Well, This Sucks

I am starting to wonder if the gods may be conspiring against me to have a carefree summer riding the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  This week some yahoo in a truck decided to take out a bridge on the section of trail about six miles from my house:

My hope is that the good folks at Linn County Conservation will figure out a detour down the embankment and across the road.  Otherwise, I am looking at another summer of closures.  Ugh.

Friday Linkage 1/21/2022

If you ever needed any evidence that fossil fuel companies just do not care I give you E.ON in the United Kingdom.  This is not quite as bad as a company memo suggesting that you dumpster dive to survive. 

On to the links…

Nearly Half the World’s Kids are Exposed to Dangerous Levels of Lead—Out of sight, out of mind for most people.  Sure, we had a lead scandal in Flint, Michigan but does anyone really consider the plight of people dealing with lead production in another country?

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up—After hundreds of people died and the state was paralyzed you would think that Texas politicians and energy regulators would do something.  Nope.  They just blamed the usual bogeyman, pocketed fat stacks of cash, and leaned back to wait for another disaster to strike.

New Renewable Power Plants Are Reducing U.S. Electricity Generation From Natural Gas—This chart is very important:

We can bend the curve for coal and natural gas to an even steeper degree.

China’s Coal Production Hit Record Levels in 2021—China and India will determine the future of goal generated power over the next decade.

Sunshine, My Frenemy—We can get to a future where 100% of our energy needs are met by renewables.  It will not look like today’s energy system, but that is just a failure of imagination.

MidAmerican Energy Proposes $3.9 Billion ‘Wind PRIME’ Renewable Energy Project—This one is close to home.  It is estimated that Iowa gets ~60% of its electricity from renewable sources, primarily wind, so any additional renewable energy starts creeping toward 100%.

North Sea Fossil Fuel Companies Plan to Invest More in Wind than Oil Drilling—Is this the signal that the worm is turning on oil and gas development?

Offshore Oil Rigs are a Surprising Safe Haven—Wouldn’t offshore wind turbines have the same benefit?  And, no risk of leaking oil all over.

Leading UK Fracking Firm Taken Over by Green Energy Group—I would love to see this in the United States.

Colorado Oil and Gas Wells are Constantly Changing Hands. Some Risk Becoming Costly “Orphans” Along the Way.—You have to love a system where it is legal to just transfer liabilities to another company and walk way like your intent was never to be negligent.

An Oil and Gas Company Wants to Plug Four Idle Wells. The Wells Could End up Owned by a Troubled Colorado Operator Instead.—Let’s stop calling these “troubled” operators.  Let’s start calling them deadbeats or miscreants or…

Interior Devotes Billions to Plugging Old Oil Wells. Is it Enough?—I do not care if it is $2B or $19B.  Appropriate the money and get people to work cleaning up this mess.  If an oil or gas company was supposed to have capped the well and did not do its job, see you in court.

65% Plugin Vehicle Share In The Netherlands! Volkswagen ID.3 Shines!—It is not just Norway that is killing it when it comes to electric vehicles. 

Gas Car Fires Far More Common Than Electric Car Fires—Yep.

I Idled in an Electric Car for 12 Hours in the Freezing Cold to See What Would Happen—So, those hit pieces about being “stuck in an electric car in a snowstorm” were just baseless garbage promoted by a press that is owned by fossil fuel companies.

Dude, Your Cannabis Habit Has an Epic Carbon Footprint—I do not want to harsh anyone’s buzz, but maybe growing cannabis indoors is not a long term solution.  Why not row outdoors or in greenhouses?

All that Online Holiday Shopping Led to Record Product Returns. That’s a Problem—Can we please just stop buying so much stuff?

2021 Personal Goals Scorecard

2021 was a year.  Actually, it felt like more than a year.

