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April 3, 2012

Great Lakes Wind; Rio+20; Power Plant Standards; Clean Water Act; New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia Energy Efficiency Efforts; Earth Day; and Other U.S. News


Last week, President Obama called for an end to $4 billion in U.S. oil and gas subsidies, instead using that money to “double-down on investments in clean energy technologies… investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels, investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and energy-efficient homes and buildings.”  I, therefore, begin this week’s blog entry with the recently signed Great Lakes Wind Agreement, which streamlines procedures for offshore wind development in several Midwestern states.  Watch the President’s full video address below.  Other U.S. Government highlights this week include recent sustainable development efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in preparation for Rio+20.  There are also newly proposed carbon emissions standards by the EPA for power plants, the approval of E15 blended gasoline for the U.S., and national recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  I discuss efforts to improve energy efficiency in federal buildings and at state and local levels in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Georgia.  I finish with advances in science on biofuels, hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the creation of a $5 million DOE supercomputer institute.

Offshore Wind Agreement for Great Lakes.  As part of the President’s All-of-the-Above approach to energy, the Department of Energy (DOE) joined with the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will streamline procedures for the development of offshore wind resources in the Great Lakes.  According to Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, unlocking the Great Lakes have the potential to produce more than 700 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind, about one fifth of the total offshore wind potential in the U.S.

EPA Administrator Meets with Environmental Leaders on Rio+20.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with environmental leaders from more than 40 nations to discuss EPA’s international efforts on urban sustainability.  During the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment Policy Committee ministerial meeting, Jackson represented the U.S. during discussions in preparation for June’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.  Participants discussed several policy topics including Towards Green Growth, a strategy for ensuring that economic development does not come at the expense of environmental degradation.

Stricter EPA Standards for New Power Plants:  The EPA proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new fossil-fuel-fired power plants.  The output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt‐hour would not apply to existing units already operating.  “Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

E15 Blended Fuel Approved.  The EPA approved the first applications for registration of ethanol for use in making gasoline that contains up to 15 percent ethanol – known as E15.  The Obama Administration set a goal to help fueling station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next 5 years.  The Recovery Act and the 2008 Farm Bill, DOE and the Department of Agriculture have provided grants, loans and loan guarantees to spur American ingenuity on the next generation of biofuels.

Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary Contest.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  In celebration, the EPA and other partners announced a poetry, essay, photo and dance contest.  Entries must be from a team of two or more persons—a young person and an older person.  The deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.  Separately, EPA also has a Greenversations blog on which officials discuss various water issues.

Improving Energy Efficiency in Federal Buildings:  The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the Deep Retrofit Challenge, to bring innovative, energy saving retrofits to 30 federal buildings at no net cost to taxpayers.  Last December, President Obama announced nearly $4 billion to perform energy efficiency upgrades over the next two years. Two billion dollars will come from programs like the Deep Retrofit Challenge, which are paid through energy savings over time.

New York and New Jersey Energy Efficiency Grants.  The EPA awarded $441,860 in grants to fund projects that “green” restaurants, supermarkets and hotels in New Jersey and New York.  The New Jersey Institute of Technology will use $178,060 to develop an online toolkit that trains supermarkets on ways to reduce energy through lighting improvements and HVAC controls, and to reduce the release of hazardous materials from cooling system leaks.

Tallahassee Cuts Engine Idle in Police Cars:  Tallahassee’s Fleet Management Division designed and built a new device called “Less Idle Time” to retrofit 24 police cars using Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants.  The device increases battery capacity to allow the operation of emergency lights, computers, and air conditioning while the engine is turned off.

New LED Lighting in Georgia Saves 54 MW; Atlanta Cleans Up for Earth Day:   The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores is switching to LED lighting in convenience stores throughout the state, saving businesses 54,000 KWh of energy to date.  Separately, the city of Atlanta is partnering with the EPA, state agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations, and community groups on April 24 for Earth Day.  Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed said, “I am delighted to collaborate with our partners on these vital projects that will make downtown Atlanta a cleaner place for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Energy Department Apps for Energy:  To promote its Green Button data access program, DOE announced an Apps for Energy competition to improve the way consumers and businesses optimize building energy usage.


New Method on Biofuel Crops.  U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists developed a new method for mapping grasslands with a high potential for growing biofuel crops that require less energy input and environmental impact.  “This innovative scientific study takes some of the guesswork out of deciding whether it could be feasible to raise a potentially high value crop for biofuels on America’s grasslands,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Using non-food crops for fuel grown on land not now under cultivation is a low-impact step towards America’s energy independence.”

Synthetic Microbial Helps Boost Diesel Fuel Production:  Department of Energy researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) developed a technique to boost clean and green diesel fuel.  Called the dynamic sensor-regulator system (DSRS), it can detect metabolic changes in microbes during the production of fatty acid-based fuels or chemicals and control the expression of genes affecting that production.  “Microbial production of fuels and chemicals from fatty acids is a greener and sustainable alternative to chemical synthesis,”  says Fuzhong Zhang, co-author of the study.

New Storage for Hydrogen:  Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have developed a new storage device for hydrogen fuel cells that keeps hydrogen gas frozen, maximizing storage capacity.  The system injects a quantity of acid to release hydrogen for engine use.

New $5 Million Supercomputer Institute.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu launched a $5 million Scalable Data Management, Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) Institute, which will bring together the expertise of six national laboratories and seven universities to develop new tools to help scientists manage and visualize data on the Department’s supercomputers.  “Scientific discovery in energy research and a wide range of other fields increasingly depends on effectively managing and searching large datasets for new insights,” said Secretary Chu. “

That’s it for this week, but check back later in the week for updates on ESTH news from the UK, and again next week for the latest updates on new ESTH highlights from the U.S.


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