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Energy in the News: Friday, August 12

Why utilities have little incentive to plug leaking natural gas

The Conversation, feat. Catherine Hausman

The Aliso Canyon leak in California earlier this year focused public attention on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it is a potent contributor to climate change. In less than a year, the Aliso Canyon facility leaked methane equal to about four million metric tons of CO2, the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving over 800,000 cars in a year.

But the problem of methane leakage was hardly news to environmentalists and regulators, who have been following the problem for years. Indeed, the EPA this year introduced regulations to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas wells – and more initiatives are expected to be coming down the, er, pipeline.

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Michigan scientists see urgency for negative emissions

Climate Central, feat. Mark Barteau, John DeCicco

When Sarang Supekar describes how he thinks global warming will have to be stabilized, he talks in terms of sucking a lot of carbon dioxide out of the air and in a very short timeframe.

Supekar, a systems engineer at the University of Michigan, is part of a team developing a computer model that estimates how countries can stay within their carbon budgets, limiting their greenhouse gases so that the earth does not warm beyond the 2°C (3.6°F) threshold.

His research, which is ongoing and has not yet been published, is suggesting an increasingly dire situation: Countries may have only until 2026 to begin retiring most old coal-fired power plants and replacing them with 100 percent renewable power sources, or the globe is likely to blow through its carbon budget and exceed 2°C of warming.

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Artificial leaf turns CO2 emissions into fuel

Climate Central, feat. Levi Thompson

If humans could invent a leaf-like solar cell that could turn carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere into fuel for electric power plants, it could help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut emissions that contribute to global warming.

That’s the goal of a new artificial leaf that a team of researchers led by the University of Illinois-Chicago has developed — a solar cell that uses the power of the sun to mimic photosynthesis and convert carbon dioxide into a solid fuel, according to a study published in the journal Science.

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Images in climate change stories spur readers to action

University of Michigan News, feat. Sol Hart

Turn off the lights when not in use. Drive less by walking, biking or taking public transportation. Or write a letter to an elected official to support action on climate change.

We’re more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors if we read media stories about climate change that include images of renewable energy, a new University of Michigan study found.

Images, such as solar panels, and text highlighting actions that can be taken to address climate change can increase our sense of efficacy to address the issue, researchers said.

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Report: Cities, Businesses Could Save Big by Going Green

Public News Service

Along with its natural beauty, Michigan is home to some stunning city skylines, and a new report says energy-efficiency upgrades could save businesses money while preserving the “Pure Michigan” way of life.
It’s been one year since the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions was finalized. While critics continue to claim it will bankrupt the nation, growing evidence points to the contrary.
Dr. Marilyn Brown, a professor in the School of Public Policy of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said Michigan’s commercial sector could realize average annual savings of more than $293 million on electric bills in 2030, and another $300 million in natural gas bills, if the Clean Power Plan was implemented, compared with doing nothing.

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Europe aims to close loophole on wood energy

Climate Central

European officials are moving to close a loophole that promotes the burning of wood for electricity by an industry that’s felling American trees, and a new report they commissioned has laid bare the urgent need for reform.

European Union climate rules treat woody biomass energy as if it’s as clean as solar or wind energy, despite it releasing more heat-trapping carbon dioxide for every megawatt of electricity produced than coal. Producing wood pellets for fuel can also foster climate-changing deforestation.

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Michigan agencies want study on electric grid reliability

Morning Consult

The Michigan Agency for Energy and the Michigan Public Service Commission want the Midcontinent Independent System Operator to conduct a study on electric grid reliability following a number of recent plant retirements, the agencies announced on Wednesday.

In a Tuesday letter to MISO Senior Director of Policy and Economic Studies John Lawhorn, the agencies expressed concern over whether Michigan is on track to continue to meet reliability goals, including goals to avoid a massive outage in the future.

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