Category Archives: Energy

Info session: EPA’s Clean Power Planphoto by AI (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Please join us this Friday, Sept. 26, 10–11 am at IonE for a discussion about Minnesota’s role in implementing the Clean Power Plan, a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing regulations that build on actions being taken across the country to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Nationwide by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. The proposal also would cut pollution that leads to the formation of soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030, according to the EPA website

In Minnesota, power plants are responsible for 33 percent of the carbon pollution that is endangering our health and driving climate change. Although the nation has set responsible limits on mercury, arsenic and soot pollution, there are no limits on carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants.

Dr. Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 administrator and Great Lakes national program manager, will discuss a series of executive actions designed to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

Where: R-380 Learning & Environmental Sciences
When: Friday, Sept. 26, 10-11 am.

See calendar for more IonE-sponsored events.

Banner photo: Minnesota’s Elk River Power Plant on a very cold morning, by AI (Flickr/Creative Commons)

 

 

Ellen Anderson named executive director of energy labWind Turbines for Energy Transition Lab

Our energy system is in the midst of a major transition. Our power sources are shifting from coal to more natural gas and renewables. We need to upgrade our aging grid to accommodate those new sources. As our grid becomes “smarter,” we need it to be responsive and reliable. And new greenhouse gas emissions regulations and the need to make our grid resilient as the climate changes add further complexities.

This energy transition has the potential to spark innovation in business and the public sector, leading to new jobs and better outcomes for the community and our environment. Reaching that potential requires strong leadership. To provide that leadership, the University of Minnesota is launching the Energy Transition Lab with former state senator Ellen Anderson (J.D. ’86), senior advisor on energy and environment to Governor Dayton, as its inaugural executive director. Continue reading

Frontiers: Adventures in carbon reductionElectricity transmission lines

Environmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.

Portrait: J. Drake HamiltonBut implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction,” Hamilton emphasized the need to educate the public on new and existing policies impacting carbon emissions for broader public involvement.

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Unfair air?Air Pollution

People of color in the U.S. are exposed to 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the neighborhoods in which they live than are white people, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The exposure they receive results in approximately 7,000 heart-related deaths per year.

U of M Instititute on the Environment resident fellows Julian Marshall and Dylan Millet and fellow researcher Lara Clark compared U.S. Census data and nitrogen dioxide levels in cities across the country and found that, irrespective of income, nonwhites had higher average exposure to nitrogen dioxide than whites. The findings received extensive coverage in the media this past week. Continue reading

Frontiers: Methane: Black hat or white hat in the green economy?Northwestern North Dakota lit by natural gas flares

Satellite imagery of the Upper Midwest at night shows a massive cluster of light in western North Dakota, easily dwarfing the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee or even Chicago.

The source of this apparent high plains metropolis isn’t a city at all, but rather the Bakken shale oil field, where producers are flaring as much as 266,000 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.

Portrait: Doug CameronThis abundance of natural gas — mostly composed of methane — was the topic of First Green Partners co-president Doug Cameron’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, Mar. 26 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy,” Cameron discussed the pros and cons of the abundant fuel source and why environmentalists shouldn’t be so quick to discount methane as a “quick fix.”

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Exploring U.S.-Canadian energy connectionsCanadian Flag by Ian Muttoo

I’ve been studying up on Canadian energy resources. The short summary is that Canada has a lot of resources. The other summary is that the United States (including Minnesota, where I’m from) has a lot of interests in Canadian energy. Like most energy issues, it’s complex. It’s a collision of our modern economy dependent on electricity at the flip of a switch and travel as easy as hopping in a car, with the impacts of developing increasingly hard-to-get, non-renewable energy resources — all in an increasingly unstable climate with a whole host of impacts on more localized communities.

This week I am going to Canada to learn about energy on a Pan-Praire Energy Tour organized by the Canadian government. The places I’ll visit are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The energy resources: oil sands, uranium, carbon capture and storage (not a resource, but an important stop), large hydro and renewable resources. We’ll also be discussing many issues surrounding these resources, including First Nation relationships and climate change. Continue reading

Frontiers: Where there’s smoke…Cleaner Cookstoves

Outdoor air pollution from factories and automobiles seems to dominate the news. But there’s another, just as sinister, form of pollution and it’s coming from inside the house.

Portrait: Ellison CarterEllison Carter, a postdoctoral fellow in energy, air pollution and health at the Institute on the Environment, discussed her research on environmental and health impacts of indoor air pollution at Frontiers in the Environment in February.

In her presentation, “Where There’s Smoke…Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries,” Carter explained why indoor air pollution in developing nations is a particularly challenging problem.

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Turning wind into fertilizerwind_into_fertilizer

Minnesota farmers spend more than $400 million per year on nitrogen fertilizer. To keep more dollars in the Gopher State and reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture, the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center is using wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer. The project was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant. Continue reading

New tool aims to clean up supply chainSponge Life Cycle

There you are, hunkered over your sink, hands wrist-deep in hot water, swiping suds over food-crusted dinner plates. That squishy, soapy thing that’s helping you do so many daily chores…ever wonder where its life began and where it will end?

That sponge, like everything on the planet, has a life cycle, composed of all the materials and energy that brought it to your sink and all the tasks it will help you complete until you’ve squeezed the last bit of work from it and tossed it into the trash. Continue reading

Frontiers: Transporting energyEnergy Transformation

In an age when debates over fracking and renewable energy dominate the news, it’s increasingly clear that the United States is in the midst of an “energy renaissance.” Along with a host of environmental concerns, the nation’s changing energy system faces a new, often overlooked, challenge: How can we get energy from its source to the people who need it?

Portrait: Alexandra KlassThat was the topic of Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota Law School professor Alexandra Klass’ Frontiers in the Environment lecture Dec. 4.

In “Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges,” Klass discussed her research on the physical and regulatory system in place for moving oil, natural gas and electricity and possible changes needed as the nation’s energy sources diversify.

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Frontiers: Energy transformationEnergy Transformation

It seems like we’ve been talking about renewable energy and the “green economy” for decades, but major changes to the nation’s energy system are just getting started and Minnesota is leading the way.

Portrait: Ellen AndersonEllen Anderson, senior advisor on energy and the environment to Gov. Mark Dayton and a former Minnesota state senator, discussed the major drivers of change in the energy market and what Minnesota is doing to be a leader on the clean energy front. Anderson delivered her presentation, “Energy Transformation: Minnesota’s Bright Future in Clean Energy,” Oct. 9 as part of the Institute on the Environment’s weekly lecture series, Frontiers in the Environment.

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Minnesota meets the Energiewendesolar thermal installation on Hamburg's Energie Bunker

I recently spent a week in Berlin participating in the Berlin Seminar on Energy Policy.

This was the third seminar and my second time participating in the exchanges, which are organized by the University of Minnesota Center for German and European Studies. CGES director Sabine Engel and Minnesota lieutenant governor Yvonne Prettner Solon are the hosts of the seminar.

The German Energiewende (energy transition) is at the center of our discussions with German policy makers and energy innovators. It has very ambitious goals: Continue reading