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Energy in the News: Friday, September 7

Got grant or publication news you’d like to share? Send it our way.

Lots of DOE News this week: Andre Boehman, Brad Cardinale and Levi Thompson have together received a $2 million DOE award for an algae-to-fuels and cleaner combustion project. Andre’s put together a detailed project summary you can read on our website.

-Don’t forget: it’s time register for TE3.

-Register today for Electric Vehicles Open Forum: Aligning Major Market Actors in Michigan, hosted by Ceres and the Energy Institute.

-The Auto Club @ Ross and Tech Club at Ross are co-hosting the 3rd Annual Future of Mobility Conference, sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The conference will take place on September 20th at the Ross School of Business.

 

Big questions are hanging over the auto industry

Bloomberg, feat. Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

The auto industry, a critical piece of economies around the world, is being buffeted from all sides. Consumer tastes have shifted, forcing manufacturers to retool product lines. President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on imported autos. And the move toward electric vehicles and autonomous cars could have profound implications for our world. Ellen Hughes-Cromwick of the University of Michigan, a former chief economist at Ford and the Commerce Department, discusses these topics with Bloomberg’s Scott Lanman.

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Oil and gas execs out-earn their peers. Are they overpaid?

The Conversation, feat. Catherine Hausman

Following a long slump, crude prices have rebounded to about US$70 per barrel. That may make 2018 the most profitable year for oil and gas companies in at least four years.

Will oil and gas executives reap big rewards as well?

As energy economists, we’ve wondered how much the top oil and gas executives earn, particularly when their companies are earning large profits. To spot the patterns, we analyzed data on the compensation of more than 900 U.S. oil and gas executives between 1992 and 2016

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Additional coverage of this topic:

Are oil and gas executives overpaid? Energy Institute at Haas, feat. Catherine Hausman, Read more

How oil bosses make their own luck, The Washington Post, feat. Catherine Hausman, Read more

1 big thing: The luck factor in oil execs’ pay, Axios Generate, feat. Catherine Hausman, Read more

Detroit is latest big school district to turn off tap water

The New York Times, feat. Thomas Lyon

Some 50,000 Detroit public school students will start the school year Tuesday by drinking water from coolers, not fountains, after the discovery of elevated levels of lead or copper — the latest setback in a state already dealing with the consequences of contaminated tap water in Flint and other communities.

Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti expects the closure of water fountains and other drinking fixtures in all 106 schools to go smoothly because the district — Michigan’s largest — had previously turned off the tap in 18 schools. The coolers and bottled water will cost $200,000 over two months, after which the district probably will seek bids for a longer-term contract, he said.

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Schuette goes to bat for ExxonMobil; brief calls climate change ‘unsettled science’

Bridge MI, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently signed onto a court filing that questions the scientific consensus about the causes of climate change.

The brief in an ongoing federal lawsuit involving ExxonMobil’s statements about climate change contends there’s disagreement about the “degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” and labels climate change an “unsettled area of science.”

“The debate concerning the scope and sources of climate change (is) still raging in scientific and public circles,” according to the Aug. 10 amicus brief from Schuette and 11 other Republican state attorneys general and governors seeking to advance the energy giant’s arguments.

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Climate change brings risks, opportunity to ‘Pure Michigan’

Bridge MI, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

Consider this number: 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s how much on average the earth’s surface has warmed since the late 1800s. And most of that warming has come within the past 35 years, which have continued to produce record-breaking temperatures.

Michigan is no exception. All 83 of its counties have grown warmer on average over the past three decades, according to a recent data analysis by the Associated Press. Much of the Lower Peninsula is about 2 degrees hotter.

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Michigan driverless auto tech’s cross-border breakthroughs

Forbes, feat. Carrie Morton and Mcity

In August of 2017, two cars took a remarkable journey. They began in Southeast Michigan and drove through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel into Canada, then north to Sarnia, Ontario, over the Blue Water Bridge back into Michigan, and across the state to Traverse City. And for more than 90 percent of the six-hour drive, the cars drove with no human intervention.

As if a first-of-its-kind international border crossing by semi-autonomous vehicles wasn’t extraordinary enough, the drive was the result of a remarkable partnership that included the State of Michigan and the Province of Ontario, along with automotive tech competitors Continental and Magna International.

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Climate change is about to transform Earth into an unrecognizable, alien landscape

Newsweek, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

Within the next 100 years, Earth as we know it could be transformed into an unrecognizable, alien world, with ecosystems around the globe falling apart. After looking at over 500 ancient climate records, scientists have said current climate change is comparable to what the planet went through when it came out of the last ice age—and the seismic shift in biodiversity that took place then will likely happen again.

