Energy in the News: Friday, October 13

Friday, October 13, 2017

End of Clean Power Plan unlikely to change energy direction in Michigan

Crain’s Detroit Business, feat. Steve Skerlos

Michigan's top energy officials say the Trump administration's move to rescind the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan will have a negligible impact on the state's plans to produce cleaner energy that will reduce pollution by using renewable energy and natural gas to generate electricity.

The bottom line: The state's utilities and regulations already favor gas and renewables over coal, and this move isn't going to do much to change that.

Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA would seek to end the plan, which was intended to improve the environment and minimize climate change by reducing carbon emissions by 32 percent over 15 years.

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Soil holds potential to slow global warming, two studies show

University of Michigan News, feat. Luke Nave

If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil's ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to researchers who say the resource could "significantly" offset increasing global emissions.

The scientists also call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource.

The work, published in two overlapping papers Oct. 5 in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, and Global Change Biology, emphasizes the need for more research into how soil—if managed well—could mitigate a rapidly changing climate.

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Top ten renewable energy surprises in new IEA report

Common Dreams, feat. Juan Cole

A new International Energy Agency report contains some startling findings about solar energy dominance and its future.

1. Renewables comprised 66% of all new net electricity capacity additions in 2016. Two-thirds of added capacity, in other words, consisted of photovoltaic solar cells, wind turbines and biofuels.

2. 165 gigawatts of new solar was added in 2016.

3. In 2016, new solar photovoltaic capacity globally grew by 50 percent.

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U-M car finishes second in solar-powered race across Australia

Detroit Free Press

A Dutch team won a solar-powered car race across Australia for a seventh time Thursday, with a University of Michigan car taking second place in the biennial event.

The Nuon team’s Nuna 9 car averaged more than 50 m.p.h. to reach the World Solar Challenge finish line in the southern coastal city of Adelaide after five days of racing across 1,878 miles of Outback highway from Darwin in the north.

The Delft University of Technology-based team has competed eight times.

The University of Michigan team’s car, Novum, finished an hour later, with Belgium team Punch Powertrain close behind in third place.

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This fake city promises real change for transportation

NBC News, feat. Carrie Morton

A self-driving car is driving past Liberty Street’s charming storefronts when a truck runs a red light. The car screeches to a halt, avoiding a collision by inches.

Except that the truck isn’t real. And Liberty Street’s shops and restaurants are just a painted façade. Almost nothing here in Mcity is real, and that’s just the way Carrie Morton likes it.

“0.1 percent of extreme car testing should be done using real vehicles,” says Morton, deputy director of the University of Michigan’s Mcity facility. “The rest should be some sort of simulation. Anything else is too dangerous.”

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Microbes in permafrost quickly adapt to eat sun-weakened carbon

University of Michigan News, feat. Rose Cory

Microbial communities living in dark permafrost soils are well-equipped to eating sun-weakened carbon, converting that carbon into carbon dioxide and potentially providing a major pathway for the greenhouse gas to enter the atmosphere, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Researchers know that sunlight beaming down on permanently frozen soil, or permafrost, in the Arctic breaks down carbon in that permafrost and releases the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, but they didn't know how the process was occurring.

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The ‘long game’: How Michigan could be building a case to close Line 5

Midwest Energy News

While advocates have claimed for more than a year that Michigan officials have enough evidence to seek a court order to close an underwater oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, a renewed effort to independently analyze the pipeline’s risk may finally prompt the state to take action.

The renewed risk analysis is also being led by university researchers to improve the credibility of a process that was previously cut short after conflict-of-interest issues with previous consultants.

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation and a member of the state’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, says it’s a matter of “when, not if, (the state) takes action against Enbridge to decommission this.”

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Carbon-sucking technology needed by 2030s, scientists warn

Reuters

As efforts to cut planet-warming emissions fall short, large-scale projects to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere will be needed by the 2030s to hold the line against climate change, scientists said on Tuesday.

Many new technologies that aim to capture and store carbon emissions, thereby delivering “negative emissions”, are costly, controversial and in the early phase of testing.

But “if you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity (and) food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a science and policy institute.

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Oil industry sees threat grow as car choices multiply

E&E EnergyWire

Does the electric car threaten to weigh down oil prices?

The oil and gas industry for years has largely dismissed such concerns, as have its consultants. But industry analysts have been changing their tune and are beginning to advise their clients in Big Oil to develop business strategies that take into account the possibility of mass adoption of vehicle electrification hitting oil demand in a noticeable way.

"Electrification is happening faster," said Marie-Helene Ben Samoun, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group. "It's not true today, but if you think on a horizon of 10 to 20 years, it starts to be material."

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Driverless cars are giving engineers a fuel economy headache

Bloomberg

Judging from General Motors Co.’s test cars and Elon Musk’s predictions, the world is headed toward a future that’s both driverless and all-electric. In reality, autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds.

