Climate Action For Christmas? Omnibus Bill Includes Biggest Policy Shift In Years

Read the full story from NPR.

The massive spending package just passed by Congress includes the most significant climate legislation in more than a decade, along with significant changes in energy policy.
It was easy to miss, nestled among pandemic relief payments, the annual spending bill, new Smithsonian museums and protection from surprise medical billing. But pull out the energy provisions alone, and the bill is remarkable: It includes $35 billion in funding for basic research, extensions of tax credits for renewable energy companies, and a long-delayed mandate to reduce the use of a particularly damaging greenhouse gas.

UPS Upcycling Old Uniforms, Making Leashes For Homeless Dogs

Read the full story at CBS Philly.

UPS has changed up its signature brown uniforms, and they’re using the old ones to help homeless dogs. UPS is upcycling old uniforms to make leashes. A non-profit called “re:loom” has trained homeless and low-income individuals to make handwoven products, including the leashes.

Properties vs. chemistry: Co-Optima research determines predictor of fuel performance, develops roadmap for biofuels design

Read the full story from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

As Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s fuel properties technical lead for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuel and Engines, or Co-Optima, initiative, Jim Szybist has been on a quest for the past few years to identify the most significant indicators for predicting how a fuel will perform in engines designed for light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars and pickup trucks.

Most passenger vehicles on U.S. highways are powered by spark-ignition gasoline engines. It’s important for automakers to know how well a fuel will perform in these engines so that future vehicles can be designed with engines that achieve higher efficiency. Co-Optima, which was formed in 2016, has focused on research to maximize fuel economy and vehicle performance through higher efficiency and increased use of biofuels, resulting in new fuel performance insights.

Szybist and his research team at ORNL, working alongside Co-Optima collaborators from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, determined it’s not so much the chemistry of a fuel that predicts performance, but rather its properties that hold the key to identifying a candidate with the potential for success. The research team published this finding in the journal Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, presenting for the first time comprehensive scientific details on Co-Optima’s initial phase of research.

Engineers Launch SE 2050 Commitment to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Structures

Read the full story at Engineering News Record.

Creators of the first U.S. campaign aimed at reducing embodied carbon in structural systems are issuing a call for engineers to join their crusade to help rid buildings of embodied carbon.

Last month at the virtual Greenbuild Conference, the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers launched its EC reduction initiative, called the Structural Engineers 2050 Commitment Program. SE 2050 is the “first national program focused on structural engineering firm commitments to achieve net-zero EC structural system designs by 2050,” says Michael Gryniuk, chair of the SE 2050 subcommittee of SEI’s sustainability committee.

Measuring and reducing EC in structures is “an emerging field,” adds Gryniuk, an associate with LeMessurier Consultants. But “we do have the sense that the structure is the largest contributor of EC in a new building,” he says.

An office building structure can account for as much as 62% of the EC—45% for the superstructure and 17% for the substructure, according to S. C. Kaethner, of Arup, and J. A. Burridge, of the Concrete Centre, in Embodied CO2 of Structural Frames, in the May 2012 issue of The Structural Engineer. For a hospital or school, the total EC is about 51%, with 40% in the superstructure, say the authors.

Oil Refineries See Profit in Turning Kitchen Grease Into Diesel

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Struggling energy companies are increasing the production of renewable diesel, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As coal taxes decline, Republicans eye renewables

Read the full story in the Billings Gazette.

Citing a need to “level the playing field” on energy taxes, Montana’s majority Republican Legislature will consider raising taxes on wind and solar developments as the coal industry struggles.

The tax increase on renewables isn’t likely to replace all of the revenue lost to coal’s decline, but it would help, said state Sen. Duane Ankney, a Republican from Colstrip, home to a large, but struggling, coal-fired power plant and coal mine.

2020 Midwest Getting to Zero Buildings List

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The 2020 Midwest Getting to Zero Buildings List tracks commercial and multifamily zero energy (ZE) building projects across thirteen states, including: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. This inaugural Buildings List is published to show the status of ZE projects in the region and to increase public awareness, market acceptance, and adoption of ZE and other high performance design and construction practices, including Passive House. The 63 trailblazing projects listed here are helping move the needle toward a low-energy and low-carbon future for the Midwest.

