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The David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology
The EPA recently announced new regulations for methane emissions, taking an important first step in reducing the impact of this highly potent greenhouse gas (GHG). But the rule falls short, in part because EPA has systematically underestimated methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Emissions from conventional natural gas are likely to be at least 2- to 3-fold greater than the EPA estimates, according to several recent studies. Recent literature also suggests emissions from shale gas may be twice as much greater still, based on an observed large increase in methane in the atmosphere over recent years, with the… [more]View Discussion
On February 24th, President Obama vetoed legislation that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline as it “conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest.” It is still possible that President Obama will approve construction of the highly controversial pipeline. In fact, a number of outcomes for the executive review are still possible and a district court judge in York County, Nebraska, just granted local landowners a preliminary injunction against TransCanada’s use of eminent domain for the proposed pipeline in a move that further complicates the… [more]View Discussion
UFA Ventures, Inc.
Generally, when electricity demand rises in an area, we just fire up some source like a gas plant or a coal plant, or put more water through a hydroelectric dam, to produce more electricity to meet that demand. But what about other users voluntarily shifting their use to compensate for that rise in demand? This concept of Demand Response sounds simple, but until recent technological developments, like a smarter grid and rapid energy communication and control systems, it wasn’t feasible since the response time needed to be in minutes, not hours. Some users can shift their energy usage to different… [more]View Discussion
The rapid increase in U.S. oil production has had a number of impacts. One of these is that shipping of crude oil by rail has increased more than 400% since 2005, due to pipeline limitations and the sheer pace of development. On Monday, a train carrying 109 oil cars derailed in West Virginia and 20 of the oil cars exploded. Other recent, high profile accidents have rekindled the discussion about the safety of transporting oil-by-rail that began after a derailment in Quebec in July, 2013 killed 47 people. In July 2014, the Department of Transportation issued a new rule proposal… [more]View Discussion
Bloomberg's First Word Energy
Coal can’t get much love. Cheap natural gas and a bevy of EPA regulations are conspiring to force old coal plants to close and pushing U.S. production down to less than one billion short tons, near a two-decade low. While low-cost production in Wyoming and Illinois has been able to hold steady, the legacy mines of Appalachia face devastating losses in production and jobs. Meanwhile, projects that were supposed to demonstrate a future for coal in a carbon-constrained world are struggling or dead. The Obama administration pulled the plug on the FutureGen clean coal project this month. Another similar project… [more]View Discussion
Kadak Associates, Inc.
Today there are 100 nuclear plants operating in the United States, providing roughly 17% of our electricity. They do so with water technology developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s and many of these plants are extending their licenses from 40 to 60 years after careful regulatory review. Even new design nuclear plants such as Westinghouse’s AP-1000 and General Electric’s ESBWR are fundamentally the same technology, which are described as evolutionary. Yet today there are many new innovative designs and technologies that are being developed that are not water based. These innovators face enormous challenges in coming up with new designs… [more]View Discussion
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, along with the Highway Revenue Act (1956) created the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) as a mechanism through which federal gasoline taxes would be used to fund the construction and maintenance of the U.S. highway system. Both the taxes themselves and the authority to place these funds into the HTF expire and must be extended periodically. In 1993, the last increase brought the federal gas tax to 18.4 cents per gallon, 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel. Many point to inflation and increased fuel efficiency as causes of significant shortfalls in the HTF and claim… [more]View Discussion
Jesse Jenkins (MIT) and Matthew Stepp (Center for Clean Energy Innovation) are among a number of policy analysts who have called for a “tax and invest” strategy to combat global warming. That is: A modest tax on carbon emissions would be invested in government research, development, and innovation-promotion programs to commercialize new alternative energy technology. But in a recent article I have argued there are at least four reasons to question whether typical government technology programs would be as cost-effective an investment as Jenkins and others claim: 1. The government role in innovation is neither necessary nor sufficient. Of the… [more]View Discussion
On Tuesday, January 20th 2015, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address (SOTU), and energy and climate will likely play a prominent role. In last years’ SOTU, President Obama outlined an all of the above strategy: increasing domestic oil and gas production, cutting red tape, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and addressing climate change. However, a lot has changed in the last year. Republicans now control both chambers of Congress, oil prices are at their lowest point since 2009 and the Clean Power Plan has impacted the policy landscape both domestically and abroad. The administration just announced… [more]View Discussion
Oil prices have declined sharply over the last six months, with the U.S. benchmark closing below $50/barrel on Jan. 6th, for the first time since 2009. A number of factors have contributed to this fall in prices, including an increase in U.S. tight oil production and decreased global demand. Beyond the immediate financial benefits of lower fuel prices for U.S. consumers, the falling price of oil raises several policy questions. Impacts on financial markets and geopolitical tensions that could be exacerbated if the low price persists are only a few of the potential issues U.S. policymakers may find themselves dealing… [more]View Discussion