Energy in the News: Friday, October 6
Why the world would keep warming even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases
Michigan Radio, feat. Richard Rood
A recent article in The Conversation asks this question: “If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?”
The article’s author Richard Rood, a climate change scientist with the University of Michigan, brought Stateside the answer today.
He said there’s already a lot of “thermal inertia” in Earth’s system. The oceans especially have already amassed a substantial quantity of heat. He said that means Earth would keep warming even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases now.
“I compare it a little bit to like a big roast that you’re cooking in the oven,” Rood said. “If you take it out, the center of that roast will continue to get warm.”
Can Hollywood movies about climate change make a difference?
The New York Times, feat. Andrew Hoffman
And when climate change is depicted on screen, it’s often in an onslaught of fire and brimstone, an apocalyptic vision that hardly leaves room for a hopeful human response.
That, climate researchers and social scientists say, is exactly the wrong message to give.
“Typically, if you really want to mobilize people to act, you don’t scare the hell out of them and convince them that the situation is hopeless,” said Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan who is the author of “How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.”
But that is just the kind of high-stakes film that Hollywood loves to produce — like “The Day After Tomorrow,” which depicted New York City as a frozen dystopian landscape. Or “Geostorm,” due Oct. 20, in which the climate goes apocalyptically haywire, thanks to satellites that malfunction.
Western states to roll out EV highway initiative
UPI, feat. Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle
A handful of governors from western U.S. states roll out plans Wednesday to expand access for electric vehicles along their highways, Colorado's governor said.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will host governors from western states to unveil plans his office said would add a layer of confidence for those traveling across the region in alternative vehicles.
"This bipartisan, collaborative project involves six additional governors and will affect more than 5,000 miles of highway," his office said in an emailed statement.
Elon Musk thinks he has the answer to Puerto Rico's blackout. Here's how it could play out.
Mic, feat. Suljo Linic
More than two weeks ago, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, rendering about 95% of the nation’s power grid unusable. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is saying that his solar panels could help bring electricity back to the island.
It’s a conceivable proposition, some experts say, but critical details might be missing — like how quickly these solar energy systems can be put up, or who’s going to foot the bill for a project that would need to provide electricity to 3.4 million Puerto Ricans.
“This idea strikes me as too optimistic, potentially very costly and reactionary,” Suljo Linic, director of the University of Michigan’s Energy Systems Engineering program, wrote in an email to Mic. “Time, cost, land required, grid complexity and [energy] storage cost and capacity … are critical issues that would need to be worked out.”
Undermining the rule of law at the E.P.A.
The New York Times, feat. David Uhlmann
In the more than seven months since he became administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has been on a reckless mission to dismantle public health safeguards and environmental protections. Mr. Pruitt’s E.P.A. wants to postpone or roll back dozens of rules that save lives and provide clean air and water, including efforts by the Obama administration to combat climate change and to protect rivers and streams from pollution.
Last week brought more bad news: Mr. Pruitt is proposing to end a decades-long agreement with the Justice Department that funds the E.P.A.’s lawsuits against polluters responsible for creating hazardous waste sites. Neither Congress nor the courts will have the final say. The decision rests with the Trump administration.
Palisades Power Plant will not close early after all
The Palisades nuclear power plant will stay open until 2022 after all.
Late last year Entergy, the company that owns the plant, announced that Palisades would shut down early, in the fall of 2018.
Palisades spokesman Val Gent says they told employees Thursday morning, when executives unfurled a big banner that read “2022.”
“Everyone clapped. So you know, I can’t speak for all employees, but the ones I spoke to are very pleased with the decision to continue to operate until 2022,” she said.
GM promises more electric vehicles, paid for by SUVs
Detroit automaker General Motors Co (GM.N) outlined plans on Monday to add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023, financed by robust profits from sales of gasoline-fueled trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States and China.
“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” GM global product development chief Mark Reuss said during a briefing at the company’s suburban Detroit technical center.
Future generations of GM electric vehicles “will be profitable,” Reuss said, but added it was not clear when GM could make all its new vehicle offerings zero-emission electric cars.
Electric car owners in the UK can drive for FREE by letting energy firms use their vehicle's battery
Electric cars are already cheap to run and that price could soon drop even further under a new UK 'vehicle to grid' scheme.
Energy supplier Ovo will pay drivers of Nissan's Leaf for use of the car's battery from next year.
For many users, the money could be enough to cover the £400 ($530) estimated annual cost of charging the vehicle.
