Energy in the News: Friday, August 10

Friday, August 10, 2018

Carbon capture group lands at University of Michigan

E&E Climatewire, feat. Global CO2 Initiative

A group focused on pulling carbon dioxide from the air and repackaging it into useful products has found a new home at the University of Michigan.

The Global CO2 Initiative said officials at the university would assume control of the group, which has $4.5 million in funding and help from scholars overseas.

The organization said it is working to cut 10 percent of carbon emissions from the atmosphere annually by 2030. "That's roughly 4 gigatons," the group said in a statement, adding that the emissions removed could be processed into useful materials, fuels and carbon-fiber-based products.

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For additional coverage of this topic, see below:

‘Turning CO2 into useful products will incentivise decarbonisation’, Energy Live News, feat. Volker Sick and the Global CO2 Initiative, Read more

Carbon capture and CO2 use get multi-million dollar boost, Axios, feat. Global CO2 Initiative, Read more

‘Carbon negative, dollar positive’: Initiative aspires to turn greenhouse gas into profitable products, University of Michigan News, feat. Bart Bartlett, Alec Gallimore, Jonathan Overpeck, Volker Sick, and the Global CO2 Initiative, Read more

Environmental policy expert to lead Graham Sustainability Institute

University of Michigan Record, feat. Jennifer Haverkamp

Jennifer Haverkamp, an internationally recognized expert on climate change, international trade and global environmental policy and negotiations, will become director of the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, effective Oct. 1.

Haverkamp will carry the title of Graham Family Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.

“Jennifer’s leadership experience is essential for guiding the Graham Sustainability Institute in its work to bring together the world-class expertise of U-M faculty and students with the knowledge and needs of off-campus partners to solve sustainability challenges on all scales from the local to global,” says James Holloway, vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs.

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Freeze fuel-economy goals to save lives? A closer look at feds' claim

Autoblog, feat. John DeCicco

A key point in the Trump administration's argument for rolling back Obama-era fuel economy standards is that those standards will increase the number of traffic fatalities. Specifically, the claim is that 12,700 more people will die if the standards aren't frozen at 2020 levels through 2026. The lifesaving argument is so central, the proposal has even been dubbed the SAFE Vehicles Rule ("Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient").

"It is now recognized that, as the stringency of standards increases, so does the likelihood that higher stringency will increase on-road fatalities," wrote Trump administration officials in the draft of the proposal. "As it turns out, there is no such thing as a free lunch."

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Climate change is coming to Michigan. How are experts preparing our state?

Model D, feat. Andrew Hoffman

In June this year, flooding devastated two counties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was so bad, three people died and Gov. Rick Snyder declared the area a state of disaster.

Like the flooding that metro Detroit experienced the summer of 2014, these are the type of events we are likely to see more of as the climate changes. Although no single event can be attributed to climate change, it makes the probability of these events higher, creating larger, more frequent storms, longer dry-spells, hotter summers, and other problems.

The immediacy of this situation is one reason why Ben van der Pluijm, professor of Geology and the Environment at the University of Michigan, has stopped talking about sustainability and begun focusing on resilience. "Short term thinking is not a mistake," van der Pluijm says. "No, these things are happening in the next five years and that is really changing people's thinking."

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At WeWork summer camp, there's no meat, plastic straws or bottled water

CNN Tech, feat. Andrew Hoffman

Environmental sustainability is a hot corporate trend right now, with one company after another banning plastic straws, offsetting carbon emissions, and taking other steps toward being better planetary stewards.

But even by that measure, WeWork wants to be outstanding in the field. Literally.

Some 8,000 WeWork employees from around the world descend on a bucolic pasture in England next week for the company's seventh annual summer camp. They'll listen to talks from speakers like entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss, attend workshops, and participate in activities like stand-up paddleboard, gong therapy, and sound baths. Yes, sound baths.

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To get people talking about climate change, publish your study during a hot summer

Quartz, feat. Sarah Mills and Barry Rabe

“Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state” is how the Guardian described the findings of a study published this week Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The BBC went with “Climate change: ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed”

If you’ve followed the story of the changing environment at all in recent years, you’re likely not surprised by these headlines. The risks of climate change have been clear to us since at least the 1980s, and the predictions of environmental destruction to hit Earth have mostly gotten worse.

That said, there’s still a sizeable population on the planet that doesn’t care about climate change or, worse, denies it’s real. To turn those people around, some of the world’s most preeminent scientists have figured out it makes sense to publish global-warming studies when it’s hot outside.

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Solving water access issues with solar energy

University of Michigan News, feat. Jose Alfaro

Imagine living in a community where your drinking water must be trucked in because the wells in your town were so depleted that seawater could leach into the freshwater supply.

In many arid coastal areas, this is an everyday occurrence. A team of students and a professor at the University of Michigan along with colleagues at the University of Sonora in Mexico, have developed a prototype single-stage distillation unit powered by solar energy that desalinates water in these areas.

The prototype unit can distill 150 liters per day and can be scaled up to 3,000 liters of water a day. That’s equal to five truckloads of fresh water and a much more eco-friendly solution to the problem of insufficient access to fresh water, said Jose Alfaro, an assistant professor at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability.

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Canada should not stray from climate commitments in face of criticism

Evidence Network, feat. Barry Rabe

Things look bleak these days for the Trudeau government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on climate change (PCF). The framework represents Canada’s primary compliance path with the Paris Climate Accord, requiring provinces to establish a price on carbon or have one imposed by Ottawa.

Opposition Conservatives have railed against the plan in the House of Commons. Newly-elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scrapping his province’s cap-and-trade system and Alberta’s United Conservative party leader, Jason Kenney is proposing to ditch his province’s carbon tax, as he seeks the Premiership in 2019. Recent polling suggests that Canadian opposition to carbon pricing has grown since policy details have been finalized.

