News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, January 4

Happy New Year from all of us at the Energy Institute!

Energy Economics Weekly Briefing: Check out and download the 2019 Energy Institute Energy Economics calendar, created by Economics student Mitch Mead and UMEI’s Ellen Hughes-Cromwick.

Mark your calendars:

Postdoctoral Seminar: The answer is blowin’ in the wind: Whether Americans’ attitudes on energy and economic willingness to pay for renewables reflect behavioral outcomes
Lauren A Knapp, PhD, University of Michigan Energy Institute
Friday, January 25 | 11:45 – 1pm
Location: Ford School of Public Policy, Weill 3240 (3rd floor seminar room) (talk will start promptly at 11:45; space is limited)

Sustainable Ann Arbor 2019 will feature Jonathan Overpeck, Tony Reames, and many local friends of U-M.

Also: Mark your calendar for the 2019 Wege Lecture by Christiana Figueres.

Scientific research in Michigan may be affected by ongoing federal shutdown
Michigan Radio, featuring Jack Hu
University researchers in Michigan are concerned that if the federal government shutdown drags on, it could affect future scientific projects.
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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Climate’s Big Unknown: What’s Happening Beneath Antarctica’s Ice?
The Wall Street Journal, featuring Richard Rood
Antarctic scientists are gathering “some of the most high-priority data that needs to be taken,” says Richard Rood, a professor of climate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Climate models use measurements of the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, land and ice, sometimes going back more than 100 years, both to understand the climate’s history and to predict its future. Scientists use mathematical equations that rely on these data to simulate physical phenomena such as rainfall and ocean currents.
They test how good these simulations are at mimicking reality by doing “hind-casting.” If the outputs match historical records, the model is considered accurate, and scientists can use it to study how the planet might react to future conditions.
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US fossil fuel exports spur growth, climate worries
AP via the Washington Post, featuring Daniel Raimi
In South Korea’s largest shipyard, thousands of workers in yellow hard hats move ceaselessly between towering cranes lifting hulks of steel. They look like a hive of bees scurrying over a massive circuit board as they weld together the latest additions to the rapidly growing fleet of tankers carrying super-chilled liquefied natural gas across the world’s oceans.
The boom in fossil-fuel production in the United States has been matched by a rush on the other side of the Pacific to build the infrastructure needed to respond to the seemingly unquenchable thirst for energy among Asia’s top economies. When Congress lifted restrictions on shipping crude oil overseas in 2015, soon after the Obama administration opened the doors for international sales of natural gas, even the most boosterish of Texas oil men wouldn’t have predicted the U.S. could become one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel exporters so quickly.
Climate experts say there is little doubt increased American production and exports are contributing to the recent rise in planet-warming carbon emissions by helping keep crude prices low, increasing consumption in developing economies.
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Bill Gates’ nuclear venture hits snag amid U.S. restrictions on China deals: WSJ
TerraPower LLC, a nuclear energy venture chaired by Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, is seeking a new partner for early-stage trials of its technology after new U.S. rules forced it to abandon an agreement with China, company officials told the Wall Street Journal.
TerraPower reached an agreement with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp in 2017 to build an experimental nuclear reactor south of Beijing. But Gates wrote in an essay published late last week that TerraPower is unlikely to follow through on its plans in the face of new U.S. restrictions on technology deals with China.
The Bellevue, Washington-based company is now unsure which country it will work with to conduct trials of its technology, which is designed to use depleted uranium as fuel for nuclear reactors in a bid to improve safety and costs, company officials told the Journal.
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Self-Driving Cars Keep Tapping the Brakes
In December, Waymo LLC, the leading driverless-car company, brought out the world’s first commercial robo-taxi service. But for now, the service is only available to about 400 test families in suburban Phoenix, and each of its converted Chrysler minivans still has a person at the wheel in case anything goes awry.
“It’s a pretty glaring indication that we’re not there yet,” says Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-director of the University of Michigan’s Ford Center for Autonomous Vehicles, who’s working with automakers to develop robot rides. Waymo, owned by Google parent Alphabet Inc. and recently valued at $250 billion by Jefferies Research LLC, declined to comment. In a blog post, Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said the human safety drivers were at work in Arizona to make riders feel more comfortable.
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Hyundai imagines a future where EVs can charge themselves
