Energy in the News: Friday, March 3

Friday, March 03, 2017

Out-of-this-world research in new ACS journal

American Chemical Society, feat. Joel Blum

Coming soon from ACS Publications, the new, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal ACS Earth and Space Chemistry aims to unite the diverse and global community of scientists who explore the complex chemical nature of materials and processes that occur on Earth, within our solar system, and in the universe beyond. The journal will encompass high-impact basic and applied research in the fields of geochemistry, atmospheric and marine chemistry, astrochemistry, and analytical geochemistry. Joel D. Blum, Ph.D., the J. D. MacArthur Professor, A. F. Thurnau Professor, and G. J. Keeler Distinguished University Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan, is the journal's inaugural Editor-in-Chief.

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Gas mileage up a gallon since early '90s

University of Michigan News, feat. Michael Sivak

Despite advancements in fuel-saving technologies over the last 25 years, on-road fuel economy for all vehicles is up only one mile per gallon during that time.

In an update to research conducted two years ago, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute say that actual, on-road fuel economy for the entire fleet of vehicles (including cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles) has improved from 16.9 mpg in 1991 to 17.9 mpg in 2015.

"One fundamental problem with improving the average fuel economy of the on-road fleet is that improvements in fuel economy for new vehicles take a long time to substantially influence fuel economy of the entire on-road fleet," said Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI. "This is the case because it takes many years to turn over the fleet."

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Senate votes to confirm former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary

The Washington Post

The Senate voted 62 to 37 Thursday afternoon to confirm former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary, brushing aside Perry’s onetime vow to abolish the department.

The genial Republican drew less fire from Democrats during his confirmation process than other Trump nominees, but Perry now faces many of the same tough issues over regulations, the department’s activities to slow climate change and potentially deep cuts in manpower and spending.

As Texas governor, Perry presided over a boom in all kinds of energy production, including wind power and shale drilling. Many of his supporters cited that record as evidence that he could help a similarly wide variety of energy interests.

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ARPA-E 2017: Optimism turns to tension as sector prepares to protect energy R&D funding

Utility Dive

Research funding for emerging energy projects could be on the chopping block if President Trump follows through on a proposed budget gutting spending from federal agencies.

At stake is funding for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy, more commonly known as ARPA-E. Created in 2007 as a technology incubator under the purview of the Department of Energy, ARPA-E’s mission is to drive innovation in energy technologies too risky or innovative for the private sector.

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FERC sidelined while energy subsidy debate rages

Washington Examiner

The nation's grid watchdog has been out of service for nearly a month because of political wrangling in Washington, and already the ripple effects are forcing a faceoff among states, the utility industry and fossil fuel companies over nuclear subsidies.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which regulates the nation's wholesale energy markets, wants to address the subsidy fight. But because it lacks a quorum, until President Trump nominates new commissioners, it is not allowed to do much more than listen to those embroiled in it.

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Coal industry casts itself as a clean energy player

The New York Times

President Trump has questioned the science behind climate change as “a hoax” in positioning himself as a champion of coal. The three largest American coal producers are taking a different tack.

Seeking to shore up their struggling industry, the coal producers are voicing greater concern about greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to frame a new image for coal as a contributor, not an obstacle, to a clean-energy future — an image intended to foster their legislative agenda.

Executives of the three companies — Cloud Peak Energy, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal — are going so far as to make common cause with some of their harshest critics, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. Together, they are lobbying for a tax bill to expand government subsidies to reduce the environmental impact of coal burning.

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Solar squabble shows how a Trump trade war with China could backfire

Bloomberg Markets

For a cautionary tale on how a trade war with China could backfire against the U.S. under President Donald Trump, talk to REC Silicon ASA Chief Executive Officer Tore Torvund.

After the U.S. slapped duties on Chinese solar panel exports in 2011, China shot back about a year later with measures against the American polysilicon exports used to make those units. Along with other producers in the U.S., REC Silicon, a Norwegian company which produces the material at factories in Moses Lake, Washington and Butte, Montana, was clobbered.

The company’s U.S. workforce shrank by about 350 workers over the past three years as orders plunged, Torvund said in an interview in Beijing. The fix: opening a $1 billion joint venture factory in the central Chinese city of Yulin that’ll employ up to 650 workers.

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A carbon tax can help keep nuclear energy in the picture

The Hill

For years, economists, politicians and pundits have been debating the pros and cons of using a “carbon tax” to combat climate change.  In its simplest form, the tax would be a per-ton levy on carbon dioxide emissions from electric power stations and industrial boilers that are fueled by coal, oil or natural gas.

Those in favor argue that by adopting such a tax we could rid ourselves of dozens of burdensome regulations and mandates that inhibit investment and economic growth. Unlike the distorting effects of regulation, a tax on emissions would give companies flexibility to come up with their own cost-effective strategies for reducing CO2.

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