Energy in the News: Friday, July 13

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tesla owners’ battery data show it won’t win through chemistry, only a better factory

Quartz, feat. UMEI Senior Battery Laboratory Manager Greg Less

Tesla fans love data as much as their cars. A few hundred recently banded together to share data on their cars’ battery performance.

A massive Google spreadsheet pooled data from 419 users mostly in the US, Europe and Asia covering all of Tesla’s models (the S, X and 3). They found that Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries, like those used by all other electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, were no different in how they slowly degraded over time. Tesla’s batteries retained 95.6% of their original capacity after 50,000 kilometers (31,068 miles). The rate of decline then slowed. It reached 94% at 100,000 km (62,137 miles) and remained above 90% on average as far out as 250,000 km (155,352 miles).

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Poll: Record number of Americans believe in man-made climate change

The Hill, feat. Barry Rabe and Sarah Mills

A record number of Americans believe that global warming is real and that humans are at least partially responsible, according to a new poll from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

The survey says that 60 percent of respondents say that global warming is taking place and that human activity is either primarily or partially why temperatures are rising. That passes a previous high of 58 percent, which was recorded in 2008, 2009 and 2017.

Thirty-four percent of respondents said that humans were primarily responsible for global warming, while 26 percent said human activity was partially responsible

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For additional coverage on this topic, please see the following:

More Americans accepted global warming during hot spring, E&E Climatewire, feat. Barry Rabe, Read more

The Energy 202: Republicans can't agree on this climate deal brokered by Obama, The Washington Post, feat. Barry Rabe and Sarah Mills, Read more

As electricity returns to Puerto Rico, its people want more power

Scientific American, feat. Ivette Perfecto

A nine-month, $3.8-billion effort to end the longest blackout in U.S. history has restored power to much of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately though, this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is underway and the still-fragile electrical grid is unlikely to fare any better when the next major storm hits.

As Puerto Rico’s government and state-owned utility company consider their options for a major redesign of the grid’s power generation, transmission and distribution systems over the next decade, many residents see neighborhood microgrids powered by renewable energy sources as their best option for weathering storms in the more immediate future.

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Using green infrastructure to reduce flooding

Michigan Radio, feat Victoria Campbell-Arvai and Mark Linquist

How can cities reduce flooding caused by increasingly intense rain storms?

More often, it's flooding in areas not known for a lot of flooding in the past. That happened in Detroit in 2014. It caught everyone by surprise as interstates and neighborhoods were suddenly under water.

Pat Bosch lives in the Outer Drive Conner neighborhood in northeast Detroit. She says the natural floodplains have sometimes disappeared.

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A decade of fracking research: What have we learned?

E&E Energywire, feat. Daniel Raimi

When oil and gas developers began using hydraulic fracturing to tap previously unaccessed sources of fossil fuels across the United States, the American public had a few questions.

Will this process pollute drinking water? Will it cause cancer in the communities close to well sites? What are the ramifications for global climate change?

Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking, as it is more commonly known — is just one small part of the broader process of unconventional oil and gas development. The extraction technique, popularized about a decade ago, has helped unlock hydrocarbons trapped in tight shale formations, spawning a vast web of rigs, wells and energy infrastructure across the country.

Every element of that network carries its own risks for water contamination, air pollution, health and climate change. Scientists have, in some cases, been able to distill the likelihood and severity of those risks.

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University of Michigan study: Rising carbon dioxide levels pose threat to monarch butterflies

WXYZ Detroit, feat. Mark Hunter

A new study conducted at the University of Michigan reveals a previously unrecognized threat to monarch butterflies.

The study says mounting levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide reduce the medicinal properties of milkweed plants that protect the insects from disease.

Milkweed leaves contain toxins that help the butterflies ward off predators and parasites, and the plant is the sole food of monarch caterpillars.

The study showed that the most protective of the four milkweed species lost its medicinal properties when grown under elevated CO2, resulting in the monarch's lifespan reduction of one week. It also resulted in a steep decline in the monarch's ability to tolerate a parasite.

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Things aren’t looking good for the Amazon rainforest

Futurity, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

The Amazon is likely to face continued warming in addition to possible multiyear droughts, according to a new study.

The research suggests that primary ecosystem services—biodiversity, water cycling, carbon capture, and others—are at greater risk than anticipated. Adaptive management strategies may be required to safeguard these key benefits of the rainforest.

Prior research has shown that background climate is one of the variables most responsible for the Amazon rainforest’s sustainability. However, existing climate records for Amazonia only span the last few decades.

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Additional coverage of this topic:

Amazon Rainforest faces continued warming, multi-year droughts, study says, The Weather Channel, feat. Jonathan Overpeck, Read more

Could recycling more steel, aluminum temper the impact of a trade war?

Michigan Radio

On Friday, President Trump's first tariffs hit $34 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Beijing quickly responded with its own tariffs on equal amounts of American-made goods. Many believe that this back-and-forth between China and U.S. is the start of a trade war.

Imported steel and aluminum are one of the main targets of Trump’s latest tariffs.

Dan Cooper is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. He sat down with Stateside's Cynthia Canty to discuss why these tariffs would have minimal effect on the U.S. if the country did a better job recycling its scrap metal.


