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Energy in the News: Friday, October 7

Biofuels turn out to be a climate mistake – here’s why

The Conversation, feat. John DeCicco

Ever since the 1973 oil embargo, U.S. energy policy has sought to replace petroleum-based transportation fuels with alternatives. One prominent option is using biofuels, such as ethanol in place of gasoline and biodiesel instead of ordinary diesel.

Transportation generates one-fourth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so addressing this sector’s impact is crucial for climate protection.

Many scientists view biofuels as inherently carbon-neutral: they assume the carbon dioxide (CO2) plants absorb from the air as they grow completely offsets, or “neutralizes,” the CO2 emitted when fuels made from plants burn. Many years of computer modeling based on this assumption, including work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, concluded that using biofuels to replace gasoline significantly reduced CO2 emissions from transportation.

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Scientists perfect a way to sense airborne methane

Scientific American, feat. Eric Kort

Spring warmth had just begun to stir some activity in the brown, stubbly fields of North Dakota in mid-May of 2014. Farmers working there saw some unusual activity overhead, as well. A stubby, instrument-packed airplane with a pointy nose and twin engines began making slow, regular passes over the land, as if it was searching for something.

Certainly the area, part of a huge oil and gas field called the Bakken formation, contained things that were worth searching for. It had gone from economic oblivion to the production of over 10 percent of the nation’s oil production in little more than a decade, and natural gas production had shot up with it.

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Hurricane Matthew could leave 7 million in the dark

University of Michigan News

Hurricane Matthew could knock out power for approximately 7 million people in the United States in a wide swath stretching from Miami to the Carolinas.

That’s according to power outage forecasts by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and Texas A&M University. Current as of 2 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Wednesday morning, the forecasts are likely to change quickly as the storm progresses, and will be updated frequently on the team’s website.

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Sustainability efforts progressing across the university

U-M University Record

From education and research to campus operations, the University of Michigan is taking great strides to create new opportunities to engage the community in sustainability.

Beginning in fall 2017, game days at Michigan Stadium will be zero-waste events. Also in the works is the creation of a new type of school that will address global sustainability challenges at the intersection of environment and society through research, teaching and civic engagement.

President Mark Schlissel shared a brief update on U-M sustainability at his annual Leadership Breakfast on Wednesday.

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Over 190 countries adopt plan to offset air travel emissions

New York Times

Governments from more than 190 countries on Thursday adopted a measure that for the first time will reduce the climate impact of international jet travel.

The accord adds an exclamation point to a week in which enough countries signed onto the broader Paris climate deal to ensure that it will enter into force later this year.

The aviation plan, the product of years of negotiations, was approved by acclamation at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, or I.C.A.O., in Montreal.

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Fossil fuel industry’s methane emissions far higher than thought

The Guardian

The fossil fuel industry’s emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas are dramatically higher than previously thought.

Researchers who pulled together the biggest database yet of worldwide methane emissions found that, after natural sources were discounted, emissions from gas, oil and coal production were 20-60% greater than existing estimates.

Methane makes up just 16% of global greenhouse gases and is shorter-lived than the CO2 which accounts for three quarters, but has a much more powerful warming effect.

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Removing CO2 from the air only hope for fixing climate change, new study says

InsideClimateNews

The only way to keep young people from inheriting a world reeling from catastrophic climate change is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically and immediately, according to a new paper. Not only that, but it’s also necessary to aggressively remove greenhouse gas that’s already accumulated.

“If rapid emission reductions are initiated soon, it is still possible that at least a large fraction of required CO2 extraction can be achieved via relatively natural agricultural and forestry practices with other benefits,” the authors wrote.

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Paris climate accord to go into force: but faces test of enforcement

Reuters

A global agreement on climate change is set to win enough ratifications by signatory nations this week to go into force in November, heralding a harder phase of turning promises into cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, outlining a shift from fossil fuels this century, says efforts to oversee compliance will be “non-adversarial and non-punitive”, raising questions about how to ensure governments pull their weight.

The European Parliament is set to give the green light on Tuesday for European Union states to join up this week, tipping the accord past a threshold of nations accounting for 55 percent of world emissions to enter into force.

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Revolution Now: 2016 Clean Energy Update

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Decades of investments by the federal government and industry in five key clean energy technologies are making an impact today. The cost of land-based wind power, utility and distributed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and electric vehicles (EVs) has fallen by 41% to as high as 94% since 2008. These cost reductions have enabled widespread adoption of these technologies with deployment increasing across the board.

Combined, wind, utility-scale and distributed PV accounted for over 66% of all new capacity installed in the nation in 2015. Total installations of LED bulbs have more than doubled from last year, and cumulative EV sales are about to pass the half-million mark.

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Study: oil, gas exploration, production jobs down one-third since 2014

Morning Consult

The oil and natural gas exploration and production sector employs 177,058 people, down 33.5 percent from 2014, according to a study conducted by an economics firm for the Western Energy Alliance, which supports oil and gas production.

According to a previous study conducted by the same firm, John Dunham & Associates, an economics group that conducts studies for lobbying organizations, the sector was responsible for 266,442 jobs in 2014. Both estimates include the industry’s direct, supplier and induced impact.

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