How does tax policy affect our energy technology decisions? Karen Clay, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy in the H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University explains.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Trends and Forecasts of Highway User Revenues from the Federal Highway Administration

Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update from the U.S. Energy Information Administration


Transcript

HOST: How can tax policy influence which energy technologies we use? On this week’s Energy Bite, Karen Clay, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

CLAY: Tax policies such as taxes and tax credits influence both the energy technologies we use and the taxes we pay. These policies can be “carrots or sticks” that either encourage or discourage certain forms of energy.

Hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas is another significant and growing user of water. In fact, almost every aspect of energy production and use has an impact on water.

HOST: Can tax policies increase some forms of energy production?

CLAY: One study found that the national wind production credit has increased wind energy deployment by 1.4 gigawatts annually, and that it influenced the effectiveness of state polices that set state targets for these technologies.

HOST: What are the challenges with tax policies focused on energy technologies?

CLAY: Part of the price we pay at the pump for gasoline is for taxes. The federal portion of those taxes, about 18 cents per gallon, is used for projects supported by the highway trust fund. Due to the use of energy efficient technologies in vehicles, consumers use less gasoline than in the past and thus pay lower total gasoline taxes. Due to concerns about inefficient funds for the nation’s highways, some policymakers have proposed increasing this rate.

HOST: Would you be willing to pay more per gallon of gasoline to support the nation’s roads? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

From cooling power plants to use in hydraulic fracturing, our energy production has a great effect on water resources. Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and President Emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University, explains how we can reduce the negative effects of energy production on our water supply.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Thermoelectric Power Water Use from the U.S. Geological Survey

How much water does a fracking well require? from the U.S. Geological Survey


Transcript

HOST: What are the impacts of energy on water? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: Among the most significant impacts is the need for water to cool thermalelectric power plants that burn coal or natural gas or use nuclear energy. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 41% of all freshwater withdrawals- for all uses, not just energy- in the United States are for cooling at power plants.

Hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas is another significant and growing user of water. In fact, almost every aspect of energy production and use has an impact on water.

HOST: What can we do about it?

COHON: One way to lessen energy’s impact on water is to be efficient by recycling and matching sources to their uses. For example, do we have to use pristine river water for hydraulic fracturing? Or could we use acid mine drainage from old coal mines? Second, we should have rigorous standards that require adequate treatment of wastewaters. And, third, by supporting research to explore alternatives to eliminate or significantly reduce water use and to develop new, more effective treatment technologies.

HOST: Are you concerned about the impact of energy on water? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

The full cost of energy isn’t always obvious, and the broad effects of our energy use are not always clear to consumers. Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and President Emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University, explores the hidden costs of energy.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and UseThe National Academies of the Sciences (2010)

Electricity Explained: Electricity and the Environment from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Energy and You from the Environmental Protection Agency

Power Profiler from the Environmental Protection Agency


Transcript

HOST: What are the hidden costs of energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, explains.

COHON: When we use energy, we create impacts that we might not realize. For example, much of the electricity that we use in our homes comes from coal-fired power plants. Burning coal creates air pollution which impacts people living in the vicinity or downwind of the plant and global climate change that impacts everyone.

These impacts are called externalities. They represent a hidden cost because, while we get the benefit of using the electricity in our homes, but do not pay for – and likely aren’t even aware of – the damages caused by the power plant.

HOST: How much is this “hidden cost of energy”?

COHON: A National Academy of Sciences committee that I chaired found that burning coal produces $60 billion a year of external impacts, primarily health-related. Fueling our cars with oil accounts for another $60 billion a year, also due to air pollution health impacts. Most economists agree that the best way to deal with these impacts is to put a price on it, so that these costs would be factored into our decisions about our energy use.

HOST: Would you be willing to pay more for your fuel to take into account externalities? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

The more efficient we are with our use of energy, the less we rely on foreign resources. Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, explores the relationship of energy efficiency to national security.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Energy Conservation Research from RAND

Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use from the National Academies Press

Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States from the National Academies Press

Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security from the U.S. Department of State

Energy Information Administration FAQ: Petroleum Imports


Transcript

HOST: How can maximizing our energy and water efficiency bolster national security? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: Becoming more efficient in the way we use energy and other natural resources has important implications for national security. The more efficient we are with our use of energy, the less oil we import and the less complications related to where that oil comes from – such as the Middle East.

Some think that more wars are fought about oil than any other issue. And even when there is no active conflict, the United States invests significantly to maintain a military posture that protects the Nation’s interests, including its access to energy supplies.

HOST: How does water factor into this?

COHON: If oil has been a major source of conflict up to now, water will be the flash point of the future. Rivers and lakes don’t respect political boundaries. Access to shared water bodies already creates tremendous friction among countries and states. Consider the Jordan River in the Middle East or the Colorado River here in the U.S. And, these tensions will likely get worse as our continued use of fossil fuels alters climate and water patterns—which brings us back to the importance of energy efficiency.

HOST: Would concerns about national security enhance your energy efficiency habits? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

What do we do with dangerous waste from nuclear energy production? Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the challenges to disposing of our nuclear waste.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal from the Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and Uranium Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Radioactive Waste: Production, Storage, Disposal from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Transcript

HOST: Nuclear energy plants generate waste. How is that waste shipped and stored? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: America has a nuclear waste problem. Every year, commercial nuclear power plants must replace a third of nuclear fuel they use. We have the challenge of managing this spent fuel, along with similar waste from the Nation’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear submarines. This nuclear waste is enough to kill everyone on earth.

HOST: That is astonishing. What’s being done about it?

