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Big OPEC oil producer is spending billions to go green

CNN | Posted on January 12, 2017

The country, a core member of OPEC, plans to invest $163 billion to boost its use of alternative energy over the next three decades.  That should increase clean energy's share of UAE consumption from 25% to 50% by 2050. The country also hopes to increase energy efficiency by 40% over the same period.UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said the new energy strategy should save the emirates $190 billion over three decades.  Low oil prices are forcing major producers, including Saudi Arabia, to rethink their economic strategies.

New York is betting on renewables to replace a major nuclear power plant

Think Progress | Posted on January 12, 2017

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans this week to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies electricity to New York City and surrounding areas. The plant’s two working reactors — which account for roughly 10 percent of the state’s power generation — are slated to go offline in 2020 and 2021, more than a decade ahead of schedule. Some environmentalists celebrated the closure. Others lamented the loss of a carbon-free source of energy, despite nuclear power’s potential hazards to humans and wildlife. Nuclear power plants represent a range of risks, from hazardous radioactive waste to a full-scale meltdown. They also supply the bulk of America’s zero-carbon electricity. In laying out its carbon-cutting goals, the Environmental Protection Agency assumed that existing nuclear power plants would continue to hum and buzz for decades to come. But cheap natural gas is digging into the profits of America’s aging nuclear power plants, pressuring them to close ahead of schedule.

Electric Vehicles vs. Biofuels

Eco Watch | Posted on January 12, 2017

By 2040, the number of electric cars in the world could reach 150 million, or even, if more ambitious targets for emissions reductions are adopted, 715 million. Not only would this mean a drastic reduction in the demand for oil, it could also mean a drastic reduction in the demand for biofuels such as ethanol. But the biofuel industry is not giving up without a fight. At the recent UN climate talks in Morocco, a consortium of 20 countries launched Biofuture, a platform designed to encourage the use of low-carbon biofuels, including the second generation of sugarcane cellulose-based biofuel. Brazil, the world's second largest producer of both ethanol and biodiesel (the U.S. is the largest) is leading the initiative.

Ethanol increasingly a stabilizing factor for Iowa farmers' income

The Daily Nonpareil | Posted on January 12, 2017

At a time when Iowa farmers produced a second consecutive record corn crop amid falling prices for their commodity, the state’s growing ethanol industry remains a stabilizing factor. National crop production reports released in mid-December showed Iowa corn production in 2016 at 2.69 billion bushels, up from 2.51 billion bushels in 2015. But average statewide corn prices fell from $3.37 to $3.01 per bushel from November 2015 to November 2016.Brian Cahill, president and general manager of the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant south of Council Bluffs, said that without SIRE and the 42 other ethanol plants in Iowa, prices would be even lower.“Without ethanol,” he said, “farmers would be hurting. We’re a steady buyer.”SIRE purchases 40 million to 50 million bushels of corn annually, more than 125,000 bushels daily – roughly 40 percent of the corn produced within a 75-mile radius of the Council Bluffs plant. Now paying about $3.20 per bushel, Cahill said SIRE pays between 10 to 15 cents more per bushel than offered by most elevators.

America’s first ‘clean coal’ plant is now operational — and another is on the way

The Washington Post | Posted on January 10, 2017

The first large scale U.S. “clean coal” facility was declared operational — by the large energy firm NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.  Their Petra Nova project, not far outside of Houston, captured carbon dioxide from the process of coal combustion for the first time in September, and has now piped 100,000 tons of it from the plant to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles away, where the carbon dioxide is used to force additional oil from the ground. The companies say that the plant can capture over 90 percent of the carbon dioxide released from the equivalent of a 240 megawatt, or million watt, coal unit, which translates into 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day or over 1 million tons per year. They’re calling it “the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system.”

Wisconsin tribe votes against renewing Enbridge pipeline agreements

Reuters | Posted on January 10, 2017

A Native American tribe in Wisconsin has voted against renewing agreements allowing Enbridge Inc to use their land for a major crude oil pipeline, the latest sign of increasing opposition to North American energy infrastructure. The Bad River Band decided not to renew easements on Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline last week because of concerns about the risk of oil spills, and called for the 64-year-old pipeline to be decommissioned and removed. The move against Line 5 underlines how environmental and aboriginal resistance to energy infrastructure is evolving. Opponents are trying to block existing pipelines and expansions on brownfield sites like Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project, as well as protesting new facilities.

Most laid-off energy workers remain out of work

Fuel Fix | Posted on January 10, 2017

Nearly 90 percent of surveyed workers who lost their jobs during the oil bust either remain unemployed or opted to leave the oil and gas sector entirely, according to an ongoing study being conducted by University of Houston researchers. Roughly a quarter of laid-off energy who participated in the study — out of 720 respondents thus far — found work outside of the oil and gas industry, while more than 60 percent of them remain out of work. Only 13 percent of them have found new jobs within the industry. The two-year oil bust resulted in more than 215,000 U.S. jobs lost — including about 100,000 in Texas — and many of those workers may never return to the industry. More than 70 percent of the study participants said they’re nervous about the industry’s future and about 55 percent said they’re considering giving up on the sector entirely. About two-thirds of them complained about the way their companies’ layoffs were handled.

Vermont's new governor sticking with renewable energy goal

Associated Press | Posted on January 10, 2017

Vermont's new Republican governor says he is sticking with his Democratic predecessor's goal of getting 90 percent of the energy needed in the state from renewable sources by 2050. Scott said renewable energy technology also generates jobs, which he said fits in with his administration's economic development goals.

Energy, farm policy collide in the new Congress

The Washington Examiner | Posted on January 9, 2017

The energy debate on Capitol Hill this year could turn quickly into talk of farm policy as a large section of the utility sector and other groups prepare to make sure energy policy doesn't get overlooked in next year's farm bill.

The next five-year reauthorization of the farm bill comes up in 2018, which has groups set to make sure the bill's increased energy focus over the last decade doesn't face the cuts it experienced in the last Congress.

Nevada Regulators Restore Retail-Rate Net Metering in Sierra Pacific Territory

Green Tech Media | Posted on January 4, 2017

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has voted to restore favorable rates for residential solar customers in NV Energy’s Sierra Pacific Power Company’s service territory -- exactly one year after the commission passed a controversial fee increase that brought the state’s residential solar market to a halt. In the draft order approved Thursday, Chairman Joseph Reynolds wrote: “Abraham Lincoln once said that ‘Bad promises are better broken than kept.’ The PUCN’s prior decisions on [net energy metering], in several respects, maybe best viewed as a promise better left unkept. The PUCN is free to apply a new approach.” Advocates for distributed solar cheered the rate change, which they say will revive the solar industry and bring back energy options for customers in northern Nevada. The December 2015 decision phased out retail-rate net metering for the excess generation solar customers send back to the grid, and tripled fixed charges for solar customers over a four-year period. The timeline was later stretched to 12-years. The ruling was applied to both new and current solar customers, sparking outrage among ratepayers who saw their expected savings from investing in solar all but disappear. While the PUCN later decided to grandfather in current solar customers on their existing rates, the rate change for new solar customers put Nevada’s residential solar market at a standstill.