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Despite the Paris climate agreement: earth

Tech Wharf, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

Even in the case of compliance with the Paris agreement on Climate factors could tilt in the global environment system, write climate scientists. A hot time could follow.

The danger of a hot time cannot be excluded from the point of view of climate researchers, even if the Paris climate agreement will be complied with. This would heat up the earth in the long term by about four to five degrees Celsius and the sea level rise of 10 to 60 meters, writes the Potsdam Institute for climate impact research (PIK). An international Team of scientists discussed these possibilities in the Proceedings of the U.S. national Academy of Sciences (“PNAS”) and looks, in particular, to tipping elements in the climate system.

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Michigan utilities look to lower rates through EV time of use charging

Energy News Network

Michigan is moving ahead of other Midwest states as its two largest utilities propose a combined $20.5 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.

A key aspect to the three-year plans from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy is incentivizing EV drivers to charge at home during off-peak hours at night. With preliminary data so far, the utilities say that with more customers driving EVs, program incentives could drive down rates for all customers by millions of dollars.

While the primary goal is to bolster the state’s inadequate charging infrastructure, rate design will be a key factor in how all customers benefit from increased EV adoption. By encouraging charging during predictable off-peak hours, utilities say they will be ready for an increased load that can be spread out over time.

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GM creeps closer to cap on $7,500 EV tax-credit

The Detroit News

General Motors Co. is creeping closer to its 200,000-vehicle cap for a $7,500 federal tax incentive intended to encourage electric-vehicle sales — which could hike prices on Chevrolet's mainstream EVs.

GM has sold about 186,670 Chevrolet Bolt and Spark EVs, Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids and Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrids to date, according to analyst firm Edmunds. GM has said it expects to hit the 200,000 limit this year, but Edmunds says at the current selling rate, GM probably has until the first quarter of 2019.

The Detroit automaker likely will be the second automaker to reach the tax credit cap, after electric-car maker Tesla Inc. said last month it had delivered its 200,000th vehicle. That begins a phasing-out process of the $7,500 tax credit offered to buyers of full electric vehicles — reducing by half every six months until it hits zero.

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The Energy 202: Trump administration preparing to do away with Obama-era lightbulb rules, document says

The Washington Post

In the last days of President Barack Obama's administration, the Energy Department issued new rules attempting to make a wide swath of the lightbulbs illuminating U.S. homes and businesses more energy efficient. The move was cheered by environmentalists keen on the energy-saving potential but booed by conservatives who say it is not a bright idea to stop consumers from buying the lighting of their choice.

Now, the Trump administration appears to be ready to side with those incandescent die-hards, according to a document that was published on -- but then deleted from -- the Energy Department's website.

The document, discovered and saved by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, indicates the Energy Department is preparing to repeal Obama-era rules that broadened the number of lightbulbs that must meet strict energy efficiency standards set to take effect in 2020.

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The demise of US nuclear power in 4 charts

The Conversation

In 2025, the second of two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California will be shut down. Locally, critics of the technology will rejoice at the fulfillment of their ultimate goal: a nuclear-free California.

At the same time, through the shutdown of its four nuclear reactors, the state will have lost more annual low-carbon electricity than its solar PV and wind plants cumulatively generated in 2016.

Commercial nuclear reactors provide roughly one-fifth of the electricity produced in the U.S. Across the country, they face grave threats to their profitability and, therefore, to their continued operation. Nuclear power’s hard times have come relatively quickly – and show no signs of reversing.

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In waiting for answers, automakers stick to Obama-era rules

Associated Press

For all the drama surrounding the Trump administration’s attempt to undo Obama-era fuel economy requirements, automakers are likely to stick to them until they get some answers.

The administration on Thursday unveiled plans to freeze the requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, after which they will be revisited. That means the fleet of new vehicles would have to average about 30 miles per gallon in real-world driving from 2020 through the next six years. The previous fuel standards under President Barack Obama required about 37 mpg by 2025.

But much remains in flux. The Trump administration likely will challenge California’s ability to set its own stricter standards that now match the ones under Obama, and depending on who wins, the U.S. could wind up with two gas mileage standards. It could take years for courts to settle the dispute, or both sides could negotiate one standard. There’s also the looming 2020 presidential election, which could upend the requirements again if a Democrat takes over.

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Solar growth continues in US, though EIA trims its 2019 forecast 45%

Utility Dive

The change in solar power capacity additions "is not related to recent developments in the solar market, such as the new tariffs or changes in policy," Tyler Hodge, lead electric market analyst at EIA, told Utility Dive via email, though, he added, "We may be examining the effect of these issues in future STEO forecasts."

Solar power advocates feared the tariffs the Trump administration imposed on certain foreign made photovoltaic cells and modules in January would cause a crisis in the solar industry, but the impact has so far turned out to be less than anticipated.

The EIA's tempered forecast, as Tyler noted, was not related to such fundamental factors, but to a change in methodology. For its forecasts, the EIA primarily relies on the preliminary data from a monthly inventory of electric generators.

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Minnesota co-op breaks ground on first major storage projects in state

Utility Dive

The Connexus projects join a larger trend of solar-plus-storage installations popping up across the country as the price of the resources decreases and utilities seek emissions-free alternatives to natural gas plants.

Battery storage is anticipated to reach 557 MW by the end of 2018 and near 1 GW by 2019, according to GTM Research.

Minnesota has been at the forefront of community solar laws in recent years, building 246 MW of privately developed community solar, thanks in part to a highly anticipated regulatory decision by Minnesota lawmakers in 2015.

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