1. Learn more and download slides at eesi.org/briefings/view/061215biofuels

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Governors' Biofuels Coalition held a briefing examining the current state and potential future of the transportation fuel supply. While combustion engines are more efficient and cleaner than ever, the transportation sector is still responsible for 27 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as half of all toxic emissions in the United States. Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) are conducting coordinated studies to address the opportunities and challenges to deploying a high octane mid-level ethanol blend to the passenger vehicle fleet. They found such fuels, which blend between 25 to 40 percent ethanol and 60 to 75 percent conventional gasoline (instead of the current 10 to 90 percent ratio), could lead to greater fuel efficiencies and lower overall GHG emissions.

    Speakers:

    Honorable Tammy Duckworth
    U.S. Representative, (D-IL)

    Dr. Robert McCormick
    Principal Engineer, Fuels Performance Group, National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Robert_McCormick_061215.pdf

    Brian West
    Deputy Director, Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center, Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL)
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Brian_West_061215.pdf

    Caley Johnson
    Transportation Market Analyst, National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Caley_Johnson_061215.pdf

    Dr. Michael Wang
    Senior Scientist, Energy Systems, Argonne National Laboratory
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Michael_Wang_061215.pdf

    The Energy Information Administration predicts the internal combustion engine will be the dominant engine for the next several decades, making both fuel and engine efficiency a critical piece in reducing the GHG intensity of the transportation sector. Research is finding that higher octane fuels can help enable the greater engine efficiencies necessary to lower GHG emissions and improve fuel economy.

    Today, there are two primary sources of octane: gasoline aromatics, a petroleum refinery product, and ethanol. Ethanol is a renewable fuel sourced from corn as well as other agricultural feedstocks and organic wastes. In 2014, the United States produced 14.4 billion gallons of ethanol, making up approximately 10 percent of retail gasoline by volume. Research from the National Labs finds a mid-level ethanol blend not only increases the octane rating of fuel, it may also enable fuel efficiency improvement of 5 to 10 percent, lower the cost of gasoline, and reduce life-cycle GHG emissions.

    While mid-level ethanol blends do require some changes to the current gasoline infrastructure, many find the challenges have been overstated. These fuels are immediately compatible with the 17 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road today, and many gas station tanks and infrastructure are already compatible with a mid-level ethanol blend. Going forward, high octane, mid-level ethanol blends will allow for even greater engine efficiencies and advanced engine designs.

    Automakers are currently working to economically meet Corporate Average Fleet Emissions (CAFE) standards that save fuel and reduce emissions. Mid-level ethanol blends, by providing a better, higher octane fuel formulation for today's and tomorrow’s gasoline vehicles, may help meet multiple policy objectives beyond 2025.

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  2. Learn more and download slides at eesi.org/briefings/view/060515cpp

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing examining the breadth of options available for states to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, which will be finalized later this summer. The Plan will set rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Each state will be given a different target for emissions reductions, based on its specific circumstances. States will then have to submit plans to the EPA outlining how they will achieve their targets.

    Speakers:

    Bill Becker
    Executive Director, National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA)
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Bill_Becker_060515.pdf

    David Terry
    Executive Director, National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/David_Terry_060515.pdf

    Charles Gray
    Executive Director, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)

    State energy, environmental, and utility officials are already working closely together to identify compliance options, with the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), and National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) leading the way. On May 21, NACAA, which represents air regulators in 41 states and over 100 local agencies, released a comprehensive document examining potential state compliance strategies under the Clean Power Plan. NARUC and NASEO are helping to disseminate the report, Implementing EPA’s Clean Power Plan: A Menu of Options, to state energy offices and utility commissions throughout the country. The report does not include recommendations, but instead provides an objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches to Clean Power Plan compliance. The speakers discussed the co-benefits, costs and effectiveness of these different approaches, as well as the opportunities and challenges the Clean Power Plan represents to states.

    Despite some states’ opposition to the federal regulation, only one state, Oklahoma, has publicly said it will not prepare a state compliance plan for the Clean Power Plan. Even states with strong coal interests, such as Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri and Utah, are said to be developing plans. These plans may range from regional cap-and-trade systems, which California and the Northeast are currently using, to single-state plans that focus on technical efforts like increasing the efficiency of coal-fired power plants.

    This briefing was the second in a series examining the Clean Power Plan and its implications. Find out more about the first event at eesi.org/040815cpp.

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  3. Learn more at: eesi.org/briefings/view/051315transit

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) held an Infrastructure Week briefing about how transit investments affect the nation’s competitiveness. The world’s economies are increasingly based on knowledge and information. High-tech, knowledge-based innovation districts are increasingly shaping the U.S. economy. What are the characteristics of a knowledge-based economy, and the people who work in it? What role does transit play in the location choices of high-value technology firms, and why? Does transit help these firms attract the workforce they want?

