Energy

Obama Administration's "Clean Power Plan" dealt a setback by the Supreme Court
February 10, 2016 07:03 PM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan suffered a setback on Tuesday when the Supreme Court granted a stay to the program. In a 5-4 decision, the court sided in favor of petitioning states, utilities and coal companies that claimed that the federal government was overreaching its powers when it attempted to establish a national plan to move away from fossil-fuel based power. Requests for the Supreme Court to impose the stay were submitted in January after an appeals court ruled that the plan could proceed while legal challenges were being heard.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is an about-face to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and it comes at a critical time for the Obama administration’s clean energy program, especially in light of the upcoming elections in November. While the administration can appeal the Supreme Court’s order, arguments would not be considered until June and, pending acceptance by the higher court, likely wouldn’t be scheduled until October or later this year. That leaves the fate of the Clean Power Plan in the hands of the upcoming presidency.

Iowa - first in primaries, first in wind power
January 31, 2016 08:25 AM - Zachary Davies Boren / Greenpeace Energydesk, The Ecologist

As presidential contenders gather in Iowa for the beginning of the party selection season, they may have noticed a lot of wind turbines, writes Zachary Davies Boren. And if they have any sense, they will find only nice things to say about them. Wind supplies 30% of the state's power, more than any other US state, and Iowans are all for it. Ted Cruz, mind your words!

Today, there are 12 factories in Iowa that build wind-related parts and materials, and wind supports as many as 7,000 jobs. Furthermore, the steady long-term costs of wind power promise to keep Iowa's electricity prices stable for many years to come.

All eyes are on Iowa, the midwestern state set to kick-off the US presidential election next week with its folksy first-in-the-nation caucus.

How much methane IS leaking at Porter Ranch?
January 15, 2016 07:08 AM - University of California, Davis via ScienceDaily

A UC Davis scientist flying in a pollution-detecting airplane provided the first, and so far only, estimates of methane emissions spewing from the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Southern California since the leak began on Oct. 23, 2015.

Those estimates were provided to the California Air Resources Board in November. Pilot and UC Davis project scientist Stephen Conley continues to measure emissions from the still uncontrolled leak, which has displaced thousands of residents in the affluent Porter Ranch neighborhood in northern Los Angeles. On Jan. 6, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the community.

To date, Conley estimates that the leak has emitted nearly 80,000 tons of methane, or about 1,000 tons per day.

Denmark breaks its own world record in wind energy
January 15, 2016 07:04 AM - EurActiv

Danish wind turbines set a new world record in 2015. Wind power is now counted for 42.1% of the total electricity consumption in Denmark, according to data published on Friday (15 January).

The percentage of wind power in Denmark's overall electricity mix is the highest in the world. Last year, the share was 39.1%, which was a record, according to Energinet, which runs the power grids. 

The Porter Ranch gas leak update
January 12, 2016 06:28 PM - NRDC

Senators Kevin de León and Fran Pavley announced a package of new legislation that builds on Gov. Brown’s state of emergency declaration to ensure protections for Californians impacted by the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch. 

The new legislation will require: 

  • a moratorium on new injections into the Aliso Canyon  storage facility until experts determine it is safe to resume and a study to see whether it makes sense to continue using the facility. (SB 875)
  • that response costs – such as greenhouse gas mitigation, relocation, and emergency response costs – will be funded by the Gas Company shareholders, not the ratepayers who are suffering from this disaster. (SB 876)
  • stronger laws regulating gas storage facilities, including increased inspections and health and safety measures. (SB 877)
  • setting state climate pollution reduction targets and holding polluters accountable for meeting those targets. (SB 878)

As gas prices fall, consumers going back to less fuel efficient vehicles
January 9, 2016 08:04 AM - Scott Horsley, NPR

There were high-fives this week from Detroit to Washington, D.C., as carmakers celebrated record auto sales.

Americans bought 17.5 million cars and trucks in 2015. That's a huge turnaround from 2009, and the Obama administration cheered the rebound as vindication of the president's decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy.

"Because of the policy decisions that were made by this administration to place a bet on those workers, America has won, and our economy has been better for it," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory developing underground battery system to store energy and CO2
January 6, 2016 04:30 PM - Lawrence Liverpool Laboratory.

Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require increased use of renewable energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of fossil energy use.

The intermittency of when the wind blows and when the sun shines is one of the biggest challenges impeding the widespread integration of renewable energy into electric grids, while the cost of capturing CO2 and storing it permanently underground is a big challenge for decarbonizing fossil energy.

However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and TerraCOH, Inc. think they’ve found an answer to both of these problems with a large-scale system that incorporates CO2 sequestration and energy storage.

 

US Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations - not the kind of German engineering the VW Group wants to be known for
January 4, 2016 03:56 PM - US Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

Solar gaining on coal in India
January 4, 2016 06:15 AM - Chris Goodall, Ecologist

A KPMG study shows that the cost of solar power in India, revealed by public auctions, is barely half a cent above that of cheap local coal , writes Chris Goodall, with generators bids falling well below 5p (UK) / 7¢ (US) per kWh. The idea put about at COP21 that India and other poor but sunny countries need coal to develop their economies is fast running out of steam.

When the accountants have fully loaded the network and other costs PV ends up as very slightly cheaper than using lndian-mined coal. And, of course, this advantage will grow as solar gets cheaper.

Commentators eager to arrest the move towards renewable energy are facing increasing difficulties finding arguments for the continued use of fossil fuel.

2015 Year in Review
December 31, 2015 07:10 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM

As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was. This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada. The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks. Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.

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