Climate and Energy Program News

Can Coal Come Back?

President Donald Trump said he was helping the coal industry with an executive order instructing regulators to rewrite key rules reducing U.S. carbon emissions and other environmental regulations from the Obama administration. Brian Murray, director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, tells the Longview News Journal that utilities "are not going to flip on a dime and say now it's time to start building a whole bunch of coal plants because there's a Trump administration."

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Building a Blue Economy in North Carolina

The ocean economy contributed $2.1 billion and 43,385 jobs to North Carolina’s economy in 2013, according to a new report by North Carolina Sea Grant and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Ocean and coastal resources played an even larger role in the state’s coastal counties, providing 6.5 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, and supporting 13 percent of employment. And according to “North Carolina’s Ocean Economy: A First Assessment and Transitioning to a Blue Economy” report co-author Tibor Vegh, these figures are most likely low. “Our estimates represent a snapshot in time only for the sectors where we could find economic data,” Vegh, a policy analyst with the Nicholas Institute, tells CoastWatch.

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Duke Delays Asking Trustees for Vote on Power Plant

Plans for a gas-turbine power plant at Duke University ran into another delay Tuesday, with administrators saying they’ll hold off on asking campus trustees to green-light the $55 million project, reports the Herald Sun. The decision, announced by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, means soon-to-depart Duke President Richard Brodhead’s staff “will not be bringing a proposal forward for approval by the [trustees] in May.” That likely means future deliberations on the project will unfold after incoming President Vince Price takes over for Brodhead on July 1. Tuesday’s announcement coincided with the release of a campus study group’s report, led by Nicholas Institute director Tim Profeta, advising Duke officials to assess whether there are “sufficient volumes of biogas”—captured waste gas from hog farms, as opposed to natural gas extracted from wells—to fuel the turbine and make it carbon-netural in its first year in service.

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University Tables Proposal for Power Plant after Campus Committee Releases Evaluation Report

Duke University has delayed a decision on whether to build a power plant on campus after heavy criticism of the proposal and a recent report issued by a subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee led by Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, provided in-depth evaluation of the construction of the proposed plant. After receiving it, Duke indicated it would not bring the proposal to the Board of Trustees in May, and that deliberations will continue into later semesters.

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Duke University Puts off Proposed Duke Energy Power Plant

Duke University has delayed a vote by its trustees on a $55 million combined heat-and-power plant that Duke Energy has proposed building on the campus. “Given the complexity of these issues, we will not be bringing a proposal forward for approval by the Board of Trustees in May,” Tallman Trask, executive vice president of the university, said in a prepared release. The Campus Sustainability Committee proposed a special subcommittee of Duke faculty, staff and students to investigate the issues regarding the plant. The study, led by Tim Profeta of Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, was published Tuesday. 

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In Delaying Recommendation, Duke University Subcommittee Concerned about “Credibility” Problem with New Natural Gas Plant

For a university that has always been protective of its global reputation, contributing to global greenhouse gases through a natural gas plant is no way to burnish that image. That’s one of the conclusions of a Duke University Campus Sustainability Subcommittee, which released a report on a proposed combined heat-and- power natural gas plant. As a result, Duke Executive  Vice President Tallman Trask announced that the board of trustees won’t vote as scheduled on a new $55 million, 21-megawatt combined heat and power natural gas plant on campus. Trask issued the statement after receiving a 37-page report from a university subcommittee charged with evaluating the pros and cons of the project and led by Nicholas Institute director Tim Profeta.

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Guess Who’s for a Carbon Tax Now

New York Times op-ed on carbon tax mentions a paper co-authored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions' Brian Murray on British Columbia's carbon tax. Introduced in 2008, it started low, as it had at other places, so that people could shift their energy practices, and then increased yearly. The paper found that the tax worked; emissions in British Columbia dropped more than three times as much as in the rest of Canada. And economic growth was not affected. 

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Report on Campus CHP Plant Submitted

The subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee that was charged with studying the feasibility of building a combined heat and power (CHP) plant on campus submitted its report to university administrators Monday. The subcommittee, composed of faculty, students and staff, and led by Tim Profeta, the director of Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, has been working since December to review various aspects of the proposed project. “We will carefully review the report, and the associated appendices, as we continue to assess the options for meeting Duke University’s need for energy security," said Executive Vice President Tallman Trask. "Given the complexity of these issues, we will not be bringing a proposal forward for approval by the Board of Trustees in May."

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Duke University Eyes Biogas, not Fossil Fuels, for New Power Plant

A power plant proposed by Duke Energy for Duke University could be fueled from methane captured from hog waste, not natural gas. “Duke University is committed to the investment necessary to utilize a percentage of biogas in the [plant] from day one of operation,” reads a fact sheet distributed at a community meeting last week on Duke’s campus in Durham, North Carolina. The statement is one of several that’s garnered consensus from a select panel analyzing the 21-megawatt combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, comments in Southeast Energy News.

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Alumnus Robert Bonnie Returns as a Rubenstein Fellow to Explore Conservation in Rural America

Robert Bonnie, a Nicholas School of the Environment alumnus and former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, returns to Duke as a Rubenstein Fellow to address issues related to climate change and natural resource conservation in rural America. Bonnie is the fifth expert to join Duke’s Rubenstein Fellows Academy, which brings leaders with deep expertise in issues of global importance to campus each year for in-depth engagement with students and faculty.  His 12-month term begins April 3. As a Rubenstein Fellow, Bonnie will work with students, staff and faculty in the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Nicholas School and the Sanford School of Public Policy to develop strategies to tackle conservation challenges for rural America that rely on collaboration and incentives to address environmental issues while providing economic opportunity. Bonnie will also share his experiences in environmental policymaking with students through seminars and career advising sessions.

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