Energy in the News: Friday, April 21

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why drivers own light trucks over cars

University of Michigan News, feat. Michael Sivak

A new national survey from the University of Michigan explores why consumers choose to drive SUVs, pick-ups, vans and minivans over cars, even though these so-called "light trucks" generally demonstrate lower fuel economy than passenger cars.

The U-M researchers say the increasing presence of light trucks on the nation's roads is holding back fuel economy gains for light-duty vehicles, a category that encompasses passenger cars and the larger light trucks that many consumers drive on a daily basis. Fleet fuel economy for this category has increased very little in recent decades, from 19.6 miles per gallon in 1991 to 22.0 mpg in 2015.

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The other poison gas killing Syrians: Carbon dioxide emissions

The Nation, feat. Juan Cole

The gas attack in Syria on April 4 consumed the world’s attention and galvanized the Trump White House, leading to the launch of 59 cruise missiles on a small airport from which the regime of Bashar al-Assad has been bombing the fundamentalist rebels in Idlib province. The pictures of suffering children, Trump said, had touched him. Yet the president and most of his party are committed to increasing the daily release of hundreds of thousands of tons of a far more deadly gas—carbon dioxide. Climate scientist James Hansen has described our current emissions as like setting off 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs each day, every day of the year.

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Americans are ready to try flying cars

MLive, feat. Michael Sivak

What's the future of automobiles?

That's a big question for the  mobility industry, as the nation looks to increase the use and accessibility of plug-in electric cars, connected autos and autonomous vehicles.

While all of those may seem distant to the average American, University of Michigan researchers seeking viewpoints just leapfrogged to the next stages of transportation beyond automation: Flying cars.

Turns out, once we think about it, many of us see some appeal to that "Jetsons" style of getting around.

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2017’s greenest states

WalletHub, feat. Kaitlin Raimi

Eco-friendliness and personal finance are essentially cousins. Not only are our environmental and financial necessities aligned — providing ourselves with sustainable, clean drinking water and nutritious sustenance, for example — but we also spend money on both the household and government levels in support of environmental security.

Then there’s climate change. We’ve already seen a rise in powerful land-bearing storm systems and extreme droughts. But that’s just the beginning, as storm surges and other bad weather are expected to cause more than $500 billion in property damage by the year 2100. Climate change will also have a direct impact on our military industrial complex, as nearly all of our East Coast air and naval installations are vulnerable to sea-level rise.

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From Alaska to Georgia: Why 6 scientists will march on Washington

The Chronicle of Higher Education, feat. Brad Cardinale

Thousands of scientists and their supporters are preparing to participate in the March for Science on Saturday, but the run-up to the event hasn’t been without controversy. Some scientists have charged that planning for the march contradicted larger goals of diversity, while other scientists have worried that the effort might appear partisan to the public, and thereby hurt the standing of scholars in the field.

Despite the controversy, the scientists who plan to attend the main march, in Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of smaller ones elsewhere, say they’re doing so with a primary goal in mind: to send the message that science matters.

The Chronicle spoke to six scientists who will be traveling to the nation’s capital about their hopes and expectations for the day.

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Issues of the environment: DTE Energy and Michigan’s energy future

WEMU

Coal remains an important component of Michigan’s energy mix.  That is changing and, in the foreseeable future, the use of coal is likely to become obsolete.  In this week’s "Issues of the Environment," WEMU’s David Fair explores the energy future in a two-part conversation with DTE Energy chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson.

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How Wall Street once killed the US solar industry

The Atlantic

Why is the American solar-power industry so small?

It’s less obvious than it may seem. The global industry is a $65-billion business, and the United States has been involved in it from the beginning. NASA first improved and perfected panels for early satellite and Apollo missions. American firms have been manufacturing and selling solar panels for 40 years.

Yet North American firms produce only about 3 percent of the world’s solar panels. China and Taiwan, meanwhile, make more than 60 percent of them.

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As industry struggles, oil and gas oversight costs shift to Michigan taxpayers

Midwest Energy News

Michigan officials are considering the need for a longer-term funding solution for the state’s oil and gas regulatory program as the recent drop in oil and gas prices have increasingly shifted oversight costs from the industry onto taxpayers.

