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Energy in the News: Friday, October 12

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A new CLOSUP report finds that almost 90% of Americans support increasing use of solar energy in their state, including 87% of Republicans.

-Congratulations to NERS alum Rita Baranwal, who has been nominated for the post of Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy) at the Department of Energy.

Urgent climate action: How engineers are heeding IPCC’s call

U-M Engineer News Center, feat. Anna Stefanopoulou, Volker Sick, Richard Rood, and Jonathan Overpeck

A new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to avoid the most serious consequences of climate change, nations must take unprecedented actions to cut carbon emissions over the next decade. Avoiding the worst damage will require transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

Michigan Engineering researchers are working on technological solutions to stabilize the climate and adapt to a warmer world. And beyond engineering, U-M President Mark Schlissel announced earlier this month that he will form a special commission to develop a plan for U-M to work toward carbon neutrality.

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Nobel award recognizes how economic forces can fight climate change

The Conversation, by Andrew Hoffman and Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

Yale economist William Nordhaus has devoted his life’s work to understanding the costs of climate change and advocating the use of a carbon tax to curb global warming.

It’s no small irony, then, that on the same day his research shared in the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, a United Nations panel released its latest report on the mounting dangers of climate change. In fact, the report builds upon much of Nordhaus’ work and warns that we have only about a dozen years to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid environmental catastrophe.

This warning – and the award – come at a time when it appears that some Americans are not listening. The U.S. is no longer a signatory of the Paris accord to address climate change, a broad swath of the country still denies the existence of the problem, and some state and federal policymakers don’t incorporate climate science into their decision-making.

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Off-grid U-M straw bale house anchors sustainability efforts

The Detroit News, feat. Joe Trumpey

A straw-built “off-the-grid” building at the University of Michigan debuted Sunday at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens during UM’s annual fall harvest event.

UM professor Joe Trumpey first constructed a straw-built home for himself in Grass Lake more than a decade ago. More recently, he led students through the process of creating a straw-built building at the UM Biological Station in Pellston in northern Michigan. His Green Building class built both buildings.

So when time came to create the Straw Bale Building as an anchor for the UM Campus Farm, some of the students were already familiar with the process.

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Expanding fungal diversity, one cell at a time

University of Michigan News, feat. Tim James

More than a million species of fungi are estimated to live on this planet, but most of that diversity remains unknown because the fungi have avoided detection and have not been cultured for study in laboratories.

Now a team led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute and including University of Michigan mycologist Tim James reports the development of a pipeline to generate genomes from single cells of uncultivated fungi.

The approach was tested on several uncultivated fungal species representing early diverging fungi, the earliest evolutionary branches in the fungal genealogy that provide a repertoire of important and valuable gene products. The team’s findings were published Oct. 8 in Nature Microbiology.

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University of Michigan researchers get algae biofuel grant

The Associated Press, feat. Brad Cardinale

University of Michigan researchers will use a $2 million Energy department grant toward finding ways to use algae as a biofuel source for diesel engines.

The Ann Arbor school says they will work with Penn State University researchers to evaluate how best to grow algae, transform it into a diesel fuel and maximize its performance during the combustion process.

Algae-based biofuels are seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional diesel fuels, which produce high levels of greenhouse gases when they burn.

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Additional coverage of this topic:

University of Michigan researchers to use algae to make diesel fuel, The Detroit Free Press, feat. Brad Cardinale and Andre Boehman, Read more

University of Michigan researchers look to make diesel fuel from algae with $2M grant, MLive, feat. Brad Cardinale and Andre Boehman, Read more

Mich. regulators grapple with knotty PURPA issues

E&E Energywire

A series of four rulings by Michigan regulators involving the 40-year-old Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act could help spur a surge of new solar development in the Lower Peninsula over the next few years.

In one order, the state Public Service Commission resolved a proceeding that began more than two years ago and established prices and contract terms that utility Consumers Energy must offer independent power producers under PURPA.

The PSC also rejected Consumers Energy’s argument that it doesn’t need to add generating capacity during the next decade and said those future capacity needs and other issues related to implementing PURPA would be decided in the review of a long-range integrated resource plan (IRP) filed earlier this year.

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‘We were here first’: Tribes say Line 5 pipeline tunnel ignores treaty rights

Energy News Network

Michigan officials have spent the past year pursuing a plan to tunnel an oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac while ignoring the 182-year-old treaty rights of Native Americans, multiple tribal leaders say.

While the Snyder administration formally met with tribes three times over the past year under a State-Tribal Accord, tribal chairpersons say these consultations were little more than an “airing of grievances” for them.

The last meeting between tribes and Gov. Rick Snyder happened on September 27, less than a week before the state announced an agreement with Enbridge to pursue a $500 million tunnel for the company’s Line 5 pipeline. In other meetings, officials have been unwilling to share information from Enbridge or modify any agreements, tribes say.

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U.S. tightens controls on China imports of nuclear components

Reuters

The United States is tightening controls on China’s imports of civil nuclear technology to prevent use for military or other unauthorized purposes, the U.S. Department of Energy said on Thursday amid increased trade tensions.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on nearly $200 billion of Chinese imports and then threatened more levies if China retaliated. China then hit back with tariffs on about $60 billion of U.S. imports.

Washington announced the nuclear technology controls a day after the U.S. Justice Department said it had arrested and indicted a spy for China’s Ministry of State Security on charges of economic espionage. Chinese operative Xu Yanjun also attempted to steal trade secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies, the department said. China rejected the allegations.

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Here’s how energy efficient Michigan is

Detroit Patch

Michigan has been ranked the 11th most energy efficient state in America, according to a new report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The advocacy group, based in Washington, D.C., released its 12th annual scorecard Thursday, finding that while some states worked to retain their energy efficiency standards, lawmakers in other states actively worked against them, following in the footsteps of the federal government.

Michigan increased slightly from 2016 to 2017, according to the report, and now narrowly misses the top 10.

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New U.N. climate report says put a high price on carbon

The New York Times

In its landmark report on the fast-approaching dangers of climate change, a United Nations scientific panel said on Sunday that putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions would be central for getting global warming under control.

More than 40 governments around the world, including the European Union and California, have now put a price on carbon, either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through cap-and-trade programs. But many of them have found it politically difficult to set a price high enough to spur truly deep reductions in carbon emissions.

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Are regulators hindering EV acceleration?

Utility Dive

“The auto industry will change more in the next 5 years than it has in the last 50,” General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra wrote in the most recent GM annual report.  

The numbers agree with Barra. In 2017, annual global sales of EVs passed 1 million and could reach 4.5 million, 5% of the global market, by 2020, according to business consultant McKinsey. That will grow to 11 million in 2025 and 30 million in 2030, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts.

The price of batteries, the EV’s most expensive component, fell from $1,000/kWh in 2010 to $227/kWh in 2017 and is forecast to fall to near $100/kWh by 2020, McKinsey also found.

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IBEW Local 58 is making zero net energy happen at its Detroit headquarters

Model D

When Local 58 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) decided to modernize its Corktown Detroit union hall four years ago, it pulled out all the stops to transform it into a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) facility. That’s a term used to describe buildings where the sum total of energy used in a year is approximately equal to the amount of renewable energy produced on-site during the same time.

IBEW Local 58 — which represents more than 4,700 journeymen electricians in Southeast Michigan — now operates the largest ZNE facility in the state. In fact, the union local even changed the name of their 33,000-square-foot building to reflect this. Its headquarters is now known as Zero Net Energy Center.

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