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U.S. will fall short of ethanol, biofuels targets under Renewable Fuel Standard

Washington Times | Posted on November 30, 2016

The federal Renewable Fuel Standard will fall far short of the goals laid out by Congress, government watchdogs said Monday, dealing another blow to  the embattled program and giving more ammunition to critics who say it must be ended immediately. Government Accountability Office reports say the Renewable Fuel Standard, enacted by lawmakers in 2007, has been crippled by higher-than-expected costs of producing ethanol and other biofuels and by the boom in U.S. oil and gas production, which has made fossil fuels far more competitive in the marketplace. The program, which requires increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into the nation’s gas supply each year, also will fail to deliver the kinds of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions envisioned a decade ago, the GAO said. Taken together, the two conclusions raise doubts about the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard and support critics’ contention that the program is forcing the use of fuels that are too expensive and incompatible with many of today’s vehicles and infrastructure.

Illinois Quad Cities, Clinton nuclear plants could save $3 billion in power costs: study

Reuters | Posted on November 29, 2016

Preserving Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear plants will save businesses and consumers in Illinois more than $3 billion in power costs in the next 10 years, a study conducted by global consulting firm The Brattle Group showed on Monday.  Exelon Corp, which owns the plants and plans to close them, has been trying to get the Illinois Legislature to adopt legislation, known as the Next Generation Energy Plan, that would provide a subsidy for nuclear reactors for their production and environmental and economic benefits.In June, Exelon said it would close the Clinton plant on June 1, 2017, and Quad Cities, on June 1, 2018. The reactors have lost a combined $800 million in the past seven years, according to the company.

Court revives ratepayer lawsuit over Georgia nuclear plant fees

Southeast Energy News | Posted on November 29, 2016

The Georgia Court of Appeals has revived a long-running ratepayer lawsuit against Georgia Power over costs the utility wants to include in its rates to help pay for two nuclear reactors and power plant upgrades. If successful, the lawsuit could become class-action and refund ratepayers in excess of $150 million. A three-judge panel of the court found that municipal franchise fees Georgia Power pays to local jurisdictions may not be costs recoverable from ratepayers under Georgia regulations.A lower court affirmed the utility’s argument that some fees are recoverable, but left open the possibility of a challenge on the franchise fees. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell ruled the plaintiffs in this case – Amy N. Cazier et al. v. Georgia Power Company – had not exhausted all the remedies, setting the stage for the Court of Appeals’ ruling Nov. 16. The three judges said the legality of charging the franchise fee to ratepayers is a matter for the courts, not the Public Service Commission (PSC) to decide.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil in land-animal food chain

BBC | Posted on November 24, 2016

Researchers in Louisiana have discovered traces of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the feathers of birds eaten by land animals. A team examined the feathers and digestive tract contents of seaside sparrows - measuring signature carbon from spilled oil. They say it "is the first demonstration that oil from the spill made it into the" food chain of land animals. The findings are published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The study focused on seaside sparrows and the soil sediments of the Louisiana marshes.

Sustainable Biofuels Innovation Challenge launched

Innovators Magazine | Posted on November 23, 2016

An initiative to support the development of sustainable biofuels is being backed by 23 governments – major powers which account for 80% of the world’s investment in clean energy.The Sustainable Biofuels Innovation Challenge was announced by Mission Innovation – an influential group of countries who committed to working together to accelerate the pace of clean energy innovation – at COP 22.Governments are being called upon to pool resources and expertise to advance research and development, ‘with the goal of achieving performance breakthroughs and cost reductions for large scale production of advanced biofuels’.

