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Energy in the News: Friday, November 4

How Detroit’s climate change activists are using science to plan for a warmer city

Model D, feat. Tony Reames

Imagine Detroit circa 1950. Men in dark suits and fedoras dash in and out of high-rise buildings. Women in dresses and heels shop at the downtown Kresge for home linens and cosmetics. Streetcars crowd Woodward Avenue alongside shiny Studebakers, Cadillacs and Packard Super Eights.

And the climate was approximately 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit cooler on average than it is today.

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Will a national charging-station network boost electric vehicle sales?

Marketplace, feat. John DeCicco

If you’re shopping for a car, you may know that two new electric vehicles are coming in 2017: the Chevy Bolt and the next-gen Toyota Prius plug-in. The reality is, the EV market has not dazzled. When President Obama entered office, he envisioned 1 million sales by 2015. Yesterday, the U.S. hit half that number. So today, the White House announced a new measure to bring more charging stations to the country, notably on key highway corridors. The question is, how much these new charging stations will jolt demand for electric vehicles?

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A sports complex and the downside of debt in the oil patch

E&E EnergyWire, feat. Barry Rabe and Daniel Raimi

Three years ago, the local government in this small town faced a big challenge. At the epicenter of the Bakken Shale oil boom, people were pouring into Watford City and its 30-year-old high school badly needed replacing. The school district came up with $54 million in loans and grants to build the classrooms, and the city government borrowed $94 million to build a complex including a football stadium and an indoor event center. The various loans are backed by property taxes, sales taxes, and the local share of state oil and gas taxes. If the oil industry recovers from its current three-year oil bust, Watford City will have plenty of tax money to pay off the loans, and the industry will carry most of the financial burden. But Watford City’s taxpayers could be on the hook for those loans if the oil industry falters and tax revenue falls short, which has already happened once.

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New organization promotes careers for women in energy-related fields

MLive, feat. Liesl Clark

Diverse thinking and innovation can solve energy problems, says Liesl Clark, principal and co-founder of 5 Lakes Energy, a public policy consulting firm for clean energy and sustainability.

Clark talks with Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes about an upcoming celebration of energy innovators and her work supporting careers for women in the energy sector.

As a principal consultant, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MiEIBC) and board member of Advancing Women in Energy (AWE), Clark has seen how an interdisciplinary approach with a variety of perspectives can be useful to problem-solving.

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Lord Stern: we need negative emissions to avoid 2C warming

Climate Home

Let us begin by considering where we may be headed on our current pathway in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and global average temperatures.

It is worth remembering just how robust the science of climate change is, built on two centuries of theory and evidence since Joseph Fourier first observed that the Earth is warmer than it otherwise would be without its atmosphere.

Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities increase concentrations in the atmosphere, trapping more infra-red radiation around the Earth, leading to the rise in global mean surface temperature that has been recorded instrumentally since the mid-19th century.

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Is coal’s political heft plunging? One state may be canary in mine

The New York Times

The American coal industry, with its billions of dollars and army of lobbyists, has a storied history of muscle and might. But in this northwest corner of Washington, people like Christopher Grannis, a 69-year-old building contractor and stalwart in local civic causes, are standing up to coal.

And coal is losing.

“There are financial rewards for a few, but risks are borne by many,” Mr. Grannis said, standing at a microphone at a recent Whatcom County Council meeting in support of a moratorium on new applications for fossil fuel transport through the county. Council members passed the moratorium later that evening.

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Shell, Total CEOs question solar in room full of solar investors

Bloomberg

When executives from some of the world’s biggest oil companies question the ability of solar energy to make money in a roomful of renewables investors, awkwardness ensues.

That’s what happened Thursday at the Energy for Tomorrow conference in Paris, where the chief executive officers of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA said solar power isn’t profitable.

“Growth of renewables has been remarkable but capacity of industry to make money in that segment has been remarkably absent,’’ Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said during a panel discussion. “The 10 largest solar companies collectively never paid a cent of dividends.’’

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Advocates face roadblocks while pursuing community solar in Detroit

Midwest Energy News

Advocates pushing for cooperatively owned renewable energy projects in Detroit are facing difficulty, which they blame largely on regulatory hurdles and resistance by a major utility.

As groups seek better clean energy access in the city that’s still grappling with large-scale industrial pollution, community solar often surfaces as a way to provide relatively low-cost buy-in for residents compared to installing their own panels, and also turn brownfield sites into “brightfields” — both of which suit Detroit.

But developing community solar in Detroit, as is the case across Michigan, largely comes down to whether the local utility is willing to participate.

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The world is racing to stop climate change. But the math still doesn’t add up

The Washington Post

The entire globe is moving fast to stop climate change. The Paris climate agreement enters into legal force on Friday, and then shortly afterwards comes a first global meeting to start implementing it in Marrakech, Morocco. (Yes, there’s also a U.S. election in there somewhere that could, er, complicate things.)

But this flurry of activity nonetheless faces a grim mathematical reality, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme finds. In essence, while the Paris agreement sets extremely ambitious temperature goals — holding the world’s warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and striving for a 1.5 degree limit — current policies and promises alone have little chance of attaining them.

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Emissions Gap Report

United Nations Environment Programme

Since 2010, United Nations Environment (UNEP) has produced annual Emissions Gap Reports based on requests by countries for an independent scientific assessment of how actions and pledges by countries affect the global greenhouse gas emissions trend, and how this compares to emissions trajectories consistent with the long-term goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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Here’s how much of the Arctic you’re personally responsible for melting

The Washington Post

Dirk Notz calculates that for every person who drives a car 1,000 miles or takes a round-trip flight from New York to London, three square meters (about 32 square feet) of sea ice vanishes from the Arctic.

Researchers have long documented that human-fueled carbon dioxide emissions contribute to the overall warming of the planet — and, by extension, accelerate the diminishing of sea ice in the Arctic each year. But in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, Notz and a colleague detail the complex set of calculations that allowed them to estimate how much Arctic sea ice melts for every metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

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As Earth warms, the diseases that may lie within permafrost become a bigger worry

Scientific American

This past summer anthrax killed a 12-year-old boy in a remote part of Siberia. At least 20 other people, also from the Yamal Peninsula, were diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease after approximately 100 suspected cases were hospitalized. Additionally, more than 2,300 reindeer in the area died from the infection. The likely cause? Thawing permafrost. According to Russian officials, thawed permafrost—a permanently frozen layer of soil—released previously immobile spores of Bacillus anthracis into nearby water and soil and then into the food supply. The outbreak was the region’s first in 75 years.

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