Looking back I do not know what I really did for an entire year.  Work feels like pretending as our ad hoc work from home arrangement is entering its third year with no end in sight.  Play feels like a constant question of “is this worth the risk of potential exposure?”  Heck, every time I think about going out to grab a pizza my minds starts to think about transmission rates and air handlers.  Yeah, that is what 2021 did to my brain.

Anyway, I digress.  How did I do when it came to my goals for 2021?  Read on below to find out.

Here goes:

  1. Read 60 books—73 books in total against a goal of 60.  Victory.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—4,103.6 miles against a goal of 3,000.  Victory.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—I only rode one “new to me” trail: the High Trestle Trail in central Iowa.  It seemed like coronavirus and weather killed every effort I made to ride new trails.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Pretty good.  You can see the details here, but the theme was heavy on the local (only one non-local purchase all year) and decent on buying direct from the brewer and/or in a packaging neutral form factor.
  5. No new car in 2020—Epic failure.  We got through March before the reality of needing two cars that could travel more than 75 miles or so set in.  Granted, I am glad we did not spend the first half of this year trying to rent cars for those few weekends of kids activities separated by hundreds of miles. A single weekend was going for about what our car payment is right now.  That would have hurt.
  6. Less lawn, more life—I feel like I am about halfway to my goal of ripping out my lawn in various spots.  I started to build out a large pollinator garden in 2021, but 2022 is probably going to see my finish the project and undertake another similar style bed in another part of my lawn.
  7. Deeper decarbonization—Like the prior year, I do not know how to categorize this goal.  Without any effort on our part, my wife and I “avoided” 218 days of commutes to work.    Since 2019 we have “avoided” 383 days of commutes to work.  This is a lot of avoided carbon dioxide and other attendant pollution.  I have also decarbonized my lawn care with a battery electric mower.  It does feel, however, like we stalled out a little this past year.  Our delayed effort to replace out natural gas water heater with a hybrid air source heat pump model ran into supply chain realities.  As a household we made some efforts to reduce natural gas usage by keeping our house a little chillier and focusing on heating the person via electricity.  If there is one thing I am going to work on in 2022 this is it.

Friday Linkage 1/14/2022

This is your modern day Republican Party.  Republican Senate President Jake Chapman is really leaning heavily into the Orwellian recasting of the opposition’s intentions.  This man literally believes that anyone disagreeing with him or his party has a “sinister agenda.”

How can anything constructive be achieved in an environment when one side believes the other to be evil?

On to the links…

Making the Transition Happen—We have a pretty damn good idea of what it will take to decarbonize the economy.  It is not complex and it does not require radical leaps in technology like fusion power.  Granted, fusion power would make things a lot easier.

Tiniest Pollution Particles Pack Major Risk: Childhood Asthma, Poor-Air Deaths Ignored for too Long, studies say—The air is making us sick because we refuse to hold the people responsible accountable.  Oh wait, the people responsible is us.

US Greenhouse Emissions Increased by 6.2 Percent Last Year—After an artificial decline there was bound to be an artificial increase.

Coal was Dying. Then 2021 Happened.—Damn it.

Coal Will Equal 85% Of U.S. Electric Generating Capacity Retirements In 2022—Put another way, 6% of the coal generating capacity in operation at the end of 2021 will be retired.  This is a death spiral.

Solar to Make Up Half of New Generating Capacity in 2022—Are we reaching the tipping point on solar where it becomes so inexpensive that the only impediment to deployment is the rapidity of installation?

The US Government Spent $1.1 billion on Carbon Capture Projects that Mostly Failed—Carbon capture is the hydrogen of the next decade.  It is an attempt by old line fossil fuel companies to continue their business as usual policies propped up by a veneer of environmental friendliness.  Imagine putting more than $1 billion dollars to work reforesting wildfire ravaged lands?  That is carbon capture you can believe in.

Kentucky Coal Mine Will Become Giant “Water Battery” Energy Storage Project—The future is now.  This is happening in Kentucky, which is no friend of renewable energy or anything that does not at least tangentially support the coal industry.

