News

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.

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. 

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."

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.

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.

A Look at How Trump's Moves on Coal will Affect the Industry

President Donald Trump's move to roll back Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing climate change comes as the coal industry is reeling from job losses, bankruptcies, pollution restrictions and growing competition from natural gas, wind and solar. In an executive order, Trump set forth a review of the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants, and the lifting of a moratorium on the sale of coal mining leases on federal lands. Coal’s share of the electric sector dwindled in the last decade to about 32 percent last year while gas and renewables have made gains as hundreds of coal-burning power plants have been retired or are on schedule to retire soon. “[Utilities] are not going to flip a dime and say now it’s time to start building a whole bunch of coal plants because there’s a Trump administration,” said Brian Murray, director of the Environmental Economics Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told The Associated Press.

Public Voices Concerns About Plans for CHP Plant on Campus

Supporters and opponents of a proposed Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant on Duke’s campus both presented passionate opinions at an open forum Monday night, sponsored by Duke’s Campus Sustainability Committee.Forum moderator and committee co-chair Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, opened by thanking participants for taking part in this process. A previous open forum on the same topic in October was attended largely by Duke students and faculty, while last night’s forum saw a large turnout from community members, many of whom carried signs in opposition to the plant. The committee is charged with making recommendations on the plant, including whether to proceed with or reconsider the plant proposal.

Trump Moves Decisively to Wipe out Obama’s Climate-Change Record

President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. Tim Profeta, who directs Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told The Washington Post that regulators from more than a half-dozen states in the Southeast are now talking about how to chart their own path forward. Having met for nearly three years, the group stopped discussing how to comply with the Clean Power Plan after November’s election, but it is still talking. “We are now talking about the evolution of the power sector in an environment of uncertainty,” Profeta said. “We’re seeing the beginning of states taking control of their destiny.”

Bridging Gaps: Cross-Sector Collaboration is the Future of Sustainable Business

In a blog post for Thrive, the Nicholas Institute's Lydia Olander and her co-authors emphasize how cross-sector collaboration is the future of sustainable business. The Bridge Collaborative, co-led by four key organizations—Duke University, PATH, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and The Nature Conservancy—are connecting the health, environment, and development communities to develop the evidence for results that support shared solutions to global challenges. 

Public Meeting on Proposed CHP Plant at Duke Monday

The public will be able to comment on a proposal by Duke Energy to build a new natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) plant on Duke University’s campus at a meeting on Monday evening. The university’s Campus Sustainability Committee has been charged with making recommendations on the plant, which will be released in early April. The public comments will help inform the university’s decision to proceed with or withdraw from the plant proposal. Committee co-chair Tim Profeta, who is the director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, will moderate Monday’s session, which will run from 6:30-8 p.m. in Gross Hall on Science Drive.