News & Events


Energy in the news: Friday, November 6

Panel debate over emissions doesn’t follow partisan lines

E&E News

It was an unusual scenario, to say the least.

Republican lawmakers yesterday needled witnesses on the nuances and intricacies of carbon accounting for biofuels — models created to showcase how well the fuels performed as a tool for averting climate change.

A recurring theme in the debate over the federal renewable fuel standard has been the ability of these fuels — particularly corn ethanol — to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when replacing fossil fuels in the country’s fuel supply. According to the most commonly used model from the Argonne National Laboratory, all biofuels — even the “first generation” corn ethanol — cut emissions over their life cycle by at least 20 percent.

John DeCicco, one of the witnesses at a House Science, Space and Technology joint subcommittee meeting yesterday to examine the progress of the RFS since it was enacted a decade ago, is one of the most vocal scientists who challenge the assumption that biofuels are carbon neutral — that is, that plants grown for biofuels remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

“When I read your bio, I was a little interested in why Republicans were bringing you to testify,” Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on the Environment, told DeCicco, a mechanical engineer with the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute whose models suggest that corn ethanol emits more greenhouse gas emissions over a life cycle than gasoline.

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University of Mich. Researcher DeCicco says RFS not delivering environmental benefits


As the White House Office of Management and Budget reviews U.S. EPA’s final rule for the renewable fuel standard’s 2014-2016 volume obligations, two House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees this week convened to assess the efficacy of the rule. During today’s OnPoint, John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute and a witness at the House hearing, explains why he believes the RFS is not delivering environmental benefits and discusses next steps for the rule.

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The downside of fewer U.S. nuclear plants


The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, but the country’s fleet of nearly 100 reactors is showing its age.

On Nov. 2, the owner of a nuclear power station in New York said it will shut the plant down, which follows announcements of plant closures in Massachusetts, California, Florida and Wisconsin. This raises important questions for the U.S. energy sector. The retirements reflect a set of economic challenges for nuclear power plants across the United States, and have important implications for climate change, energy costs and the reliability of the power grid.

Nuclear provides nearly 20% of the electricity in the United States, but the average plant is about 34 years old, and prospects for the future of many of these plants are murky, at best. While five new reactors are currently under construction in the U.S., the World Nuclear Association estimates that more than 10 older ones are currently at risk of closure.

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For Michigan battery lab, path to grid storage begins in the garage

Midwest Energy News

A new battery research lab in Michigan aims to provide infrastructure for companies to prototype new mobility and grid energy storage ideas while maintaining their intellectual property.

And while the project is driven primarily by automotive research interests for now, its directors see that as just the beginning of a broader energy storage movement.

In October, the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute launched the new 2,700-square-foot Battery Fabrication and Characterization User Facility with $900,000 from the university’s engineering school, $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and $2.1 million from Ford Motor Company.

The new lab also serves as a centerpiece for the university’s participation in theJoint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) and the CERC-Clean Vehicles Consortium.

According to Energy Institute director Mark Barteau, the investment is critical to making breakthroughs to bring both electric vehicle and grid storage applications to scale.

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4 things in the new House bill to overhaul Michigan’s energy policy, slated for a committee vote


The House Energy Policy Committee could vote to change the mainframe of Michigan’s energy policy as soon as Wednesday, worrying advocates, as well as legislators, who say they haven’t had time to read the latest version of the legislation.

The House Energy Policy Committee on Wednesday morning adopted a substitute version of House Bill 4298, which addresses energy competition and regulatory issues. Another bill, HB 4297, addresses the environmental part of energy policy and could also be voted out of committee Wednesday afternoon.

This new version of the bill is substantively different from what was originally introduced.

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