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18Jan/17Off

How Tesla Batteries Help Make Sierra Nevada Beer


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Photo Credit: Image credit: Sierra Nevada

The California craft beer icon has installed Tesla Powerpack batteries to manage the whopping demand charges that stem from brewing.

by Julian Spector

January 17, 2017

The hop notes are pine and citrus, chased by toasted malt and a finish of lithium-ion.

That's right, one of the iconic American pale ales is now officially produced with the help of advanced energy storage technology. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has installed 500 kilowatts/1 megawatt-hour of Tesla Powerpack batteries at its Chico, California brewery. From humble roots as a West Coast craft brewery, Sierra Nevada has gone national in a big way, and can now brew 1.4 million gallons of beer onsite at a time.

That brewing generates frequent but predictable peaks in the company's demand, which translate into hefty demand charges on the monthly electricity bill. In 2016, Sierra Nevada paid more for demand charges than for actual electricity, said Sustainability Manager Cheri Chastain.

By discharging power from the Powerpack bank at times of peak consumption, Sierra Nevada can avoid the worst of these charges, reducing the cost of doing business and also relieving some stress on the grid.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-beer-batteries-sierra-nevada-pale-ale-lithium-ion

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18Jan/17Off

California Says Oil Companies Can Keep Dumping Wastewater During State Review

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An audit found state officials permitted thousands of oil industry wastewater wells in protected aquifers. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)

By Lauren Sommer, KQED Science

JANUARY 17, 2017

https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/01/17/california-says-oil-companies-can-keep-dumping-wastewater-during-state-review/

For decades, California oil companies have disposed of wastewater by pumping it into aquifers that were supposed to be protected by federal law.

California regulators mistakenly granted permits to do it, through a combination of poor record keeping, miscommunication and permitting errors.

Now, years after the errors first emerged, state officials say that 460 underground injection wells that were disposing of wastewater illegally will be shut down.

‘We don’t know the true extent of the damage.’

Hollin Kretzmann, Center for Biological Diversity

However, the state will miss a deadline to shut down 1,650 other wastewater wells operated by oil companies. In fact, they don’t intend to shut them down at all.

Many of these wastewater wells are near Central Valley farmland, where groundwater has been a critical water source as reservoirs dried up during the state’s historic drought.

The wells were scheduled to be closed by mid-February this year, unless both federal and state water officials approved them through a public review process.

But California oil regulators are still in the process of filing the necessary paperwork for the environmental reviews.

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18Jan/17Off

BRIEFLY Stuff that matters TAKE THE MONEY AND FUND

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Reuters / Carlos Barria

http://grist.org/briefly/obama-is-spending-another-500-million-to-fight-climate-change-before-trump-can-stop-him/

Obama is spending another $500 million to fight climate change before Trump can stop him. The State Department announced Tuesday that it will send the money to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, which helps developing nations shift to cleaner energy and adapt to climate change.

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The announcement comes just three days before Donald Trump is scheduled to take the Oval Office. Trump said during his campaign that he would defund international climate action, including the Green Climate Fund, which is the main international financing group working to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

In 2014, the U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. The Obama administration made a $500 million payment in March of last year, and now this new payment brings the U.S.’s total contribution to $1 billion. Trump and his fellow Republicans are not likely to follow through on the other two-thirds of the commitment, but they can’t take this money back.

Katie Herzog

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18Jan/17Off

With Nine Gigawatts Coming Online In 2017, India Set To Emerge As Solar’s Third Superpower

JAN 13, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

Peter Kelly-Detwiler , CONTRIBUTOR

I cover the energy industry.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Global solar market has record 2016, but shows signs of a slowdown - 2016 was a record year for global solar installations. Although final numbers are still being tallied, estimates suggest a number around 76,000 MW (or 76 GW). China drove the train, with 22 GW in the first half of the year before stalling out in the second half. The U.S. also had a solid year, with around 14 GW. However, both of these key markets show signs of slowing in 2017, with the total global market retrenching to perhaps around 70 GW. China will scale back owing to a reduction in feed-in tariffs (the guaranteed price paid for solar output). For its part, the U.S. is expected to see a hangover as a consequence of the late 2015 extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, which resulted in developers jamming projects into 2016 to beat a deadline which was then extended. So 2017 U.S. installations will fall off somewhat.

