News & Events


Energy in the News for Friday, March 1

Tom Lyon testified before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee during a session “Examining How Federal Infrastructure Policy Could Help Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change”. Check out the video here. (He’s also quoted in the Washington Post below.)

Got or know a great grad student? All grad students interested in energy, vehicles, surveys, & behavioral economics — UMEI research Professor John DeCicco and postdoc Lauren Knapp are looking for a highly-qualified grad student to work with on some important projects this spring and summer. Get details and apply here.

If you’re bummed that you missed the Michigan Climate Action Summit, you can see keynotes from it on Facebook.

March 11: U-M Carbon Neutrality Commission Town Hall (This event is full already! You can still get on the waitlist.)
March 14: Christiana Figueres: Advancing Climate Action in 2019 and Beyond
March 21: Climate and energy lightning talks (Hosted by Greg Keoleian and Anna Stefanopoulou, this talk features tons of you! Including: Don Siegel, Jeff Sakamoto, Pam Jagger, Catherine Hausman, Sam Stopler, Jonathan Levine, Rohini Bala Chandran, Geoffrey Thun, and Huei Peng if he can make it.
April 2: ME Department Seminar: Bridging mechanics and electrochemistry:
Experiments and modeling on battery materials

April 3: Public Roundtable on Overcoming Challenges to Electric Vehicle Deployment, hosted by UMEI and Ceres
April 8: Fastest path to Zero with U-M and Third Way (contact Suzanne Baker at for details)
April 10-11: Global CO2 Initiative LCA/TEA workshop (invite-only; contact Susan Fancy for details)
April 15: Clean Wolverines Symposium (invite-only; contact Susan Fancy for details)

Infrastructure is bipartisan concern, but House panel differs on climate change
Washington Post, featuring Tom Lyon
Everyone in Congress agrees transportation is a bipartisan matter. But a hearing Tuesday to discuss the impact of transportation on climate change caused sharp partisan discord.
“We don’t need sweeping mandates that ignore economic reality,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “The heavy-handed approach, envisioned by the Green New Deal, doesn’t work.”
Two other Republicans also questioned whether action at the federal level was required, expressing discomfort with a hearing called by Democrats who wanted to investigate how infrastructure policy might evolve in the face of climate change.
“It looks like companies and industry are already being environmentally conscious,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.). “Why do we need a top-down approach to environmental regulation?”
Read more