Customers who take up the scheme, available from January 2018, will need a special charger installed in their homes.
EVs can be good for the grid if states act fast — report
Cities and states should start developing an electric vehicle charging network or risk higher costs and power grid inefficiencies in the future, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Based on a review of 150 recent studies, authors Garrett Fitzgerald and Chris Nelder said public benefits from shifting to EVs outweigh the costs. But an expanding market for EVs poses the same challenge to electricity infrastructure today as air conditioners did last century, as Americans everywhere started cooling their homes.
"With careful planning and early intervention, the electric vehicle revolution can help optimize the grid and reduce the unit cost of electricity, while increasing the share of renewable electricity and reducing emissions in both the electricity and transportation sectors," the authors wrote.
Ohio environmentalists, neighbors divided over wind turbines
The Houston Chronicle
From the ground, the narrow aluminum ladder might as well extend to infinity. Actual height: 290 feet.
A videographer straps on a protective harness, hard hat and safety glasses, joined by two employees of the farm's operator, EDP Renewables. They are about to climb inside one of 55 wind turbines at Timber Road II wind farm in Paulding County.
The first steps are easy, even with 10 pounds of cameras and other gear.
Just resist the urge to look up — or down.
"The first thing that really hits you (is) the size in general, the gravity of just how much machinery goes into putting these things together," said Jeremy Chenoweth, an EDP operations manager whose territory includes all of Ohio, and who made the climb.
Minnesota gardens grow solar energy
Solar power is taking off in a big way in Minnesota, a state known more for deep snow and icy winds than sunny skies, and it’s being fueled by local co-op projects, a method known more for producing community gardens than electricity.
The co-ops — actually called community solar gardens in the Twin Cities area — have sparked astounding growth in solar power generation in the North Star State. In 2016, co-ops provided 38 megawatts of power, or about 15 percent of the 246 MW of solar energy produced in the state; this year solar co-ops are expected to generate a little over 400 MW, or more than half of Minnesota’s total solar energy supply of 800 MW.
It’s a concept that is spreading across the country as well: 15 other states, including California, Colorado and New York, now have laws like Minnesota’s that allow households to share the cost of solar panels by buying subscriptions to electricity generated from a community project.
Time to shine: Solar power is fastest-growing source of new energy
Solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide last year, outstripping the growth in all other forms of power generation for the first time and leading experts to hail a “new era”.
Renewable energy accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the world’s grids in 2016, the International Energy Agency said, but the group found solar was the technology that shone brightest.
New solar capacity even overtook the net growth in coal, previously the biggest new source of power generation. The shift was driven by falling prices and government policies, particularly in China, which accounted for almost half the solar panels installed.
Saudi Arabia Gets Cheapest Bids for Solar Power in Auction
Saudi Arabia received offers to supply solar electricity for the cheapest prices ever recorded, marking the start of a $50 billion program to diversify the oil producer’s domestic energy supplies away from fossil fuels.
The energy ministry said Abu Dhabi’s Masdar and Electricite de France SA bid to supply power from a 300-megawatt photovoltaic plant for as little as 6.69736 halalas a kilowatt hour, or 1.79 cents, according to a webcast of the bid-opening ceremony on Tuesday in Riyadh. If awarded, that would beat the previous record for a solar project in Abu Dhabi for 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour.
Will anyone buy this huge coal plant? Trump hopes so
Peabody Energy said today it has found a number of potential buyers interested in operating the Navajo Generating Station, keeping alive hopes that the massive Arizona coal plant will continue running beyond its planned 2019 closing date. The St. Louis-based mining firm did not disclose the list of buyers or the number of parties interested in operating NGS, as the facility is often called.
But in a sign of the simmering tensions surrounding one of the West's largest coal facilities, the plant's operator said it will continue planning for its closure even as it provides information to prospective buyers.
The Trump administration has staked much on the plant's future, with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke labeling its continued operation a "top priority" (Climatewire, June 28). Washington's efforts have been cheered on by the Navajo and Hopi tribes, whose economies are intertwined with the plant, and Peabody Energy Corp., which operates a mine that serves the facility.
Hauling oil by rail's not dead yet
Shipping crude by rail may be down, but it's not out.
Lower oil prices and new pipelines have oil producers turning away from the pricier option of delivering their crude by railroad. But a new energy economics study finds that oil by rail remains resilient and is likely a new permanent feature of the North American petroleum economy.
A team at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that key pipeline projects would have been even larger were it not for the lingering competition posed by railroads. The research findings were published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.