Energy in the News: Friday, March 10

Friday, March 10, 2017

What’s driving Exxon’s big Gulf Coast investments?

The Christian Science Monitor, feat. UMEI shale gas report and Barry Rabe

Exxon Mobil announced plans on Monday to invest $20 billion over the next decade in 11 petrochemical and oil refining plants in Texas and Louisiana, billing the investment as part of a Gulf-Coast manufacturing renaissance that would bring thousands of jobs to the region and fill state coffers with tax revenues.

"Exxon Mobil is building a manufacturing powerhouse along the U.S. Gulf Coast," said Exxon CEO Darren Woods, according to Reuters. "These businesses are leveraging the shale revolution to manufacture cleaner fuels and more energy-efficient plastics."

The White House’s reaction was jubilant, with President Trump issuing a string of Twitter posts that linked the announcement to his “Buy American” agenda.

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The Clean Power Plan is gone — and there's no 'replace'

E&E News

The White House intends to unravel the Clean Power Plan without providing a replacement, according to a source briefed on the issue.

An executive order expected to be released next week also instructs the Justice Department to effectively withdraw its legal defense of the climate rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The move aligns the White House with about two dozen Republican state attorneys general who are challenging the way the rule restricts greenhouse gas emissions at power plants.

The result, if successful, would mean the case is "frozen in place," the source said, preventing the D.C. Circuit, which has six judges appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans, from issuing an opinion this spring. Other legal experts say the case could continue if states or other groups go on defending the rule.

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Designing the fuel-efficient aircraft of the future

Texas Advanced Computing Center, feat. U-M Engineering

Today's aircraft use roughly 80 percent less fuel per passenger-mile than the first jets of the 1950s – a testimony to the tremendous impact of aerospace engineering on flight. This increased efficiency has extended global commerce to the point where it is now economically viable to ship everything from flowers to Florida manatees across the globe.

In spite of continuous improvements in fuel burning efficiency, global emissions are still expected to increase over next two decades due to a doubling in air traffic, so making even small improvements to aircrafts' fuel efficiency can have a large effect on economies and on the environment.

This potential for impact motivates Joaquim Martins — an aerospace engineer at the University of Michigan (UM) who leads the Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Laboratory — to develop tools that let engineers design more efficient aircraft.

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Scientists are trying to detect enriched uranium from miles away with friggin’ lasers

Motherboard, feat. U-M Engineering

According to new research published today in Scientific Reports, a team of nuclear engineers have used lasers to identify enriched uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, at a distance. This device could eventually be deployed in trucks or on drones to snoop out illegal nuclear activity and aid in non-proliferation efforts aimed at reducing the global nuclear arsenal.

Techniques for measuring chemicals at a distance are by no means new—it is one of the main techniques used by the Curiosity Mars Rover to sample the composition of the Red Planet's surface.

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Ky. utilities collaborate on battery research site

E&E EnergyWire

As the third-largest producer of coal in the country, Kentucky isn't exactly known for aggressively investing in renewable energy. A new collaboration between the state's utilities and a research institute could change that.

Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co., which serve 1.3 million customers in Kentucky and Virginia, have partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute to launch an energy storage research and demonstration site.

The site, which became operational in January, will allow the utilities to develop and evaluate utility-scale battery technologies, which are a crucial component of bringing more renewable energy to the electric grid. It will also help researchers advance control technologies, increase the value of energy storage and find solutions to integration challenges for energy storage on the grid.

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The Obama idea to save coal country

Politico

On February 2, in one of his first acts as Senate Majority Leader of the 115th Congress, Mitch McConnell ushered through the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule. The Obama-era regulation had taken eight years to write, emerging on the last day of the Obama administration, only to be snuffed out two weeks later. In the so-called War on Coal, this was the first time coal had punched back, drawing cheers from Washington to Appalachia.

“We cannot allow the legacy of the Obama administration to continue damaging our communities.” McConnell wrote in a self-congratulatory op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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Climate science cuts now coming to fruition

E&E ClimateWire

The expected rollback to federal climate science has begun.

In its preliminary budget proposal, the Trump administration has targeted environmental protections and climate change research. And while the cuts are essentially an opening salvo in what promises to be a fight with Congress once the budget requests formally arrive, they also demonstrate the level of hostility many scientists feared their work would face from the White House.

The administration is seeking a nearly 20 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget, including to its satellite division, The Washington Post reported. That includes significant cuts to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which has produced research that disproved the notion of a global warming pause.

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White House plans to 'close out' Energy Star, other programs

E&E News

A preliminary budget proposal from the White House would eliminate federal leadership of Energy Star, a popular voluntary program for companies to seek labels for energy-efficient consumer products and appliances.

A spending blueprint would slash Energy Star and related programs, leaving $5 million "for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs," noting that achieving that might require changes to authorizing legislation from Congress.

"EPA should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity," the draft reads, according to a source who has viewed the document.

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Judge denies tribe’s request to block Dakota Access pipeline

The Hill

A federal judge on Tuesday denied a Native American tribe’s request to block the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said the controversial oil pipeline project violates its religious freedom due to its placement under Lake Oahe. The tribe uses the lake for sacred ceremonies, and its lawyers argued that the mere presence of an oil pipeline under the lake desecrates the water and violates their religious freedom.

But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed that argument on Tuesday.

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Environmentalists to try to extend crisis at grid watchdog

Washington Examiner

Environmental groups are switching gears from opposing single pipeline projects, such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL, to opposing the agency that is charged with approving them.

A coalition of environmental groups will announce a nationwide campaign Wednesday to stop the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from gaining new members required for it to approve pipelines and other energy projects.

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