India picking up speed - By contrast, India is set to emerge as the next solar market superpower. The country already lays claim to the largest solar farm in the world - a 648 MW plant covering 10 square kilometers (over 3.5 square miles) and includes 2.5 million modules. Mercom Capital Group, which tracks India closely (along with the global solar market), reported in December that the country installed 4 GW in 2016, and is on track to add another 9 GW this year. When that 9 GW is connected to the grid, solar will make up slightly less than 6% of India’s total nameplate capacity. (Solar also made up 16.7% of new generation added in the first eight months of FY 2016).

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2017/01/13/with-nine-gigawatts-coming-online-in-2017-india-set-to-emerge-as-solars-third-superpower/

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18Jan/17Off

China Cancels 103 Coal Plants, Mindful of Smog and Wasted Capacity

By MICHAEL FORSYTHEJAN. 18, 2017

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A coal-fired power plant in Shanxi, China, in 2015. The government has canceled 103 coal plants that were planned or under construction, eliminating 120 gigawatts of future coal-fired capacity.

Credit

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China is canceling plans to build more than 100 coal-fired power plants, seeking to rein in runaway, wasteful investment in the sector while moving the country away from one of the dirtiest forms of electricity generation, the government announced in a directive made public this week.

The announcement, made by China’s National Energy Administration, cancels 103 projects that were planned or under construction, eliminating 120 gigawatts of future coal-fired capacity. That includes dozens of projects in 13 provinces, mostly in China’s coal-rich north and west, on which construction had already begun. Those projects alone would have had a combined output of 54 gigawatts, more than the entire coal-fired capacity of Germany, according to figures compiled by Greenpeace.

The cancellations make it likelier that China will meet its goal of limiting its total coal-fired power generation capacity to 1,100 gigawatts by 2020. That huge figure, three times the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, is far more than China needs. Its coal plants now run at about half of capacity, and new sources of power, such as wind, solar and nuclear, are coming online at a fast clip.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/world/asia/china-coal-power-plants-pollution.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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17Jan/17Off

Oil’s Trump factor: Major Canadian source of climate pollution may go bust — what does that mean?

SUNDAY, JAN 15, 2017 02:59 AM PST


The Canadian oil sands are one of the world’s largest sources of climate pollution and America’s biggest oil source

BOBBY MAGILL, CLIMATE CENTRAL

TOPICS: CANADIAN OIL INDUSTRY, CLIMATE CENTRAL, CLIMATE POLLUTION, POLLUTION, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, SUSTAINABILITY NEWS, NEWS, POLITICS NEWS

Protesters demonstrate in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota over the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Philadelphia, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)(Credit: AP)

This article originally appeared on Climate Central.

The Canadian oil sands are one of the world’s largest sources of climate pollution and America’s biggest source of imported oil. And they may be about to go bust.

Canada’s oil sands, also known as tar sands, are the world’s fourth-largest reserve of crude oil. Mining them unleashes massive volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, easing the way for global warming to blow past 2°C (3.6°F) — levels considered “dangerous” under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The future of the Canadian oil sands industry is clouded with uncertainty because of simple economics. In today’s marketplace, there is little confidence oil prices will rise high enough to keep the oil sands profitable. And, a flood of U.S. oil — one of the biggest reasons gasoline and crude oil have been cheap over the past two years — is sucking the life out of Canada’s oil industry.

“Frankly, for this reason, and because of longer-term trends toward cheaper renewables coupled with carbon pricing, the oil sands is likely a dead industry,” said Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario.

And then there’s the Trump factor: President-elect Donald Trump is promising another renaissance for America’s oil industry, possibly flooding the market with even more U.S. oil.

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/15/oils-trump-factor-major-canadian-source-of-climate-pollution-may-go-bust-what-does-that-mean_partner/

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17Jan/17Off

The Long Reach of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak


By DIANE CARDWELLJAN. 14, 2017

When a geyser of gas began spewing from the ground in October 2015, it was just the beginning of an energy and environmental crisis in Southern California with far-reaching repercussions.

