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Innovation is Driving Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Corn-based Ethanol

Science Blog | Posted on February 14, 2017

Ethanol production has changed significantly over the past ten years. U.S. production has ramped up from 3.9 to 14.8 billion gallons per year between 2005 and 2015. As demand for corn ethanol has increased, corn production in the US expanded from 11.8 billion bushels in 2004 to 13.6 billion bushels in 2015.  In addition to the gains from reduced levels of land conversion, the ICF report shows that the reductions in GHG emissions from corn ethanol are continually driven by a variety of improvements in efficiency, from the corn field to the ethanol refinery. On-farm conservation practices, such as reduced tillage and nitrogen management, improved the GHG balance of growing corn for ethanol. Production yields, measured in gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, have increased by 3.4 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Fight over renewable energy comes to New Hampshire

The Sacramento Bee | Posted on February 14, 2017

New Hampshire already lags behind most of its neighbors in expanding its use of renewable energy but that hasn't stopped several groups from using this legislative session to attack those nascent efforts. Led by the Americans for Prosperity,  these groups support a bill that would pull New Hampshire out of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from electrical generation in those eight states by 40 percent over the last decade. Another bill calls for repealing the state's Electric Renewable Energy Portfolio, which requires utilities to get a percentage of their power from renewable sources. Supporters of these bills argue they would help bring down energy prices, which are blamed for driving away business from the state. But opponents contend there is little connection between these programs and high energy prices. Instead, they see this as veiled effort to assist the fossil fuel industry that has struggled to compete against cleaner burning natural gas and renewable sources.



Jimmy Carter promotes solar power on his peanut farm

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on February 14, 2017

The former president is leasing part of his family's farmland for a project that is both cutting edge and homespun. The solar panels — 3,852 of them — shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. The panels moved almost imperceptibly with the sun. And they could power more than half this small town, from which Carter rose from obscurity to the presidency. Nearly 38 years after Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for a project that is both cutting edge and homespun. It is, Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor.

Utilities vote to close Navajo coal plant at end of 2019

Arizona Central | Posted on February 14, 2017

The utilities that own the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant near Page are tired of overpaying for power and decided Monday to close the plant when their lease expires at the end of 2019. To run that long, the utility owners need to work out an arrangement with the Navajo Nation, which owns the land, to decommission the plant after the lease expires. Otherwise, the owners will have to close at the end of this year to have time to tear down the plant's three generators and be gone by 2020. Environmentalists cheered the decision to shutter one of the biggest polluters in the nation, while other stakeholders such as the U.S. Department of the Interior and coal supplier Peabody Energy hope to find a way for the Navajo Nation or another entity to step in and keep the plant going beyond 2019.

For the First Time, Wind on the Plains Supplied More Than Half Region’s Power

Bloomberg | Posted on February 14, 2017

Wind turbines across the Great Plains states produced, for the first time, more than half the region’s electricity.  The power grid that supplies a corridor stretching from Montana to the Texas Panhandle was getting 52.1 percent of its power from wind at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. As more and more turbines are installed across the country, Southwest Power has become the first North American grid operator to get a majority of its supply from wind. That beats the grid’s prior record of 49.2 percent and the 48 percent that a Texas grid operator reached in March, Derek Wingfield, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Wind tops nation in renewable energy capacity for first time

The Hill | Posted on February 12, 2017

Wind power expanded so much in 2016 that it is now the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the United States, an industry group reported Thursday.   In a study, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said wind energy grew at its second-fastest pace ever during the last three months of 2016. Wind passed conventional hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the U.S., and the fourth-largest energy source overall.  “American wind power is now the number one source of renewable capacity, thanks to more than 100,000 wind workers across all 50 states,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a statement. 

Tribe Files Legal Challenge to Stall Dakota Access Pipeline

ABC News | Posted on February 10, 2017

onstruction crews have resumed work on the final segment of the Dakota Access pipeline, and the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday that the full system could be operational within three months.  Meanwhile, an American Indian tribe filed a legal challenge to block the work and protect its water supply.  The Army granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under a North Dakota reservoir, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile pipeline. Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed early Thursday that construction began "immediately after receiving the easement." Workers had already drilled entry and exit holes for the segment, and oil had been put in the pipeline leading up to Lake Oahe in anticipation of finishing the project. The Cheyenne River Sioux on Thursday asked a federal judge to stop the work while a lawsuit filed earlier by the tribes proceeds. Attorney Nicole Ducheneaux said in court documents that the pipeline "will desecrate the waters" that the Cheyenne River Sioux rely on.

Big utilities try to tilt solar energy market in their favor

The Washington Post | Posted on February 9, 2017

Indiana’s energy utilities want state lawmakers to pass a law that critics say would muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country’s energy, but the industry is growing rapidly, with figures showing it employed 208,859 workers in 2015. That amounts to a 125 percent increase since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But much of the growth has come from homeowners or businesses taking advantage of its bill-lowering potential. That could eventually eat away at the business of the big utilities — in Indiana they are Duke Energy, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power — which have a powerful voice and donate handsomely to the political campaigns of lawmakers. On Thursday, Indiana legislators started debate on a proposed law that in five years would eliminate much of the financial benefit Indiana homeowners, businesses, schools and even some churches reap harvesting the sun’s rays. It would tilt the market in favor of the utilities, critics said.

Solar leases could conflict with key tax break for some Michigan farmers

Midwest Energy News | Posted on February 9, 2017

As interest grows in developing Michigan agricultural land for solar energy, some farmers may have to choose between keeping tax incentives for preserving farmland or leasing their property to solar developers. Under a state program that provides an annual state income tax break for maintaining farmland, property owners can not do both, state officials say.

With veto override, Md. legislature enacts stronger green-energy standards

The Washington Post | Posted on February 9, 2017

Despite vigorous opposition from the popular Republican governor, the Maryland Senate voted 32 to 13 on Thursday to override Hogan’s veto of a bill to boost the state’s use of renewable energy.  The House of Delegates voted to reverse the veto earlier this week. That means the measure — which requires Maryland to obtain 25 percent of its energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020, instead of ­20 percent by 2022 — will become law. Legislative analysts estimate that the annual compliance costs for energy companies would average $28 million to $111 million from 2017 through 2025, an expense that will probably be passed on to consumers.