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Energy in the News: Friday, August 26

Research professor John DeCicco’s new study, which overturns the assumption that biofuels are carbon-neutral, was just published in Climatic Change. The below stories are related to that release.

Study: Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions (Read more)

University of Michigan News

Study finds biofuels worse for climate than gasoline (Read more)

Climate Central

Biofuels worse for climate change than gasoline, U-M study says (Read more)

Detroit Free Press

Leaking natural gas hurts environment, but industry has little incentive to stop it

Michigan Radio, feat. Catherine Hausman

The natural gas industry tells us that using natural gas is environmentally friendly. The industry says natural gas has fewer impurities than coal, and tells us its combustion yields mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor, so there’s less pollution.

But the main ingredient of natural gas is methane. And methane is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

That’s why University of Michigan public policy assistant professor Catherine Hausman said we need to be concerned about what happens to the environment when methane leaks.

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Self-driving cars reach a fork in the road, and automakers take different routes

Wall Street Journal, feat. Michael Sivak

Cars capable of driving themselves may be on the showroom floor sooner than you think, but whether they should come with all the current essentials — including a steering wheel and pedals on the floor — has the auto industry at a fork in the road.

Ford sided with the pioneering engineers at Google last week in announcing plans to introduce limited-use vehicles without traditional controls within five years. Some other major automakers — and virtually all of them are well along in their work on self-driving vehicles — say they will introduce automated elements one step at a time, until drivers accept that they no longer need to control their cars.

The different approaches are rooted in conflicting views of safety and what the public is willing to accept.

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State approves $1 million for UM Battery Lab

Crain’s Detroit Business

The board of the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a matching grant Tuesday of $1 million for the Battery Fabrication and Characterization User Facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In 2013, UM’s Energy Institute was awarded a $5 million grant over five years from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., with matching funds provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and Ford Motor Co., to build and outfit the battery facility, known as the Battery Lab.

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DTE Coal Plant Fire, UP Announcement Highlight Changing Michigan Electrical Grid

Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council

A pair of recent developments highlight the changes taking place in Michigan’s electrical grid. First, a fire in a coal generation unit shut down DTE’s St. Clair Power Plant in East China Township. There are six turbine units in the plant.

The 63-year-old coal-fired power plant was already scheduled to be retired between 2020 and 2023, along with two other outdated coal-fired plants. Together these plants account for 25 percent of the DTE’s current capacity. The fire did not result in any power outages, according to DTE, nor will the fire impact service to customers or impact the state’s power needs. The St. Clair plant had a capacity factor of only 32 percent.

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Fracking and health: What we know from Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom

The Conversation

The fracking industry has been an energy success story: Natural gas prices have decreased as fracking has skyrocketed, and natural gas now produces more electricity than coal does, which has resulted in improved air quality. The first states to begin unconventional natural gas development with fracking have cited potential economic, energy and community benefits.

Yet early on, communities where fracking spread raised doubts. Nearby residents reported a variety of common symptoms and sources of stress. Public health professionals trumpeted their concerns, and epidemiologists launched health studies of the industry. States like Pennsylvania, where almost 10,000 wells have been drilled since 2005, continued development. But other states, including Maryland and New York, have not permitted drilling because of the potential for environmental and health impacts.

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Southern Co. moves closer to advanced reactor technology

E&E News

Southern Co.’s nuclear unit and X-energy LLC are taking another step toward commercializing next-generation nuclear reactor technology, the companies said yesterday.

The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to commercialize and use X-energy’s high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. The MOU moves forward on efforts to develop advanced nuclear technology to keep nuclear as a viable electricity source.

Southern Nuclear and X-energy will combine research and nuclear reactor operating experience to develop an advanced nuclear design, a Southern Nuclear spokeswoman said. Southern Nuclear wants more options for nuclear energy and considers X-energy playing a significant role in doing that, Jessica Nissenbaum said in an email to EnergyWire.

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Coal lobbying groups losing members as industry tumbles

InsideClimate News

At least 18 major companies—and perhaps nearly twice that many—have ended their memberships in two of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity since 2009, according to research by the Climate Investigations Center (CIC), an environmental advocacy group.

Volvo Construction Equipment North America publicly announced its departure from the NMA during the Paris climate talks last December, citing opposition to the group’s anti-climate action lobbying. “We do not share the NMA’s view on climate change nor their opinion about the politics on climate change driven by American policy,” it told the environmental group Greenpeace. SFK, a Swedish manufacturer, made a similar public pronouncement.

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