News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, October 27

TE3 Conference explores future of transportation

The Michigan Daily, feat. Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

Though many might think the future of mobility lies in flying cars and jetpacks, experts say the future entails dependence on equity of mobility companies and policy framework needed for a revolution.

At least, that’s what professionals in transportation, economics, energy and the environment discussed Friday for the University of Michigan Energy Institute’s fourth TE3 Conference.

The conference featured multiple researchers who presented their work and conclusions before the crowd of roughly 150 faculty members and students. Following the presentation of research projects, there were panel discussions and Q&A sessions for audience members to have an exchange with the presenters. There were also frequent breaks where attendees had informal conversation and networked.

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John DeCicco: The LCA is the wrong way to look at biofuels & CO2

Future Fuel Strategies, feat. John DeCicco

Recently I interviewed John DeCicco, Research Professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, about a study he and his team completed last year on the Carbon Balance Effects of U.S. Biofuel Production and Use. In August 2017, a team lead by Ford published a commentary on that study which prompted a reply from Professor DeCicco. That prompted me to ask both the Professor and a representative from the Ford team to discuss the study and commentary in a Q&A session for Future Fuels Outlook service clients. Professor DeCicco accepted, but Ford declined.

Instead, I did a podcast with the Professor to discuss a range of issues concerning not only the study and commentary and how he sees the issues, but lifecycle analysis (LCA) generally, where next generation biofuels fits in, what the future of biofuels will likely be as he sees it, and what kind of transport policy we should really be thinking about globally. Highlights from the discussion follow below. You can listen or download the podcast below or listen to it in ITunes

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NASA’s X3 ion thruster smashes records in test firings

New Atlas, feat. Alec Gallimore

A human settlement on Mars is rapidly moving from science fiction to fact, with Elon Musk envisioning Battlestar Galactica-style fleets blasting off to the Red Planet in coming decades. That scenario is now one step closer, as engineers from NASA and the University of Michigan have successfully tested the X3, a thruster designed to get us to Mars. And it’s broken several records in the process.

The X3 is one of three Mars engine prototypes currently in development. It is what’s known as a Hall thruster, which uses electric and magnetic fields to ionize gases like xenon and expels the ions to produce thrust. The technique is much cleaner, safer and more fuel efficient than traditional chemical rockets, but the trade off is relatively low thrust and acceleration.

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Study reveals higher health impacts of coal-generated power

AZoCleantech, feat. Shelie Miller and Brian Ellis

Although it is well-established that hydraulic fracturing affects human health to a greater extent, an innovative research performed at University of Michigan has revealed that the lifetime emission of toxic chemicals during coal-generated electricity is 10-100 times more than the emission from electricity produced using natural gas acquired through fracking

The research is a comparative investigation of the hazardous impacts of electricity produced from coal and shale gas on human health. The study analyzes the amount of toxic chemicals emitted into the soil, air and water at the resource extraction as well as electricity generation stages of both technologies and consummates that the prospective effects of electricity generated from coal on human health are considerably greater.

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A plan for defending US manufacturers from cyberattacks

The Hill, feat. Sridhar Kota

From Equifax to Target to Britain’s National Health System, major players in finance, retail, and government are reeling from cyberattacks. The threats aren’t just to consumer-facing companies or traditionally IT-driven organizations. Today, some of the biggest hacking risks are to physical producers. The recent “WannaCry” virus forced a Honda plant in Japan to halt production. This summer, about half of the organizations targeted by the sweeping Petya cyberattack were manufacturers.

As the manufacturing sector gets increasingly interwoven with information technology and the Internet of Things, industrial firms are increasingly at risk. Beyond the scale and intensity of the threat, there’s another issue: lack of awareness. Too few manufacturing firms in the United States acknowledge the need for action.

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Q&A with Sharon Glotzer

The Michigan Engineer News Center, feat. Sharon Glotzer

As Sharon Glotzer gets into the swing of her first term as the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, we asked her about what she thinks is missing in chemical engineering education.

