Climate and Energy Program News

Murray Portrait

Carving the Energy Pathway of the Future

In a Nature Conservancy story profiling his career, Brian Murray, Duke University Energy Initiative director and faculty affiliate at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, discusses what motivates him and what the future holds for the energy sector: “I don’t think we should choose an energy technology and say that is the only technology to pursue. You must look at a portfolio approach. We have to move toward more decarbonized sources, but it is a transition path, not a brick wall,” Murray says. “It is way too simple to say that we know exactly what the energy solution is. As attractive as solar is becoming in certain places, we cannot conclude now that we should move toward a grid that is 100 percent solar in all places. A resilient grid is one that has diversity. A clean grid is one that has a minimal amount of pollution. We should be getting the most resilient and cleanest grid possible.”

Washington Failed Twice to Tax Carbon. Is 2018 Different? ($)

A proposal by Washington state to tax carbon have it join California as the only states with a firm plan to tackle emissions reductions beyond the power sector. But the proposal, Billy Pizer, a faculty fellow at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, is a risky move. Spending money on pollution reductions tends to be inefficient when compared with a strong carbon price, which incentivizes consumers and businesses to change behavior. Revenues generated by the fee also tend to increase over time, even as opportunities for pollution reduction become scarcer. The Washington proposal nevertheless has one chief advantage, Pizer tells ClimateWire. It has the potential of passing. "If the money is not being spent effectively, people can change that more easily than getting something on the books," he said, noting that the federal Clean Air Act was amended several times to address loopholes and inefficiencies. "You do whatever you can to get the architecture in place and then amend it later on."

Carbon Trading Workshop Panelists

Workshop: RGGI Just One Example of Carbon Trading Program States Could Follow

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through a market-based emissions trading program, recently marked ten years of carbon auctions. A September workshop in Washington, D.C.—hosted by Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy SolutionsGeorgetown Climate CenterResources for the Future, and the RGGI Project Series—explored how this successful carbon trading program and plans by New Jersey and Virginia to participate, might inform other states that might want to link to RGGI or implement a separate carbon trading program.

Energy Infrastructure Map of the World student team with their poster

Duke Students Create Energy Datasets and Tools with Wide-Ranging Impact Through Data+ Summer Research

Nearly a third of humanity lacks reliable electricity. Over the summer as part of Duke University’s Data+ program, Duke student teams deployed cutting-edge data analysis techniques to aid the search for solutions to this global challenge. Guided by Duke faculty, students learn how to marshal, analyze, and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the modern world of data science. Both teams’ research efforts contribute to the goals of Duke’s Energy Access Project, a new research and policy effort that aims to address the challenges around increasing access to modern energy solutions to underserved populations around the world. Key Duke collaborators in this effort include the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Duke University Energy Initiative, the Sanford School of Public Policy, Bass Connections, and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Environmentalists Worry that Florence will Leave Behind a Toxic Mess in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence has caused havoc with North Carolina's infrastructure since it began hammering the coastline last week. Hog farms are one of the most problematic environmental challenges after Florence dumped a historic amount of rain on the region, but they’re far from the only one. There are threats from coal ash basins, where the residue from power plants is stored, and toxic sites across the state. And floodwaters can rise high enough to mix with contaminants and then deposit them back into rivers and wetlands that provide drinking water and natural habitats. Martin Doyle, director of the Water Policy Program at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, tells The Los Angeles Times that “These are changes that are consistent with what we would see from the effects of climate change. It’s a totally different calculus.”

Martin Doyle Speaks at a Press Conference on Hurricane Florence

'We Can Kiss Highway 12 Goodbye Again:' Duke Experts on the Potential Effects of Hurricane Florence

With Hurricane Florence churning toward the coastline of North and South Carolina, a panel of Duke experts that included Martin Doyle, Water Policy Program director at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, discussed ways to weather the storm and what might happen once the storm is over and communities begin to rebuild.

New Jersey, Virginia Close to Completing RGGI Regulations, as Emissions Cap Negotiations Come to a Head ($)

New Jersey and Virginia have nearly finished establishing their respective carbon trading regulations, but those rules remain contingent on final negotiations with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative over the two states’ emissions cap levels, Carbon Pulse reports officials said at a conference sponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law in Washington, and Resources for the Future on Sept. 6.

The Price of Carbon Taxation

An article by Evolving Science discusses several recent analyses, including some by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, about the use of carbon pricing as a flexible, market-based policy tool to address climate change.

New Jersey, Virginia Move to Join Regional Carbon Trading in 2020

New Jersey and Virginia are on track to join the Northeast’s carbon trading program in 2020, with final rules expected to be released later this year and adopted in 2019. Bloomberg reports that both states are in discussions with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on the details of linking up with the nine-state cap-and-trade program, state environmental regulators said Sept. 6 at a conference sponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law in Washington, and Resources for the Future.

Utilities are Reluctant to Invest in Coal Plants, Even After Trump Tries to Save Them

Utilities are expressing little interest in the Trump administration’s bid to help keep their coal plants alive, remaining committed to providing energy from cleaner and cheaper sources such as natural gas, wind, and solar. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule Aug. 21 to replace President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan — his signature climate change initiative, targeting carbon pollution from coal plants — with a more modest measure designed to encourage plants to invest in efficiency upgrades that would allow them to burn less pollution, and exist longer. The article in the Washington Examiner quotes Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions: "ACE as a driver of energy policy pales in comparison to market forces. Cheap natural gas prices, falling costs for renewables, and corporate and consumer demand for clean energy will continue to put pressure on coal plants, with or without this rule.”

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