COHON: Today, nuclear waste is stored at the power plants where it’s generated. The spent fuel rods from are put in big, deep swimming pools of treated water while the rods are still “hot.” After they cool down, which takes years, they are placed in thick metal containers that sit on concrete pads at the plant sites. Waste is rarely shipped, but when it is, it’s in similar storage containers.

The U.S. has been looking for a permanent location for its nuclear waste for more than 30 years. The basic problem is that no one wants a nuclear waste facility in their area. It’s a classic case of what we call NIMBY – or Not in my back yard.

HOST: What do you think should be done with the nation’s nuclear waste? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production of 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, explains how the National Energy Labs started and the kinds of work they do.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories

The Department of Energy National Laboratories website


Transcript

HOST: Perhaps you’ve heard of national energy labs like Los Alamos and Sandia. Have you ever wondered what they do? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: The origin of the national energy labs was the Manhattan project that focused on the development and manufacturing of nuclear weapon systems. Over time, the mission of the labs expanded to other specialized science and technology capabilities.

Today, the United States has 17 national energy labs. Three from the nuclear weapons era such as New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Lab. Four applied labs such as Pittsburgh’s National Energy Technology Lab focused on oil and gas research and Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab. And there are ten science labs that conduct basic research in physics.

HOST: How have the labs been criticized?

COHON: Some have criticized the labs as too expensive and too duplicative in their activities. While some of this criticism is fair, a committee I chair for DOE has found the labs play an important role in providing research abilities that no one university or corporation could financially maintain on its own.

HOST: What do you think of our national energy labs? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Automated vehicles can be safer and make life more efficient than conventional vehicles, but all of that affects energy use. Energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, tells us how it works.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers” from the RAND Corporation.

The GM Collaborative Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon University

Self-driving Cars Save Lives and Energy” from IEEE

Self-driving Cars Could Cut Greenhouse Gas Pollution” from Scientific American

Self-driving Cars: The Next Revolution” from KPMG


Transcript

HOST: Will automated vehicles help save energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Some of today’s vehicles already offer early levels of automation, such as adaptive cruise control or lane-centering. When vehicles are automated, they may cause fewer accidents and less congestion, while improving driving efficiency, so energy use could be significantly reduced.

HOST: What about fully autonomous self-driving vehicles?

MICHALEK: With fully autonomous vehicles it’s anybody’s guess. For example, safe 1-seater driverless taxis could revolutionize the commute, enable cities to pack more vehicles per lane, and eliminate the need for a parking lot in front of every business.

But they could also encourage people to live farther from work, spend a large portion of their day in transit, and they could increase travel demand from groups like children or those with disabilities.

Given these massive potential changes, it’s too early to know whether autonomous vehicles will use more or less energy.

HOST: Would you purchase a vehicle with automated features to save energy? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, helps us understand why some charging times are better than others.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: If I buy a plug-in electric vehicle, when is the most efficient time to charge it? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Some plug-in electric vehicle owners prefer to charge their vehicles late at night because they’ve heard that it’s better for the electricity grid and that wind power is more available at night.

That’s true, and in places like Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington D.C., charging at night could allow grid operators to use cheaper plants and cut electricity generation costs for charging by a quarter to a third.

HOST: That sounds great. Is there a downside though?

MICHALEK: Yes, most of the cost savings I mentioned are due to increased use of inexpensive coal-fired power plants that are available at night. The pollution-related human health costs downwind of those plants can be higher than any operation cost savings.

So until regions like Pittsburgh move to cleaner sources of electricity, plug-in electric vehicle owners hoping to do the best for society should not wait until late at night to charge.

HOST: Would you charge your electric vehicle at night or once you get home? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

This week we learn what the future of electric vehicle adoption could look like from energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: Will everyone be driving a plug-in electric vehicle in the future? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles today make up much less than 1% of vehicles on the road. Right now, the biggest challenges include high cost, limited range, slow recharging, and lack of consumer familiarity.

But even if these problems are all solved, we’ll still face challenges. For example, even though most US households have off-street parking where a vehicle charger could be installed, many don’t have enough spaces for all of their vehicles.

So, a 100% electric vehicle fleet is likely unrealistic without major infrastructure changes.

HOST: So what will our vehicle fleet look like in the future?

MICHALEK: While we’re not likely to stop using oil for the foreseeable future, we will use a lot less of it because of a range of technologies. It’s unlikely that plug-in electric vehicles will make up the entire future vehicle fleet. It’s more likely that we’ll see a mix of technologies in the future – we’ll need more than one solution to cut emissions and address oil dependency.

HOST: What transportation will you be using in the future? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

This week, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, explains how electric vehicles can sometimes cause more harm than good for the environment.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: If I buy a plug-in electric vehicle, how much will it help the environment?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles can create less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than traditional vehicles- if they are charged with clean electricity. But not all regions have clean electricity.

Electricity can be generated from pollution-emitting sources like coal or natural gas, as well as cleaner sources like wind, solar, hydro, or nuclear power. And different regions use different mixes of these and other sources.

HOST: When are plug-in electric vehicles not helping to reduce pollution?

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles may not be a good choice if you live in a region that gets much of its electricity from coal.

For example, in the Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington, DC region lifetime emissions from a battery electric vehicle, like a Tesla Model S, can cause two to three times as much cost to human health, the environment, and infrastructure as a gasoline hybrid like a Toyota Prius.

This could change in the future as we move toward cleaner sources of electricity. If we clean up the grid enough, electric vehicles can offer big advantages for the environment.

HOST: Would you choose an electric vehicle based on your region’s source of electricity? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.  
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.