Friday Linkage 4/3/2020

We are al alumni of Zoom University it seems at this point.

Seriously, why do some trolls feel the need to “zoombomb” the meetings were are conducting online?

That’s right, because even in the middle of a national crisis racist trolls are going to do the things that racist trolls will do.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

If The Virus Can Decimate Global Economies So Can Climate Change—All of the bad impacts of coronavirus are strikingly similar to the bad impacts of climate change except we cannot create a vaccine or therapeutic treatments for climate change.

Coyotes are Being Seen on the Empty Streets of San Francisco—It did not take long for the animals to decide to start taking over.

Oceans Can be Restored to Former Glory within 30 Years, Say Scientists—If the past few weeks have shown us anything it is that one of the most powerful things we can do as a species is to get out of the way of nature.  It will find a way to heal and rebalance.

Wildlife Charity Plans to Buy UK Land to Give it Back to Nature—Take this idea and spread it across the globe.  Pockets of rewilded nature everywhere.  Start to link those pockets and stitch them together with existing “wilderness.”  That sounds like a plan.

The EPA Appears to be Using Coronavirus to Make Huge Concessions to Polluters—Remember, Republicans used to be all about “law and order.”  Now, this usually means locking up people who cannot fight back with lawyers and lobbyists.  So, in the current world if you are a big company or a white collar criminal the laws do not actually apply to you.  Let the crime spree begin.

Federal Judge Tosses Dakota Access Pipeline Permits, Orders Full Environmental Review—I am almost certain that the Trump administration will try and ignore this ruling because they truly are the best administration that money can buy when it come to fossil fuels.

The Closure of Colorado Coal-Fired Powerplants is Freeing up Water for Thirsty Cities—The dirty little secret of fossil fuels is just how much water it takes to produce and use fossil fuels.  Now your calculus of closing down a power plant could include the financial benefit of selling water rights to a municipality.  Solar power never looked so good in Colorado.

Last Coal-Fired Generating Plants Closing In UK & New York—The end is near for coal in the UK and New York.

The Inevitable Collapse Of Global Oil Production—Global oil demand is expected to crash by more than 20% in April/May.  Can we find a way through where none of that production comes back online?

Fossil Fuel Industry Looks to Profit With Plastics—The oil and gas industry are finding it increasingly hard to make money selling fossil fuels for transportation and energy.  The key to their long term profitability and, thus, survivability is to pivot into making more plastic and chemicals.  If there was ever a reason to go plastic free this is it.

Solar Fuel: Yep, It’s A Genuine Artificial Leaf—The scary thing for oil and gas companies looking to make plastics and chemicals is that there are renewable ways to do the exact same thing.  Feedstock is feedstock whether it comes from a well in the ground or the sunshine hitting the Earth.

Scientists Find Bug that Feasts on Toxic Plastic—Imagine bio-reactors filled with this bacterium munching away on our generations worth of waste plastic.

Report Reveals ‘Massive Plastic Pollution Footprint’ of Drinks Firms—How about we just stop buying beverages in disposable plastic containers?

GCL Plans To Invest $2.5 Billion In World’s Largest Solar Panel Factory—60 gigawatts of annual solar panel production is monstrous.  Like half of the world’s annual demand monstrous.  If you ware a fossil fuel player, watch out.

This Company Wants to Turn Your Windows into Solar Panels—I have seen these kinds of announcements before and nothing ever seems to come of it.  Maybe this time is different.

Revealed: Monsanto Predicted Crop System Would Damage US Farms—The companies that produce these chemicals knew that their products would cause harm and they did not care because they stood to make billions of dollars.  If you think politicians care about farmers ask them to stop taking money from companies like Bayer.

Designing an End to a Toxic American Obsession: The Lawn—Let 2020 be the year that we kill the American lawn as we know it.  No more bags of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides spread indiscriminately in the pursuit of an unnatural monoculture.

For Skiers, There’s a Contaminant Underfoot—The pursuit of the gnar does not mean that we have to pollute the food web of alpine environments.  One time base coats are an option.  So are more environmentally ski wax products like mountainFLOW eco-wax.