Historically, the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Oil and Gas Program — which inspects oil and gas wells, reviews permit applications and monitors production — has been funded mostly by a “surveillance fee” on oil and gas companies, capped at 1 percent of the value of gross production.

When prices were higher, the program was able to fund itself while maintaining a targeted year-end fund balance of about $7 million.

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Automakers announce clean cars for Chinese market

E&E ClimateWire

General Motors Co. will be producing a new gasoline-electric hybrid in China, the automaker announced yesterday.

The Velite 5, priced at $38,600, is a hybrid version of the Chevrolet Volt to be sold by the company's Buick unit as part of a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. The vehicle can drive 72 miles on a single charge, with an additional 480 miles with a full tank of gasoline, making it the most energy-efficient hybrid in the Chinese market.

"Buick is committed to expanding its portfolio of new energy vehicles. It will introduce additional new energy vehicles in China in the next two years, including hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles," GM said in a statement.

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Red states among renewable energy leaders

E&E ClimateWire

Wyoming might be in coal country, but it's also leading the country in renewable energy capacity, a new report finds.

Wyoming's expanding wind sector has placed it at the top of a ranking of states' clean energy development by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report found that renewable sources account for all of the new power plant capacity added to the state between 2016 and 2019. Wyoming also leads in terms of renewable energy development per capita.

"If you look at Wyoming, you might think about coal. But it tops all our metrics that look at new capacity, what's being built in each state in the near future and the percentage of renewable energy in what they're building overall," said John Rogers, energy analyst with UCS and the lead author of the report.

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Driverless cars could either be 'scary' or great for the environment

PRI

What will self-driving cars mean for the environment?

Backers of the technology argue that autonomous vehicles will drive more efficiently than humans do — no more slamming on breaks or gunning it at yellow lights — so they’ll save gas and reduce pollution.

But early research reveals a wide range of emissions possibilities for driverless cars.  

A 2016 report found that automated vehicles could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by 200 percent.

“We are on a path to refine those numbers, as are other researchers, because it was quite a startling future,” says Ann Schlenker at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, one of the Department of Energy-affiliated labs that authored the report.

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EIA expects natural gas to be largest source of U.S. electricity generation this summer

U.S. Energy Information Administration

EIA’s April 2017 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) expects that electricity generation fueled by natural gas this summer (June, July, and August) will be lower than last summer, but it will continue to exceed that of any other fuel, including coal-fired generation, for the third summer in a row. The projected share of total U.S. generation for natural gas is expected to average 34%, which is down from 37% last summer but still exceeds coal’s generation share of 32%.

Based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), EIA estimates that average U.S. population-weighted cooling degree days in the summer of 2016 reached the highest level on record. NOAA projections for this summer indicate cooling degree days will be 11% lower than last year. These milder expected temperatures lead to forecast U.S. summer electricity generation of 1.16 billion megawatthours, which would be 2.4% lower than generation last summer.

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California utility launches first hybrid power systems

Associated Press

A California utility has launched unique systems combining a hybrid battery and gas turbine to produce and store electricity for use during hot summer months and other times when power demand soars.

The new Hybrid Electric Gas Turbines are the first of their kind in the world, officials with Southern California Edison and manufacturer General Electric said during an event Monday near Los Angeles.

The new systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 60 percent and save millions of gallons of cooling water annually, Edison said.

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EPA seeks delay over rule curbing coal plants’ toxic pollution

The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday asked a federal court to delay an oral argument in a challenge involving a 2012 regulation limiting the amount of mercury, lead and other airborne toxins emitted from power plants.

While the power sector has largely already complied with the rule, several companies and 15 states — including Oklahoma, which was represented by current EPA head Scott Pruitt when he was the state’s attorney general — are seeking to overturn it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was set to hear the case on May 18.

Under President Trump, the EPA has asked judges to stay multiple rules adopted under the Obama administration that target power plants, including ones regulating carbon emissions and the release of toxic metals in plants’ wastewater, as well as one limiting ozone emissions generated by fossil-fuel burning.

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