In nearby communities, like Porter Ranch, the disaster upended lives: Schools relocated. Thousands of people moved to motels and temporary housing. The leak at an Aliso Canyon gas storage facility not only sent vast amounts of methane — a heat-trapping greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere, it also ended up spraying other chemicals, including some that were being used in the effort to plug the leak.

The catastrophe led officials to shutter the facility, at least until investigations and testing could determine the cause of the leak and demonstrate the safety of the wells. The Southern California Gas Company has had other, smaller leaks in the year since — one as recently as last month — but it says that 34 of its 115 wells are now certified to be in good working order and it is pressing to reopen the facility.

Many residents, however, as well as environmentalists and some officials, are fighting to keep it shut.

__________________

George Chang and Susan Gorman-Chang liked the area’s hiking and horse trails that wind through old sheep pastures. Like many of their neighbors, they did not pay attention to the depot, a depleted oil field that had become a gas storage facility in the 1970s, until they learned that an oil company was looking to drill anew. “We thought we’d moved to ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” Mrs. Gorman-Chang said, “and we moved to ‘Little House on the Methane Dump.’”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/14/business/energy-environment/aliso-canyon-gas-leak.html?ref=energy-environment

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17Jan/17Off

The city big oil built: When industrial disaster strikes, residents must “shelter in place”

SUNDAY, JAN 15, 2017 07:00 AM PST

Across the bay from San Francisco is Richmond, a working-class company town where Chevron looms large

STEVE EARLY

TOPICS: BOOK EXCERPTS, BOOKS, CHEVRON, REFINERY TOWN: BIG OIL BIG MONEY AND THE REMAKING OF AN AMERICAN CITY, RICHMOND CALIFORNIA, BUSINESS NEWS, ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

A fire at the Chevron oil refinery in in Richmond, California August 6, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Josh Edelson)

As recent home buyers in Richmond, my wife and I were not yet focused on Chevron’s historic intertwining with our new hometown. We acquired a surprisingly affordable home, just over the hill from a century-old refinery. The seller was a Chevron engineer headed for retirement in a San Diego condo. We noticed a disclaimer or two about our proximity to his former employer, but this legal notification was carefully buried in a big pile of standardized real estate agent and mortgage company paperwork that included a lot of other fine print.

Like starry-eyed California gold seekers in the nineteenth century, our gaze was distracted from any possible downside to leaving stodgy old New England after thirty-two Boston-area winters. As our realtor joked, we were about to become residents of “the Richmond Riviera.” It had such a sunny, temperate Mediterranean-style microclimate that no one ever complained about anything—except possibly a neighbor with building plans that might obstruct a waterfront vista. Our own view of downtown San Francisco and Marin County landmarks like Mount Tamalpais was simply breathtaking.

The only major piece of Chevron Corporation property visible between us and much pricier Marin was a 4,200-foot pier extending out into the sparkling waters of San Francisco Bay. The 600-ton oil tankers unloading there, with their pumps humming away quietly, were often quite beautiful at night. Their illuminated superstructures made them look like carnival rides or a circus that had sailed into port from the Pacific, via the Golden Gate, whose famous bridge glittered farther off in the distance, between Angel Island and the Marin peninsula known as Tiburon.

On a bright, sunny August afternoon, six months after moving in, my wife was outside, tending to our new garden. A concerned neighbor across the street spotted her among the plants, opened her front door, and shouted: “You shouldn’t be outside! Don’t know you know there’s a ‘shelter in place’?”

“What’s that?” Suzanne asked. She soon found out by looking up and over the hill behind our house, where an eruption worthy of Mount Vesuvius was underway. A major pipe rupture and fire had occurred at the Chevron refinery. Nineteen workers—the first responders to this emergency— narrowly escaped death at the scene of the accident. As the conflagration continued, a towering plume of toxic smoke spiraled up and then over much of downwind Richmond, reaching several other East Bay communities as well.