That’s because self-driving technology is a huge power drain. Some of today’s prototypes for fully autonomous systems consume two to four kilowatts of electricity -- the equivalent of having 50 to 100 laptops continuously running in the trunk, according to BorgWarner Inc. The supplier of vehicle propulsion systems expects the first autonomous cars -- likely robotaxis that are constantly on the road -- will be too energy-hungry to run on battery power alone.

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Why utilities need to respond now to the EV boom

Utility Dive

Accelerating growth forecasts for electric vehicles have energy analysts urging utilities to start planning for their impacts on the grid today.

By 2021, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecasts U.S. electric vehicle (EV) sales could reach 800,000 annually. By 2025, the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, estimates there could be 7 million zero-emission vehicles on U.S. roads.

“EV sales in the U.S. have been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 32% for the past four years,” said Chris Nelder, electricity practice manager at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). “2017 monthly sales data suggest that rate is accelerating. Under some reasonable assumptions, there could be 2.9 million EVs on the road in the U.S. within five years.”

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Why hailing an Uber might mean more emissions

E&E ClimateWire

Popular car-sharing services may not be as eco-friendly as riders think.

That's because people who use ride-hailing and car-sharing options are also decreasing their use of public transit, biking and walking, likely causing an overall increase in emissions and miles traveled, according to a new report.

With new transportation technologies like sharing and automation on the rise, researchers are increasingly concerned about major unknowns like travel and energy use (Climatewire, Sept. 11). The study by the University of California, Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies offers a real-life snapshot of changing travel behavior in cities.

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10,000 electric cars highlight steep path to India's ambitions

Bloomberg

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kicked off India’s race to turn all new passenger car sales electric by 2030. The largest order has gone to a company that hasn’t commercially started producing the vehicles.

Tata Motors Ltd. hasn’t sold a single electric car yet, though Chief Executive Officer Guenter Butschek says its late-mover status is an advantage at a time when technology advances are leading to a fall in costs. Tata along with Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. -- India’s sole electric carmaker that plans to boost its vehicle manufacturing capacity to 5,000 units a month -- underscore the distance to be covered when compared to China and the U.S.

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Most U.S. oil executives see prices below $60/barrel through 2018

Reuters

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. oil executives see crude oil prices remaining below $60 per barrel through 2018 and not hitting $70 until at least the next decade, according to a survey published on Wednesday by consultancy Deloitte Services LP [DLTE.UL].

The survey, based on a poll of 250 executives at companies that produce, transport and refine oil and natural gas, reflects a shift from last year when many respondents forecast commodity prices would rise and capital spending budgets grow.

U.S. oil prices CLc1 fell slightly on Wednesday to $50.79 per barrel.

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The U.S. solar industry's new growth region: Trump country

Reuters

President Donald Trump’s administration has vowed to revive the coal industry, challenged climate-change science and blasted renewable energy as expensive and dependent on government subsidies.

And yet the solar power industry is booming across Trump country, fueled by falling development costs and those same subsidies, which many Republicans in Congress continue to support.

Data provided to Reuters by GTM Research, a clean energy market information firm, shows that eight of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. solar markets between the second quarters of 2016 and 2017 were Western, Midwestern or Southern states that voted for Trump, with Alabama and Mississippi topping the list.

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The clean energy boom is here, and its benefits aren’t slowing

Morning Consult

The U.S. is benefitting from a clean energy boom, and it’s got the facts to prove it.

You don’t have to look far to find a wind farm or factory that builds wind turbine parts — all 50 states have wind farms or wind factories, if not both. And the growing solar industry is no longer limited to sunny California. States like North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts and many in the Southwest are taking advantage of fast-falling solar prices. Add the energy efficiency industry that helps to conserve power, and it’s clear that clean jobs are putting Americans back to work.

In fact, almost 600,000 workers are employed in the Midwest clean energy economy according to a recent Clean Jobs Midwest report. The study — conducted by Clean Energy Trust, Environmental Entrepreneurs and BW Research — found that clean energy jobs are growing 4.85 times faster than overall jobs in the Midwest.

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Toshiba's new fast-charging battery could triple the range of electric vehicles

New Atlas

A key focus of electric vehicle (EV) makers is maximizing the range users can get from each charge, and for that reason new battery technologies are poised to play a huge part in driving their adoption. Toshiba has developed a new fast-charging battery it claims could allow EVs to travel three times as far as they do now, and then be fully recharged again in a matter of minutes.

Toshiba's SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery) has been around in various forms since 2007, with its chief claim to fame an ability to charge to 90 percent of capacity in just five minutes. It also boasts a life-span of 10 years and high levels of safety, and has found its way into a number of notable EVs, including Mitsubishi's i MiEV and Honda's Fit EV.

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