The Western Megadrought is Revealing America’s ‘Lost National Park’—Other civilizations have come before us in the desert Southwest and, like those that came before, we will leave relics of our hubris behind.  Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam will be a fitting monument to our colossal stupidity.

Texas Natural Gas Production Dropped During Recent Cold Front, Reviving Concerns about Electric Grid—I wonder who Greg Abbot and Texas Republicans will blame when the grid runs into a crisis again.  Probably no bigger advertisement for EVs with bi-directional charging than Texas going dark again.

USPS Says All-Electric Mail Trucks Will Cost An Extra $3 Billion—That is it?  Congress will fart and add that much money to the defense budget.

Electric Cars Aren’t Just Vehicles. They’re Big Batteries.—Electric vehicles may remake the way we interact with electricity and utilities in general.  I know that I am looking forward to a time in the near future when I have a battery pack in my garage that can help me disconnect from the grid.

UK’s Auto Market Hits One-Third Plugins In December—Including PHEVs you get over one-third, but more surprising to me is that BEVs account for one-quarter of the market already.

Can Lab-Grown Palm Oil Save the World’s Tropical Forests?—My hopes are low, but it cannot hurt trying.

Friday Linkage 1/7/2022

Every year we watch the calendar change from year to the next and hope for change.  Why?  What is the magic significance of one day in 2021 versus the next in 2022?  It is an idea that a professor of mine in graduate school used to rag on when describing lazy historians.  Those particular lazy historians liked to group things in decades as if events, trends, etc. were bound to the confines of the 1960s or 1970s.

As anyone who was a child in the early 1980s knows, it looked a lot more like the 1970s than any candy-colored neon dream of the 1980s that Hollywood would like us to believe.  Maybe you owned parachute pants and saw DeLorean DMC-12s driving down the street, but my 1980s childhood was like a malaise era hangover.

I hope 2022 is a better year, but I fear it will look a lot like the second half of 2021.  At least Marjorie Taylor Greene is losing access to her social media microphones.

On to the links…

The Great Population Growth Slowdown—This is the kind of story that that needs to get more attention.  So many policies, in the United States and internationally, are predicated on increasing populations.  What happens when that is no longer the case?

EVs Made Up 65 Percent of Car Sales in Norway Last Year—Almost two-thirds of cars sold in Norway were EVs.  Wow!

France Plugin EV Share Breaks Records In December—Plug-ins, including PHEVs, were almost one quarter of sales in France in December.

15% Of Auto Sales In Europe Were Fully Electric Vehicles In November—It is starting to feel a little bit like living in the future.

Startup ONE says its Battery Prototype Delivered 750-Mile Range—This particular startup may or may not crack the battery problem, but as more money pours into the sector and the market keeps growing there are going to be both evolutionary and revolutionary leaps in technical capability.

Revealed: The Florida Power Company Pushing Legislation to Slow Rooftop Solar—It is almost like Florida purposefully tries to be the worst state in America.

Bringing Solar To Coal Country In Kentucky—This is a great project.  Naturally, a contingent of people just want their old jobs back mining coal.  I understand the visceral reaction to change, but clinging to the hope that coal mining jobs are coming back is insane.

Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback—Now, imagine systems like these deployed in buildings across the United States.  It would be dispatchable power at the point of use.

Graze Anatomy: What Happens When You Put Up a Fence to Keep Sheep Out?—Should this surprise anyone?  Let’s stop allowing livestock to destroy every natural place.  The planet will thank you.

Farmers Could be Paid for Post-Brexit ‘Rewilding’ Land Changes—Just returning a portion of land to its “wild” state would yield massive benefits.

Coffee Roasters Look to Long-Snubbed Robusta Bean as Climate Changes—Climate change is coming for your coffee.  Best get used to drinking robusta now.

Beer: Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral in 2021

The goal in 2021 was to make as many of my beer purchases from local breweries, direct from the producers, and packaging neutral—as in consumed on site or taken home in a reusable container.  Overall, I think that I did fairly well given that 2021 was another year of COVID-19.  How many more times are we going to say that?