The Secret to Curbing Farm Emissions is Buried in the Stone Age—It seems like every solution that is proposed to help alleviate carbon emissions is about rediscovering a gentler way of conducting the business of being human.

Is Fake Meat Getting too Much like the Real Thing?—This is kind of the point. No one wants to go back to the dark days of veggie burgers that tasted like stale quinoa and dry black beans.

Progress Against 2020 Goals in the First Quarter of the Year

Here is a breakdown by goal of my progress so far in 2020:

  • Deeper decarbonization: An electric lawn mower and weed eater are in the garage ready to go. I cannot wait to report on the run times for the batteries and the overall experience of completely shedding small engines for yard maintenance.  Some other projects, most notably a new electric air source heat pump water heater, are going to have to wait until the restrictions around coronavirus subside.  In a way, all of this restriction on travel, which leads to less shopping and wasteful trips, is decarbonizing my life.  It’s not good to be going through this saga, but the energy diet is a nice side effect.
  • Replace 500 Vehicle Miles with Human Powered Transit: This one is a little hard for me to imagine right now as we are not driving at all. The cars in our garage are basically sitting save for a weekly trip to get groceries.  I will be very curious to see what our mileage totals look like for the month of April as the lockdown continues.
  • Ride 2,500 Miles on my Bicycle: 47.93 miles by the end of March. It’s not much, but it is ahead of last year’s pace.
  • Ride 2 “New to Me” Trails: A goal for warmer weather. Stay tuned.
  • Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer: Check out the details here. A little bit of a misstep as I prepared for coronavirus lockdown by buying up some cans from local breweries.
  • Read 40 Books: 22 books down. Not too shabby for one quarter.
  • Reduce Lawn, Increase Landscape Variety: This is a goal for the spring, so look forward to some progress now that the temperature has gone up and the snow is off the ground. Plus, what else am I going to do in a world where we are sheltering in place.
  • Maximize Local Food: Until about mid-March I was killing it with local food. According to my calculations, local food comprised almost 50% of my grocery spend.  Then coronavirus happened and we decided to stock up.  A couple of big trips to warehouse clubs and weekly grocery pickup have killed my local grocery shopping.  Even so, local groceries make up about 33% of my household grocery spend.  I am hoping to improve upon that in the coming months as we all learn how to navigate a world impacted by coronavirus.

First Quarter 2020 Beer Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral

Here is what my beer purchasing history looked like for the first quarter of 2020:

Q1 2020 Beer

In terms of drinking “local” I only purchased one beer that was not produce nearby.  At a hotel bar in Davenport my choices were fairly limited, but for some reason Summit Brewing’s very good Saga IPA was on tap.  I will admit that I am conflicted when it comes to large-ish regional breweries like Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It is not local to me, but it is definitely still more of a craft brewery than something owned by the giant brewers.  Nonetheless, one beer from a non-local brewer over the course of three months is pretty good.

I was doing really well buying beer that did not produce any packaging waste, but then coronavirus upended all of my plans.  Before leaving for an aborted ski trip to Colorado I stocked up on some local beers from Big Grove Brewery and Iowa Brewing Company.  Big Grove Brewery’s Easy Eddy has become my “go to” beer over the last six months or so.  Available in twelve packs widely across my metro area it is an easy pick-up.

In Colorado I found myself really digging the beers made by the folks at Hideaway Park Brewery.  On the Saturday that the state of Colorado effectively closed all ski resorts for the season—only two hours or so after I arrived in Winter Park—I was sitting on barstool at Hideaway Park enjoying several draft beers.  I also bought two six packs to take back home and hunker down for a period of isolation.  Damn coronavirus.

If there is one thing that I can ask everyone and anyone who ever drinks beer it is to support the local breweries in your community any way possible during this really shitty period of time.  A lot of the business that these breweries count on is gone.  There are little to no commercial account activity in bars and restaurants.  On site draft and merchandise sales are gone.  It is hard times.  Buy a six pack if you can.  Hell, buy a case if you can.  Even if it sits in the refrigerator for several weeks that is okay because the cash flow might just help your local brewery make it through until we can all raise a glass again at the bar.

