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Gulf Coast Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people.  LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana

Salvation through Fermentation

Wisconsin Academy | Posted on October 19, 2017

Producing economically viable biofuels from biomass other than corn, however, is more complicated. Many biofuels researchers, including those at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, are now focused on making biofuels from low-input crops such as switchgrass and poplar. These dedicated bioenergy crops, no portion of which are used for food, avoid the conflicts that arise from growing food crops to produce fuel.  Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels, or fuels made from grasses and wood, are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Dedicated bioenergy crops can also be grown on non-agricultural land, require less fertilizer than annual crops such as corn, and boost biodiversity. Ultimately, GLBRC researchers hope to find ways of growing sustainable biomass and converting it to biofuels and bio-products that provide cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals.Getting there, however, will depend on a number of scientific advancements, including finding new ways to harness the power and potential of yeast. 

Study to explore Illinois' energy future

Dispatch Argus | Posted on October 19, 2017

The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan. The study was prompted by innovations in technology and energy efficiency, and the push for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Wind power to overtake coal power in Texas

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 19, 2017

Wind energy is expected to overtake coal in Texas after Friday's news that two large coal-fired power plants are set to close in the next year. The utility firm Luminant announced that it would close the Sandow Power Plant and the Big Brown Power Plant in early 2018. The power plants comprise 2,300 megawatts of electricity, which means 2.1 million homes in the Lone Star State will no longer be powered by coal.That gap in electricity generation is projected to be filled by wind farms in the Texas energy grid known as ERCOT, according to an analysis issued by the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute soon after Luminant's announcement.

Trump orders EPA to back off RFS changes

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

President Donald Trump intervened personally with the Environmental Protection Agency amid pressure from Republicans in the politically important state of Iowa who worried the agency was poised to weaken biofuel quotas, three people familiar with the discussions said. Trump directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to back off any changes that would dilute a federal mandate for biofuel use, the people said.  A top EPA official said Trump’s urging was unnecessary because Pruitt wasn’t planning on weakening the mandate.Nevertheless, the agency was told by the White House to drop two changes that were under consideration: a possible reduction in biodiesel requirements and a proposal to allow exported renewable fuel to count toward domestic quotas, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the move. The EPA has a Nov. 30 deadline to finalize next year’s quotas, and it may not announce any changes before then.

Trump’s plan to back oil companies would hurt rural jobs and the people who voted for him

Newsweek | Posted on October 19, 2017

President Donald Trump's proposed cuts in biofuels will hurt American farmers and create a "cannibalistic" battle between middle American farmers and Big Oil, say four Republican governors in states that backed Trump in the 2016 election. The proposal by Trump's Environmental Protection Agency would allow fuel producers to use less corn, soybean and other agricultural biomass in gasoline and other fuels. The rule change is pushed by large oil companies, which oppose a decade-old rule mandating a set amount of biofuels be included in gasoline and diesel, reported Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.The four Midwestern Republicans hit back on Monday, telling Trump that reducing the renewable fuel standard is  "backwards" and will create a "cannibalistic, zero-sum scenario" that hurts the farmers who helped elect Trump. Governors Sam Brownback of Kansas, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Eric Greitens of Missouri and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota said the EPA proposal has already driven down crop prices in their states and cost farmers "precious earnings" and "critically needed" revenue."Cutting the biomass…volume…is not only unnecessary, it’s highly disruptive, unprecedented and potentially catastrophic," the statement said.Worse, any reduction in America's commitment to renewable fuels could spark a trade war with Canada and other partners, they added, pointedly noting that not "even under the Obama Administration" were such drastic cuts taken.

As energy transactions become more complex, Chicago firm seeks to simplify

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 18, 2017

A Chicago-area startup is garnering the attention of major industry players with a cloud-based platform for settling energy trades in the decentralized, digital 21st century. Aquilon Energy Services, based in Lisle, Illinois, has developed an Energy Settlement Network that leverages the power of web-based communication technology and big-data analytics to make it easier for energy companies and other firms to trade commodities like power, oil and natural gas.The need for this kind of service is growing. With the rise of renewable power and smart-grid technologies, the power grid itself is resembling more and more a vast, complex network of smaller and more distributed energy producers and consumers. As the number of stakeholders increases – and as the various flows of physical energy become more dynamic – there is demand for robust mechanisms that track, analyze and confirm the exchange of energy.

The U.S. solar industry's new growth region: Trump country

Reuters | Posted on October 18, 2017

Data provided to Reuters by GTM Research, a clean energy market information firm, shows that eight of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. solar markets between the second quarters of 2016 and 2017 were Western, Midwestern or Southern states that voted for Trump, with Alabama and Mississippi topping the list. And solar firms are ramping up investments in these regions, signaling their faith that key renewable energy incentives will remain in place for years to come.

Lawmakers slam DOE’s proposal to help coal, nuclear power

The Hill | Posted on October 18, 2017

Lawmakers used a Thursday hearing with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to criticize his recent proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants with higher payments for their electricity. Numerous Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy subpanel, and one Republican, said the plan would be unnecessarily disruptive to energy market and prop up power plants that aren't competitive.“You are distorting the market, damaging the environment and delivering preferential treatment to favored industries,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the full committee, told Perry.“At the end of the day, killing off competitive electricity markets just to save generation assets that are no longer economical will lead to higher prices for consumers,” he said.Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) said the proposal doesn’t align with Perry’s free-market energy policies from his time as Texas’s governor.

Facing Challenges in DC, Renewable Energy Stakeholders Turn to States

25 X 25 | Posted on October 18, 2017

Renewable energy advocates and stakeholders have found the current environment in Washington, DC, to be quite challenging, as it is increasingly complicated by the Trump administration’s moves to bolster fossil fuel technologies, while simultaneously attempting to diminish the benefits of cleaner alternatives. Action such as the formal effort to kill the Clean Power Plan (CPP), proposed rules that essentially subsidize coal and nuclear power generation, moves to reduce biofuel blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and a call for an end to tax credits benefiting renewable energy development are just some of the salvoes endured by clean energy advocates in recent weeks.It’s little wonder that those who recognize the need for clean energy – particularly America’s corporate interests – have turned to states to provide the policy foresight that can help them meet goals of reducing their carbon footprint and improving their bottom line – all while keeping the country on track toward a clean energy future armed with 21st-century energy technologies, tools and strategies.Even if federal agencies are ignoring marketplace reality, states, corporations and renewable energy advocates across all geographical and political spectrums, including 25x’25, will continue to pursue clean energy policies and goals that can create jobs, boost our economy, enhance our national security and make our world a better place to live.