Energy in the News: Friday, December 22
Under Trump, climate change not a national security threat
The Washington Post, feat. Rosina Bierbaum
President Donald Trump removed climate change from the list of worldwide threats menacing the United States on Monday, a shift that underscores the long-term ramifications of the “America first” worldview he laid out in his new National Security Strategy.
The document depicts Russia and China as combative rivals in perpetual competition with the U.S. But it makes no mention of what scientists say are the dangers posed by a warming climate, including more extreme weather events that could spark humanitarian crises, mass migrations, and conflict.
It’s a significant departure from the Obama administration, which had described climate change as an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” And it demonstrates how Trump, despite struggling to push his own agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, has been able to unilaterally dismantle one of his predecessor’s signature efforts.
In 'defense of science,' researchers sue EPA over move to overhaul advisory boards
The Washington Post, feat. Joe Arvai
A group of the Environmental Protection Agency's current and former advisory board members sued it Thursday over Administrator Scott Pruitt's controversial decision to bar scientists who receive agency grants from serving as outside advisers.
Calling the new policy “unlawful, arbitrary and capricious,” the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia argues Pruitt did not have authority to change the agency's ethics rules. A handful of environmental advocacy and public health organizations also joined the lawsuit.
In announcing the policy in October, Pruitt said his intention was to avoid conflicts of interest and ensure the objectivity of the agency's 22 advisory committees — groups of subject-matter experts that offer regulators guidance on topics ranging from children's health to hazardous waste.
Learner: Michigan cities can be agents of change on climate
Lansing State Journal, feat. EAB member Howard Learner
While President Trump stepped back by withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, mayors in Michigan and across our country have committed to step up and fill the void. Now is the time for these municipal declarations of support for the Paris Accord to become real solutions to climate change problems. In short, take effective actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that achieve environmental and economic development goals together.
Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and other Michigan municipalities have pledged to fill the void left by President Trump and seize opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Growing local solar energy, storage and energy efficiency creates jobs, saves money, attracts investment and avoids carbon pollution. Local energy production keeps energy dollars in our communities, instead of paying to import electricity generated by coal, gas and uranium. Clean electric vehicles and buses in municipal fleets reduce fuel and maintenance costs, and avoid pollution. Improving energy efficiency in city buildings saves taxpayer money, reduces pollution and lessens maintenance costs.
Net metering plan worries solar advocates
A proposal that would reduce what rooftop solar customers in Michigan receive for generation sold back to the grid is getting a chilly reception from renewable energy advocates.
Under the Michigan Public Service Commission staff proposal, customers who install distributed generation systems would be credited for excess energy at the same rate received by larger renewable energy projects under the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA).
The proposal, which must be approved by the PSC, would mean an increase in electric bills for new rooftop solar customers compared to what existing customers receive under existing retail net metering tariffs. However, PSC staff said the systems would still pay for themselves over their expected useful lives.
'Cash crunch' deals blow to Ann Arbor solar program, residents upset
A city-backed program intended to help Ann Arbor area residents go solar is having financial problems, leaving several residents without panels months after they made payments.
Local residents still waiting for their promised rooftop solar arrays say they're frustrated after shelling out thousands of dollars.
Geostellar, the West Virginia-based private company that launched a solar group-purchase program in Ann Arbor this year in partnership with the city and the nonprofit Clean Energy Coalition, acknowledged the problem in response to questions from The Ann Arbor News.
Detroit solar shines: How local solar organizations are linking sustainable energy and community
The Detroit area has been a ray of light for solar power innovation over the last few years.
In 2016, DTE Energy and the city of Detroit broke ground on a 10-acre solar array, the O'Shea Solar Park, on the borders of Greenfield Road and I-96. Now operational, the grid linked system features 6,500 solar panels and can generate enough juice to power more than 450 homes, making it one of the largest urban solar arrays in the Midwest.
The headquarters of Ford in Dearborn and the IKEA store in Canton have also received substantial attention for installing roof-top solar arrays at their facilities.
But there's a lot of energy going into solar among lesser known organizations too, some of who have been partnering together to take the application of renewable resource in new directions.
Tax bill opens Arctic Refuge for oil, but years of delay may follow
Congress is close to lifting a 40-year-old ban on energy development in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but drilling for oil in that frozen wilderness may still be years away as the effort faces exhaustive environmental reviews and likely lawsuits.
It could be a decade or more before any well is drilled, following required environmental scrutiny and permit reviews -- and then the inevitable lawsuits from local communities and environmental groups opposed to any development in that rugged wilderness.