Trump’s trade war with China pierces the heart of Michigan

The New York Times

China’s flag flies high above Henniges Automotive, alongside those of Germany, Mexico, Canada and other nations, reflecting the global nature of Michigan’s auto industry and, increasingly, its reliance on Beijing.

Henniges, which produces sealing products for cars, was bought in 2015 by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a state-owned company that has snapped up other investments in the Detroit area, including the automotive supplier Nexteer, which sits just across Interstate 75 from Henniges. Over the past several years, Beijing has steadily pumped billions of dollars’ worth of investment into Michigan, buying crumbling factories, building new ones and supporting more than 10,000 jobs in the state.

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36-panel solar array installed in downtown Ann Arbor parking lot


Electric vehicles can now park in the shade of a solar carport across from the Farmers Market in Ann Arbor.

The Downtown Development Authority has unveiled a 36-panel solar array on a newly installed metal structure over three existing EV charging stations in the public parking lot at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Catherine Street in Kerrytown.

One of the charging spots is dedicated for GM's Maven car-sharing service, which members of the public can join for free and then pay $9 per hour for use of readily available Chevrolet Volts and other cars.

The other two charging spots are open to members of the general public with their own EVs.

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DTE proposes rate increases, electric vehicle plan

Crain’s Detroit Business

DTE Energy Co. has filed a $328 million rate request with the Michigan Public Service Commission that includes a $13 million pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations that could be the largest in the Midwest.

The proposed electric rate increases would average 9.1 percent for residential customers, 4.3 percent for many commercial users and 4.5 percent for schools, colleges and universities. The rates, if approved by the commission, would take effect in May 2019.

DTE said it needs the increased rates to continue to improve its distribution and generation system.

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Scott Pruitt gave “super polluting” trucks a gift on his last day at the EPA


Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt managed to fire a Parthian shot on his final day in office when he cemented a massive loophole for some of the dirtiest, most polluting trucks on the road, allowing manufacturers to build even more them.

It was Pruitt’s final knock to clean air after President Donald Trump asked him to resign Thursday as months of mounting scandals came to a head. “Pruitt didn’t want to leave his post and was described as being devastated that he had to resign,” according to Jennifer Dlouhy and Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg. Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for industries including coal, will take over EPA as acting director on Monday.

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For those who enjoyed a long vacation last week, here are some stories you may have missed that appeared during the week of Independence Day.

Issues of the Environment: Adapting to a changing climate

WEMU, feat. Richard Rood

The heat wave continues in Washtenaw County, Southeast Michigan, and a majority of the country.  While every summer brings its hot spells, you can expect greater periods of unpredictable and potentially more destructive weather events.  In this week’s edition of "Issues of the Environment," WEMU’s David Fair and University of Michigan professor Dr. Richard Rood explore the adaptive attitudes and actions necessary for our future.


Uber and Lyft want to be about so much more than cars

CNN Tech, feat. Jonathan Levine

The future of ride-sharing is moving beyond cars to include electric scooters, bikes, and even public transit as Uber and Lyft race headlong into "new modalities."

That's a fancy way of saying the two companies want a role in all of the ways you get from point A to point B. Ultimately, they don't really care how you get around, so long as you're doing it on their platform.

Two recent moves underscore just how serious they are about this. On Monday, Lyft announced its acquisition of Motivate, the largest bike-share operator in North America. That followed news that Uber is launching a "new modalities" unit to lead its expansion into bikes, scooters, and more.

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Pruitt departure could boost Trump deregulatory agenda at EPA

Utility Dive

Pruitt's departure will likely mean a less scandal-prone EPA that could be more effective at carrying out Trump's deregulatory agenda, former agency officials and energy lawyers said.

"I don't think we'll see any big shifts in policy," said Jeffrey Holmstead, who served as an assistant administrator for EPA's Air and Radiation Office under George W. Bush. "We'll see these regulatory reforms carried out in a more low key, thoughtful kind of way."

In just over a year in office, Pruitt finalized more than 20 regulatory rollbacks, but critics say many of those proposals were hastily constructed and vulnerable to legal challenges.

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'Embedded' reports on coal from Appalachia


Coal is booming. Coal is dying. Both sentences are true to some extent, as Kelly McEvers and Chris Benderev found out while reporting from central Appalachia for the podcast, Embedded.


Can ride-hailing improve public transportation instead of undercutting it?

Scientific American

Over the last half-decade, public transit ridership declined nationwide. The number of vehicle miles traveled in cars is rising, and traffic congestion is getting worse in many U.S. cities. At the same time, the century-old taxi industry is struggling, with many taxi companies going bankrupt.

Are ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber to blame? What has been their impact and what should be done?

While ride-hailing threatens public transit, it is also key to its future success—but only with smart policies and the right price signals. As researchers working at the intersection of energy, the environment and public policy, we have been analyzing transportation trends for decades—and seeing remarkably little innovation. Now we are on the cusp of major transformations.

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Trump effort to lift U.S. offshore wind sector sparks interest - from Europe


The Trump administration wants to fire up development of the U.S. offshore wind industry by streamlining permitting and carving out vast areas off the coast for leasing - part of its ‘America First’ policy to boost domestic energy production and jobs.

The Europeans have taken note.

The drive to open America’s offshore wind industry has attracted Europe’s biggest renewable energy companies, who see the U.S. East Coast as a new frontier after years of success across the Atlantic.

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