Energy in the News: Friday, August 11
Gas mileage hits best mark in three years
University of Michigan News, feat. Michael Sivak
Fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. last month reached its highest level since August 2014, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The average fuel economy (window-sticker value) in July was 25.4 mpg—up 0.3 mpg from June and just 0.1 mpg less than the peak of 25.5 mpg three years ago.
"This increase likely reflects the decreased proportion of light trucks in the sales mix in July compared to June," said Michael Sivak, research professor at UMTRI.
Overall, fuel economy is up by 5.3 mpg since October 2007—the first full month of monitoring by Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.
Cities need more than air conditioning to get through heat waves
The Conversation, feat. U-M Energy Institute
In May of this year, a hot spell broiled Boston. In June, extreme temperatures grounded Phoenix’s planes. Last week, Seattle suffered under record temperatures.
When a heat wave is forecast, the standard advice is to drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks and wear sunscreen. But for extreme heat events, those steps may not be enough.
Over 30 percent of all weather-related deaths in the United States are attributable to high outdoor temperatures, heat stroke or sunstroke. And heat waves are expected to increase in intensity with climate change.
New tax could help Ann Arbor go solar, switch to electric vehicles
A new countywide tax could help make Ann Arbor greener, including switching to electric vehicles for city employees and adding solar panels atop city buildings.
It also could fund other environmental initiatives, make pedestrian routes safer for children walking to and from schools, and help ensure affordable workforce housing is included in new developments.
Those are some of the many initiatives mentioned in a new memo from City Administrator Howard Lazarus, outlining how the city could use a partial rebate from a proposed countywide tax.
Energy chair rips regulators in electric choice fight
The Detroit News
The chairman of the Michigan House Energy Policy committee is threatening to sue state regulators if they move forward with rules he says would threaten the state’s 10 percent electric choice market.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Larkin Township, argues new rules proposed by Public Service Commission staff may violate state and federal energy laws while driving up electricity costs for schools and large employers in the choice program that buy power from alternative energy suppliers instead of incumbent utilities.
The Public Service Commission is expected to finalize a “capacity demonstration” order under a new state energy law by Sept. 28. Staff recommendations include new “locational requirements” for utilities and alternative suppliers to prove they can supply their customers with energy generated in Michigan.
Trade dispute causing uncertainty for national, statewide solar industry
The call for new tariffs on imported solar panels has the potential to upend the solar energy industry nationwide.
In late April, Georgia-based Suniva Inc. — which closed a panel manufacturing plant in Saginaw in March amid filing for bankruptcy protection —filed a petition with the International Trade Commission claiming that cheap solar panels made in China and elsewhere were negatively affecting U.S. manufacturers. The move came shortly after Michigan’s solar energy industry felt some relief from new state energy laws passed in December.
Suniva, which was joined by the U.S. division of SolarWorld AG in filing the petition, has said that since the U.S. enacted anti-dumping and countervailing duties in 2013, “additional new global overcapacity has continued to drive U.S. market prices to levels that challenge responsible economic operations for U.S. manufacturers.”
DNR: Line 5 study lacks environmental impact details
The Detroit News
A company hired to look into alternatives and risks associated with running the Enbridge Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac left out key environmental information, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
In a comment submitted to the Pipeline Safety Advisory board this week, the DNR contends that the report’s author, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., should have included more “comprehensive information on effects to the environment.”
“Overall – The discussions and inclusion of readily available environmental information is very limited,” the comment said. “There is limited to no discussion on effects to rare species, including state of federal listed threatened or endangered species. There is also limited to no information on the potential environmental effects associated with each alternative.”
Expanding electric vehicles in Michigan would generate billions in savings
A new report released today by M.J. Bradley & Associates, and commissioned by Charge Up Midwest, found expanding electric vehicles could save Michigan families, drivers and electricity customers billions of dollars over the next three decades. The report also found there is significant potential for growth for electric vehicles in Michigan.
“Our study estimated the costs and benefits of increases in plug-in electric vehicles in the state of Michigan and found significant potential for electric vehicle growth and subsequent savings for residents,” said Brian Jones, senior vice president of M.J. Bradley & Associates. “Our highest projections are very attainable if the utilities, regulators and the private sector aggressively pursue electric vehicle adoption in Michigan.”
GM is selling a $5,000 electric car in China
General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car in China this week that will cost about $5,300 after national and local electric vehicle incentives, according to GM.
For that sort of price, the Baojun E100 is no Cadillac, of course. The two-seat car's wheelbase -- the distance from the center of the front wheels to the center of the rear wheels -- is just 63 inches. That's about 10 inches shorter than Daimler's (DDAIF) Smart ForTwo, a car that is already remarkable for its stubby proportions.
Prices for the car start at RMB 93,900, or about $14,000, before incentives.
The E100, which is Baojun's first electric car, is powered by a single 39-horsepower electric motor and has a top speed of 62 miles an hour. The E100 can drive about 96 miles on a fully charged battery, according to GM (GM).
Millennials think their cash can affect climate change
Millennials are driving a U.S. surge in sustainable investment.
That generation — defined as people between 18 and 35 years old — is twice as likely as other age groups to "invest in companies or funds that target social or environmental outcomes," according to a new survey from Morgan Stanley.
Overall, the amount of money invested in the United States using sustainable techniques grew to more than $8.7 trillion last year from about $6.5 trillion in 2014, the bank said.
"Millennial investors continue to lead the charge," according to Morgan Stanley.
The poll found 75 percent of millennials "believe that their own investment decisions can influence climate change." Eighty-six percent are interested in sustainable investing, compared with 75 percent of other investors.