Automakers and other companies are planning to ramp up charger installations to keep up with the increasing interest in electric vehicles. But if they can’t keep up with growing EV sales, overcrowding at public charging stations could become an enormous problem — especially since (as CNET noted) people tend to leave their cars plugged in while they wander off instead of monitoring them and unplugging as soon as they’re done. Hyundai and Kia believe the solution to that problem is a system that can automatically guide an EV to a wireless charging station and then drive it away as soon as it’s fully charged.
In a concept video the companies have unveiled, they showed how they plan to combine wireless charging with their Automated Valet Parking System. An app will be able to tell owners if there’s a public charger in a building, after which they can simply step out and send a command to the vehicle to find an available charger. The EV will then charge itself through wireless magnetic induction and then automatically move to an empty parking spot when its battery reaches 100 percent to make way for the next vehicle in line. Its owner, who’ll know once it’s done through real-time updates via the application, can then summon the EV back using the same app.
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In North Carolina, wood pellet foes see opportunity in Cooper’s climate order
Energy News Network
Undaunted by critics, biomass company Enviva is bidding to make North Carolina the country’s top exporter of wood pellets, a popular coal substitute in Europe whose purported climate benefits have come under increasing scrutiny.
For years, environmental advocates and many scientists here have fought toxic air pollution from pellet mills and tried to rebut claims that wood pellets are carbon neutral — both with limited success.
But just as an international report warns that time is running out to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, advocates say a recent executive order on climate change by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, gives them new leverage to push back against Enviva’s proposed expansion.
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In Nebraska, a unique carbon-capture concept has a lot of unknowns
Midwest Energy News
A Nebraska utility, finding itself with a ready source of hydrogen, is exploring a solution that could enable it to reuse carbon dioxide from power plants or other sources.
In November, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) announced a partnership with Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology and Wärtsilä, a Finnish manufacturer, to explore using that company’s technology to generate electricity from methanol, which would be synthesized by combining hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Methanol, which is chemically similar to ethanol, can be used in internal combustion engines and burns cleaner than fossil fuels. It’s commonly used as a solvent and antifreeze, is relatively easy to ship and is biodegradable.  
However, it is also energy intensive to make, and still emits carbon dioxide when burned.
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5 new governors to watch on climate
E&E News
Climate change prominently featured in a number of gubernatorial elections this fall. Here’s a list of newly elected governors who stand to make a mark on America’s greenhouse gas emissions in the coming year.
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100% Renewable Energy Bill Passes In Washington, DC
Clean Technica
The District of Columbia (Washington, DC) City Council voted before Christmas in favor of passing the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 which implements a 100% renewable energy target by 2032.
Before the City Council adjourned for its Christmas recess, the twenty-second two-year Council Period held its final meeting on December 18 in which it voted on several pieces of legislation, including the 100% renewable energy target. The pithily named Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 had already received one of two necessary votes to proceed and was passed at the final Council meeting of the year.
The bill implements a 100% renewable energy target by 2032 with a 10% solar energy carve-out by 2041, and also mandates zero-emissions public transportation by 2045. The bill is being described as the most ambitious renewable energy policy in the country.
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Conn. throws lifeline to Millstone, Seabrook plants
E&E News
Two of New England’s nuclear plants are among the beneficiaries of Connecticut’s zero-carbon solicitation for electricity generation.
Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) on Friday said the state had selected Dominion Energy Inc.’s Millstone and NextEra Energy Inc.’s Seabrook nuclear stations to enter into contracts with Connecticut utilities for periods of 10 and eight years, respectively.
All told, the state solicitation selected the two nuclear plants as well as nine solar projects and an offshore wind farm in response to its zero-carbon solicitation issued in July after the Legislature in June passed a law mandating it.
The selections amount to a political marriage of convenience between the nuclear energy and renewables industries.
Such alliances are becoming more common as states look to move away from fossil fuels out of concern about global warming, especially in the absence of action by the federal government.
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