News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, January 11

Mark your calendars for Lauren Knapp’s January 25 postdoctoral seminar, The answer is blowin’ in the wind: Do American attitudes on energy and economic willingness to pay for renewables reflect behavioral outcomes?

A paper authored by Chris Scheuer, Gregory A Keoleian, and Peter Reppe- Life cycle energy and environmental performance of a new university building: modeling challenges and design implications, received a Best Research Paper Award for 1998-2007 from the journal Energy and Buildings. Congratulations!

The SEAS conservation and restoration lightning talks are coming up on January 18.

Want to be the Director of the Energy and Efficiency Institute at UC Davis? Well, we’d rather you stay at U-M. (But if you insist, view the job listing here.)

Congratulations to longtime Michigan clean energy professional Liesl Eichler-Clark, who’s the new director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick’s Energy Economics Weekly Briefing: Green Bonds Could Finance Transition Toward Electrified Vehicles

Check out this Jonathan Overpeck co-authored review: Relationship‐building between climate scientists and publics as an alternative to information transfer

If you haven’t followed us on Twitter, we’re at @MichEnergy.

The “original sin” of air quality regulations is keeping communities polluted. But that’s changing.
Environmental Health News, featuring Paul Mohai
Theresa Landrum still has an emergency kit the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security gave her years ago when she asked the agency to help her community, which is surrounded by heavy industry, create an evacuation plan in the event of a chemical emergency.
“They gave us a little can, the size that tennis balls come in, and we thought it was a joke,” said Landrum at a recent meeting at Detroit’s New Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church. “They gave us a whistle, a bottle of water and a Band-Aid and a tiny, little flashlight.”
“County and city officials advised the community to ‘stay in place, take duct tape and plastic, and cover up every opening,'” Landrum continued.
Landrum, a cancer survivor whose parents died of lung cancer, has cause for concern. More than two dozen major industrial facilities surround her neighborhood, known by its now infamous zip code 48217.
Read more

New Midwest governors spur hope for regional fight against climate change
Bridge MI, featuring Barry Rabe
A new crop of Democratic governors in the Midwest is reviving hopes of regional collaborations to fight climate change.
Besides Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, new governors in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin have vowed all vowed take action on global warming.
That’s prompted some to wonder whether they could join forces on policy or other practices related to climate change. After all, it’s happened before.
More than a decade ago, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and counterparts in five Midwest states and a Canadian province agreed to aggressively fight climate change through a market-based system called cap-and-trade.
That’s when polluters pay for the right to release greenhouse gases into the air, and governments set targets for reductions. Parties wanting to pollute more must buy permits from those willing to sell them.
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U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute announces new research grants
University of Michigan News Service, featuring Jennifer Haverkamp
Partnerships, co-production and research to practice. These themes define four projects recently awarded Catalyst Grants by the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute.
Led by multidisciplinary faculty teams, the projects aim to advance sustainability at local, state, national and international levels by engaging diverse communities on a range of contemporary problems.
“Catalyst Grants enable U-M researchers to develop new and deepen existing partnerships with various stakeholders,” said Graham Director Jennifer Haverkamp. “We’re excited to fund these projects, which will fill knowledge gaps, support decision-making locally and abroad, and spur continued collaborations.”
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Our current drought is worse than most megadroughts, new study says
Arizona Daily Star, featuring Jonathan Overpeck
The Colorado River- Tucson’s drinking water supply- carries nearly 20 percent less water than in 2000. Bark beetles are chomping away at our forests and killing off ponderosa pines. Wildfires are rapidly growing in intensity.
These problems have been linked to a drought that has stretched 19 years with no respite.
Now, a team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D.- and that this region is currently in a megadrought.  Read more

