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Renewable Energy Record Set in U.S.

National Geographic | Posted on June 19, 2017

The U.S. set a new renewable energy milestone in March, in data released Wednesday. For the first time, wind and solar accounted for 10 percent of all electricity generation, with wind comprising 8 percent and solar coming in at 2 percent.Wind and solar generation typically peaks in the spring and fall when there is less energy demand, and the EIA expects April to continue the record-setting 10 percent trend. That 10 percent mark is expected to slip in summer months, but 2016 saw an overall growth in renewables.The report noted that Texas generated more wind and solar energy than any other state, nearly all of which came from wind. Iowa, however, had the largest share of renewables in total energy production. Over a third, 37 percent, of the state's energy now comes from wind and solar power.

11 states sue Trump's DOE over stalled energy-use limits

ABC News | Posted on June 19, 2017

New York, California and nine other states sued the Trump administration over its failure to finalize energy-use limits for portable air conditioners and other products.  The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save businesses and consumers billions of dollars, and conserve enough energy to power more than 19 million households for a year, but the U.S. Department of Energy has not met a requirement to publish them by now, according to attorneys general who filed the lawsuit against the DOE in federal court in San Francisco. That means the standards are not legally enforceable. "The Department of Energy is blocking common-sense energy efficiency standards. This is absurd," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the suit. "The Trump Administration should stop stalling and start following the law."The other states in the lawsuit are: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland. The City of New York is also a plaintiff.The Energy Department said in an email that it does not comment on pending litigation.The lawsuit comes as the Trump administration has moved to weaken or dismantle federal efforts to reduce carbon emissions.It reversed President Barack Obama's moratorium on leasing federal lands for coal mining and withdrew a requirement for more emissions data from oil and gas facilities. It has also stopped tracking the federal government's carbon emissions.

Large Canadian Arctic climate change study cancelled due to climate change

Science Daily | Posted on June 15, 2017

The Science Team of the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen has cancelled the first leg of the 2017 Expedition due to complications associated with the southward motion of hazardous Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change.

China surpassed the U.S. to become world’s largest renewable power producer last year, BP reports.

Think Progress | Posted on June 15, 2017

World coal production had its biggest drop ever last year, 230 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe), BP reported Tuesday in its 2017 Statistical Review of World Energy. China led the way with a 7.9 percent decline in coal production (140 mtoe), followed by the U.S. with a 19 percent drop (85 mtoe). For the first time, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s biggest producer of non-hydro renewables. “The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past,” BP’s chief economist Spencer Dale said Tuesday. The report explains “this shift largely reflects structural factors” — the remarkable growth of cheap natural gas and renewables — “combined with government and societal pressure to shift towards cleaner, lower carbon fuels.” Clean energy is the world’s biggest sustainable source of new high-wage jobs. No wonder China is making a $360 billion bet on renewables by 2020 — they calculate the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”

Wisconsin power line pits green interests against each other

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 15, 2017

A fight that involves dueling environmental constituencies is brewing over plans for a massive transmission line that would run through the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin and into northeastern Iowa. Developers say the estimated $500 million, 125-mile line would help buttress the regional power grid and provide access to lower-priced electricity in Iowa and other states.But like the clamor that has erupted over construction of oil pipelines, transmission lines also engender strong emotions, with opponents often raising environmental objections.In this case, Wisconsin’s newest power-line proposal pits a pair of green interests: those who see the project as a blight on the picturesque ridges and valleys of the region and those who say it opens up a new route for renewable wind energy from other states.The Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line would run from west of Madison, Wis., to Dubuque County in Iowa, where it would be linked to a growing fleet of wind farms that produce no greenhouse gases.The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, whose members have all been appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, must decide whether the line is needed, and, if so, the best corridor to build it.The developers have not yet selected precise route options, but recently sent letters to potentially affected property owners.Two electric transmission companies — Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co. and ITC Midwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa — lead the project. A third partner is Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse, Wis.

Making ethanol from CO2 at ORNL sparks considerable interest

Oakridger | Posted on June 15, 2017

In the Secret City, the not-so-secret passwords of “carbon dioxide” and “ethanol,” combined with a press release and video sent out at the same time, triggered intense media coverage last fall of an “accidental” discovery at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  The ORNL video went viral, with a quarter million views the first week after its release (as well as more than 100,000 views since then). You can play the YouTube video by searching for “ethanol ORNL video.”  An article based on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory release became Popular Mechanics’ most popular story of the year. And ORNL researchers were interviewed on NPR, CBS, NBC and CNBC — while other news sources such as Wired and Time magazines highlighted the discovery.That’s what happened in mid-October when the media learned that Adam Rondinone and a dozen colleagues at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences accidentally made the fuel ethanol from carbon dioxide ... or CO2.Rondinone told this story and explained the science behind the discovery and its possible applications during a recent talk to Friends of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (FORNL). The research was published in 2016 in ChemistrySelect.Scientists have linked surging emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas, to increased warming of the atmosphere and planet, potentially causing devastating climate change. Ethanol, currently made from corn, has been blended into gasoline for a decade in the United States. CO2 released when ethanol is burned in vehicles is offset by the CO2 captured when corn is grown.