America’s First All-Renewable-Energy City | Posted on November 23, 2016

To understand what makes Burlington unlike almost any other city in America when it comes to the power it consumes, it helps to look inside the train that rolls into town every day. The 24 freight cars that pull up to the city’s power plant aren’t packed with Appalachian coal or Canadian fuel oil but wood. Each day 1,800 tons of pine and timber slash, sustainably harvested within a 60-mile radius and ground into wood chips, is fed into the roaring furnaces of the McNeil Generating Station, pumping out nearly half of the city’s electricity needs. Much of the rest of what Burlington’s 42,000 citizens need to keep the lights on comes from a combination of hydroelectric power drawn from a plant it built a half mile up the Winooski River, four wind turbines on nearby Georgia Mountain and a massive array of solar panels at the airport. Together these sources helped secure Burlington the distinction of being the country’s first city that draws 100 percent of its power from renewable sources. The net energy costs are cheap enough that the city has not had to raise electric rates for its customers in eight years. And Burlington is not done in its quest for energy conservation. Add in the city’s plan for an expansive bike path, a growing network of electric vehicle charging stations and an ambitious plan to pipe the McNeil station’s waste heat to warm downtown buildings and City Hall’s goal to be a net zero consumer of energy within 10 years starts looking achievable.

Michigan, Minnesota among clean energy ‘success stories’

Midwest Energy News | Posted on November 23, 2016

Michigan and Minnesota are exemplar Midwest states when it comes to state-level policy pushing for clean energy development, according to a recent report from the Georgetown Climate Center.  Michigan is credited largely for its commitment to energy efficiency, which has been emphasized by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration as state lawmakers craft sweeping energy policy reform. The administration has also been proactive in modeling the state’s electric-generation future in the context of the Clean Power Plan as well as the state’s largest utilities’ closing several coal plants.  Meanwhile, the report credits Minnesota for reducing in-state carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 28 percent between 2005 and 2013 due to strong renewable energy and efficiency standards. The state’s Climate Solutions and Economic Opportunities project also identifies chances for more clean energy advancement, such as a 50 percent renewable energy standard and more investment in energy efficiency.

Canada accelerates phasing out of coal, breaking from Trump

The Star | Posted on November 23, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is speeding up Canada’s planned elimination of traditional coal-fired power plants, doubling down on green pledges as its top trading partner moves in the opposite direction. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Monday the country would phase out traditional coal power by 2030, an acceleration of existing measures that the government says affects four facilities in Canada not already facing retrofit or shutdown by then. They include two facilities in Nova Scotia-owned Nova Scotia Power, an Emera Inc. subsidiary, and one each in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick owned by provincial crown corporations. Canada, which already draws 80 per cent of its electricity from non-emitting sources, is pressing ahead with plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid warnings from Trudeau’s political opponents that doing so will create a competitive imbalance with the neighbouring U.S., where President-elect Donald Trump wants to back out of climate pledges and boost coal production.

With a Meeting, Trump Renewed a British Wind Farm Fight

The New York Times | Posted on November 23, 2016

When President-elect Donald J. Trump met with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present. The meeting, held shortly after the presidential election, raises new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests. Mr. Trump has long opposed a wind farm planned near his course in Aberdeenshire, and he previously fought unsuccessfully all the way to Britain’s highest court to block it.

Mysterious source of greenhouse gas methane in ocean explained

Science Daily | Posted on November 22, 2016

For decades, marine chemists have faced an elusive paradox. The surface waters of the world's oceans are supersaturated with the greenhouse gas methane, yet most species of microbes that can generate the gas can't survive in oxygen-rich surface waters. So where exactly does all the methane come from? This longstanding riddle, known as the "marine methane paradox," may have finally been cracked, thanks to a new study. In a paper released in the November 14, 2016 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, Repeta and colleagues at the University of Hawaii found that much of the ocean's dissolved organic matter is made up of novel polysaccharides -- long chains of sugar molecules created by photosynthetic bacteria in the upper ocean. Bacteria begin to slowly break these polysaccharides, tearing out pairs of carbon and phosphorus atoms (called C-P bonds) from their molecular structure. In the process, the microbes create methane, ethylene, and propylene gasses as byproducts. Most of the methane escapes back into the atmosphere.