March 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

My solar monitoring platform was available for an entire month and all of the panels on my solar system were fully functional.  This led to a pretty good March for solar production:

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Just under 578 kWh for the month.  This compares with ~316 kWh in 2019 and ~424 kWh in 2018 or an increase of ~83% and ~36% over each of those years respectively.  My guess is that the average year-over-year production increase will fall somewhere in the middle of those two on average over the course of the next year.  Only time will tell.

For the month, my household ended up “net positive” ~67 kWh.  My household was also “net positive” in March.  It is my assumption that the next couple of months will be big “net positive” months in terms of electricity consumption versus production since the period before the hot summer months is generally light on consumption.

One factor driving a lower level of electricity consumption is the fact that we are not driving much, if at all, as a household due to COVID-19.  All of my children’s activities have been cancelled and we are working from home.  I cannot remember if I have charged my Nissan Leaf in the two weeks we have been home from an aborted spring ski trip to Colorado.

For the month, I drove my Nissan Leaf ~652 miles at an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Almost all of those miles were in the two weeks before we locked down at home.  I “saved” ~746 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared to driving my truck assuming that I pulled all of the electricity from the grid at my utility’s average carbon intensity.  In the first quarter I have “saved” ~2,785 ponds of carbon dioxide emissions.  Given that I am now producing more electricity via my solar panels than my household is consuming, including EV charging, those carbon dioxide savings are even greater.  The same logic goes for the fuel cost savings.

April is going to be a weird month for sure.

Books I Read in the First Quarter of 2020

It is not even two weeks into the whole social distancing, voluntary isolation phase of the coronavirus crisis and I have already completed 22 books against a year end goal of 40.  What is going to happen when I finally tire of Netflix entirely?

Here is what I read in the first quarter of the year:

Note: I borrowed almost all of the books listed above from one of three area public libraries.  The links are there for someone to find the book online. I do not receive a single cent from Powells for linking to their site.

A New Set of Wheels for My Daily Ride

Being stuck at home is the perfect time to conduct a major overhaul of my daily ride.  The Breezer Radar that I bought a couple of years ago has already been through some major changes since the day it arrived on my doorstep.

In keeping with tradition, I felt that it was time to hit the reset switch and improve some things.  This entire process was also caused by some “cabin fever shopping” during the shut-in time over the past two weeks due to COVID-19.

The single biggest change that I undertook was a new wheelset.  The stock wheelset on the Radar was fairly mediocre.  This is to be expected in an OEM wheelset on a bicycle that came with a value build component set.

I went with a wheelset from online retailer Bicycle Wheel Warehouse.  The set that I ordered was BWW Trail Pro 29er Custom Build.  My set was built with the Speed Tuned Super 6 quick release hubs, Shimano freehub for a 10 speed cassette, and DT Competition 2.0/1.8 spokes.  For a little bling, I went with blue alloy nipples:

IMG_20200323_171029

Yeah, it cost a little more but you only live once.  All in, with a 20% discount coupon, I paid just under $300 for the wheelset.

The tires are WTB Venture 700×40.  This tread is a little wider than the Donnelly X’Plor USH 700×35 tires that were installed on the previous wheelset.  I went with something wider and a little more aggressive in the tread department because I felt that the tread profile on the USHs was a little squirrely on the rough stuff around here.  Wanting to spend some more time on more remote routes this year led me to a more off-road focused tread pattern.

The bigger change is moving to a tubeless setup. The good people at Goldfinch Cyclery in the NewBo district of Cedar Rapids got me rolling on tubeless rubber.  Sure, I could have done it myself but I was a little intimidated to make the effort.  After more than thirty years of being used to tubes it will take a little bit of time to teach me some new tricks.  Here they are ready to roll:

You will notice that I removed the decals from Bicycle Wheel Warehouse, so now the wheelset looks like a boring old OEM wheelset.  Minus the blue nipples of course.  There are also some other changes to my bicycle that you might notice.  I will explain at a later date.

