A new carbon record set, rolling blackouts this summer, Michigan raises the nuclear question

CO2 2022/2021 421.84 ppm / 419.58 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

We've set a new high for atmospheric carbon. Not a win. Michigan may not have enough power this summer, according to the regional grid operator. And in this month's policy update, a Michigan House bill would have the state look more closely at the nuclear option.

Please sign up for our next Facebook Live Friday, May 27 on Resilient Agriculture and Climate Change in Michigan.

Have a great week!

— Nina Ignaczak, Editor of Michigan Climate News

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New record: Earth set a new record last week for the highest measured daily atmospheric carbon level. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego measured 421.37 parts per million of carbon dioxide on May 11, surpassing the prior record of 418.95 ppm reached in May 2021. Daily records have proceeded, with atmospheric carbon reaching 421.68 on May 23 and 421.84 on May 14. “We are going in the wrong direction, at maximum speed,” said Pieter Tans, senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.” (The Kealing Curve, Financial Times)

What was the carbon level when you were born?

Rolling blackouts? The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which operates the electrical grid throughout Michigan and much of the Midwest, says rolling blackouts may be a thing this summer as higher temps drive demand beyond capacity. The group found a shortfall in electric generation capacity, which may lead to “temporary, controlled outages to preserve the integrity of the bulk electric system.” This would be the first time MISO would implement a controlled outage in Michigan. (Michigan Radio)

Real estate: Consumers Energy says it needs 70,000 acres of land for solar arrays, and the company is looking for farmland close to grid infrastructure. "This is a good avenue to keep that property in the family, and generate revenues for the family," said Dennis Dobbs, vice president of enterprise project management and environmental services for Consumers Energy. However, some living in rural areas object to solar farms because of the way they change the look of the landscape. Municipalities may also be less motivated to allow them because Consumers and DTE Energy have aggressively moved to depreciate the value of wind turbines in these areas, cutting into local tax revenues. Rooftop solar could supply a significant percentage of the nation’s power needs and require no additional land. Still, utilities have fought distributed energy systems that could affect their bottom line. (MI Radio, Nature)

Mussel mayhem: Wayne State researchers have found that invasive quagga mussels in the Detroit River are spawning into January as the Great Lakes system warms. The extended spawning season and warming waters could allow them to spread farther across the Great Lakes basin and undermine ecosystems. Each diminutive mussel can filter a liter of water each day, which deprives fish of the food they need. This filtering also makes the water more transparent, providing sunlight for plants that grow and die, robbing the water of oxygen in the process. The oxygen-starved waters then foster a botulism-producing bacteria that can poison several species. (Detroit News)

Business of climate: In the first quarter of last year, Tesla sold 310,000 electric vehicles while General Motors sold just 500. But, GM CEO Mary Barra says the Michigan company will be able to make more affordable EVs than competitors and win over car buyers who hadn’t considered buying an electric car. GM’s strategy revolves around its “Ultium” battery packs that use modular components to power an array of vehicles, from compact cars to pickup trucks. The company believes that using the same parts across many vehicles can drive down prices for EVs. In other business news, an Ann Arbor drone technology company is “flying high” after raising $80 million in funding. Operators use the company’s software to inspect and maintain wind turbines. (NYTimes, Crain’s)

Fire danger: A red flag warning was issued for much of Michigan last week, and a fire near Cheboygan spread over more than 2,000 acres this past weekend. A new analysis from the First Street Foundation shows the threat of wildfire is growing across much of the country. Half of all residences in the lower 48 face some fire risk, but this will increase to 56% by 2052. California, Texas and Florida are expected to see significant increases in fire danger over the next 30 years. New Mexico is dealing with an early fire season that has already seen one blaze cover almost 300,000 acres. Low humidity, warm temperatures, and high winds fuel the fires and trigger red flag warnings across the West and Midwest. (Guardian, MLive, NY Times)


Michigan raises the nuclear question

Enrico Fermi II nuclear power plant in Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan.

Last month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the Biden administration to save west Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant, slated to close by May. The state’s new climate plan aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of reducing emissions by 52% from 2005 levels by 2030. Keeping the plant open could help Michigan meet these goals, and the White House has made clear it’s open to keeping nuclear plants open as a part of the broader climate fight because they produce no direct carbon emissions.

But Michigan lawmakers may be trying to do more the save existing nuclear plants. House Bill 6019 would commission a feasibility study on nuclear power in the state, including new facilities and even small modular reactors, prefabricated nuclear power units with a smaller electrical outlet than a typical plant.


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org or hit reply!


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