How Large Cities Can Advance a Renewable-Powered EV Infrastructure
The recent Chicago Auto Show was a great place to see new car models and automakers' futuristic designs. Until recently, few automakers displayed electric vehicles. But this year, most showed clean electric and hybrid cars, and showed off their cool next-gen concepts. How can Chicago and Illinois strategically position themselves to be electric vehicle leaders as innovative car technologies move forward?
The “city that works” needs an electric vehicle infrastructure of smart policies and modern, fast-charging stations powered by clean, renewable energy. Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are working to advance broadband as leading infrastructure for our economic competitiveness. Likewise, they should advance key infrastructure needed for innovative electric vehicle technologies to thrive. The results: improved mobility, cleaner air, economic growth — and lower carbon pollution and less foreign oil used. Here are some key steps forward:
Create a robust network of fast-charging stations. Let's rapidly build out our electric vehicle charging system with locations at both public areas and private parking lots and garages. This addresses an impediment to electric vehicle purchases: drivers' fears about running out of power. For cash-strapped Chicago and Illinois, private investors can help build charging stations in high-traffic locations such as shopping malls and parking garages. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds can support additional charging stations where there are gaps.
Make those charging stations solar-powered. Let's build charging stations powered by solar during the day and wind energy at night to make sure that overall pollution is reduced. Power prices are generally highest on hot summer afternoons when the most polluting plants run on the margin to meet peak electricity demand from cranked-up air conditioners and fans. That's when solar energy is most available. If charging stations are powered by solar, the pollution equation works well.
What helps make that happen? First, planning, zoning and utility regulatory policies can support locating charging stations in places with good solar access. Second, improved “net metering” rates enable charging stations to sell valuable extra solar-generated electricity back into the grid. Clean energy should power clean tech transportation. Discount off-peak electric rates for charging: Wind power is plentiful at night and provides “no pollution, no fuel cost” energy. Because Illinois has surplus nuclear and wind power running at night, off-peak prices often are very low.
The Illinois Commerce Commission should approve discounted off-peak charging rates for electric vehicles to reflect low nighttime electricity market prices and available, clean wind-power generation. Discount rates will incentivize owners to charge between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when there's an electricity supply glut, instead of during daytime peaks. It's a win-win-win-win when electric vehicle owners charge at low-demand time—save money with discounted rates, reduce pollution, help utilities level out energy use and add sales for wind power and nuclear power generators. We all benefit if electric vehicles charge when the power equation results in less pollution.
Federal and state tax incentives are spurring electric vehicle purchases. The $7,500 federal tax credit and up to $4,000 Illinois rebate accelerate electric vehicle purchases. Continuing stable, consistent incentives helps build the market and supports manufacturing, which needs predictability for transitioning to new clean car models and technologies. Keep the electric vehicle tax incentives going, and keep them steady.
People are excited by new electric vehicles. They're cool, high-tech, reduce pollution and use less foreign oil. Places with modern fast-charging infrastructure supporting the flow of electric vehicles into our businesses, homes and garages will benefit. Those without will fall behind. Let's get Illinois' electric vehicle policies and charging infrastructure right so we can charge into the future.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.