Coca-Cola European Partners targets net zero emissions by 2040

Read the full story at FoodBev Media.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has announced a €250 million investment to help meet its commitment of net zero emissions by 2040.

The company aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of its business by reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its entire supply chain by 30% by 2030 (vs 2019). The new targets are in line with a 1.5°C pathway and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Offshore Wind energy: Planned Projects May Lead to Construction of New Vessels in the U.S., but Industry Has Made Few Decisions amid Uncertainties

What GAO Found

Under the Jones Act, vessels carrying merchandise between two points in the U.S. must be built and registered in the United States. Developers are planning a number of offshore wind projects along the U.S. east coast, where many states have set targets for offshore wind energy production. Stakeholders described two approaches to using vessels to install offshore wind energy projects in the U.S. Either approach may lead to the construction of new vessels that comply with the Jones Act. Under one approach, a Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) would carry components from a U.S. port to the site and also install the turbines. WTIVs have a large deck, legs that allow the vessel to lift out of the water, and a tall crane to lift and place turbines. Stakeholders told GAO there are currently no Jones Act-compliant vessels capable of serving as a WTIV. One company, however, has announced a plan to build one. Under the second approach, a foreign-flag WTIV would install the turbines with components carried to the site from U.S. ports by Jones Act-compliant feeder vessels (see figure). While some potential feeder vessels exist, stakeholders said larger ones would probably need to be built to handle the large turbines developers would likely use.

Example of an Offshore Wind Installation in U.S. Waters Using a Foreign-Flag Installation Vessel and Jones Act-Compliant Feeder Vessels
Example of an Offshore Wind Installation in U.S. Waters Using a Foreign-Flag Installation Vessel and Jones Act-Compliant Feeder Vessels

Stakeholders identified multiple challenges—which some federal programs address—associated with constructing and using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind installations. For example, stakeholders said that obtaining investments in Jones Act-compliant WTIVs—which may cost up to $500 million—has been challenging, in part due to uncertainty about the timing of federal approval for projects. According to officials at the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for approving offshore wind projects, the Department plans to issue a decision on the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind project in December 2020. Some stakeholders said that if this project is approved, investors may be more willing to move forward with vessel investments. While stakeholders also said port infrastructure limitations could pose challenges to using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind, offshore wind developers and state agencies have committed to make port investments.

Why GAO Did This Study

Offshore wind, a significant potential source of energy in the United States, requires a number of oceangoing vessels for installation and other tasks. Depending on the use, these vessels may need to comply with the Jones Act. Because Jones Act-compliant vessels are generally more expensive to build and operate than foreign-flag vessels, using such vessels may increase the costs of offshore wind projects. Building such vessels may also lead to some economic benefits for the maritime industry. A provision was included in statute for GAO to review offshore wind vessels.

This report examines (1) approaches to use of vessels that developers are considering for offshore wind, consistent with Jones Act requirements, and the extent to which such vessels exist, and (2) the challenges industry stakeholders have identified associated with constructing and using such vessels to support U.S. offshore wind, and the actions federal agencies have taken to address these challenges.

GAO analyzed information on vessels that could support offshore wind, reviewed relevant laws and studies, and interviewed officials from federal agencies and industry stakeholders selected based on their involvement in ongoing projects and recommendations from others.

New catalyst resolves hydrogen fuel cell cost, longevity issues

Read the full story from Washington University in St. Louis.

As people move toward cleaner transportation, hydrogen fuel cells are gaining popularity for automotive applications. But the technology has traditionally been hindered by issues of component cost and longevity, which have prevented it from gaining a firm foothold in the automotive industry.

Recently, a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional group has identified a solution to both of these issues in a key fuel cell component — the catalyst used to drive the reactions. Their research was recently published in the journal Nature Catalysis.