Will the West’s Great River Run Dry?
PBS Newshour, featuring Jonathan Overpeck
The beginnings of the mighty Colorado River on the west slope of Rocky Mountain National Park are humble. A large marsh creates a small trickle of a stream at La Poudre Pass, and thus begins the long, labyrinthine 1,450-mile journey of one of America’s great waterways.
Several miles later, in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneeche Valley, the Colorado River Trail allows hikers to walk along its course and, during low water, even jump across it. This valley is where the nascent river falls prey to its first diversion — 30 percent of its water is taken before it reaches the stream to irrigate distant fields.
The Never Summer Mountains tower over the the valley to the west. Cut across the face of these glacier-etched peaks is the Grand Ditch, an incision visible just above the timber line. The ditch collects water as the snow melts and, because it is higher in elevation than La Poudre Pass, funnels it 14 miles back across the Continental Divide, where it empties it into the headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River, which flows on to alfalfa and row crop farmers in eastern Colorado. Hand dug in the late 19th century with shovels and picks by Japanese crews, it was the first trans-basin diversion of the Colorado.
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Car culture revolution spreading to Muncie
Muncie Star Press, featuring John DeCicco
Rick Morris drives a Chevrolet Bolt, an all-electric car, which he bought from an assistant sales manager at the American Chevrolet dealership, Blake Absher, who has test-driven and sold the partially self-driving Cadillac CT6.
These two guys happen to be experiencing the beginning of an apparent revolution in car culture — one that might some day make private ownership of cars as outdated as the horse and buggy.
Muncie, however, seems to be lagging behind in that aspect of the revolution, as it lacks an electric car-sharing company like Zipcar, which already operates on college campuses at Indiana University, Purdue University, IUPUI, University of Notre Dame and Valparaiso University (one fourth the size of Ball State University).
Zipcar, whose slogan is “Own the trip, not the car,” lets members drive a variety of Zipcars on demand, often by the hour.
Car-sharing services are similar to the controversial electric scooter-sharing services that popped up in Bloomington, West Lafayette and Indianapolis (but not Muncie) last year.
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Connecting People To The Grid In India Isn’t Enough
Forbes, featuring research by Brian Min
The United Nations has called for universal access to electricity by 2030 as part of its Sustainable Development Goals. India has been a leader in this effort, declaring in April 2018 that every Indian village had been electrified and committing to ensuring every household was connected by March 2019. There is little doubt that, at least on paper, India will reach that goal. As famed management expert Peter Drucker pointed out, “What gets measured gets done.”
The corollary to Drucker’s famous quotation, however, is also true – what goes unmeasured is often left undone. Ensuring that the electricity being provided is of a high quality remains a critical challenge for the expansion of Indian infrastructure, without blackouts, brown-outs or other disruptions of service. India suffers from rampant electricity theft and heavily indebted electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs), and poor quality electricity has resulted in damaged equipment, losses of productivity and lower investment. Moreover, some recent studies have suggested that electrification will have little impact on household welfare if that access is poor quality.
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The So-Called Political Divide on Coal vs. Renewables Is Fake News
Ecowatch, featuring CLOSUP
From a political standpoint, defending coal consumption is harder than ever. Coal is far and away the dirtiest fossil fuel there is in terms of carbon emissions and regular old air pollution (and its messy mining practices certainly aren’t helping its reputation). And when you factor in health care costs, environmental costs, and costs to local communities in the form of reduced tourism and property values, coal is also a real loser economically speaking—especially in relation to natural gas and renewables like wind and solar.
Still, lawmakers from coal-producing states and members of the current presidential administration have long attempted to justify their defense of coal on the grounds that it’s more than a fossil fuel: It’s a “way of life.”
But this last line of defense—”Renewables may be all the rage in San Francisco or Seattle or wherever, but where I come from, the people still love coal and always will”—may not be effective for much longer. Two recently released reports show how public sentiment regarding coal and renewables has shifted dramatically in recent years. One of them looks at attitudes at the national level; the other explores them in the historically coal-friendly state of Ohio. Both spell trouble for the future of an industry that’s already, by nearly all accounts, on its last legs.
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The Biggest Problem Behind The U.S. Shale Boom
OilPrice, featuring Daniel Raimi
U.S. shale production is expected to continue to soar well into the 2020s. And that is a major problem.
Over the past decade, U.S. oil production has more than doubled, surging from 5 million barrels per day (mb/d) to close to 12 mb/d today. Natural gas also rose significantly, rising from 21 trillion cubic feet per year (Tcf/y) in 2008 to 29 Tcf/y in 2017.
Natural gas has been likened to a “bridge fuel,” allowing the U.S. to lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) while it transitions to cleaner energy. Cheap shale gas has killed off a lot of coal plants, and with a GHG-profile half that of coal, the switch has been a boon for the fight against climate change.
That narrative, to be sure, remains up for debate. Shale gas operations emit methane, and at some point high volumes of fugitive methane emissions completely offset the benefit that gas has over coal. Various studies, for and against, argue over exactly how much methane is and has been emitted.
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API Attacks On Methane Safeguards Contradict Science And Drag The Industry Backwards
Forbes (opinion), featuring Catherine Hausman
Methane is a powerful pollutant responsible for more than 25 percent of climate change we experience today—and the oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions. Recent scientific evidence only underscores the importance of addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
Unfortunately, at the request of the American Petroleum Institute (API) and others in industry, the Trump administration has issued a proposal to dramatically weaken common sense standards that address oil and gas emissions, allowing for an increase in pollution. In addition, reports suggest that EPA is moving forward with a second proposal that could entirely remove the direct regulation of methane in the oil and gas sector, which would fly in the face of the well-established scientific record documenting the harms of this powerful pollutant and would disregard the substantial amount of pollution emitted from oil and gas sources.