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/15/the-city-big-oil-built-when-industrial-disaster-strikes-residents-must-shelter-in-place/

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17Jan/17Off

Lafayette to vote on anti-fracking ordinance that would legalize non-violent protests

Skeptics of the ordinance have pointed to its far-reaching implications and defiance of the state’s rule over oil and gas development

    By ANTHONY HAHN | Boulder Daily Camera

    PUBLISHED: January 16, 2017 at 7:43 am | UPDATED: January 16, 2017 at 7:11 pm

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    Lafayette city leaders will vote Tuesday on an anti-fracking ordinance aimed at hobbling oil and gas development within the town by sanctioning acts of civil disobedience and non-violent protest.

    The vote comes just two years after a Boulder District Court judge tossed out the town’s voter-approved fracking ban and marks a return to form for the truculent community.

    The provision to legalize non-violent direct action protests — such acts can include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations or blockades — would target drilling activity and allow protesters unprecedented immunity from arrest or detainment.

    Skeptics of the ordinance have pointed to its far-reaching implications and defiance of the state’s rule over oil and gas development. Lafayette City Attorney David Williamson indicated earlier this month that most of the bill’s language was “unenforceable” and perhaps even unconstitutional.

    http://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/16/lafayette-anti-fracking-ordinance-legalize-non-violent-protests/

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    17Jan/17Off

    AES’ New Kauai Solar-Storage ‘Peaker’ Shows How Fast Battery Costs Are Falling

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    Photo Credit: Jo Ann Snover / Shutterstock.com

    The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative continues its innovation streak with the solar-plus-storage plant for peak capacity.

    by Julian Spector

    January 16, 2017

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    AES Distributed Energy will build a solar-plus-storage "peaker plant" on the Hawaiian island of Kauai that stands out both in capacity and power price.

    The project, if approved by state and local regulators, will combine 28 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity with 20 megawatts of five-hour duration batteries. AES will own and operate the system, and has executed a power purchase agreement to sell power to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) at 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. The project is expected to be operational by late 2018.

    Once completed, the facility will generate 11 percent of the island's electricity and push the share of renewable generation above 50 percent, KIUC President and CEO David Bissell said in a statement.

    “The project delivers power to the island’s electrical grid at significantly less than the current cost of oil-fired power and should help stabilize and even reduce electric rates to KIUC’s members," he said. "It is remarkable that we are able to obtain fixed pricing for dispatchable solar-based renewable energy, backed by a significant battery system, at about half the cost of what a basic direct-to-grid solar project cost a few years ago.”

    The combination of solar-plus-storage and Kauai might sound familiar -- the cooperative utility announced a groundbreaking deal with SolarCity in September 2015 for a solar plant backed by batteries. That project, still under construction, paired 17 megawatts of solar PV with Tesla Powerpack batteries with 13 megawatts of power and 52 megawatt-hours of energy. The price tag on that power: 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    In a little over a year, then, solar-plus-storage economics have improved such that AES can field more power capacity, an additional hour of duration and a lower volumetric price than SolarCity's project.

    https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/aes-puts-energy-heavy-battery-behind-new-kauai-solar-peaker?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=GTMDaily

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    17Jan/17Off

    A Big Test for Big Batteries

    By DIANE CARDWELL and CLIFFORD KRAUSSJAN. 14, 2017

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    The Aliso Canyon gas storage facility above the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, the site of a major gas leak in 2015.

    Credit

    Coley Brown for The New York Times

    ESCONDIDO, Calif. — In Southern California in the fall of 2015, a giant natural gas leak not only caused one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history, it also knocked out a critical fuel source for regional power plants.

    Energy regulators needed a quick fix.

    But rather than sticking with gas, they turned to a technology more closely associated with flashlights: batteries. They freed up the utilities to start installing batteries — and lots of them.

    It is a solution that’s audacious and risky. The idea is that the batteries can store electricity during daylight hours (when the state’s many solar panels are flooding the grid with power), then release it as demand peaks (early evening, when people get home). In effect, the rechargeable batteries are like an on-demand power plant, and, in theory, able to replace an actual plant.

    Utilities have been studying batteries nationwide. But none have moved ahead with the gusto of those in Southern California.

    This idea has far-reaching potential. But the challenge of storing electricity has vexed engineers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs for centuries. Even as countless technologies have raced ahead, batteries haven’t yet fulfilled their promise.