New York will sink $1.5B into renewable energy projects to spur clean energy jobs

Utility Dive | Posted on June 15, 2017

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced a new Clean Climate Careers (CCC) initiative that will aim to create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020. Renewable energy, aiming to procure an additional 2.5 million MWh each year. According to the governor's announcement, it is "the largest clean energy procurement by a state in U.S. history." New York rolled out its plan in the wake of President Trump's announcement that he would pull the United States out of the United Nations Paris climate accord. Similarly, the California Senate voted to move to 100% renewables after the decision was announced.

Nuclear Subsidies Slow to Catch on as Opposition Steps Up

Bloomberg | Posted on June 14, 2017

Almost a year after New York became the first state to approve subsidies for nuclear reactors threatened with closure, efforts to replicate the model elsewhere are proving a tough sell. Lawmakers in Connecticut failed to pass a bill overnight that was designed to shore up a nuclear plant. Dominion Energy Inc., which mounted a high-profile campaign to win higher revenue for its Millstone station, said it would “continue assessing our investments” in the state as a result. With the exception of Illinois, supporters of state aid are similarly struggling to make headway in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those with the most to lose -- such as renewable energy providers and big electric customers -- are pushing back in state legislatures, said Peter Bradford, a consultant who used to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s making it harder for states to come to the rescue of reactors grappling with plunging power prices.At least five nuclear power plants have retired in the past five years including Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, which closed in October. Those in favor of state subsidies say the carbon-free electricity provided by nuclear is needed to help states meet ambitious clean-energy targets and preserve local jobs, while opponents counter that they distort the idea of a level playing field.Dominion had backed a bill proposing that the state takes competitive bids for both nuclear and renewable power. “Continued inaction harms customers, the state’s ability to meet its climate goals, and the state’s economy,” Ken Holt, a spokesman for Dominion’s Millstone plant, said in a statement on Thursday. 

FirstEnergy's nuclear zero emission credits may have stalled | Posted on June 14, 2017

FirstEnergy's effort to convince state lawmakers that it must have more than $300 million a year in new customer charges to keep its nuclear power plants running is approaching a stall point.The Ohio Senate's Public Utilities Committee wrapped up its fourth hearing Thursday on the special nuclear funding legislation, without reaching a conclusion.In fact, most of the 13 members on the committee had drifted away by the time the last witnesses gave their testimony opposing Senate Bill 128.Over 40 witnesses have submitted written testimony, much of it in opposition.  Many of them have then appeared before the committee to present the testimony formally and take questions from lawmakers.State Sen. William Beagle, a Tipp City Republican and chairman of the utilities committee, said there were still a few requests from opponents of the legislation to appear before the committee.

Heritage Foundation attacks ethanol policies

Farm Futures | Posted on June 8, 2017

The Heritage Foundation Blueprint for Agriculture includes a lengthy chapter on U.S. biofuels policy and the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Heritage concludes that ethanol and other current biofuels are harmful to agriculture, the environment, and consumer.Heritage claims the U.S. biofuels policy “is a case study in the unintended consequences of government intervention.” For example, biofuels have created higher livestock prices for livestock farmers and ranchers. Heritage suggests biofuel policies, over a 30-year time frame, have diverted over $35 billion in taxpayer money to agriculture. It goes on to conclude renewable fuel mandates have assisted corn growers at the expense of livestock producers. (I suspect my friends in the livestock community are not complaining about corn prices now.)The report claims “The renewable fuel standard has certainly contributed to increased prices [in food].” To support this charge, Heritage quotes the USDA Economic Research Service, which writes, “Increased corn prices draw land away from competing crops, raise input prices for livestock producers, and put moderate upward pressure on retail food prices.”Heritage also claims that diverting food to fuel has hurt both rural America and the world’s poorest citizens. I suspect there is some dispute over this assertion.The report relies on the 2012 summer drought to assert that existing subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels “needlessly” diverted food to fuel. Although the report does accurately state “The magnitude of the ethanol mandate’s effect on corn prices and overall agricultural products is difficult to determine, partly because of the uncertainty of estimates regarding how much ethanol would be used for fuel absent a mandate…”