in Canada. Carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, envisions capturing and storing carbon emissions from a variety of emitters, from power plants to chemical factories.

CCS "not only can be done, but if we're successful in operating this thing over the next couple years, maybe it should be done," said David Greeson, vice president of development at NRG Energy.

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Cities unite to seek 'record breaking' electric fleet

E&E ClimateWire

Four of the largest West Coast cities are asking automakers whether they can produce "a potentially record-breaking order" of 24,000 electric vehicles.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore., joined in a request for information (RFI) from automakers. The cities described it as the first step in a formal bidding process. It asks automakers to detail what cars they can provide, over what time and at what price point.

The cities said the inquiry is the first of its kind in uniting municipalities from different states. The goal, they said, was to show the purchasing power of local governments in the EV market. The cities said they are aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, improve air quality, and reduce fuel and maintenance costs by an average 37 percent.

"Every community has the power to fight climate change, and we do not need to wait for any one person or government to show us the way," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "By acting together as cities, we can set an example for our neighbors, spur clean energy innovation, clean our air, and accelerate the inevitable transition to a low-carbon, opportunity-rich future for everyone."

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Tesla will power its Gigafactory with a 70-megawatt solar farm

The Verge

Tesla plans to power its Gigafactory in Nevada with a 70-megawatt solar farm, according to a company investor relations document obtained by Electrek. The document, which The Verge confirmed was genuine, was given to analysts at a tour of the Gigafactory last week. At the same time, Tesla announced that it had started production of battery cells at the facility.

The 70-megawatt solar array installation planned for the roof is the biggest news, and Tesla claims it will be seven times larger than the world’s next biggest rooftop solar installation. The plan is for the Gigafactory to not directly consume any fossil fuels, and for the solar installation to provide most of the power needed by the facility.

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