The wheelset works with quick releases as opposed to thru axles because that is what my frame can accommodate and the disc rotor mounts via the 6 bolt standard as opposed to centerlock.  A lot of people advised me to go with a centerlock hub and use an adapter, but I sort of despise adapters.  Plus, this wheelset is not going to get moved to another bicycle so choosing specifications based on its requirements alone is a safe bet.

All in—wheels, tires, sealant, cassette, skewers, rotors—the new wheelset came in at a total of 3,810 grams (1,630 grams front and 2,180 grams rear).  This compares with an all in weight—including tubes as opposed to sealant—for my old wheelset of 4,495 grams (1,750 grams front and 2,745 grams rear).  That is a ~15% decrease in rotational weight without breaking the bank or doing anything exotic.

So, for less weight I get wider tires on a wider rim without having to deal with tubes.  This might be the biggest win in a long time.

It’s going to be a hard few weeks waiting for things to dry out in eastern Iowa.  I so want to see how this revamp rolls down the trails.

 

Note: I bought these wheels with my own money and received nothing in return from any of the companies mentioned.

Friday Linkage 3/27/2020

Please stay safe out there.

If you do not have to go out, do not go out.

Wash your damn hands.

Hold your family members tight, call your parents, and remember what is important.

Also, turn off the news.  Listening to these people talk all day long is not doing anyone any favors right now.  Our collective mental health depends upon it.

On to the links…

‘Nature is taking back Venice’: Wildlife Returns to Tourist-Free City—Nature will find a way, right?  Your move Mr. Goldblum.

With Humans in Lockdown, Animals Flourish—I was so hoping that the drunken elephants story was true.

One Root Cause of Pandemics Few People Think About—The market’s desire for meat drives companies to throw caution to the wind and raise ever increasing numbers of animals within close proximity of one another where diseases can spread.  A quick hop, skip, and jump away to humans is all it takes to put us into the situation we find ourselves in today.

How Will The Coronavirus Affect Energy Use In America?—Will there be any long-term systematic changes or will things bounce back to pre-COVID-19 norms?

Why Rich People Use so Much More Energy—If there is one thing that COVID-19 is going to show us it is that the frivolous travel of the richest portion of the global population is unnecessary and indefensible.

Four Federal Policies Could Help Offshore Wind Jump Start Our Coronavirus Economic Recovery—Who wants to make a bet that rather than looking forward Donald Trump and his cronies in the U.S. Senate will propose policies that benefit fossil fuels?  Furthermore, these policy proposals will be framed as the path to get America out of the forthcoming recession.  Takers?

Big Wins Expected for Offshore Wind Over Next Decade—We can hope so.  Imagine thousands of megawatts of offshore wind just miles away from the large population of the eastern seaboard?

The $638 Billion Cost Of Keeping Coal Alive—If you are in charge of a utility that is building coal fired electrical capacity you are costing your ratepayers money.  This situation will only get worse as communities reject coal fired power plants because of pollution and climate change impacts.

Wyoming Coal Interests Funneled Money, Experts to Influence Colorado PUC Decision on Closing Parts of Pueblo Plant—Nothing like a lot of out of state money flooding in to influence an issue and still failing.  Wyoming has to try everything it can to keep coal viable because the state’s economy is so dependent upon coal mining.  Without coal Wyoming is West Virginia with better skiing.

Siemens Receives First Order For Battery-Powered Trains—The idea here is not to have the entire journey be conducted on battery power alone, but to use the battery as a bridge between electrified sections of track.

The Pros and Cons of Planting Trees to Address Global Warming—I understand the idea of balance in reporting, but do we really see a lot of downsides to planting a lot trees?  Furthermore, are those downsides really all that bad?

How will Tree Planting Help the UK meet its Climate Goals?—Mistakes will be made and the end result may not be as carbon “negative” as projected, but what is the real downside to trying if the right species of tree is planted in the right ecosystem?

A Vision for Agriculture—We know how to raise animals in a way that does not poison our air, land, and water.  It is not a question of knowledge, but one of will.

Dentists Under Pressure to Drill ‘Healthy Teeth’ for Profit, Former Insiders Allege—As if COVID-19 has not shown the flaws in America’s for profit health system perhaps you need a reminder why it is not a good idea to have private equity or hedge funds determining care plans.