Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

74% of US coal plants threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

March 26th, 2019
Wind turbines near a coal plant.

Enlarge / Wind turbines spin as steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jäenschwalde coal-fired power plant. (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Monday saying that in 2018, "global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 Gigatonnes." That's the most growth in emissions that the world has seen since 2013.

Coal use contributed to a third of the total increase, mostly from new coal-fired power plants in China and India. This is worrisome because new coal plants have a lifespan of roughly 50 years. But the consequences of climate change are already upon us, and coal's hefty emissions profile compared to other energy sources means that, globally, carbon mitigation is going to be a lot more difficult to tackle than it may look from here in the US.

Even in the US, carbon emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, according to the IEA. (This closely tracks estimates by the Rhodium Group, which released a preliminary report in January saying that US carbon emissions increased by 3.4 percent in 2018.)

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Posted in coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Local leaders cooling to Boring Company tunnel promises

March 24th, 2019
Boring company tunnel entrance

Enlarge / The Boring Company tunnel entrance with a Telsa on an elevator to lower it down to tunnel-level. (credit: The Boring Company)

Virginia state transit officials are telling The Boring Company "thanks but no thanks," at least for now. The Virginia Mercury reported yesterday that the state's chief of rail transportation, Michael McLaughlin, was not sufficiently impressed by his recent visit to Elon Musk's test tunnel in California to recommend that the state work with the startup.

"It's a car in a very small tunnel," McLaughlin reportedly told the state's Transportation Board public transit subcommittee this week. "If one day we decide it's feasible, we'll obviously come back to you," he added.

Virginia's Transportation Board has been contemplating billion-dollar upgrades to the state's more populated areas, but the promise of The Boring Company is opaque enough that officials are hesitant to engage with the company, even at the cut-rate prices that founder Musk has promised.

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Posted in Biz & IT, boring company, cars, Energy, Transportation, tunnels | Comments (0)

US nuclear is dying, but it produced more electricity in 2018 than ever before

March 21st, 2019
US nuclear is dying, but it produced more electricity in 2018 than ever before

(credit: Photograph by tva.com)

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US nuclear fleet produced more electrical energy than ever before in 2018. Last year, it produced 807.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, barely beating its 2010 peak of 807TWh. But the US nuclear industry has been in a well-documented decline. So what gives?

(credit: Energy Information Administration)

The EIA says the explanation comes from a combination of scheduling serendipity and what's called "uprating," where older nuclear plants are permitted to output more power. In a post this morning, the administration wrote that we shouldn't expect this much nuclear power output from the industry again—at least not in the near future.

Since the last peak in 2010, more than 5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity has been retired. Some of that was offset by a new reactor addition: another 1.2GW of capacity came online in 2016 at TVA's Watts-Barr nuclear plant when reactor 2 was completed.

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Posted in carbon, Energy, Nuclear, science, uprating | Comments (0)

Federal judge: Public oil lease sales must include detailed climate analysis

March 20th, 2019
A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Enlarge / A natural gas facility stands on the Pinedale Anticline on May 3, 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a federal judge wrote that the Department of the Interior must complete a thorough climate change analysis when considering leasing public land for oil and gas extraction.

The opinion included an order to halt all new oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres of publicly managed land in Wyoming until the DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can complete a proper review.

The case was initially brought in 2016 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against former President Barack Obama's DOI. The plaintiffs, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, argued that the DOI made oil and gas lease sales in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming without taking into account the "direct, indirect, and cumulative" impacts to the climate that drilling would have.

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Posted in BLM, DOI, Energy, interior, law, Legal, oil and gas, oil lease, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Report: Carbon-capture group gets some serious lobbying muscle

March 19th, 2019
A pipe at a carbon capture plant carrying CO2.

Enlarge / A pipe installed as part of the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project carries carbon dioxide captured from the emissions of the NRG Energy Inc. WA Parish generating station in Thompsons, Texas, on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Beltway news site Axios reported that a carbon-capture-focused lobby created last year has teamed up with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a powerful lobbying association with lots of resources. The news suggests that proponents of carbon capture and storage (CCS) are getting more serious about pulling strings in Washington after new tax credits were approved last year.

The carbon-capture lobby, called the Energy Advance Center (EAC), was listed last year in April. In 2018, the lobby spent $80,000 on CCS-related lobbying and retained three lobbyists, according to Open Secrets. EAC is supported by oil companies like BP and Chevron, as well as power firm Southern Company and technology firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

According to Axios, EAC is now under the umbrella of NAM. That means it will be able to use the lobbying association's resources to push for more advantageous terms for carbon-capture projects and protect the nascent industry's new tax credits in the future. Ars Technica contacted NAM and did not receive a response.

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Posted in carbon capture, Energy, National Association of Manufacturers, Policy, science | Comments (0)

New fuel cell material can run efficiently in reverse, storing energy

March 14th, 2019
Close-up of a hydrogen fuel cell.

