Energy in the News: Friday, March 2

Friday, March 02, 2018

States want to counter Trump on climate. It's a struggle

E&E Climatewire, feat. Barry Rabe

Climate hawks shifted their focus from Washington, D.C., to state capitals in the wake of President Trump's 2016 victory, hoping state lawmakers might usher in the types of carbon reduction strategies the federal government could not.

But more than a year later, state climate action remains stuck in neutral, and the prospects for victory in 2018 remain far from certain.

To date, state climate victories have largely been limited to the expansion of existing programs. California reapproved its cap-and-trade program last year. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program covering the electricity sector in nine Northeastern states, agreed to further reductions in its emissions cap. New Jersey is now on track to rejoin RGGI, and Virginia may also join soon.

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Why the web has challenged scientists’ authority – and why they need to adapt

The Conversation, feat. Andrew Hoffman

Academia is in the midst of a crisis of relevance. Many Americans are ignoring the conclusions of scientists on a variety of issues including climate change and natural selection. Some state governments are cutting funding for higher education; the federal government is threatening to cut funding for research. Resentful students face ever increasing costs for tuition.

And distrustful segments of society fear what academia does; one survey found that 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

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Self-driving cars have power consumption problems

Design World, feat. Gregory Keoleian

I recently chaired a UJA Tech Talk on “The Future Of Autonomous Cars” with former General Motors Vice-Chairman Steve Girsky. The auto executive enthusiastically shared his vision for the next 15-25 years of driving – a congestion-free world of automated wheeled capsules zipping commuters to and from work.

Girsky stated that connected cars with safety assist (autonomy-lite) features are moving much faster toward mass adoption than fully autonomous vehicles (sans steering wheels and pedals). In his opinion, the largest roadblocks toward a consumer-ready robocar are the current technical inefficiencies of prototypes on the road today, which burn huge amounts of energy supporting enhanced computing and arrays of sensors. This makes the sticker price closer to a 1972 Ferrari than a 2018 Prius.

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Midwest went from a climate leader to a Trump bulwark

E&E Climatewire, feat. Barry Rabe

Climate hawks thought they'd scored a major victory in 2007 when six Midwestern states and the Canadian province of Manitoba agreed to an economywide carbon cap-and-trade program. It was seen by many as a precursor to federal action.

More than a decade later, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord has come to represent just the opposite.

Cap and trade failed in Congress and was never implemented in the Midwest. Onetime Republican boosters, like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, recanted their support. Instead of implementing a regional emissions reduction program, Republican lawmakers and governors elected in the GOP wave of 2010 went on to fight the Clean Power Plan, former President Obama's initiative to curb carbon emissions from power plants.

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Washington state’s carbon tax bill dies in legislature

The New York Times, feat. Barry Rabe

Another ambitious effort to pass a carbon tax in Washington state has faltered as both Gov. Jay Inslee and the bill's prime sponsor said Thursday that there weren't enough votes to pass the measure out of the state Senate.

Washington would have been the first U.S. state to impose a straight tax on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels like gasoline and electricity and the legislation has been closely watched nationally.

But Inslee told The Associated Press Thursday they were still "one or two votes shy" of passing it out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. The bill also needed to clear the House, also controlled by Democrats, before the short 60-day legislative session ends March 8.

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Do we still need to require utilities to use other companies' clean energy?

Michigan Radio

Cypress Creek Renewables has been lining up farmland in Michigan for more than a year now.

The object? Leases for enough land to install several hundred megawatts worth of new, emissions-free solar projects. Combined, that would equal the electricity output of a small coal-fired power plant.

But a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., could put a halt to those plans, as well as the plans of other renewable energy companies that want to set up shop in Michigan and states across the nation.

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After rising for 100 years, electricity demand is flat. Utilities are freaking out.


The US electricity sector is in a period of unprecedented change and turmoil. Renewable energy prices are falling like crazy. Natural gas production continues its extraordinary surge. Coal, the golden child of the current administration, is headed down the tubes.

In all that bedlam, it’s easy to lose sight of an equally important (if less sexy) trend: Demand for electricity is stagnant.

Thanks to a combination of greater energy efficiency, outsourcing of heavy industry, and customers generating their own power on site, demand for utility power has been flat for 10 years, and most forecasts expect it to stay that way.

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Team of rivals: Utilities, enviros unite to push electric vehicles

Utility Dive

In 2017, electric vehicles began to present state policymakers with regulatory turmoil previously reserved for rooftop solar.

The estimated 765,000 U.S. electric vehicles (EVs) remain a very small percentage of the 250 million-plus vehicles in operation. And the almost 200,000 new EVs sold last year in the U.S. represent a tiny fraction of the 17 million-plus new cars that rolled off U.S. lots last year.

But almost every major auto manufacturer has public plans for an EV model by 2020, according to PlugInCars. And a 2016 Bloomberg New Energy Finance report showed EVs reaching cost parity with conventional vehicles between 2022 and 2026.

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Numbers starting to add up for Tesla trucks: DHL executive


The numbers behind Tesla Inc’s long-distance Semi electric trucks are close to making sense for haulers looking at a shift away from diesel that may save them tens of thousands of dollars a year, according to an executive with DHL.

Jim Monkmeyer, president, Transportation at DHL Supply Chain, was among the first to order the trucks Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk’s company is expected to begin churning out in 2019.

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Battery storage could boost coal consumption

Greentech Media

More research shows that batteries aren't necessarily helping decarbonize the grid. In many cases, according to a team from the Rochester Institute of Technology, batteries are making it dirtier.

The team, led by Naga Srujana Goteti of RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, found batteries installed on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid led to a net increase in carbon emissions, by increasing coal consumption.

The finding is not entirely surprising, since coal is one of the major generation sources on the MISO grid. But in New York, where coal is a minor component of the generation mix, batteries could still result in increased emissions if gas prices are high.

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