Energy in the News: Friday, April 13
In his haste to roll back rules, Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, risks his agenda
The New York Times, feat. John DeCicco
As ethical questions threaten the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, President Trump has defended him with a persuasive conservative argument: Mr. Pruitt is doing a great job at what he was hired to do, roll back regulations.
But legal experts and White House officials say that in Mr. Pruitt’s haste to undo government rules and in his eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda, he has often been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court.
The result, they say, is that the rollbacks, intended to fulfill one of the president’s central campaign pledges, may ultimately be undercut or reversed.
Energy injustice? Cost, availability of energy-efficient lightbulbs vary with poverty levels
University of Michigan News, feat. Tony Reames
Energy-efficient lightbulbs are more expensive and less available in high-poverty urban areas than in more affluent locations, according to a new University of Michigan study conducted in Wayne County.
U-M researchers explored disparities in the availability and price of energy-efficient bulbs by surveying 130 stores across Michigan's most populous county.
They found that the cost to upgrade from a conventional incandescent bulb to a highly efficient light-emitting diode, or LED, was twice as high in the highest-poverty areas. At the same time, the price for less-efficient incandescent and halogen lamps (IHLs) decreased as the poverty level increased.
Additional coverage on this topic, featuring Tony Reames:
Energy injustice? Cost, availability of energy-efficient lightbulbs vary with poverty levels, TechXplore, Read more
National Park Service officials delete references to humans' role in causing climate change from drafts of new report
The Hill, feat. Jonathan Overpeck
Drafts of a federal report on sea level rise and storm surge reportedly no longer include any mentions of humans' role in climate change.
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that National Park Service officials had scrubbed the mentions from drafts of the report.
The report was drafted initially during the summer of 2016 as part of an effort by the National Park Service to tell the public and officials how to protect park resources.
According to Reveal, mentions of "human activities" causing climate change were deleted from the report, as was the word "anthropogenic," used to describe the impact humans have on nature.
Additional coverage on this topic, featuring Jonathan Overpeck:
The Trump administration scrubbed climate science from an important new report, Mother Jones, Read more
The Trump administration, slanted science and the environment: 4 essential reads
The San Francisco Chronicle, feat. Joe Arvai and Richard Rood
Scientists and environmental advocates will be speaking out this month about the Trump administration and what they view as its abuses of science. This year’s March for Science on Saturday, April 14, has a goal of holding leaders accountable for “developing and enacting evidence-based policy.”
Earth Day, which falls on Sunday, April 22 this year, is approaching its 50th anniversary and has become a global event. Although many Earth Day events will focus on issues – such as this year’s theme, plastic pollution – the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulation will also loom large.
These articles from our archives provide some examples to support charges that the Trump administration is politicizing science on climate change and other environmental issues to drive an anti-regulatory agenda.
Self-driving electric shuttle buses to begin at University of Michigan
Detroit Free Press, feat. Carrie Morton
A pair of self-driving shuttle buses should begin motoring around Ann Arbor later this month in an ambitious test of the new technology.
The electrically powered, 15-seat shuttles will be part of the university’s bus service, carrying passengers on a short course in the North Campus. Anybody with a university bus pass can use one of the shuttles, which will have safety drivers
“Our goal is to reduce congestion in urban areas,” Pierre Bourgin, vehicle developer Navya's general manager for sales, said as one of the shuttles navigated a short course inside Cobo Center during the Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit. The university’s Mcity autonomous vehicle research program will operate the shuttles it bought from Navya.
Grid operators describe challenges of distributed energy aggregation to FERC
More than a dozen state energy regulators and grid operators told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission their concerns about integrating distributed energy resources (DERs) into wholesale electricity markets on Tuesday. FERC requested the two-day conference in Washington, D.C., to address issues that must be solved before DERs can become a significant player in the largest U.S. electricity markets.
Most of the panelists expressed confidence that the technical challenges — such as coordination between grid operators and utilities, and properly compensating DERs — could be overcome.
Trump ethanol moves may be worse for farmers than soy tariff
Based on his own back-of-the-envelope calculations, Minnesota farmer Kirby Hettver could lose tens of thousands of dollars of earnings because of President Donald Trump.
But damaging as the brewing trade war with China may turn out to be for Hettver and other American soybean farmers, he says the greater financial impact could come if Trump moves ahead with changes to the U.S. ethanol mandate, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS.
While proposed tariffs announced by China last week would apply to about $14 billion a year of U.S. soybean exports, the RFS accounts for 38 percent of the U.S. corn crop, valued at about $21 billion at current prices. And unlike the situation in the soybean market, where other buyers could pick up the slack for a drop in Chinese demand, the undoing of U.S. biofuel laws could lead to real demand destruction.
Cement industry urged to reduce 'invisible' global emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions from cement production must be reduced sharply if the world is to meet the climate change goals set out in the a new report has suggested.
Making cement and concrete, which is the most consumed product in the world after water, entails substantial emissions of carbon dioxide, from the chemical processes involved. While manufacturers have for years been seeking ways to reduce this or capture the carbon produced, and to make cement production more energy efficient, the results have failed to keep pace with the need to cut carbon emissions.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which tracks greenhouse gas emissions from leading industries, found in a report published on Monday that Indian companies were performing best on reducing their carbon footprint, partly because they benefit from newer and more efficient manufacturing plants.
Why green groups are split on subsidizing carbon capture technology
Yale Environment 360
Environmentalists are divided over a provision in the recently approved U.S. budget that increases tax credits for projects that capture and store CO2. Critics say new subsidies for “enhanced oil recovery” included in the budget bill would simply encourage companies to pump more oil.
At first glance, it sounds like something cooked up after too many martinis by a K Street lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry: Take legislation making it more profitable for oil companies to pump oil, and easier for coal-fired power plants to continue to operate — and then sell it as a climate change remedy. Calling it “counterintuitive” might sound like an understatement.
Carbon isn’t just a danger–it’s also an opportunity
Back when he was CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson basked in the aura of invincibility that has long surrounded Big Oil. Right now, he’s probably regretting his decision to abandon the protective cloak of corporate power, but give it a few years and he may come to realize that he got out (of Exxon, that is) at exactly the right time. Because it’s not only Tillerson who has lost his aura of invincibility recently, so has the entire fossil fuel industry.
Lawsuits, such as the one brought against some of the world’s largest oil companies by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, are one reason why. If the court rules in favor of the cities and attributes liability for global warming-related damages to the oil companies, it could be a game changer for the so-called “Carbon Majors”–the 100 companies responsible for 70% of emissions since 1988. Consider that, in 2017, in the U.S. alone, climate-related disasters cost $300 billion.