Enlarge / Close-up of a hydrogen fuel cell. (credit: Wladimir Bulgar | Science Photo Library)

Lithium batteries can readily smooth out short-term hiccups in the supply of intermittent renewable energy. But they're not ideal for long-term storage, since they'll slowly discharge. They also aren't great for large quantities of energy—to store more, you keep having to buy more battery. Because of these issues, there has been research into a number of technologies that scale better, like flow batteries and renewable fuel production. But these pose their own challenges, both chemical and economic.

But researchers are now reporting a possible solution to some of these problems: a fuel cell that can be run efficiently in both directions, either using hydrogen or methane to produce electricity or using electricity to produce these fuels. Their measurements suggest that, after doing a complete cycle, they get out 75 percent of the electricity they put in to start with.

Limitations abound

Batteries, as we mentioned above, don't work for longer-term storage, as they will typically lose charge slowly. They're also expensive, as adding capacity means adding more batteries. Flow batteries solve some of these problems by storing the charged and discharged forms of a chemical in different tanks; larger or additional tanks are cheap, making expanded capacity relatively simple and inexpensive. But flow batteries aren't as efficient as traditional batteries, and the chemicals they use can be toxic or corrosive.

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Posted in chemistry, Energy, fuel cells, hydrogen, materials science, science | Comments (0)

862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles have emissions issues, will be recalled

March 13th, 2019
RAM logo covered in snow.

Enlarge / The Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV Dodge Ram logo stands on display outside the company's Warren Truck Assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (credit: Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Issues with the catalytic converters of 862,520 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles are prompting a semi-voluntary recall, according to officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The vehicles in question include:

  • 2011-2016 Model Year (MY) Dodge Journey
  • 2011-2014 MY Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger
  • 2011-2012 MY Dodge Caliber
  • 2011-2016 MY Jeep Compass/Patriot

The recall will be conducted in phases, with owners of older cars being notified first that they can bring their cars in to be fixed. The last phase is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2019. Unlike previous Fiat-Chrysler emissions recalls, these fixes require replacement parts.

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Posted in cars, diesel, emissions, Energy, Fiat Chrysler, Gas, Policy | Comments (0)

Without federal help, local governments are trying to save coal

March 12th, 2019
Coal truck at a mine.

Enlarge / A truck loaded with coal is viewed at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine, which is operated by Alpha Coal, on Monday May 08, 2017 in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As the Trump administration's attempts to save coal have stalled, a record number of coal plants were shut down or scheduled for shut down in 2018.

The federal government has floated extra compensation for coal and nuclear plants, it has tried to use federal wartime powers to mandate that coal plants stay open, and it has rolled back the Clean Power Plan in the hopes that fewer regulations would help coal power plants stay solvent. Still, though, coal plants close and threaten to close largely because coal is more expensive than natural gas and renewable energy, and it's more cost-effective for utilities and energy companies to retire old plants than to refurbish them.

The federal government is still working to boost coal. In yesterday's budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed extensive cuts to a variety of renewable and efficiency programs run by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, but it said it wanted to increase the Bureau of Land Management's coal management program funding by $7.89 million. In addition, the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development saw a proposed increase in funds by $60 million.

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Posted in Arizona, coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science, Wyoming | Comments (0)

Las Vegas convention authority wants The Boring Company to build 2-mile loop

March 6th, 2019

On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announced that it would recommend The Boring Company to build a two-mile loop under the city's massive, expanding convention center.

The LVCVA's recommendation must be approved by the authority's board on March 12 to move forward.

The Boring Company is Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk's third company, started with the intention to make large-scale tunneling projects cheaper and easier to complete. Musk offered tours of a rough initial tunnel in December 2018 in Hawthorne, California, under the SpaceX Headquarters.

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Posted in cars, Energy, las vegas, the boring company, Transportation | Comments (0)

Amazon’s latest program to curb emissions? One delivery day per house, per week

February 28th, 2019
Amazon boxes in a warehouse.

Enlarge / Completed customer orders are seen in their boxes, awaiting delivery, at the Amazon Fulfillment Centre on November 14, 2018, in Hemel Hempstead, England. (credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Amazon announced that it would be making a program widely available to Amazon Prime members that would allow them to schedule all deliveries for a single day, once a week. The so-called "Amazon Day" service will be voluntary and targets customers who are concerned about their carbon footprint.

Grouping purchase deliveries will help Amazon cut down on emissions associated with sending a delivery truck to the same house multiple times a week, and the company says holding orders for a single day during the week will also allow it to group orders within a single package, thereby reducing packaging. Customers can select their preferred day of the week to receive shipments. According to CNN, customers can add items to their Amazon Day shipment up until two days in advance of the shipment.

Customers can also chose to remove an item from "Amazon Day" delivery, having it shipped more expeditiously if necessary. Select Prime members have already had access to the program, but it was made available to all Prime members as of today.

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Posted in amazon, Biz & IT, cars, Energy | Comments (0)