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Democrats eye extensions for wind, solar credits
E&E News
Renewable tax credits behind the massive deployment of wind and solar technologies during the past few years may get a second life as Democrats are expressing interest in extending them beyond their upcoming sunset dates.
The interest — still in its beginning stages — is likely to launch the latest round in the debate about federal subsidies in the energy marketplace as renewable power reaches a maturation point that enables it to compete against more established power generators.
And the effort may only gather more momentum in the coming months as climate change and the “Green New Deal” have put an added emphasis on the federal government’s role in encouraging clean energy deployment.
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Power lines: The next ‘Green New Deal’ battlefront?
E&E News
If the goals of the “Green New Deal” are a political minefield, so, too, are the most likely strategies for reaching its target of very high national levels of renewable energy output.
A shelf of authoritative studies under the Department of Energy’s sponsorship dating back to George W. Bush’s presidency define how to take a big step in that direction. Their answer — build a network of long-distance, ultra-high-voltage transmission lines to widely share wind and solar power across the continent’s time zones.
But the strategy has faced overpowering headwinds of not-in-my-backyard opposition from residents and not-through-my-state political pushback. It’s also been rare for Congress to put aside partisan politics and pass major legislation facilitating transmission corridors.
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DTE’s wind-only option spurs Michigan regulators to approve revised green pricing program
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) last week approved DTE Electric’s revised voluntary green pricing program after the utility addressed concerns over its cost, pricing transparency, enrollment cap and other issues.
Under the MIGreenPower program, customers who want their electricity generated by wind and solar will pay a subscription fee of $0.072/kWh, while an all-wind subscription would cost $0.052/kWh. Once the program is 75% subscribed, regulators say more resources can be added.
Last year, DTE and Consumers Energy, the state’s two largest utilities, announced they would be “targeting at least a 50% clean energy goal by 2030.” DTE also proposed doubling its renewable capacity by 2022, largely through the addition of large scale wind resources.
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Peach Bottom, other U.S. nuclear power plants could be running until 2054. Is it safe?
Philadephia Inquirer
The beige consoles and pale walls of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station control room are festooned with knobs, dials, and lights from a different era. The operators joke that they still consult paper manuals in three-ring binders.
No digital help screens here.
The system that controls the two giant Peach Bottom reactors in York County is largely analog, installed when the company then known as Philadelphia Electric Co. — now Peco Energy — launched the units in 1974. The current owner, Exelon Generation, says it expects to fully digitize the control room in the next decade, part of an ongoing effort to modernize a plant that supplies electricity to 2.7 million homes.
The Peach Bottom plant, 60 miles west of Philadelphia near the Maryland border, is operating under a 20-year extension from its original 40-year license, like many of America’s aging fleet of nuclear reactors. Last year it became one of the first plants to apply for what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls a “Subsequent License Renewal” — that would permit the reactors to run through 2053 and 2054, when they turn 80 years old.
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Fiat Chrysler to add 6,500 jobs in major Jeep expansion
NBC News
Fiat Chrysler is pushing its red-hot Jeep brand into a higher gear with a major production expansion.
The automaker says it will hire 6,500 workers and invest $4.5 billion by adding a new assembly plant in Detroit and boosting production at five existing factories.
CEO Mike Manley said expanding in Detroit is a logical decision given the company’s facilities in the area and the desire to produce Jeeps in the U.S. “We’re an American brand. We’re proud of that within the Jeep brand,” he said in a statement.
Executives have made it clear for months that the company would be expanding Jeep production, including converting an idled engine plant in Detroit into a full-time final assembly plant.
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Researchers to sharpen Great Lakes ice alerts
Great Lakes Echo
In 2015, the Arthur M. Anderson carrying iron ore across Lake Erie got stuck in ice for five days near Conneaut, Ohio.
“It couldn’t get in to Conneaut and then it couldn’t get out, and it had a full load,” said Tom Rayburn of the Great Lakes Carriers Association, which represents and supports Great Lakes shipping companies.
Ice causes a lot of problems for Great Lakes ships, from delays at locks to damage to ships.
“Every once in a while they’ll get a hole in them,” said Rayburn, the Cleveland-based organization’s director of environmental and regulatory affairs.
That’s a big problem – 20 percent of Great Lakes cargo moves in the winter. And no easy-to-understand, publicly accessible forecast for Great Lakes ice exists.
But University of Michigan researchers are changing that. They have a $10,000 grant from the Graham Center for Sustainability to create an ice forecast that’s as usable as the weather forecasts on television.
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Trump adviser created group to defend CO2
E&E News
Fill up that gas-guzzling truck — because global bursts of carbon dioxide will benefit society, feed the poor and help future generations thrive.
Those photos of bleached coral, the disappearing island nations and images of glaciers tumbling into the ocean are “mostly myths designed to terrify people into accepting harmful policies that allegedly ‘save the planet.'”
Those are some of the claims promoted by the CO2 Coalition, a nonprofit founded in 2015 by the White House official who’s overseeing the administration’s “adversarial” review of climate science. The group’s assertions are disputed by a vast majority of climate researchers. But in the eyes of CO2 Coalition members, it’s the world’s leading scientists who are wrong.
The CO2 Coalition, established by William Happer, a senior director with the White House National Security Council, has received more than $1 million from energy executives and conservative foundations that fight regulations since it was founded four years ago. The group is stacked with researchers who cast doubt on climate science. Other members have spent years fighting regulations that would reduce fossil fuel consumption.
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