Energy policy

  • EarthquakesCombination of gas field fluid injection and removal likely cause of 2013-14 Texas quake

    Seismologists found that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes occurring near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014. SMU seismologists have been studying earthquakes in North Texas since 2008, when the first series of felt tremors hit near DFW International Airport between 30 October 2008 and 16 May 2009. Next came a series of quakes in Cleburne between June 2009 and June 2010, and this third series in the Azle-Reno area northwest of Fort Worth occurred between November 2013 and January 2014. The SMU team also is studying an ongoing series of earthquakes in the Irving-Dallas area that began in April 2014.

  • EnergyRenewables win, coal loses as shift in electricity generation lead to net job growth in energy

    In the four years following the 2008 recession, the coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar, and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount, according to a new study. A county-by-county geographical analysis of the losses and gains shows that few new jobs were added in regions hardest hit by coal’s decline, particularly counties in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

  • GridWhy rooftop solar is disruptive to utilities – and the grid

    By Seth Blumsack

    Electric utilities have a unique role in society and the economy, one that is rooted in a set of arrangements with state regulators that goes back nearly a century. In exchange for being granted a geographic monopoly on the distribution of electric power, the utility is responsible for ensuring that its transmission and distribution systems operate reliably. In other words, it is the utility’s responsibility to ensure that blackouts occur infrequently and with short duration. Power-generating panels, called solar photovoltaics (PV), represent the fastest-growing source of electric power in the United States – but the proliferation of roof-top PVs poses a problem for the business model of electric utilities, a problem similar to that telephone companies have been facing: The rise of “cord cutters” — people with a cell phone but no land-line — places land-line phone companies in a quandary. They must continue to maintain their network infrastructure with fewer customers to pay for it. Roof-top solar technology will eventually force a conversation about the fundamental role of the electric utility and who should have ultimate responsibility for providing reliable electricity, if anyone. Going off the grid has a certain appeal to an increasing segment of the population, but it is far from clear that such a distributed system can deliver the same level of reliability at such a low cost.

  • HazmatLiving near railroad tracks? Prepare for crude-oil-train accidents, spills

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation(MnDOT) reports that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region. An area covering a half mile on each side of the tracks, public safety officials say, is the area from which residents are likely to be evacuated in the event of an oil train incident or explosion. The department urges all residents living near an oil train track to be prepared for a train accident.

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  • EnergySolar could meet California power needs three to five times over

    In the face of global climate change, increasing the use of renewable energy resources is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world. Further development of one resource, solar energy, is complicated by the need to find space for solar power-generating equipment without significantly altering the surrounding environment. New study found that the amount of energy that could be generated from solar equipment constructed on and around existing infrastructure in California would exceed the state’s demand by up to five times.

  • EnergyDistributed future: Local electricity could meet half of U.K. power needs by 2050

    Research conducted by nine leading U.K. universities has found that up to 50 percent of electricity demand in the United Kingdom could be met by distributed and low carbon sources by 2050. The research assesses the technological feasibility of a move from the current traditional business models of the Big Six energy providers to a model where greater ownership is met by the civic energy sector. It also goes further by questioning what types of governance, ownership and control a distributed future would need.

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  • HazmatCalls for improving safety of oil-carrying trains grow in wake of this week’s accidents

    Oil trains transporting crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Canada to refineries in the Northeast have suffered several derailments in the past few years. The U.S.Department of Transportation(DOT) has since urged rail companies to adopt new train cars which could better survive derailments, and to retrofit current cars by 2017. Still, railway safety advocates say companies need to do more to ensure the safety of their tracks and cars. Two separate oil train accidents this week support their concerns.

  • EnergyBenefits, costs of hydraulic fracturing

    Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have had a transformative, positive effect on the U.S. economy, producing societal gains that likely outweigh negative impacts to the environment and human health from an economic perspective, according to a new paper. Innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the past decade have fueled a boom in the production of natural gas, as well as oil, from geological formations including deep shales in which hydrocarbon production was previously unprofitable.

  • EnergyWhich fossil fuels must remain in the ground to limit global warming?

    A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and over 80 percent of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research. The study also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal.

  • EnergyUnited States must seize opportunity to build sustainable energy system: IEA

    The United States is in a strong position to deliver a reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy system, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, as it released a review of U.S. energy policy. To do so, however, the country must establish a more stable and coordinated strategic approach for the energy sector than has been the case in the past.

  • EnergyStoring hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

    Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Geologic storage of hydrogen gas could make it possible to produce and distribute large quantities of hydrogen fuel for the growing fuel cell electric vehicle market.

  • FrackingUsing earthquake research to refine fracking methods

    Researchers at Oklahoma State University (OSU) are using historical earthquake data to make oil and natural gas drilling more efficient. Members of the university research team found that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process in which water and sand are blasted at high pressure into rock to remove oil, can cause an effect similar to earthquakes. Data gleaned from historical earthquake experiences have told scientists much about what happens to the rock during such events – and the knowledge may allow oil companies to understand how to extract gas without also removing groundwater.

  • EnergyGas can be a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future

    Major new suggests that gas could play an important role as a “bridging fuel” to a low-carbon economy, but warns that it will not be long before gas becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. The research combines the latest energy system modelling techniques with analysis of U.K. gas security to assess future demand.

  • EnergyState, federal role in electric utilities’ labor issues should be reexamined: Study

    Power outages have never been more costly. Electricity is critical to communication, transportation, commerce and national security systems, and wide-spread or prolonged outages have the potential to threaten public safety and cause millions, even billions, of dollars in damages. This is why it may be time to re-examine the role of public utility commissions and the effect of the National Labor Relations Act in labor disputes regarding electric utilities, a new study suggests.

  • Power supplyLights out: Experts say instability of world’s power supplies must be urgently addressed

    A new study reveals the urgent need to address instabilities in the supply of electrical power to counteract an increase in the frequency and severity of urban blackouts. The work builds on previous studies which examined a sharp increase in electrical usage over recent years, and warned the world to prepare for the prospect of coping without electricity as instances of complete power failure become increasingly common.