Lawmakers in three Midwest legislatures closed out their 2016 lame-duck sessions with plans to both expand as well as slow clean energy development. The proposals in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois came under three Republican governors and, aside from Illinois, Republican-held legislatures. In each case, major utilities played significant roles — either prominently lobbying or behind the scenes — in getting policies adopted in their favor. In Ohio, this meant a concerted effort toward what critics say further weakens the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. On Dec. 8, lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that makes those standards voluntary for the next two years. Advocates and others have since called on Kasich to veto the plan. However, a different story played out in Illinois and Michigan, where clean energy was just part of broader statewide energy plans. In Illinois, Exelon pushed lawmakers for subsidies that would help keep open two uneconomic nuclear plants there at $2.4 billion over the next 10 years. Clean energy advocates supported the legislation, though, because it would update the state’s renewable energy standard in a way that will lead to more in-state solar and wind investment. In the past, Exelon had opposed such a measure out of fear that renewables would compete with its nuclear fleet.
Local officials in Traverse City voted Monday night to become the second Michigan city looking to meet 100 percent of municipal electricity needs from renewable sources. Traverse City Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to set a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2020 to power city services, such as streetlights, a wastewater treatment plant and government buildings.
As the Obama administration prepares to leave office, it is seeking to underscore just how much has changed in the last eight years in the way we get energy — and to take some credit for it. Since 2008, costs for wind and solar have plunged by 40 and 60 percent, respectively, according to an analysis provided by the Energy Department. That’s even as the United States has installed 100 gigawatts, or billion watts, of generating capacity in the two technologies combined (75 gigawatts of wind, 25 of solar).Meanwhile, we now have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road, thanks largely to a 70 percent drop in battery costs. The federal government can’t take credit for all of this (industry invested too, states also promoted renewable energy, and so on), but it helped drive much of it through research investments over decades, said David Friedman, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.“The Department of Energy has really changed the world when it comes to energy, and that’s part of a global competition that’s underway,” said Friedman.
Ultimately, it was new language around energy choice -- the 10 percent of Michigan's electric market that is allowed to use alternative energy suppliers instead of their incumbent utilities -- that helped push the package over the edge. Ultimately, the compromise made changes to energy efficiency, electric choice and solar net metering provisions that satisfied almost everybody. The main bill, Senate Bill 437, passed the House 79-28 and the Senate confirmed the changes 33-4. The bill focusing on renewable energy, Senate Bill 438, passed the House 76-31 and the Senate confirmed the changes 33-4.
Income declines to level not seen since 1986. Statewide income from farms and ranches is projected to fall to $444 million in 2016 from about $1.3 billion in 2015. The fall can be largely attributed to the decline in cattle prices because the industry accounts for the largest portion of the state’s agriculture economy, said Stephen Koontz, a professor at Colorado State University. He expects prices for cattle will not level off until 2018, and producers will likely not see the gains that the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have fueled because President-elect Donald Trump does not support it.
The first pipeline protesters will go on trial Monday and the prosecutor is asking that they keep issues of tribal sovereignty, the concerns about the Dakota Access Pipeline and "any other social or political cause" out of the courtroom. "This trial is not being held so there can be a forum to extend the months of conflict and context over these extraneous issues," Ladd Erickson, who is prosecuting the case for Morton County, wrote in a motion filed Dec. 12. But a local criminal defense attorney involved in the protest cases said the 10 people set to be tried on disorderly conduct charges have "a right to explain why they were there," which the prosecutor's request seems to preclude. The protesters fear pipeline construction disturbed sacred sites and that a leak could contaminate the Missouri River."They just didn’t parachute in from Mars," Tom Dickson said. "They certainly have a right to say why they were there, why they were doing what they were doing." South Central District Judge Cynthia Feland, who is overseeing the trial, has yet to rule on the motion.
The U.S. Energy Department will not comply with a request from President-elect Donald Trump's Energy Department transition team for the names of people who have worked on climate change and the professional society memberships of lab workers.The Energy Department's response could signal a rocky transition for the president-elect's energy team and potential friction between the new leadership and the staffers who remain in place.The memo sent to the Energy Department on Tuesday and reviewed by Reuters last week contains 74 questions, including a request for a list of all department employees and contractors who attended the annual global climate talks hosted by the United Nations within the last five years.Energy Department spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said Tuesday the department will not comply.
Society has just begun to tap new renewable sources of energy from agriculture and forestlands on a commercial scale that impacts energy markets. Among these sources are biofuels, a small but important component of current fuel consumption in the U.S. transport sector. In 2012, biofuels accounted for roughly 7.1 percent of total transport fuel consumption, or 13.8 billion gallons, unchanged from the previous year. Ethanol, made mostly from corn starch from kernels, is by far the most significant biofuel in the United States, accounting for 94 percent of all biofuel production in 2012. Most of the remainder is biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oils (chiefly soy oil) as well as animal fats, waste oils, and greases. The U.S. Bioenergy Statistics are a source of information on biofuels intended to present a picture of the renewable energy industry and its relationship to agriculture. Where appropriate, data are presented in both a calendar year and the relevant marketing year timeframe to increase utility to feedstock-oriented users. The statistics highlight the factors that influence the demand for agricultural feedstocks for biofuels production; for instance, numerous tables emphasize the relationship between energy and commodity markets.
Less than 24 hours after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed off on a plan to subsidize two nuclear plants for billions of dollars over the next 10 years, energy companies in Michigan announced plans to close one of the state’s three plants as a way to protect ratepayers. Entergy’s decision to close the Palisades plant in 2018 — by cutting short a power-purchase agreement with Consumers Energy that was to expire in 2022 — is a strong contrast to the protracted debate in Illinois over whether to subsidize unprofitable nuclear plants there.Unlike in Illinois, Entergy and Consumers officials have no plans to push for such a ratepayer subsidy in Michigan. They say closing Palisades, which has faced multiple safety violations over the past several years, is the more financially prudent option.
The U.S. government is slated to sell $375 million worth of crude oil from the country's emergency reserve this winter after Congress passed a temporary spending bill on Friday that contained a measure authorizing the sale. President Barack Obama's administration has pushed Congress to approve an up to $2 billion plan for a revamp of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a string of heavily guarded underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico filled with crude. The stash currently holds about 695 million barrels of oil.A Department of Energy spokeswoman said authorization in the spending bill "will allow the Department to take necessary steps to increase the integrity and extend the life" of the reserve.Congress passed the original funding for the reserve after the 1973 to 1974 Arab oil embargo to protect the country from global supply disruptions that have the potential to spike domestic fuel prices and damage the U.S. economy.