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Applying auto industry's fuel-efficiency standards to agriculture could net billions

Science Daily | Posted on October 17, 2018

Adopting benchmarks similar to the fuel-efficiency standards used by the auto industry in the production of fertilizer could yield $5-8 billion in economic benefits for the U.S. corn sector alone, researchers have concluded.

Neighbors sue to block planned Montana wind farm

The State | Posted on October 17, 2018

Neighbors of a planned wind farm in southwestern Montana are suing to block the project. The Livingston Enterprise reports the Crazy Mountain Wind Farm would harvest 80 megawatts of electricity from 24 wind towers near the Sweet Grass and Park county line.Construction is scheduled to begin next spring.The lawsuit filed late last month in Park County is by four neighboring property owners with ranching and agricultural land.They allege the wind project will threaten wetlands, migratory birds, bald eagles, historic trails, businesses and the health of people living in the vicinity.

Expanding ethanol sales would have limited U.S. market impact: analysts

Reuters | Posted on October 16, 2018

The Trump administration’s plan to allow year-round sales of higher-grade corn ethanol would have limited impact on the depressed U.S. ethanol market, with record supplies and prices for the fuel hovering near the lowest in a decade, analysts said. Oil refiners are opposed to the move and have vowed to sue, arguing that only Congress can lift the ban.Even if the plan moves forward by next summer and hundreds of mostly small and rural gasoline station chains install new dispensers to sell E15, overall sales likely would increase only slightly.There are more than 1,300 stations with pumps that can dispense E15, according to the Renewable Fuels Association trade group. That is a small portion of the estimated 122,000 stations in the country, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.RFA said the number of stations offering E15 could double to around 2,700 by late 2019 to early 2020, or 2.2 percent of the total.

Rick Perry’s coal rescue runs aground at White House

Politico | Posted on October 16, 2018

One of the Trump administration’s major efforts to prop up ailing coal companies has run aground in the White House, a setback to an industry that had hoped for a major resurgence after Donald Trump won the presidency. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has spent more than a year pushing various plans that would invoke national security to force power companies to keep their economically struggling coal plants running — a goal in line with Trump’s frequent pledges to revive what he calls “beautiful, clean coal.” But the White House has shelved the plan amid opposition from the president’s own advisers on the National Security Council and National Economic Council, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions.It is unclear whether Trump himself has decided against following Perry’s proposal. Even if he has, the sources warned that Trump frequently changes his mind, and the idea could re-emerge in advance of the president’s reelection campaign

Zinke’s energy export plan knocked as 'harebrained'

Politico | Posted on October 16, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke drew immediate flak Monday for proposing to use military bases on the West Coast to export coal and natural gas despite the opposition of environmentally minded state governments — with critics saying it just won’t work. “It’s really impressive how this administration churns out harebrained schemes for their Department of Cock-Eyed Ideas,” Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, a Democrat, told POLITICO. “The president must be getting really bad advice. It’s not going to work. Our clean water and clean air laws are still on the books and will still be enforced.“In an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke cast the idea of using the sites like a former Navy base on a remote Alaskan island as a national security matter because it would ensure that the U.S. can supply allies with cheap energy. And it would circumvent opposition to new fossil fuel exports in Democratic-dominated states like Washington and California.“It doesn’t sound logical or fully baked,” Tom Hicks, a former undersecretary of the Navy and now a principal at Mabus Group, an energy consulting firm, said on Zinke’s plan. “It sounds a little half-cocked.”

U.S. corporations break 4-GW renewable energy record

Solar Power World | Posted on October 16, 2018

Large U.S. companies are acting on renewable energy goals at a record pace. Through August of this year, they have already procured nearly 4 GW of utility-scale wind and solar capacity—breaking the previous full-year record, set in 2015, by nearly 750 MW. But the transmission infrastructure pipeline is likely not sufficient to meet corporations’ future low-cost clean energy needs. And as a new report highlights, if major renewable energy consumers want to ensure the lowest-cost clean energy is available for their future energy purchases, they need to start participating in the transmission planning processes.“Companies buying affordable clean energy today are benefiting from yesterday’s transmission plans,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Solar Alliance, which produced the new report. “To meet their sustainability targets for the next decade, and to make low-cost renewable power accessible for themselves and other customers, they need to join efforts to jump-start a new era of transmission planning.”The report, “Corporate Renewable Procurement and Transmission Planning: Communicating Demand to RTOs May Yield More Low-cost Options,” points out that more than 100 U.S. corporate buyers—members of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance — have set a goal of purchasing 60 GW of new U.S. renewable energy capacity by 2025. So far, since 2013, the companies have procured just over 13 GW of renewable power.

MISO wins approval for new rules to link up external transmission

S & P Global | Posted on October 16, 2018

Midcontinent Independent System Operator can change its rules to help pave the way for merchant high-voltage direct current transmission projects, a technology that could help move large amounts of renewable power over long distances, federal regulators decided Friday. The decision is significant because HVDC lines can help ship wind power from the Midwest to demand centers in the East, reducing negative power prices and renewable curtailments.The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided late Friday that MISO can add a set of connection procedures for MHVDC projects (ER18-1410) and add injection rights for these projects. Injection rights outline MISO's ability to receive energy from a line, and the project owner can dole out the injection rights to upstream generating facilities for conversion into interconnection service.

Washington to Decide on First-of-Its-Kind U.S. Carbon Fee

Bloomberg | Posted on October 16, 2018

Whatever you do, don’t call it a tax. Voters in Washington state will go to the polls Nov. 6 to decide whether or not they want to impose a first-of-its-kind “fee” on carbon emissions. Ballot initiative 1631 marks the second time the state will vote to put a cost on emissions. A prior effort, labeled a carbon tax, failed when it was on the ballot two years ago.Proponents including Democratic Governor Jay Inslee and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates are hoping the new proposal -- which the state estimates would raise $2.3 billionfor clean-energy investment by 2025 -- will win more backing. If passed, it would be the first effort of its kind enacted by referendum anywhere in the world, making the state a global leader in climate policy at the same time the Trump administration is reversing some federal measures.

Rural America is on the frontlines of low-emissions electricity

Science Line | Posted on October 16, 2018

he 6,000 residents of Alaska’s Kodiak Island are used to being on their own, and paying for it. A 10-hour ferry ride separates them from the nearest mainland town, keeping grocery prices high and tourism low. But the one thing the fishing port doesn’t overpay for is electricity. While the typical Alaskan forks over 21 cents for each kilowatt-hour to power their home, the island’s isolated inhabitants get away with around 15. What’s more, Kodiak’s one-of-a-kind power grid now delivers that energy from a 98 percent renewable blend of hydro and wind power, ending a decades-long reliance on pricey and polluting diesel. Cutting-edge energy systems are increasingly finding their way into remote communities like Kodiak, where the harsh economics of seclusion make new strategies that replace costly fossil fuels especially appealing. Kauai, Hawaii, and Greensburg, Kansas, also overhauled their electricity infrastructure in favor of renewable sources. But even at the right price, transitioning to clean energy sources is far from a foregone conclusion. It often takes external pressure to push communities to embrace new energy systems.

Energy Companies In Alaska Fight Controversial Salmon Initiative

NPR | Posted on October 15, 2018

In Alaska, a ballot measure is cutting right to the heart of the state's identity. It's pitting Alaskans' love for salmon against another powerful force - the oil and mining industries. The ballot measure pits the state's love for salmon against its need for oil and mining revenue. The controversial measure has drawn more money than all three gubernatorial candidates combined.