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Energy in the News: Friday, May 27

America’s commuter system is going off the rails

CNN, feat. Victor Li

Long a source of national pride, America’s infrastructure is in critical need of repair, but federal government spending on the issue has gone down 9% in the past decade.

Beyond funding, there is another issue: how to make the bridges better. Researchers at the University of Michigan believe they may have a fix: bendable concrete that can heal itself from cracks. Demonstration in the university’s engineer lab shows regular concrete can fail quickly and suddenly. Professor Victor Li, who developed the technology over the past 10 years, said the bendable concrete can withstand a force hundreds of times more powerful than standard concrete. The researchers’ hope is that it could help already crumbling bridges, like the Memorial Bridge near the nation’s capital.

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New biofuels boost will worsen carbon pollution in spite of its ‘renewable’ brand

Fox News, by John DeCicco

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency once again proposed an uptick in the billions of gallons of biofuels—mostly corn ethanol and biodiesel—that Americans must put in their autos and other vehicles as we hit the travelling season of summer.

It was another triumph of politics over real environmental concern.

The new total of mandated biofuels under the latest revision of the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, is nearly 700 million gallons more than last year. That is not as much as Congress called for, but still based on a badly flawed assumption: that biofuels produce lower emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases than petroleum-based fuels.

By now, EPA should know better, given the clear-cut evidence of how that assumption is wrong.

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For more from John DeCicco on biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard, see also “Wasting Away in Ethanolville” from The American Spectator and “EPA requires more ethanol into less gasoline” from Brietbart.

Would you want a self-driving car?

Popular Science, feat. Michael Sivak

There are plenty of headaches that go along with driving. Fueling up, staying alert, dealing with traffic, buying insurance, other drivers … the list goes on. But for all the hassle that goes along with driving, American drivers aren’t willing to hand over the wheel to their cars just yet.

In a poll conducted by researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak with the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation research group, researchers found that across age, gender, and demographics, American drivers just aren’t that interested in having a self-driving car.

The poll collected answers from 618 licensed drivers in the United States, with pretty even distributions across geography, income level, gender, and age.

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For more of Michael Sivak on self-driving car fears, see also “Most Americans Are Ignorant About How Green Cars Work” from Fortune.

Donald Trump’s energy plan: More fossil fuels and fewer rules

The New York Times

Donald J. Trump traveled Thursday to the heart of America’s oil and gas boom, where he called for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations while vowing to “cancel the Paris climate agreement,” the 2015 accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to curb climate change.

Laying out his positions on energy and the environment at an oil industry conference in North Dakota, he vowed to rescind President Obama’s signature climate change rules and revive construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring petroleum from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

It was the latest in a series of recent policy addresses, including on Israel and foreign policy, intended to position Mr. Trump, the real estate mogul and reality show star, as credible on substantive issues now that he is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

But experts remain skeptical of Mr. Trump’s command of the complexities of the global energy economy. And he made claims, such as a promise to restore jobs lost in coal mining, that essentially defy free-market forces.

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Michigan has thousands of untapped cogeneration sites, groups say

Midwest Energy News

A new collaboration of clean energy groups says Michigan has vast potential to generate electricity by taking advantage of wasted energy at industrial and other facilities.

Michigan has 10,000 sites capable of deploying more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity from combined heat and power systems, according to Greg Northrup, a principal at Grand Rapids-based Sustainable Partners who is working with a team of clean energy groups on studying the potential for the technology.

The team — which includes modeling consultants, university researchers and clean tech experts — was recently selected for a two-year, $310,000 grant from the state of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Energy. State energy officials want to tap into the potential of CHP as a way to meet carbon reduction and energy efficiency goals embraced this year by Gov. Rick Snyder.

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