Energy in the News: Friday, February 3

Friday, February 03, 2017

Search for the Super Battery

PBS (NOVA), feat. Levi Thompson, Jeff Sakamoto, Neil Dasgupta and Battery Lab Manager Greg Less

Explore the hidden world of energy storage and its potential to unlock a greener future.

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Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline Controversies explained

The Verge, feat. Mark Barteau

Now that President Trump has resurrected the hotly contested Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, here's what you need to know about their pasts — and their futures.

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Issues of the Environment: U-M Researcher Calls For End To Current Biofuel Policy In The U.S.

WEMU, feat. John DeCicco

In August of 2016,  University of Michigan Energy Institute scientists, led by John DeCicco, released an 8-year study.  It estimated powering an American vehicle with ethanol made from corn increased carbon pollution more than using gasoline.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment,” David Fair talks with Professor DeCicco about the findings and what it means to future policy.

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Trump’s executive actions on pipeline construction

Global Trade, feat. Mark Barteau, Joe Arvai and Andrew Hoffman

President Donald Trump resurrected the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines last week signing executive orders reviving the projects. Former President Barack Obama had vetoed the Keystone project after it had been reviewed by the Department of State.

Trump’s decision is significant on several policy layers, including infrastructure, trade, and climate change. One thing it is not is surprising.

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The numbers don’t lie: self-driving cars are getting good

Wired, feat. Huei Peng

It's report card time for the automakers and Silicon Valley denizens studying the tricky problem of making cars drive themselves, and everyone is passing.

The California DMV just released its annual slate of “disengagement reports,” documents provided by the 11 companies that received state permits to test autonomous vehicles by the end of 2015. The results, summarized below, reveal how often humans had to wrest control away from the computer, and why (sort of).

Although the reports are an imperfect measure of how the technology performs, they do reveal rapid progress toward the day when you are no longer needed behind the wheel.

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The curious partnership of Elon Musk and Donald Trump

E&E EnergyWire, feat. Mark Barteau

The country's top businesspeople are building relationships with President Trump, but nobody speaks for the future of technology quite like Elon Musk.

As the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. and SpaceX, and a member of Trump's business and manufacturing councils, Musk has a promising but delicate task. He is one — perhaps the only — person close to the president who can advocate on behalf of four budding sectors: electric vehicles, solar power, energy storage and commercial space travel.

What should the two men be discussing, when there are so many things to discuss? Here, some interested parties weigh in.

Mark Barteau, director, University of Michigan Energy Institute:

"I see a couple of things in it for Musk. You don't have to look very hard to find stories expressing concern about the viability or the financial structure of Tesla, and especially after the merger with SolarCity. One of the interesting challenges for him is that he's burning through capital, continuing to acquire financing, so I suppose a conversation with the self-described 'king of debt' might have some benefits there.

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Natural gas-fired generating capacity likely to increase over next two years

U.S. Energy Information Administration

The electricity industry is planning to increase natural gas-fired generating capacity by 11.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 and 25.4 GW in 2018, based on information reported to EIA. If these plants come online as planned, annual net additions in natural gas capacity would be at their highest levels since 2005.

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Energy secretary seeks to lock in free speech for DOE scientists

The Christian Science Monitor

Outgoing Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the department’s new policy protecting staff scientists and engineers as well as scientists who receive federal funding from political interference was in the works before Donald Trump won the presidency.

The policy, which Secretary Moniz unveiled Wednesday at the National Press Club, covers “all scientists, engineers, or others supported by DOE.” The previous scientific integrity policy, introduced in 2012, only applied to Department of Energy (DOE) employees, but not to researchers at the agency’s 17 national laboratories.

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FERC’s Bay: Transition team knew I would leave; chair swap got lost in the mail

SNL

In an exclusive interview, former FERC Chairman Norman Bay said he told President Donald Trump's transition team that he would probably leave if he was replaced as the commission's leader, and when the news did come that Cheryl LaFleur would take over as acting chair, both learned of the transition two days after the fact because the notice was sent to the wrong address.

Bay, a Democrat, will be leaving FERC Feb. 3, after which the agency will have only two sitting commissioners, LaFleur and Colette Honorable, who also are Democrats. Because FERC needs to have three sitting commissioners to vote on major orders under federal statutory quorum requirements, FERC may be unable to rule on important infrastructure projects, including four pending pipelines, policy issues and other matters for some time.

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We’re probably underestimating how quickly electric vehicles will disrupt the oil market

Vox

Just about every analyst agrees that the electric vehicle market is poised for rapid growth. But how rapid?

It’s not an idle question. The rate of EV growth will have huge implications for oil markets, auto markets, and electric utilities. Yet it is maddeningly difficult to predict the future; forecasts for the EV market are all over the place.

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Absence of carbon capture and storage is ‘biggest challenge to’ 2C limit

Carbon Brief

In the study, just published in Nature Climate Change, researchers measure the collective progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

There is a mix of good and bad news, the researchers find, with some particular successes – such as the “extraordinary growth rates” of wind and solar in recent years.

But the continued lack of investment in carbon carbon and storage (CCS) technologies puts the 2C limit in doubt, the researchers say.

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In America’s heartland, discussing climate change without saying ‘climate change’

The New York Times

Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter.

To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land.

In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.”

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