At the end of the Last Glacial Maximum—when ice sheets covered most of North America, Asia and northern Europe—the planet warmed up by between four and seven degrees Celsius. Over the course of 10,000 years, the ice melted and entirely new ecosystems emerged, eventually developing into what we see today.

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Michigan voters could get last word on Line 5 pipeline replacement

Energy News Network

Michigan voters will choose a new governor in November, and in the process they could decide the fate of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

Outgoing, term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration continues to work with Enbridge on a plan for a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that would carry a replacement for the 65-year-old oil pipeline.

One of the leading candidates to succeed Snyder, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, has promised to shut down Line 5 if elected. Her opponent, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, supports building a tunnel. Several recent polls show Whitmer leading, while the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics calls the race a toss-up.

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Fiat Chrysler invests $30M into self-drive test facility at Chelsea Proving Grounds

The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said Wednesday it has invested $30 million into a new autonomous driving and advanced testing facility at its Chelsea Proving Grounds.

Fiat Chrysler mostly has relied on partnerships in the self-driving realm, as opposed to the in-house development of autonomous hardware and software that some competitors favor. Wednesday’s announcement comes after Fiat Chrysler was in talks earlier this summer with Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo to use the technology company’s self-driving system in autonomous vehicles that Fiat Chrysler would sell.

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GM plans to beef up battery r&d operations

Automotive News

General Motors is investing $28 million to make “additional major enhancements” beginning this fall to a battery development and testing lab in suburban Detroit.

The additions will include new test chambers and advanced equipment to accelerate the company’s next-generation battery architecture, CEO Mary Barra wrote in a blog post Wednesday on LinkedIn.

Barra previously said GM expects its electrified-vehicle business to be profitable with the launch of its next-generation EV platform in 2021 — a major milestone as the company plans to release at least 20 new all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles globally by 2023.

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Led by surging residential sector, Q2 US energy storage deployments grow 200% year-over-year

Greentech Media

For the first time ever, the U.S. saw more home energy storage than front-of-meter storage deployed in a single quarter.

According to the latest U.S. Energy Storage Monitor from the Energy Storage Association and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (formerly known as GTM Research) 156.5 megawatt-hours of energy storage were deployed in the second quarter of 2018, triple what was deployed in the second quarter of 2017. The residential segment led the way, growing tenfold year-over-year.

Residential deployments were concentrated in two states, California and Hawaii, which together account for 72 percent of megawatt-hours on the quarter.

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Why red and blue states divide over green policy

CNN

President Donald Trump’s drive to rescind the federal efforts to combat global climate change is highlighting another chasm between Republican- and Democratic-leaning states.

From wildfires to droughts, heat waves to intensifying hurricanes, the destabilizing impacts of climate change are growing more apparent to states on both sides of the political divide, especially after this sizzling summer.

But states diverge dramatically in how much they contribute to the carbon emissions from fossil fuels linked to climate change and whether they will support limits on those emissions.

In the presidential Electoral College and the Senate, Republicans rely overwhelmingly on the states most tightly bound to the fossil fuel economy — as producers, consumers or both. Democrats rely mostly on the states that have transitioned most rapidly into a lower-carbon economy.

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Tesla’s cobalt-light batteries could give cost advantage

E&E Energywire

Tesla Inc.’s lead in battery technology gives it a cost advantage that may last for several years and help the U.S. electric-car maker face down an onslaught of new competition, according to new research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Batteries made by the U.S. manufacturer and its Japanese partner, Panasonic Corp., require less cobalt, the metal whose price has shot up with demand for electric cars. CEO Elon Musk on June 5 said Tesla is targeting a cell-level price of $100 per kilowatt-hour in 2018 and battery-pack costs below that level within two years. BNEF doesn’t expect average pack prices to drop below $100 until 2025.

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Amazon mangroves ‘twice as carbon rich’ as its rainforests

Carbon Brief

The Amazon is well known for its 167m hectares of rainforest, but is less known for being home to close to 1m hectares of “mangrove” forests.

Mangroves are trees and shrubs that grow in coastal waters across the tropics and subtropics. They are most easily recognised by their tall protruding roots, which they use to anchor themselves against incoming tides.

The new study, published in Biology Letters, is the first to make an on-the-ground estimate of how much carbon is stored in the Amazon’s vast wetlands.

It finds that, on average, Amazon mangroves store 511 tonnes of carbon per hectare – roughly double that of the region’s rainforests.

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