In terms of buying local there was only one instance where I did not purchase a locally made beer.  Costco got me with a case of so-called Session IPA for a ridiculously low price.  It was one of those stereotypical Costco moments where you walk by an end cap display and go, “Wow, that’s a good deal.”  Granted, the beer was decent but nothing to really recommend it over a thousand other beers save for the price.

The only other “hiccup” in my buying local would be if you consider New Glarus Brewing to not be local when buying it in the state of Wisconsin.  Given the limited distribution—for those who do not know New Glarus Brewing does not distribute outside the borders of its home state—I consider it to be a local beer even when I purchase a couple of cases just over the river from Dubuque.

My hope is that 2022 will allow for more brewery visits, but the omicron variant of the coronavirus is probably going to get in the way.

You can see the full run down of my beer purchases for 2021 below:

Books I Read in the Fourth Quarter of 2021

The goal was 60 books.  I read 73 books in 2021.  You can see what I read in the first, second, and third quarters of the year by following the links.

Below is what I read in the fourth quarter:

December 2021 Solar PV Production and EV Efficiency

December 2021 solar photovoltaic production was up versus the same month last year.  About 43 kWh of additional production is good, especially in a generally garbage month for production.  How did the month look:

A total of ~273 kWh produced for the month.  In terms of electricity production versus consumption my household ended up “in the red” ~256 kWh. 

For the year, my household is ~459 kWh “in the black” or net-positive in terms of electricity production versus consumption.  The prior year we ended “in the black” ~1,040 kWh.  A part of this attributable to not working from home for the first quarter of 2020 and then following that up with a severe downturn in miles drive—a direct proxy for electricity usage in my household due to the Nissan Leaf.  Additionally, we are making an effort to use electricity to heat small spaces this year rather than relying on our natural gas fired furnace.  For the same billing periods in November and December our natural gas usage was down ~41% and ~18% respectively with similar average temperatures.

For the month of December we drove the Nissan Leaf 438.1 miles at an average efficiency of 5.1 miles per kWh.  This works out to a CO2 avoidance of ~498 pounds versus my truck assuming we pulled every watt for the Nissan Leaf from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region. 

For the year, so far, we have driven ~6,307 miles at an average efficiency of ~5.3 miles per kWh.  This translates into a CO2 avoidance of ~7,210 pounds versus my truck assuming we pulled every watt for the Nissan Leaf from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region. 

Friday Linkage 12/17/2021

No posts for the rest of the year.  I am off to the mountains for two weeks and I am going to roll with a digital detox until 2022.

Enjoy the holidays with friends and family.  If you have children, hold them tight and savor every moment.

There is still so much good in this world that I cannot help but be overcome by feelings of hope.  Maybe it’s just the egg nog talking.

On to the links…

How Big Oil Rigs the System to Keep Winning—This is why it is so hard to move into the future.

Biden Administration’s Epic Oil Lease Auction Was Totally Unnecessary—And this is why everything seems so pointless.  Everyone is in bed with the oil and gas lobby.

Wall Street Could Crumble Under the Weight of a ‘Carbon Bubble,’ these Groups Warn—Exposure and overhang are two words no corporation wants to hear when presenting their financials.

Jeff Bezos’ Space Joyride Emitted a Lifetime’s Worth of Carbon Pollution—Nothing like a quick ride to the edge of outer space in a phallic rocket to remind everyone else on the planet that you are a gigantic dick.

Texas Republican Officials Assume Full Ownership Of Electric Grid’s Reliability—Remember this if the electrical grid in Texas has another meltdown this winter: Republicans have controlled every statewide office since the mid-1990s.  There is no one left to blame but themselves for whatever happens.

Sure Looks Like Donald Trump Is Gonna Lose the Lightbulb War—This was one of the former president’s more lame ideas.  Granted, he thought it was the light bulbs that made him appear orange on camera instead of his strip mall spray tan.