    And the most powerful new designs come with their own risks, such as fire or explosion if poorly made or maintained. It’s the same problem that forced Samsung to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in September because of fire risk.

    After racing for months, engineers here in California have brought three energy-storage sites close to completion to begin serving the Southern California electric grid within the next month. They are made up of thousands of oversize versions of the lithium-ion batteries now widely used in smartphones, laptop computers and other digital devices.

    One of the installations, at a San Diego Gas & Electric operations center surrounded by industrial parks in Escondido, Calif., 30 miles north of San Diego, will be the largest of its kind in the world, developers say. It represents the most crucial test yet of an energy-storage technology that many experts see as fundamental to a clean-energy future.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/14/business/energy-environment/california-big-batteries-as-power-plants.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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    17Jan/17Off

    Drought and storms prove again California needs more storage

    JANUARY 15, 2017 12:01 AM

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    Sacramento River flows near capacity past downtown and waterfront 0:39

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    From the Tower Bridge to the south, past the Old Sacramento waterfront and well-scrubbed downtown buildings beyond, up past the I Street Bridge and cloud-capped open spaces to the north, the scenery is striking as the Sacramento River flexes its considerable runoff-swollen muscle, rolling on by on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Paul Kitagaki Jr. The Sacramento Bee

    BY DAN WALTERS

    dwalters@sacbee.com

    After a half-decade of drought, California has been buffeted this winter by a series of powerful rain and snowstorms that dumped countless billions of gallons of water on the state’s watersheds.

    Some of the deluge was captured in the form of mountain snows that will feed rivers and streams during the annual spring melt. But at lower elevations, it was rain, some retained in man-made reservoirs that had become seriously depleted, but most flowing swiftly to the Pacific Ocean.

    At one point last week, flows on the Sacramento River and its American River tributary were more than 130,000 cubic feet each second, much of which was diverted into bypass channels to protect the state capital from flooding that periodically devastated the city during the 19th century.

    Let’s put that flow in perspective. Each cubic foot is equates to 7.5 gallons, so that meant nearly a million gallons were passing through, or around, Sacramento every second – enough water to fill an empty Folsom Lake-sized reservoir in about four days.

    As the Sacramento River was running high, fast and dirty last week, a few blocks away, in the state Capitol, Gov. Jerry Brown was unveiling a new state budget. He renewed his annual pitch to build financial reserves so that when recession hits, as it inevitably will, the impact on the state budget will be cushioned.

    It’s good advice, whether it involves a state budget or a family’s finances. Having a cushioning reserve is, as Brown terms, it “prudence.”

    But what is prudent in a state’s budget also is prudent in a state’s water supply, which is at least as volatile and unpredictable as tax revenue.

    The drought that the storms may have ended has been the hydrological equivalent of a severe economic recession, and proved once again that California has not provided enough water storage to sustain its nearly 40 million residents and its economy when precipitation is scant.

    Moreover, were predictions of climate change to prove true, it would mean California could depend even less on the natural reservoir of mountain snowpacks because it would receive more of its precipitation as rain, and thus would logically need more man-made storage to close the gap.

    http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article126231024.html

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    17Jan/17Off

    E.P.A. Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Secretly Violating Emissions Standards


    By HIROKO TABUCHIJAN. 12, 2017

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    The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel is one of several Fiat Chrysler models that the E.P.A. said broke rules on pollutants.

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    Chrysler Group

    The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler of installing secret software that allowed more than 100,000 of its diesel vehicles to emit pollutants above legal levels.

    The case has echoes of one against Volkswagen, which on Wednesday pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy as part of a widespread emissions-cheating scheme. In both cases, the government focused on software in vehicles that can adjust emissions levels.

    The accusations against Fiat Chrysler also appeared to be part of a last push by the Obama administration to finish investigations and negotiations involving companies.

    The emissions breach described by the government “threatens public health by polluting the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. She said the software in question resulted in excess emissions of nitrogen oxides, which have harmful health effects.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/business/epa-emissions-cheating-diesel-fiat-chrysler-jeep-dodge.html?ref=energy-environment

    Ms. Giles stopped short of describing the software as a so-called defeat device of the sort used by Volkswagen to cheat on diesel emissions tests. But she said there was no doubt that Fiat Chrysler’s software “is contributing to illegal pollution.”

    Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, mounted an impassioned defense, denying that the company had intentionally broken the law.

    “There’s not a guy” at the automaker “who would try something as stupid” as cheating on emissions tests, he said on a call with reporters.

    “We don’t belong to a class of criminals,” Mr. Marchionne said. “We have done, in our view, nothing that is illegal.”

    The 104,000 affected vehicles include the light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines sold in the United States, the E.P.A. said.

    At issue is software installed in all modern diesel vehicles that calibrates an engine’s performance and controls emissions levels. Federal regulations allow diesel cars to shut off emissions controls in certain situations — to protect an engine from overheating, for example.

    In the Volkswagen case, illegal software caused cars to shut down emissions controls completely during normal driving conditions. In the case involving Fiat Chrysler, emissions controls in the affected cars shut down only during some driving conditions, according to the E.P.A.

    Still, the agency believes that the software in the Fiat Chrysler cars caused emissions controls to shut down in too many situations — including normal driving conditions — essentially making it function like a defeat device.

    Mr. Marchionne rejected the accusations. Fiat Chrysler’s emissions control systems met legal requirements, he said, and the carmaker had not willfully hidden any aspect of those systems.

    “We are having a difference of opinion as to whether the calibrations met the regulations or did not meet the regulations,” he said.

    The company said it had spent months responding to questions from federal regulators and had proposed remedies to address their concerns, including extensive software changes to emissions control systems that the automaker said could be made immediately.

    John German, senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, whose initial work on Volkswagen’s emissions levels exposed cheating at the automaker, said the E.P.A.’s case against Fiat Chrysler was not as clear-cut. Nonetheless, he said he expected Fiat Chrysler to have difficulty defending itself against the government’s accusations.

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    “Fiat Chrysler will not only have to defend their software, but prove that it does the bare minimum to protect the car’s engines,” Mr. German said.

    The complexity of modern diesel technology, and the trade-off between emissions controls and engine performance, had motivated automakers like Fiat Chrysler to cut corners, he said.

    “It’s very enticing to take shortcuts,” he said. “But it’s absolutely possible for a diesel car to fully comply with U.S. emissions standards, and have good drivability and performance,” he said. “It just costs money.”

    If Fiat Chrysler is found to have violated the Clean Air Act, as the E.P.A. says, it faces potential penalties of up to $44,500 for each affected car, or more than $4.5 billion in total.

    The discovery of cheating in Volkswagen vehicles, 600,000 of which were sold in the United States, set off numerous investigations.

    On Wednesday, federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against six Volkswagen executives for their roles in the emissions manipulation. Volkswagen also formally pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, and to customs violations and obstruction of justice.

    For Volkswagen, the financial cost of the emissions cheating has been hefty. The German automaker is set to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties in connection with the federal investigation, bringing the total cost of the deception to the company in the United States, including settlements of suits by car owners, to $20 billion — among the costliest corporate scandals in history.

    Ms. Giles declined to comment on whether other automakers were being scrutinized, but said investigations into diesel emissions levels were continuing.

    Stock in Fiat Chrysler tumbled after the E.P.A.’s announcement, falling more than 15 percent before heavy volume forced the New York Stock Exchange to suspend trading. The stock eventually recovered some of its losses, but ended the day down 10 percent.

    The accusations come at a difficult time for Fiat Chrysler. Until recently, the company was experiencing rapidly rising sales in the United States market, outpacing rivals like Ford and General Motors. An increasing interest among Americans in trucks and sport utility vehicles helped fuel brisk sales of the automaker’s Jeep and Ram pickup models, even as sales of its cars languished.

    But a lawsuit last year accused the company of inflating sales figures, and Fiat Chrysler subsequently became the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, which is not complete. Sales slowed after news of the inquiry. The company sold 2.24 million cars and light trucks last year, a decline of 0.4 percent from 2015.

    European manufacturers have been trying for years to build a following for diesel-powered cars in the United States. In addition to Volkswagen and Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz all offer luxury models with diesel engines, although those vehicles make up a small fraction of the companies’ total sales.

