News & Events


Energy in the news: Friday: September 25

A readiness test: What if oil spewed into the Great Lakes?
Detroit Free Press

Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge, the U.S. Coast Guard and several other federal, state and local agencies took to the waters of the Great Lakes Thursday in boats big and small, testing their preparedness and capabilities to contain what many consider as the worst of nightmare scenarios for the Great Lakes: a leak in Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline that runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

The line includes twin, 62-year-old pipelines at the bottom of the Straits, through which Enbridge transports light crude oil and other petroleum products between Michigan’s peninsulas. Many fear that a rupture on Line 5 similar to Enbridge’s Line 6B oil pipeline rupture in Marshall in July 2010 could devastate a wide swath of the northern Great Lakes, harm island and shoreline communities and their water supplies, as well as damage Michigan’s $7.4-billion boating and fishing industry.

Concern about a spill in such a critical area of the Great Lakes was heightened by a report from University of Michigan researchers that showed a spill there could be catastrophically far reaching, prompting state officials to form a committee to study what could be done pre-emptively to ward off a disaster. That committee recently reached an agreement with Enbridge to make sure heavy crude — the substance involved in the Marshall spill — would never be transported through Line 5. The company notes it has never transported heavy crude through Line 5, nor does it plan to do so.

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More Volkswagen fallout likely; BMW denies cheating on emissions tests
The Washington Post

Volkswagen has admitted it designed cars to cheat pollution tests, but the trouble with diesel emissions probably goes beyond just one automaker, according to tests of other manufacturers.

Road tests of more than a dozen popular models from several manufacturers showed that the raw nitrogen oxide emissions from the cars were on average seven times European standards, according to a little-noticed October report from the same outfit that flagged the VW problems.

“Some degree of excess NOx emissions is likely to be a widespread problem for diesels, but I would be surprised if other automakers cheated the way VW has,” said John M. DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute. “Only a major testing program will let us know for sure.”

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John DeCicco interviewed in KVMR story on VW scandal
KVMR-FM, Nevada City

Click here to listen to the full interview.

VW’s Customers Feel Confusion, Remorse
Wall Street Journal

Volkswagen has 650 dealers in the U.S., and sold 238,000 vehicles through August—a 2.8% decline from the same period in 2014 and far below other major auto makers selling cars in America. About 20% of those deliveries are diesel.

At some point, those dealers will need to employ a fix, according to EPA guidelines. Volkswagen, setting aside $7 billion for the crisis, will have to pay for repairs. Meanwhile, cars are likely to pass emissions standards because they are fitted with a device that enables cheating on emissions tests, the EPA said.

Anna Stefanopoulou, a mechanical-engineering professor and engine expert at the University of Michigan, said a permanent fix could be as simple as downloading new software for the car. Or, Volkswagen could be looking at a cost of $2,000 a vehicle if new hardware needs to be installed.

Fuel economy, rated at more than 40 miles a gallon for some diesel models sold by VW, will take a hit. Consumption could rise 5% to 7% at high speeds or other driving conditions because components needed to clean emissions can dent engine performance.

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Nuclear engineering labs: $12M renovation begins
College of Engineering

After more than a decade of carefully dismantling the University of Michigan’s nuclear reactor and clearing the building of radiation, the university initiated the facility’s second life as the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory today with a “wallbreaking” ceremony to kick off construction.

The space is well suited to nuclear engineering research because the thick walls are designed to stop radiation, protecting the people inside and out of the building. While the reactor was once the centerpiece of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project, the spirit of its founders will live on in the Nuclear Engineering Laboratories.

“Nuclear power remains the only carbon-free way we have to generate consistent electrical power at large and growing scale, and has vital contributions to make to significantly reducing carbon emissions while meeting our electricity needs,” said Mark Barteau, the DTE Professor of Advanced Energy Research and director of the U-M Energy Institute.

“Alternative reactor designs, safety enhancements for existing designs, and new approaches to nonproliferation and storage are keys to success for realizing the potential of nuclear energy in a low-carbon future, and we’re fortunate at U-M to be home to leaders in each of those areas.”

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Opinion: Michigan leaders should embrace EPA’s Clean Power Plan

It was disappointing to see Scott Segal’s recent column repeat myths about clean energy and defend the status quo, which hampers economic growth and threatens the health of Michigan families.

The truth is, the recently announced Clean Power Plan of the Environmental Protection Agency will grow our economy, reduce asthma, heart and lung disease and protect our air, land and water. By crafting a Michigan plan to transition to clean, renewable energy, our policymakers have a real opportunity to create jobs, save lives by lowering air pollution from burning imported coal, and ensure future generations can enjoy the Pure Michigan that we call home.

The Clean Power Plan sets reasonable, common-sense limits on the amount of carbon pollution emitted by electric plants. The plan is flexible and recognizes that each state has unique needs and challenges, and it allows states to decide for themselves how best meet targets for reducing pollution.

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