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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.

Storing carbon dioxide underground by turning it into rock

Science Daily | Posted on November 21, 2016

Lab studies on basalt have shown that the rock, which formed from lava millions of years ago and is found throughout the world, can rapidly convert CO2 into stable carbonate minerals. This evidence suggests that if CO2could be locked into this solid form, it would be stowed away for good, unable to escape into the atmosphere. But what happens in the lab doesn't always reflect what happens in the field. One field project in Iceland injected CO2 pre-dissolved in water into a basalt formation, where it was successfully stored. And starting in 2009, researchers with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Montana-based Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership undertook a pilot project in eastern Washington to inject 1,000 tons of pressurized liquid CO2 into a basalt formation.

Biofuel mandate opponents build overhaul momentum

Bloomberg | Posted on November 18, 2016

A Trump administration and new leadership of the Senate’s environment committee may breathe new life into efforts to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standard, lawmakers and advocates say.  House members are continuing to build momentum around bipartisan legislation (H.R. 5180) to limit EPA ethanol requirements in total transportation fuel at 9.7 percent.Opponents of the mandate also are happy about the likely selection of Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a staunch repeal supporter, as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, arguing he may help to convince the Trump administration to approve the changes they want.

Oil companies press House to cap ethanol blend below 10 percent | Posted on November 17, 2016

The fight over the federal ethanol mandate that has pitted corn farmers and oil refineries against one another is not taking a break now Donald Trump is heading to the White House.  Executives from BP Fuels and Marathon Petroleum were in Washington this week meeting with political leaders about legislation that would cap the amount of ethanol that could be blended below the so-called blend wall of 10 percent.

Dakota Access Pipeline Driven by ‘High-Risk Financing’ in Overbuilt Region; Little-Known Economic Weaknesses in Controversial Project

Institute for Energy Economics | Posted on November 17, 2016

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis today published a report noting weaknesses in the financing behind the Dakota Access Pipeline and questions  around the long-term usefulness of the project.    The report—“The High-Risk Financing Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline: A Potential Stranded Asset in the Bakken Region of North Dakota”— describes how the company behind the pipeline is under extreme financial to complete the project and how the pipeline is at risk of becoming a stranded asset in the region’s overbuilt oil-transport infrastructure.  “While the Dakota Access Pipeline has gained notoriety for questions it raises about tribal sovereignty and its impact on drinking water, we’ve found serious, less-publicized problems around the finances and economics of the project,” said Cathy Kunkel, an IEEFA energy analyst and lead author of the report.  The report notes that the project faces a Jan. 1 completion deadline that it cannot meet, a failure that would trigger a potential reset with producers and shippers who can renegotiate contracts signed two years ago with the developer, Energy Transfer Partners.

Interior finalizes methane rule, gets hit with industry lawsuit

EEnews | Posted on November 17, 2016

The Interior Department finalized a rule today designed to slash the volume of natural gas that's vented and flared each year into the atmosphere from roughly 100,000 wells on federal and tribal lands. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule's goal is twofold: Reduce releases of methane, a greenhouse gas that's more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and ensure that taxpayers get a fair return on the use of federal lands by capturing flared gas that is not subjected to royalty payments. Interior says the new rule — which replaces 30-year-old regulations — is projected to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by as much as 35 percent.