    Twelve short-term, flat-funding extensions for surface transportation over the last six years have degraded the nation’s surface transportation network and constrained the nation’s economy, thereby impacting short and long-term U.S. global competitiveness. There is bipartisan agreement that a long-term transportation authorization bill is an economic necessity, and diverse funding solutions are on the table. While all agree that transportation is fundamental to the economy, it has been nearly six years since the last transportation finance hearing in the House. A crisis is fast approaching as the current Transportation Bill authorization expires May 31, 2015, just at the height of the construction season for transportation projects and repairs.

    High-tech, high-value industries involved in the knowledge-based economy tend to cluster to enable collaboration and labor market pooling. In addition, a growing number of “knowledge workers” prefer walkable, bikeable communities connected by transit, to minimize travel times and make commutes more productive. Community leaders have found that these traits improve the competitiveness of an entire region.

    A previous APTA report showed that transit investment in the major metropolitan areas of Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco would provide more efficient access to jobs, enabling over 100,000 jobs and $8.6 billion in GDP by 2040.

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  4. Learn more and download the slides at: eesi.org/briefings/view/042815obf

    The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held an informative webinar regarding on-bill financing and, specifically, its applications for member-owned utilities in the Midwest. This presentation looked at successful on-bill financing programs developed by two midwestern rural electric cooperatives, as well as an innovative on-bill financing program run by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, in partnership with the Central Electric Power Cooperative and EESI.

    “On-bill financing” programs, in which utilities issue loans for energy improvements that are repaid as part of the ratepayer's electricity bill, are an exciting opportunity to expand residential energy efficiency efforts around the country. The loan repayment is covered in whole or in part with the savings accrued thanks to the energy retrofits. No up-front payments by ratepayers are necessary.

    Successful programs have shown rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) and public power utilities can use on-bill financing programs to significantly reduce peak demand, carbon emissions and fossil fuel use. By driving down the need for additional power generation, these programs can be a winning business strategy for utilities. On-bill financing programs can also help alleviate poverty by reducing families’ energy bills, while creating community-based jobs and economic growth by building demand for energy efficient products.

    EESI has recently expanded its on-bill financing initiative into a national effort to significantly improve the energy efficiency of homes served by co-ops and public utilities. EESI is available to help rural utilities apply to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program to capitalize their projects. Learn more about EESI's on-bill financing project at eesi.org/OBF

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  5. Learn more and download slides at eesi.org/briefings/view/042015tribal

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing during Earth Week examining the impacts of sea level rise and oil and gas extraction on Native American communities. Across the United States, in Alaska, the Mississippi delta, the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes, land degradation presents challenges to indigenous peoples’ homes and livelihoods. As many Native American communities contemplate their potential displacement, one tribe is already preparing to move – the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, who make their home in southern Louisiana. Our speakers discussed the tribe’s ambitious strategy to become one of the first coastal indigenous groups to relocate as a community in modern times, and why they feel it is necessary.

    JR Naquin
    Standing in for Chief Albert Naqui of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana

    Bob Gough
    Secretary, Intertribal Council on Utility Policy

    Dr. Julie Maldonado
    Anthropologist and climate justice expert
    Download Slides: eesi.org/files/Julie_Maldonado_042015.pdf

    Experiences such as the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe’s inspired the White House to convene a State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which met from 2013 to 2014. Last November, the Task Force published a report of 35 recommendations on how the federal government can assist local climate resilience efforts. This briefing examined some of the recommendations from tribal communities, such as encouraging the incorporation of climate resilience into land use development and management practices.

    The Isle de Jean Charles Tribe, which has made its home for 170 years on the Isle de Jean Charles in the bayous of southern Louisiana, has seen decades of oil and gas extraction operations, restrictive levees, and salt water intrusion from sea level rise severely diminish the freshwater marsh around its island. The dwindling marsh can no longer protect the island from ocean tides, which will eventually destroy it. Chief Albert Naquin is leading the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe as they preserve their community and culture by moving together to a new home. The tribe’s vision for their new community will emphasize agricultural sustainability, healthy living, and pride in the culture and tribal identity of the group.

    The briefing included a 10-minute screening of Can’t Stop the Water, a short film examining the struggle and optimism of the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe. The tribe hopes its story and innovative relocation plan can serve as a model for other tribal communities facing displacement due to land loss.

    Chief Albert Naquin, Bob Gough and Dr. Julie Maldonado were visiting Washington, DC as part of an East Coast tour to build awareness of tribal relocation issues. Other stops included New York and Philadelphia.

    This briefing was the second in a two-part series examining local resilience efforts across the country. The first event was held April 1, 2015, and can be viewed at eesi.org/040115resilience.

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