News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, May 19

Focus on carbon removal a ‘high-stakes gamble’

Climate Central, feat. John DeCicco

The manmade emissions fueling global warming are accumulating so quickly in the atmosphere that climate change could spiral out of control before humanity can take measures drastic enough to cool the earth’s fever, many climate scientists say.

The most important way the earth’s rising temperature can be tempered is to reduce the use of fossil fuels. But scientists say another critical solution is to physically remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere — something called “negative emissions” — so that carbon dioxide and rising temperatures could peak, and then begin to decline over time.

Many of the assumptions underlying the landmark Paris Climate Agreement rely on the idea that humans will be actively removing carbon from the atmosphere late this century because reducing emissions won’t be enough to prevent global warming from exceeding levels considered dangerous.

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U-M awarded $20M for federally funded Great Lakes research institute

University of Michigan News, feat. Brad Cardinale

The University of Michigan has been awarded a five-year, $20 million grant from the federal government to form a research institute focused on sustainable management of the Great Lakes.

The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, which will be hosted by U-M and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, represents a partnership between nine universities across the Great Lakes region, as well as multiple nongovernmental organizations and private businesses.

The institute’s primary NOAA research partner is the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. Researchers from the cooperative institute and the NOAA lab will work together to study the most pressing issues in the Great Lakes, including weather and climate, invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and protection of ecosystem services.

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Seven faculty members named Distinguished University Professors

U-M University Record, feat. Mark Hunter and Ralph Yang

Seven faculty members have received one of the University of Michigan’s top honors as Distinguished University Professors.

The Board of Regents approved the appointments on Thursday. They are effective Sept. 1.

Recently appointed DUPs are invited to give an inaugural lecture that highlights their work at the university. The lecture is typically delivered during the first or second full year of their appointments.

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Global tailpipe tests vastly underestimate diesel pollution

ABC News, feat. John DeCicco

Pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than levels shown in government lab tests, a new study says.

That extra pollution translated to another 38,000 deaths from soot and smog in 2015, the researchers estimated.

The work published Monday in the journal Nature was a follow-up to the testing that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Researchers compared the amount of key pollutants coming out of diesel tailpipes on the road in 10 countries and the European Union to the results of government lab tests for nitrogen oxides.

They calculated that 5 million more tons (4.6 metric tons) was being spewed than the lab-based 9. 4 million tons (8.5 million metric tons). Governments routinely test new vehicles to make sure they meet pollution limits.

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India, one of the world’s top gas guzzlers, plans to make all its cars electric by 2030

Quartz, feat. Juan Cole

Indian auto manufacturers and international oil exporters have been aflutter since India’s government announced plans to make all its cars electric by 2030. “By [that year], not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country,” power minister Piyush Goyal said at a Confederation of Indian Industry session last month.

India’s need for oil has surged as its economy has grown. It’s now the world’s third-largest oil importer, paying $150 billion annually for the resource. A sizeable chunk fuels passenger vehicles acquired by the country’s growing middle class—and the number of cars is only going to increase in coming years. Switching to electric vehicles (EVs) would save the country $60 billion in energy by 2030, according to a report published last week by NITI Aayog, India’s most influential government think tank.

The change would also decrease carbon emissions by 37% by 2030, a welcome development for a country with a severe urban pollution problem. In 2014, the World Health Organization determined that out of the 20 global cities with the most air pollution, 13 are in India.

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Learner, Gade: Donald Trump’s puzzling war on the Great Lakes

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, feat. EAB member Howard Learner

President Donald Trump won the 2016 election in Wisconsin and several Great Lakes states, but his Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is assaulting Great Lakes protection and restoration. Slashing funding for the sensible Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million annually to $0. Rolling back Clean Water Act standards that protect safe, clean drinking water. Potentially closing the U.S. EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, which includes the Great Lakes National Program Office, and transferring its staff to Kansas.

What are they thinking? This is a headscratcher, criticized by both Republican and Democratic leaders. Pruitt says he wants to get “back to basics.” What could be more basic than protecting the Great Lakes?

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When some US firms move production overseas, they also offshore their pollution

The Conversation, feat. Yue Maggie Zhou

On April 22, as protesters swelled Earth Day rallies in U.S. cities and around the world, President Trump tweeted that he was “committed to keeping our air and water clean but always remember that economic growth enhances environmental protection. Jobs matter!” His message was eerily similar to assertions by governments in developing countries that environmental standards are less important than attracting jobs.

Indeed, over the last few decades many developing countries have adopted loose environmental standards to lure foreign firms to move production there. However, an emerging body of research shows that policies like this also bring heavy pollution to the host countries.

