Energy in the News: Friday, August 3

Friday, August 03, 2018

Trump administration unveils its plan to relax car pollution rules

The New York Times, feat. John DeCicco

The Trump administration on Thursday put forth its long-awaited proposal to freeze antipollution and fuel-efficiency standards for cars, significantly weakening one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to combat global warming.

The proposed new rules would also challenge the right of states, California in particular, to set their own, more stringent tailpipe pollution standards. That would set the stage for a legal clash that could ultimately split the nation’s auto market in two.

The administration’s plans immediately faced opposition from an unusual mix of critics — including not only environmentalists and consumer groups but auto-industry representatives as well as individual states — who are now launching efforts to change the plan before it is finalized.

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For additional coverage on this topic, see below:

Trump moves to ease Obama auto-mileage rules, California’s clout, Bloomberg, feat. John DeCicco, Read more

How Trump's proposal to freeze gas mileage standards affects you, USA Today, feat John DeCicco, Read more

White House proposes weaker auto emissions rules, overriding California, Reuters, Read more

EPA proposes to freeze auto emission standards, revoke California EV rules, Utility Dive, Read more

The wait is over: Trump taps meteorologist as White House science adviser

Nature, feat. Rosina Bierbaum

US President Donald Trump will nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier as his government’s top scientist. If confirmed by the Senate, Droegemeier would lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Trump, who took office 19 months ago, has gone longer without a top science adviser than any first-term president since at least 1976.

“My initial reaction is, wow, they found someone,” says Kei Koizumi, visiting scholar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former assistant director of the OSTP under president Barack Obama.

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For additional coverage on this topic, see below:

Trump finally picks a science adviser - and people are delighted, The Atlantic, feat. Rosina Bierbaum, Read more

A hellish July validates climate change forecasts

USA Today, feat. Sarah Mills and Barry Rabe

This month's weather has been downright hellish in parts of the United States and across the globe, providing further evidence that the impact of climate change is no longer relegated to starving polar bears and shrinking ice caps.

In the USA, Americans awoke Monday to images of deadly wildfires scorching California and other Western states. July's extreme weather stretched from an all-time high of 111 degrees recorded at UCLA to a record 16.4 inches of rain in Baltimore.

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Computer the size of a speck of dust created at University of Michigan

MLive, feat, Jamie Phillips

Just how tiny is the world's smallest computer?

According to a team of University of Michigan electrical and computer engineering professors, the new device they created is dwarfed by a grain of rice. It could even be described as the size of a speck of dust.

The team has created a device nearly 10 times smaller than a computer introduced as the world's smallest by IBM in March.

While IBM's 1-by-1 millimeter computer was being revealed, the UM professors were in the process of creating a cousin to their previous tiny computing device, the Michigan Micro Mote.

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Electric vehicle and stationary storage batteries begin to diverge as performance priorities evolve

Utility Dive

For the past 10 to 15 years, electric vehicles (EV) have been the driving force behind the falling costs of lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries. But the markets for EV and stationary storage batteries are beginning to diverge, which could result in separate cost trajectories and changes in their respective supply chains.

Analysts say that about 90% of the market for stationary energy storage is served by li-ion batteries. Most of those batteries have been the same as those used in EVs because the performance metrics required for both applications are compatible, but that is changing.

"We expect that this split is already occurring due to high cobalt prices, and the move to increase EV ranges in China," James Frith, energy storage analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Utility Dive via email. "The impact on the market isn't clear yet but it is likely to mean that manufacturers will have to make a clear decision on which market or markets they want to serve."

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States need $2.3B in chargers to hit Paris goals — report

E&E Energywire

States have funded a little less than half of the public electric-vehicle chargers they need in order for the country to comply with its Paris Agreement emissions targets, despite sound planning from a small group of standouts, according to an analysis from a Democrat-aligned think tank.

Released yesterday by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the analysis found that some 330,000 new public Level 2 and direct-current fast-charging stations would need to go up around the country by 2025.

At a cost of $4.7 billion, those networks would feed power to the 14 million plug-in hybrids and battery electrics necessary to bring greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty cars in line with the accord.

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The floor for ultra-low solar bids? $14 per megawatt-hour

Greentech Media

There’s a bottom to bottoming-out solar bid prices, according to a new report from GTM Research.

In recent years, predictable and transparent tender programs have pushed unsubsidized solar auction prices lower and lower, with prices dropping an average of 74 percent since 2009 and seven record-breaking bid prices coming in the last two years.

But new research signals there’s an end to the market’s “crazy-low” prices, according to GTM Research solar analyst Ben Attia. The magic number is $14.70 per megawatt-hour in a 2022 scenario with optimal financing and technology costs.

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Global carbon tax in isolation could ‘exacerbate food insecurity by 2050’

Carbon Brief

The implementation of a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions could – without other complementary policies – “have a greater negative impact on global hunger…than the direct impacts of climate change”, a new study says.

The research finds that using a blanket “carbon tax” to restrict global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels – which is the limit set by the Paris Agreement – would put an additional 45 million people at risk of hunger by 2050.

However, the results “should not be interpreted to downplay the importance of future GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions mitigation efforts, or to suggest that climate policy will cause more harm than good”, the scientists say.

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Green energy producers just installed their first trillion watts

Bloomberg

Global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts of power generation capacity, and the next trillion may be finished within the next five years.

That’s the conclusion of research by BloombergNEF, which estimated the industry reached the 1-terrawatt milestone sometime in the first half of the year. That’s almost as much generation capacity as the entire U.S. power fleet, although renewables work less often than traditional coal and nuclear plants and therefore yield less electricity over time.

The findings illustrate the scale of the green energy boom, which has drawn $2.3 trillion of investment to deploy wind and solar farms at the scale operating today. BloombergNEF estimates that the falling costs of those technologies mean the next terrawatt of capacity will cost about half as much – $1.23 trillion – and arrive sometime in 2023.

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The EPA just undid Scott Pruitt’s final act in office

Vox

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s parting shot (or perhaps middle finger) to the environment was knocked down by his successor this week.

Forced to resign after a hailstorm of scandals ranging from bizarre (sending his security team to scavenge for Ritz-Carlton lotion) to alarming (purging the EPA’s science advisers), Pruitt moved to secure a loophole for some of the dirtiest, most polluting trucks on the road on his last day in office.

These trucks, known as gliders, repurpose old engines in new truck bodies to bypass pollution rules. They tend to be cheaper and have better fuel economy than completely new trucks. However, gliders can emit upward of 55 times the amount of pollutants of trucks that meet current standards. The EPA itself warned that gliders would account for half of all nitrogen oxide pollution from trucks by 2030 based on current trends.

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Mag prints 70-page climate story, leaves some unsatisfied

E&E Climatewire

Seated at the head of two long rows of tables filled with climate activists, scientists and journalists in a swanky Midtown hotel, journalist Nathaniel Rich addressed what had already been bubbling to the surface before his opus hit newsstands and the web.

By Tuesday night, word had already starting swirling about The New York Times Magazine's cover-to-cover story on the quest of climate activists and scientists to tackle rising temperatures in the 1980s. "Losing Earth," published yesterday, was sure to be a conversation starter — why else assemble 50 people to dine on Maine scallops and farm-raised chicken in the presence of the writer, magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein, Times executive editor Dean Baquet and publisher A.G. Sulzberger?

The 70-page undertaking posits that human nature stood in the way of cementing a binding global pact to rein in emissions. It contends that climate scientists understood that carbon dioxide would heat the planet to extremes, making it uninhabitable in the future. The temporal distance between cause and effect, action and results, thwarted concrete progress. It's a story that has repeated itself year after year.

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