"It’s still an open question about whether drilling will ever happen there," said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Interior Department official. "It’s hard to image that drilling will occur in the next 10 years -- or ever."
Tesla largely responsible for slide in U.S. home solar sales
After years of double-digit growth, home solar installations in the United States are poised to fall for the first time this year, according to a report released on Thursday by GTM Research.
The reason? An analysis of installation data suggests that most of the slowdown is traceable to a single company: Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), which acquired sister company SolarCity about a year ago.
For years, SolarCity, with early backing from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, was the biggest player in residential solar and the driving force behind that market’s supercharged growth.
2018 could be a busy year for lands, wildlife and energy bills
A full slate of bills related to public lands, energy development and wildlife management are teed up for action when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill in 2018, and some of those bills may get taken up early in the year.
Tax reform, efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, appropriations negotiations, and confirmation votes on President Trump's nominees have dominated Congress' attention this year.
But an impressive amount of work from the House and Senate panels handling natural resources and energy issues also emerged throughout 2017.
Tax bill heads to Trump’s desk, with mixed consequences for energy
President Trump and Republicans secured a long-anticipated win on Wednesday as the House passed a revised version of the final tax bill, sending it to the president’s desk for approval. The president called it "a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas." After he signs it, the changes take effect on New Year’s Day.
The huge $1.5 trillion bill offers a great deal of help to big business and corporations, which will receive most of the aforementioned cuts. Though the final legislation scraped up the clean energy industry some, other sectors of the energy industry got lucky. Tax experts are still picking apart the recently released text, but here’s what we know so far.
3 months after storm, Puerto Rico's grid is struggling
The terrific force of Hurricane Maria came and went three months ago, but Puerto Rico remains in the grips of the largest blackout in U.S. history. And it isn't even close to over, with big questions looming and crucial equipment in short supply.
On Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is leading the grid recovery, received a shipment of more than 2,600 power poles, with 5,000 more due to arrive within the week. That seems like a lot. But the island will need almost 36,000 more poles. And 2,500 miles of wire. And 6,000 transformers.
That gives a sense of the scale of the damage from the hurricane.
IEA says world coal demand will rise, despite slashing forecast growth in India
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has once again forecast that world coal demand will rise, despite halving its outlook for growth in India.
The IEA’s Coal 2017 report, published today, sees a small increase in global coal demand from 2016 to 2022, with growth in India and southeast Asian countries outweighing declines in rich nations and China.
Since 2011, the IEA has consistently forecast rising coal demand, even as it has repeatedly adjusted its figures downwards in light of lower-than-expected growth.
Holiday lights are for celebration—and for shining light on energy inequality
Center for Global Development
Every year, millions of Americans power up decorative lights to celebrate the holidays. These festive lights invoke the best human aspirations of peace, joy, and generosity.
This time of year, Americans should also celebrate that we can enjoy these traditions because we live in a country with a modern energy system that (almost always) delivers affordable 24/7 electricity.
The holiday spirit is also about remembering the less fortunate. That’s where the lights are doubly useful as a timely reminder of the massive gaps in global energy access. Here in the United States, we have plenty of power for holiday lights, but many countries don’t even have enough electricity for their basic needs. Indeed, some entire countries use less electricity per year than Americans do on holiday lights.
Rick Perry’s fake grid crisis just got undermined by more grid experts
Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants to bail out coal and nuclear plants. He says the US energy grid is experiencing an urgent crisis — that its reliability and resilience are in immediate danger unless those power plants are saved.
There is no evidence to support this position, though Perry and his allies in the coal and nuclear industries repeat it like a mantra. Numerous credible analysts have examined the question, including Perry’s own DOE, and not one has uncovered a crisis. On the question of urgency, Perry is simply wrong, no matter how many times he repeats it. There’s no reason to rush into anything. (I wrote a longer piece on Perry’s proposal last week.)
But even if there’s no immediate crisis, the larger question remains: Is the ongoing loss of coal and nuclear plants going to impact reliability in the future?
China unveils an ambitious plan to curb climate change emissions
The New York Times
China is the world’s No. 1 polluter. It burns more coal than the rest of the world combined. It produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused global warming gases, nearly as much as North America and Europe put together.
On Tuesday, the country set out to claim another title reflecting its ambitions to change all that: keeper of the world’s largest financial market devoted to cleaning up the air.
China released plans on Tuesday to start a giant market to trade credits for the right to emit planet-warming greenhouse gases. The nationwide market would initially cover China’s vast, state-dominated power generation sector, which produced almost half of the country’s emissions from the burning of fossil fuels last year. If it works as intended, an emissions market will give Chinese power companies a financial incentive to operate more cleanly.