Scientific research in Michigan may be affected by ongoing federal shutdown
Michigan Radio, featuring Jack Hu
The University of Michigan spent a billion and a half dollars on scientific research. More than half the funding for that research came from the federal government.
Jack Hu oversees research work at the University of Michigan.  
He says, because of the shutdown, many faculty members are having to wait to submit new research proposals to the National Science Foundation.
“Hopefully after NSF reopens, they will speed up the review process, so that the real impact will not be as significant,” says Hu.
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VW’S EV chargers make paying for power easier than ever
Drivers of gasoline-powered cars have it easy. Gas stations are everywhere. Fill-ups take just a few minutes. Drivers of electric vehicles, not so much. Public charging stations are far from ubiquitous, and boosting a battery means spending at least half an hour plugged in. So anything that makes an EV easier to use and own helps, and a newly announced goodie aims to make topping off a depleted battery easier than ever.
This week at CES, Electrify America announced the charging stations it’s installing across the country will come with a new capability called Plug&Charge. When you pull up to one, all you’ll have to do is plug in. The charger will recognize your car and bill you automatically. No more entering your credit card, pulling up some app, or finding that RFID tag you keep forgetting to put on your key ring.
Electrify America is the cheery name for the initiative that Volkswagen created and funded as part of its settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board after getting caught cheating on emissions tests for millions of diesel cars. Over the coming decade, it will spend $2 billion (40 percent of it in the Golden State) building a national network of fast chargers any electric car can use. VW plans to have 500 of those in place, all over America, by the end of this year.
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Oil industry makes landmark investment in CO2 air capture
E&E News
Chevron Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. are forming the first major collaboration between the oil industry and a company deploying technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air.
In an announcement yesterday, Chevron’s venture capital arm and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures LLC, an Occidental subsidiary, said they would invest in Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based firm supported by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and other entrepreneurs.
“It is a very important time for the air capture field right now,” said Steve Oldham, the CEO of Carbon Engineering. “CE’s relationships with Occidental and Chevron, and these new investments, will allow us to accelerate the deployment.”
The companies did not disclose the dollar amount of the Carbon Engineering partnership, but a CE spokeswoman said the company is on track to reach a goal of raising $60 million by the end of the first quarter of this year.
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The significant hitch in vehicle-to vehicle communication
Here’s a question. What if your car could talk to other cars on the street? As you’re driving along, and your car could tell another car perhaps to move in order to avoid a crash. Ford wants to install technology like this in all its cars in three years. Tracy Samilton of Michigan Radio has the story, which begins with a video demonstration.

Q&A: Michigan’s top utility regulator on the state’s energy transition
Midwest Energy News
Over the past six years, Sally Talberg has overseen what she calls a “fundamental transition” in Michigan’s energy market.
Talberg, who was appointed to the Michigan Public Service Commission as an Independent in 2013 and has chaired it since 2016, says coal plant closures are driving this shift to natural gas and renewable energy. However, the commission continues to grapple with questions around distributed generation, the role of third-party developers, and electric vehicles, to name a few issues.
In a late-December interview with Energy News Network, Talberg discussed Michigan’s transition from coal and how that’s impacting utility oversight. Talberg also predicts emerging issues will include the relationship between federal and state regulators as more distributed generation and energy storage come online.
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Michigan approves Consumers Energy EV charging program
Associated Press
Michigan’s Public Service Commission has approved Jackson-based Consumers Energy’s PowerMIDrive electric vehicle charging program.
The three-year, $10 million pilot program supports the state’s growing electric vehicle market through new rates, rebates and customer education.
The program includes a Nighttime Savers Rate to encourage drivers to charge their electric vehicles between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Residential drivers who sign up for the nighttime rate will be offered a $500 rebate for each electric vehicle. Consumers Energy also will offer $5,000 rebates for chargers installed in public areas such as workplaces and multi-unit dwellings.
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Gov. Wolf, gas utility unveil climate plans
E&E News
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he has ordered an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, on the same day that one of the state’s utility companies announced it will use state-of-the-art technology to reduce methane emissions.
Pittsburgh-based Peoples Gas, which serves 700,000 customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky, said it’ll cut stray emissions of methane from its pipelines by 50 percent. It marks the first time a major utility has announced a plan to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, according to the company and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Separately, Wolf, a Democrat, signed an executive order calling for Pennsylvania to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. He set up a panel of state agency heads, the GreenGov Council, to encourage energy efficiency at governmental operations.
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US Electric Vehicle Sales Increased by 81% in 2018
Greentech Media
U.S. electric vehicle sales may be finally seeing the hockey stick growth market watchers have been waiting for.   
The 2018 numbers are in, and total U.S. EV sales came in at 361,307 for the year — up 81 percent over 2017 — according to the tracking website Inside EVs.
For Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute’s mobility practice, the results came as a surprise.
“I did not expect the growth rate to be over 30 percent” for 2018, he said. “I expected it to be in the 20 percent range, which is where it’s been.”
“I did expect we’d have a sharp increase in the rate adoption sometime soon,” he added. “But I didn’t think it would be in 2018.”
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