Energy in the News: Friday, July 28

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ethanol friends and foes spar in House hearing

E&E News, feat. John DeCicco

Advocates and critics of biofuels brought their disagreement over the alternative fuel to a congressional hearing yesterday, as Congress remains stuck over tinkering with federal ethanol mandates.

To ethanol skeptics, testimony from a researcher at the University of Michigan Energy Institute bolstered their view that biofuels have been a flop, while biofuel supporters may have found hope from a Department of Energy witness who predicted fossil fuels will fall out of favor in the decades ahead.

"Land is not renewable," said John DeCicco, whose studies at the University of Michigan have challenged the idea that biofuels are cleaner, more environmentally friendly or more sustainable than gasoline.

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For more on this topic:

Biofuel Research vs. Mandates: House Science Committee Hearing, Cars and Climate, feat. John DeCicco Read more

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX-36) Q&A Watch

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL-2) Q&A Watch

Episode 91: Heat or Eat

No Jargon podcast, feat. Tony Reames

Millions of Americans struggle to pay their utility bills, and some families are even forced to choose between groceries or energy bills. Professor Tony Reames lays out energy’s unequal burden on low-income Americans and suggests ways to move forward.

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Debunking Steve Milloy’s EPA conspiracy theory

Huffington Post, feat. Joe Arvai

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, Steve Milloy concocted a spectacular — and fictitious — tale of corruption within the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Milloy accused the EPA of stacking the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, or CASAC, with scientists that were friendly to the agency’s position on the health risks from small particulate matter so that it could implement a series of unnecessary and restrictive policies under the guise of protecting human health.

How did the EPA do this? Milloy argues that the agency conspired against the government and the American people by engaging in what could best be characterized as a years-long racketeering scheme.

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University of Michigan becomes country’s first campus to use self-driving shuttles

WBUR, feat. Huei Peng

This fall students at the University of Michigan will have a new way of getting around campus. Two self-driving shuttles will cover a nearly two-mile route — a first on any campus around the country.

The project is a partnership with Mcity, a 32-acre testing facility on the campus where tech startups and automakers research self-driving vehicles. Mcity Director Huei Peng joins Here & Now's Robin Young to talk about the shuttle project.

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After 20 years, Minn. regulators update carbon pollution values

E&E EnergyWire

For the first time in two decades, Minnesota regulators updated values for damage caused by power plant greenhouse gas emissions for use in utility planning decisions.

Minnesota is the only state that factors in damage associated with carbon dioxide emissions in utility planning. But values used haven't been refreshed except for inflation since the Public Utilities Commission initially adopted them in 1997.

Yesterday's commission vote sharply increases cost values for power plant CO2 emissions from a current range of 44 cents to $4.64 per metric ton to $9.05 to $43.06 a metric ton in 2020. The range is close to what was proposed by Xcel Energy Inc., Minnesota's largest utility.

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Madison navigates partnership with utility as it pursues 100 percent clean energy goal

Midwest Energy News

On March 21, Madison’s city council signed a resolution committing the city to power 100 percent of its operations with clean energy.

The resolution was especially notable since the utility serving Madison gets almost half of its power from coal, and several years ago was among Wisconsin utilities making national headlines for policies seen as hostile to distributed solar energy.

But now the utility, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), city officials and clean energy leaders are negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding that lays out plans for the expansion of solar, the spread of electric vehicles and other clean energy improvements. And the utility has pledged its support for the city’s clean energy goal.

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Tariffs on solar panels could slow industry growth by 66%

Bloomberg

A trade complaint asking the Trump administration to impose tariffs on solar panels could devastate the U.S. industry, wiping out two-thirds of solar systems forecast to be installed over the next five years, according to a report Monday by GTM Research.

The case, filed by bankrupt panel manufacturer Suniva Inc., would cause equipment prices to spike in the U.S. and prompt installations to fall to as low as 25 gigawatts from 2018 to 2022, down from GTM’s current forecast of 72.5 gigawatts, GTM said. The report is the first on how tariffs may affect the industry.

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A carbon-free city is rising from scratch. Will it work?

E&E ClimateWire

Can a city built from scratch be profitable to developers and enjoyable to residents as it tries to be carbon-free?

That is the question facing owners and planners of a mostly vacant, sunburned 400-acre plot of land near this city's sprawling International Airport as they plan an energy system with vast differences from the typical suburban subdivision.

The city, called Peña Station Next, is located at the last stop of Denver's newly completed rail line to its airport. It's named after Federico Peña, a former mayor and lawyer whose adroit political maneuvering helped to site both the airport and the rail line at their present location over 30 years ago.

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Shell sees oil demand peaking by late 2020s as electric car sales grow

Reuters

The world's oil consumption could peak as early as the end of the next decade as electric vehicles become more popular, Royal Dutch Shell RDS.A Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said on Thursday.

The prospect of a decline in oil consumption after more than a century of growth as the world switches to burning cleaner fuels is gathering pace. On Wednesday Britain announced plans to ban diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040, following a similar move by France.

"I think they are very welcome announcements, they are also very needed announcements," van Beurden told reporters after Europe's biggest oil company reported a sharp rise in quarterly profits.

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Google enters race for nuclear fusion technology

The Guardian

Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology.

Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500m (£383m) in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems.

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