Energy in the News: Friday, December 16

Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump, carbon neutrality and the next phase of business sustainability

The Conversation, feat. Andy Hoffman

The Trump administration appears to be moving in one direction on the issue of climate change with the appointment of climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a transition team led by and stacked with fossil fuel interests.

Yet many within corporate America are heading in another direction. Consider Kevin Butt, regional environmental sustainability director for Toyota Motor North America, and his charge to take the company “beyond zero environmental impact” by reducing and eventually eliminating CO₂ emissions from vehicle operation, manufacturing, materials production and energy sources by 2050.

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In pursuit of the elusive 'energy strategy'

GreenBiz, feat. Joe Arvai

I had the privilege last month of attending the excellent New York Times Energy for Tomorrow meeting, which was held in Paris prior to the COP22 meeting in Marrakech. The meeting involved a wide range of well-known and well-respected leaders from both government and the private sector. The list included political leaders like Vidar Helgesen, Ségolène Royal, and Laurence Tubiana, and business luminaries like Peter Agnefjäll, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and Carlos Ghosn.

Highlighting the agenda was narrative after narrative about what companies and policy makers are doing — or, in some cases, could be doing — to facilitate the hotly desired but largely elusive transition from a carbon-intensive to a low-carbon energy future. A shortlist of interrelated talking points included the importance of a price on carbon, the need to transition to an electrified economy that does not depend upon fossil fuels, the promise and perils of CCS and the efficiencies that might be obtained from a distributed (vs. bulk utility) energy delivery model.

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Under Trump, best defender of the environment is ... big business?

Michigan Radio, feat. Joe Arvai

Word came down recently that Shell — the second-largest oil company in the world — has announced that it will link top executive bonuses to progress being made on managing greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, if they don’t hit targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they’ll get hit in the wallet.

It’s yet another example of business — in this case, a mammoth oil company — recognizing that its long-term survival depends on its ability to reduce the environmental impact of what it’s producing.

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Understanding EPA’s final report on hydraulic fracturing

Resources for the Future, feat. Daniel Raimi

This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final report on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as “fracking”) on drinking water resources in the United States. In it, the agency describes the ways in which hydraulic fracturing, wastewater management, and other activities related to oil and gas production could potentially affect drinking water resources.

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Toward safer, long-life nuclear reactors: Metal design could raise radiation resistance by 100 times

University of Michigan News

In findings that could change the way industries like nuclear energy and aerospace look for materials that can stand up to radiation exposure, University of Michigan researchers have discovered that metal alloys with three or more elements in equal concentrations can be remarkably resistant to radiation-induced swelling.

The big problem faced by metals bombarded with radiation at high temperatures—such as the metals that make up nuclear fuel cladding—is that they have a tendency to swell up significantly. They can even double in size.

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U-M leads new Center for Connected and Automated Transportation

U-M University Record

Moving society to next-generation transportation systems will take more than technology, and a new $2.47 million center led by the University of Michigan will explore the full picture of how communities can best transition to connected and automated vehicles.

Six Midwestern institutions including Washtenaw Community College are involved in the new U.S. Department of Transportation-funded Center for Connected and Automated Transportation. Other participants are Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Akron and Central State University.

Headquartered at U-M, the center is located near the heart of the U.S. auto industry. It is one of the 10 regional University Transportation Centers across the U.S. and represents Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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Legislature finishes energy overhaul in lame duck's final hours

E&E EnergyWire

It was almost three years ago to the day that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder explained his vision for a "no regrets" state energy policy for the next decade.

Hours after an all-night House session during which the governor spent more than an hour working with Republicans to broker a deal among utilities, consumer interests and renewable advocates, the Legislature finally delivered energy reforms in the final hours of the lame-duck session.

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America’s first commercial offshore wind farm goes live

Scientific American

In a few days, the water-bound wind turbines off of Rhode Island’s Block Island are expected to generate electricity commercially for the first time, and New Englanders are set to become the first in U.S. history to use electric power generated from an offshore wind turbine.  

The Block Island Wind Project is the first commercial offshore wind farm ever built in the U.S., and the start of its operation marks the the beginning of a brand new clean energy industry in the United States.

The occasion comes at a time when offshore wind developers and investors await more information about how their fledgling industry will be affected by the incoming Trump administration.

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Amidst funding fears, NASA announces another climate research mission

The Washington Post

A new satellite mission, just announced by NASA this week, could finally illuminate one of the mysteries surrounding the global carbon cycle — and provide important insights on tackling climate change in the process.

The Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCARB, will provide detailed daily observations of the Americas, including measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the health of vegetation on the land below. This monitoring is intended to help scientists better understand the way forests in North and South America influence the exchange of carbon dioxide and other gases between earth and atmosphere.

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Bill Gates among rich individuals backing $1 billion energy fund

Bloomberg

Bill Gates and more than a dozen of the world’s wealthiest individuals revealed a new $1 billion investment fund late Sunday to foster major advances in clean energy production.

Dubbed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the 20-year fund is backed by a mix of technology luminaries and heavyweights from the energy industry. The goal is to pump money into risky, long-term energy technology that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement. The investments will likely go into areas such as electricity generation and storage, agriculture and transportation.

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Trump taps former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head Energy Department he once vowed to abolish

The Washington Post

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Rick Perry to head the Energy Department, said two people familiar with the decision, seeking to put the former Texas governor in control of an agency whose name he forgot amid a presidential debate even as he vowed to abolish it.

Perry, who ran for president in the past two election cycles, is likely to shift the department away from renewable energy and toward fossil fuels, whose production he championed while serving as governor for 14 years.

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Energy Dept. rejects Trump’s request to name climate change workers, who remain worried

The Washington Post

Global warming — “it’s a hoax.”

Donald Trump has said that more than once.

So it’s understandable that the request by the president-elect’s transition team for the names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on the issue makes them worry that the trick could be on them.

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Trump team asking for ways to keep nuclear power alive

Bloomberg

President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers are looking at ways in which the U.S. government could help nuclear power generators being forced out of the electricity market by cheaper natural gas and renewable resources.

In a document obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s transition team asked the Energy Department how it can help keep nuclear reactors “operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure” and what it could do to prevent the shutdown of plants. Advisers also asked the agency whether there were statutory restrictions in resuming work on Yucca Mountain, a proposed federal depository for nuclear waste in Nevada that was abandoned by the Obama administration.

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