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Energy in the news: Friday, November 13

Wars over EPA Renewable Fuel Standard heat up

Fox News, feat. John DeCicco

“It would be better if the Renewable Fuel Standard were simply repealed,” argues John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute and a former senior fellow at the Environmental Defense Fund.

DeCicco told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology last week that “the Renewable Fuel Standard has been harmful to the environment since its inception,” adding that “the impacts have been worse since 2007,” when additional biofuel targets were added.

Calculations of corn ethanol’s greenhouse case savings were based on “an incorrect notion of carbon neutrality,” DeCicco said, that did not include, for example, the “harvesting of feedstock.”

As a result, he said, “The lifecycle models used for public policy to date assume carbon neutrality for biofuels without checking whether the conditions are verified for actual biofuel production.”

“The EPA is in a real bind,” DeCicco told Fox News after the hearing. “Congress wrote a law mandating imaginary fuels. These have failed to materialize in any quantity. Congress tried to codify wishful thinking.”

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Opinion: The Keystone XL pipeline debate is over, but our infrastructure needs are not

IFL Science, by Mark Barteau

President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline was virtually a foregone conclusion well before he announced it.

Just as the prolonged debate about the pipeline was far more a matter of symbolism than substance, so too are the likely consequences of this decision.

At the same time, investment in energy infrastructure of all kinds remains a critical need. Reducing the environmental and climate impacts from energy will require significant investment in fossil fuel and carbon-free energy sources.

The rejection of this pipeline should not obscure the fact that in order to address climate change, our country needs to greatly upgrade the infrastructure behind the energy that fuels our society.

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First to test autonomous vehicle at Mcity is a Ford

Detroit Free Press

The first autonomous car to start testing at the Mcity campus will be a Ford.

The automaker will be first to run a self-driving vehicle through its paces at the 32-acre simulated city created on the campus of the University of Michigan that provides a safe area to put a car through repeated paces.

The facility, part of the university’s Mobility Transformation Center, opened in July for use by more than a dozen automakers, suppliers, telecommunications and other companies in the pursuit of autonomous driving technology. Faculty and students can also use the mock city to pursue their projects and studies.

Ford, General Motors, Honda and the rest of the automotive industry have spent years working on autonomous driving and much of their technology is already incorporated into today’s vehicles as features that improve safety by working to prevent collisions.

“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”

Ford’s Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle is equipped with cameras, radar and sensors including LiDAR to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment to make driving decisions in a test area complete with street lights, crosswalks, lanes, ramps, roundabouts, curbs, bike lanes, trees, hydrants, sidewalks, signs, traffic lights and construction barriers.

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Why Michigan’s proposed 30 percent clean energy goal may not be as impressive as it sounds

MLive

Democrats won a clean energy amendment to a package to overhaul Michigan energy policy as it advanced from committee last week, but advocates say 30 percent by 2025 isn’t as impressive as it sounds.

If you drill down into the numbers, advocates say 30 percent may be more like 5 percent in actual new renewable energy.

There are a couple key differences between the 30 by 2025 goal and previous proposals. One is that it includes a mixture of renewable energy and energy efficiency — that is, energy not used.

Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, did the math. Michigan is already poised to meet a 2008 mandate of 10 percent renewable generation by the end of the year. If efficiency programs escalate in line with their trajectory and incentives, about 1.5 percent per year, efficiency alone would be responsible for 15 percent of the target.

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Why federal tax credit expiration would hit Midwest solar the hardest

Midwest Energy News

Solar advocates nationwide are holding their breath as Congress debates extending the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar, a crucial tool for financing residential and commercial installations.

Legislators who support solar are pushing to include the ITC in a broader tax extenders bill making its way through Congress.

Midwestern renewable energy developers and advocates say this region may have the most at stake with the ITC’s fate. Midwestern states typically lack strong state-level policies to support the nascent but promising solar industry, they say, and low electricity prices mean the payback time for solar is longer than in other regions.

The ITC offers credits on federal income taxes for individuals and businesses equal to 30 percent of the cost spent on solar installations. Without the extension, the commercial break will drop to 10 percent and the residential support will be eliminated when the credit expires at the end of 2016.

Without the credit, many installations would simply not be built, developers and advocates say.

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