Tropical Forests can Partially Regenerate in Just 20 Years without Human Interference—So, if we can just leave things alone for a little bit good things happen.  This does not seem so hard.

The Theranos Trial Shows Why We Should Be Suspicious of Nuclear Fusion—I am suspicious of any nuclear fusion claims because it is said to be ten years away and has been that way for sixty years.

Scotland Marks End to Coal Power as Longannet Chimney is Blown Up—The coal era is ending with every smokestack and cooling tower brought down by a controlled explosion.

The U.S. has Officially Stopped Financing New Coal Plants Abroad—Maybe the end of the coal era looks a little like getting denied for a loan at your local bank.

Molasses-like Material Promises Cheap, Large-scale Battery Storage for Wind and Solar—Every day brings a crazy sounding development when it comes to battery technology.

Denver Vehicle-to-Building Pilot Yields Net Benefits—The future of EVs that can act as grid regulating nodes is going to be a game changer.  Just one charger and one Nissan Leaf resulted in an estimated annual savings of $3,000.  Things start paying for themselves real quick at that rate.

A Town in Japan Wants to Eliminate All of its Waste, so it Built a Stunning Recycling Center Out of Trash—Imagine if we recycles or reused 80% of our trash in the United States?  A lot of problems might just vanish.

Beware the Emergency Avocado: What Does Ultrafast Delivery Really Cost Us?—Do we really need shipping windows of 5 hours for our online purchases?  Why can’t we just slow down and wait a few days for something to arrive?  Why are we ordering avocados online?

Friday Linkage 12/10/2021

We now live in a world where on the most watched television commentators on the right wing is justifying Vladimir Putin’s potential armed incursion into a sovereign nation.
Is this the whacko right wing’s Neville Chamberlain moment?
On to the links…
What Roe Could Take Down With It—It is unlikely that the Supreme Court will hand down a decision until nearly summer 2022, but it is worth your time to consider the ramifications of circumscribing the individual’s right to privacy. If you do not think that right wing nut jobs in states like Texas will try and craft laws to “adjust” your private behavior you have not been paying attention.
Interior’s New Oil-and Gas-Leasing Roadmap Sidesteps Climate Action—No matter who occupies the White House it seems like the oil and gas industry get whatever they want when it comes to drilling on public lands.
Has The EIA Massively Overestimated The Potential Of U.S. Shale?—Now imagine what happens as oil and gas get more expensive. It’s going to be harder and harder to deny the transition to green electricity.
Solar — 3% Of US Electricity In 2020, 5% Next Year, & 20% In 2050?—The first few percentage points were the hardest. Now solar is cheap and easy.
The Magic Math Of Solar Plus Storage—This is like the mythical 1+1=3 kind of situation that every half ass manager has tried to use as an explanation for behavior. Except, that it works in this case.
Simplify: Cut 2.3 Billion Gallons Of Gasoline A Year In USA—Simplify. If there was something that Americans were never good at it is simplification. Rather than figure out how to get cars off the road our planners will just build another lane of highway even though it has been shown time and time again to fail at solving the problem.
What Will it Take to End Deforestation by 2030?—Let’s start with replacing Jair Bolsonaro. Then let’s stop cutting down trees. Okay. Following that let’s plant a lot more trees.
What Humanity Should Eat to Stay Healthy and Save the Planet—I am going to venture a guess and say, “A lot more plants, a lot less dairy, and as little meat as possible.”
UK Plugin EV Market Share Hits Record 28.1% In November – Diesel At Just 5%–A doubling of market share in a year is crazy.
Choosing Energy Paths—There is a fork in the road coming with regards to the future of energy.
Climate Change Crisis: Golf Courses on Borrowed Time as Earth’s Weather Patterns Become Wilder—Golf courses just seem like an insult to anyone who cares about water scarcity, pesticide use, land management, and so on.