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Investing in U.S. universities

BusinessWire, feat. Neil Dasgupta, Huei Peng, and Jeff Sakamoto

Bosch recently hosted the first symposium of energy researchers supported by the Bosch Energy Research Network. BERN also awarded six energy research grants to researchers at five leading U.S. universities and awarded energy internships to 18 students.

At the symposium 14 university research faculty presented and discussed research results on battery, powertrain, and energy conversion and management topics with Bosch engineers from across North America and Germany. The symposium was held for two days in Palo Alto, California.

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Detroit leveraging state gas tax hike to jump-start street repairs

Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit plans to jump-start improvements along commercial corridors by borrowing $124.5 million from JPMorgan Chase & Co. with the city’s share of Michigan’s new road funding from increases in fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.

City Council voted Tuesday in favor of a private-placement borrowing arrangement in which JPMorgan Chase buys tax-free municipal bonds through the Michigan Finance Authority that would be dedicated to Detroit.

The bond sale is expected to close by mid-November, pending approval of the Detroit Financial Review Commission and the Michigan Finance Authority.

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City manager shares insights into solar farm operation

Sturgis Journal

There are a few commonalities between a solar farm in the city of Lapeer and a proposed development in Mendon and Nottawa townships.

First, the recently completed project east of Flint was developed on property previously leased for agriculture-related purposes. Second, it is generally recognized as a large-scale solar project.

How large? Lapeer City Manager Dale Kerbyson said it is the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi River. The Lapeer development is built on adjacent parcels that together equal almost 300 acres. For the sake of comparison, the Minnesota company hoping to establish a solar farm in St. Joseph County has acquired more than 550 acres of farmland.

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DHS sounds alarm over energy-focused hacking campaign

E&E EnergyWire

The Department of Homeland Security warned Friday of an “ongoing” hacking threat to U.S. energy systems in a rare public alert.

A “multi-stage intrusion campaign” dating back to at least May started with smaller, less-defended targets before moving up the food chain to “major, high-value asset owners” in the nuclear, water and energy sectors, DHS said in the alert. The hackers also hit aviation and critical manufacturing companies, according to the alert, “and, in some cases, have leveraged their capabilities to compromise victims’ networks.”

Much of the malicious activity in DHS’s warning had been previously disclosed and analyzed by private sector cybersecurity experts.

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Trump team’s wonky CO2 calculation is a big deal

E&E ClimateWire

Folded within the Trump administration’s plans to repeal a major Obama-era climate rule is an obscure but highly consequential metric estimating the costs of climate change.

The so-called social cost of carbon is a mathematical evaluation of how much the emission of 1 ton of carbon dioxide is likely to cost society through future climate change — given damages to infrastructure, agriculture, human health and otherwise. It’s a little-known value in the public sphere, but one that contains tremendous potential to influence the cost-benefit analyses that help shape environmental policy, and it’s long been the subject of controversy.

In its proposed repeal of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan — a 2015 rule to limit power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions — the Trump team included a lengthy report that dramatically altered the costs projected by the last administration.

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Blockchain tech creeps forward, with energy-grid uses

E&E EnergyWire

A virtual ledger that serves as the foundation for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is attracting increased attention and funding dollars from large energy companies and the U.S. government, who are curious about its potential application to the grid.

Blockchain technologies, in their various iterations, act as a record of transactions that gets distributed across the users of a given system, rather than in the hands of a single intermediary that controls access. Its champions see it as nothing less than the basis of nearly every kind of transaction in the not-so-distant future, cutting out middlemen who mediate everything from business contracts to banking to music sales.

Already, the ledger has plenty of indie cred and fans overseas. In one project launched in Brooklyn, neighbors buy and sell excess solar energy produced on nearby rooftops.

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When a town loses its economic center

E&E EnergyWire

First operational in 1972, Yankee at its peak employed 650 workers and belted out a third of Vermont’s electricity, making it easily the biggest power plant in the state. In 2013, to many Vernonites’ surprise and horror, Entergy announced that competitive pressures were forcing it to shut down the plant.

Yankee sent its last electron 16 months later, and today it sits severed from the grid, a dormant fortress awaiting disassembly. About 150 employees are busy moving the nuclear fuel to barrels and securing the site. The plant will have to be dismantled someday. Exactly when remains undecided

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