Energy in the News: Friday, October 30

Friday, October 30, 2015

Michigan researchers criticize ‘absurd’ out-of-state RPS study

Midwest Energy News

Researchers and policy experts in Michigan are criticizing an out-of-state organization's report released last month claiming the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has prevented 24,000 jobs from being created and caused $15 billion in lost income statewide in 2013.

Academics in Michigan, where the most recent report was released in September, are calling the reports’ methodology bunk and suggest there is a hidden agenda behind Strata’s work.

“Basically, I don’t believe any of it,” said Thomas Lyon, the Dow chair of sustainable science, technology and policy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“It’s just such a simplistic little methodology. In some ways it’s interesting because it’s illustrative of how the public doesn’t have enough sophistication to distinguish between good research and bad research. This looks like research, it’s done by someone with a Ph.D. and it has some equations. But if you ask a good, quality econometrist does it stand up to scrutiny — it’s just kind of absurd in its simplicity.”

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Op-ed: Breaking the link between a conservative worldview and climate skepticism

The Conversation

The tide is finally turning. In last night’s third Republican debates, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki both acknowledged the scientific consensus that climate change is real and linked to human activities.

These candidates participated in the “undercard” debate of four before the longer debate with the remaining 10 Republican hopefuls. But their comments are a major step in breaking the link between a conservative worldview and climate skepticism.

Increasing commentary, both partisan and nonpartisan, is making it clear that the conservative position of denying climate change is untenable. The tide of the scientific evidence is too great to hold back, and the longer the Republican Party denies the existence of the issue, the longer it will be excluded from the discussion over what to do about it.

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Self-driving car safety: The early word is mixed

CBS News

Self-driving cars have been all the rage among high-tech companies. Google (GOOG) has one. Rumors have it that Apple (AAPL) is working on one, as well. Mercedes-Benz has shown one off.

According to researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, consumers are showing some strong interest in self-driving cars. About 40.6 percent of drivers surveyed were open to cars that had partial self-driving features, the organization notes in a July report. Another 15.6 percent wanted fully self-driving cars, while 43.8 percent didn't want any degree of self-driving in their vehicles.

But given the technology's still early-stage development, is there any data to show how safe self-driving cars are when running in autonomous mode? The Transportation Research Institute provides some answers. However, the results are unlikely to make anyone among that 43.8 percent feel any better.

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How super low natural gas prices are reshaping how we get our power

The Washington Post

Oil isn’t the only fossil fuel that is selling at quite cheap levels at the moment, at least in the United States.

This week, U.S. natural gas prices plunged briefly below $ 2 per million Btu (British thermal units), lower than they have been since early 2012. It’s part of a long term price drop that is closely tied to the fracking and shale gas boom, but also more immediately to high levels of natural gas storage and warm weather.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy, the nation’s single largest utility company by market capitalization, purchased Piedmont Natural Gas for $ 4.9 billion, paying a premium for the natural gas distributor.

The two overlapping stories hint at one of the most important consequences of the natural gas glut — it’s already changing not only what we pay to heat our homes in winter but also how we get electricity across the board. Natural gas displaced coal as the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S. for two months so far this year — a landmark development that has been long forecast — and if prices like these continue, that could become a much more frequent occurrence.

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