In a recent study, my co-author Xiaoyang Li and I found that a significant number of U.S. firms reduce their pollution at home by offshoring production to poor and less regulated countries. The greening of U.S. manufacturing over the past several decades may be partially caused by a growing flow of “brown” imports from poor countries.

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Ann Arbor is 1st in U.S. for clean technology ‘innovation density’


A new report by The Brookings Institution measured clean technology innovation across the U.S. to see where the nation stands on the ability to capitalize on the $1.4 trillion business opportunity from energy innovation.

It’s a category of technology that we see in multiple Michigan industries: it includes wind turbines, solar power generation, and much of the engineering behind connected and autonomous vehicles. It also addresses existing fuels and how to reach maximum efficiency. Green building materials, energy storage – such as fuel cells – and water and wastewater sustainability all are considered part of cleantech innovation.

The reach of cleantech development holds considerable potential for the U.S. and the cities producing it, the report said.

“The bottom line: Low-carbon technology holds great potential to spark high-quality growth in U.S. regions, support the manufacturing sector, and improve the trade balance,” the report concluded.

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DTE Energy plans to be coal-free by 2040

Crain’s Detroit Business

DTE Energy Co. announced Tuesday a company goal to rid itself of coal-burning power plants by 2040 in an effort to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Gerry Anderson, chairman and CEO of DTE, said the Detroit-based utility will invest $15 billion over the next three decades in renewable energy and natural gas-burning power generation for its 2.2 million electricity customers in Southeast Michigan.

Anderson said the utility’s shift away from coal for electricity is driven by reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global climate change.

“Climate change is a big deal,” Anderson said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters. “I think it’s the policy issue of our era. Certainly for the energy issue, it is the defining policy issue — and I think it’s going to be that way for many years to come.”

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U.S. wind energy installations surge: A new turbine rises every 2.4 hours

InsideClimate News

Every two and a half hours, workers installed a new wind turbine in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released on May 2.

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.

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By 2020, every Chinese coal plant will be more efficient than every US coal plant


President Trump and his administration have claimed that the Paris climate accord is a “bad deal” because it requires much more of the US than of China. This reflects an enduring conservative paranoia that the Chinese are getting one over on us.

To this day, it remains a central conservative argument against climate action: China is the real problem and it isn’t doing anything, so US action is futile.

In support of this position, conservatives point to the fact that dozens of coal plants have either recently been built or are in the planning or construction phases in China. This, they say, gives the lie to the country’s promises.

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TransCanada reassessing U.S. producers’ interest in Keystone XL

The Globe and Mail

TransCanada Corp. is reassessing whether oil producers in North Dakota and Montana are still interested in shipping crude through its long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, now that they have other new options to ship their product, including the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Calgary-based company’s announcement this month comes with the Keystone XL still needing approval of its proposed route through Nebraska and with the Dakota Access, which was designed to transport about half of North Dakota’s oil production, expected to be fully operational by June.

TransCanada announced in 2011 that it had secured five-year contracts to move crude from the oilfields of North Dakota and Montana via a proposed five-mile (eight-kilometre)-long access pipeline. The $140-million (U.S.) project, designed to carry 100,000 barrels of crude daily from the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations, would meet with the Keystone XL in Baker, Mont.

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EPA asked the public which regulations to gut — and got an earful about leaving them alone

The Washington Post

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency put out a call for comments about what regulations are in need of repeal, replacement or modification. The effort stemmed from an executive order issued by President Trump earlier this year instructing agencies to reexamine regulations that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation” and/or “impose costs that exceed benefits.”

More than 55,100 responses rolled in by the time the comment period closed on Monday — but they were full of Americans sharing their experiences of growing up with dirty air and water, and with pleas for the agency not to undo safeguards that could return the country to more a more polluted era.

“Know your history or you’ll be doomed to repeat it,” one person wrote. “Environmental regulations came about for a reason. There is scientific reasoning behind the need for it. It is not a conspiracy to harm corporations. It’s an attempt to make the people’s lives better.”

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Agency defends contentious grid study

E&E News

The Energy Department plans to make public a contentious internal study on the U.S. electrical grid that has riled up renewable groups and Democrats who have questioned its underlying intent.

Although DOE has drawn attention for not reaching out to other grid overseers and experts in conducting the study, agency spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in an email that the department is “committed to conducting a thorough review — one that relies heavily on the research and institutional knowledge of the Department’s experts from all relevant program offices and National Laboratories.”

Hynes added, “Although this is an internal study, it is an important topic area and therefore the Department will be making it public once it is finished.”

The study, announced in an April 14 memo from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, is taking a broad look at grid reliability, baseload power and subsidies.

Fossil fuel groups say the analysis is needed to investigate the impact of Obama-era rules. But critics say it appears to be an attack on renewables.

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