    Diesel models account for a modest portion of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickup trucks. In 2016, the company sold 489,418 Ram trucks, and 11 percent were equipped with diesel engines, according to data compiled by Hybridcars.com. That was still enough to make it the top-selling diesel light vehicle in the country, just ahead of Ford’s diesel Transit vans.

    All other diesel vehicles had much lower sales. The third-best-selling model was the diesel version of Chevrolet’s Colorado pickup, which General Motors sold 8,596 of last year. Fiat Chrysler also sold 4,253 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and 397 diesel ProMaster vans.

    Environmental advocates used the accusations against Fiat Chrysler to highlight the role of the E.P.A. and to issue warnings about President-elect Donald J. Trump’s expected plans to reduce the agency’s scope and authority.

    Mr. Trump has vowed to “take a tremendous amount out” of the E.P.A. His nominee to lead the agency, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, has led a legal charge against many of the agency’s clean air regulations. Mr. Pruitt has also pushed to diminish federal oversight of the environment, sending authority from Washington to the states.

    Mr. Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

    “It’s very important that they’re doing this now,” said Frank O’Donnell, the president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group. “They’ve got polluter lobbyists massing at the gate of both Congress and the White House. This case underscores the importance of keeping a federal environmental cop on the beat at E.P.A.”

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    17Jan/17Off

    Davos Elite Focus on Climate Change, Ignoring Trump’s Skepticism

    by Javier Blas and Jess Shankleman

    January 14, 2017 4:01:02 PM PST January 16, 2017 1:59:19 AM PST

    1. World Economic Forum to heavily feature clean energy in 2017
    2. Special session at Davos on climate change to include 60 CEOs

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    A woman walks past the entrance to the Congress Center, venue for the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Davos on Jan. 13, 2017. Photographer: Michele Limina/Bloomberg

    Donald Trump has often ridiculed global warming and promised to withdraw the U.S. from the accord signed in Paris in 2015. Yet despite the shift in political weather in Washington, the captains of business and finance gathered in Davos this week will spend a lot of time talking about climate change -- and how to make money from it.

    The World Economic Forum is devoting 15 sessions of its 2017 annual meeting to climate change, and nine more to clean energy -- the most ever on the issues.

    It reflects how much is at stake. For global business leaders, it’s not just a question of burnishing their green credentials, but about billions of dollars -- maybe even trillions -- in potential profits and losses. Insurers are starting to price-in more frequent flooding and droughts; energy giants are shaping their business for a world that’s moving away from oil and coal; car makers are putting real money into electric vehicles; banks want to lend money for renewable electricity projects.

    "The good thing is that the Paris agreement raised the bar for everyone," said Ben van Beurden, the head of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil group. "Everybody feels the obligation to act."

    Achieving the ambitions set out in Paris may require $13.5 trillion of spending through to 2030, according International Energy Agency data that show the scale of the opportunity for business. Only last year, clean energy investment stood at $287.5 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicate.

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    "The scale and scope of the investment flows on renewables shows it’s mainstream," said David Turk, head of climate change at the IEA in Paris and a former senior U.S. climate diplomat.

    Opportunities Rising

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-15/ignoring-trump-s-skepticism-davos-elite-bets-on-climate-change?bcomANews=true

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    17Jan/17Off

    China expert: Tillerson’s plan for the South China Sea would ‘certainly end up in a shooting war with China’

    Alex Lockie, provided by

    pastedGraphic.pdf Published 11:33 am, Friday, January 13, 2017


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    President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, made waves internationally on Thursday by suggesting that the US should "send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."

    Suggesting China stop its building of artificial islands and militarizing them doesn't sharply break with the policy of President Barack Obama's administration, but suggesting a blockade — or forcefully stopping China from sailing to its land features in the South China Sea — does.

    China's response, at first muted, has come back strong, with Chinese media saying that "unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish."

    "Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories," the Global Times wrote in an editorial.

    Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also questioned Tillerson's depth of knowledge about the South China Sea.

    http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/A-US-attempt-to-blockade-the-South-China-Sea-10855961.php

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