Friday Linkage 4/9/2021

If you ever hear any Republican talk about “cancel culture” remind them that Republicans are the original cancel culture warriors.  They just do not like being on the receiving end of their historical modus operandi.  Just witness Mitch McConnell threatening corporations for opposing restrictions on voting in Georgia.  Remember, the Constitution only seems to matter when it is regarding guns.  And god if that god happens to be the mainstream Christian god.

Here’s the thing, if Republicans are so convinced in the piety of their principles then by all means start taking away corporate tax breaks.  By all means threaten the removal of anti-trust exemptions.  Just do not cry when those threats bite you on the ass come election time.  Oh wait, he is already backtracking. Don’t worry, they will whine no matter what the outcome.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Atmospheric CO2 Passes 420 PPM for First Time Ever—Ugh.

How Trump Steered Supporters into Unwitting Donations—The man and anyone in his orbit are nothing more than penny ante grifters who hit the big time for four years.  Every action the man takes is to line his pockets.  It explains every action he takes.

US Fossil-Fuel Companies Took Billions in Tax Breaks – and then Laid off Thousands—Do not forget that these same companies are leaving local governments on the hook for billions in cleanup costs related to their activities.  I am sure the executives got nice bonuses and shares were bought back.

Fossil Fuels get too Many Government Handouts. Biden Wants to Cut Them Off.—Level playing field my ass.  Oil and gas companies have enjoyed tax breaks no other industry gets and is the recipient of government largesse in the form of royalty payments that are a pittance.

JPMorgan Secretly Emailed the Trump Administration About Bailing Out the Oil Industry—The hits just keep on coming.

Company behind Minnesota’s Harmful Pipeline Project is Allegedly Paying Cops to harass Native Women—These companies know no tactic too low in pursuit of their almighty dollar.

Big Meat and Dairy Companies Have Spent Millions Lobbying Against Climate Action—These food companies act a whole lot like big oil when it comes to crushing local opposition and getting what they want from government.

What Should Coal Communities do When Power Plants Shut Down? Ask Germany.—With someone other than Trump in office there is a chance that the U.S. will actually look to other countries for advice on how to transition our energy sector to renewables.  What a freaking relief.

World Adds Record New Renewable Energy Capacity in 2020—Let’s do it again in 2021.

Great Britain’s Electricity System has Greenest Day Ever over Easter—Factoring in nuclear, Great Britain generated something like 75% of its electricity from carbon neutral sources.

Renewable Energy Is The Solution To Texas’ Blackouts, Not The Cause—Remember portfolio theory?  Here’s what it means for electricity.  Spread out your generating assets over lots of smaller generating capabilities like wind turbines and solar panels so that no one failure knocks out a significant portion of your generating capability.

One Small Idea in Biden’s Infrastructure Plan with Big Benefits: Electric School Buses—I would take every dollar spent on tax credits for personal EVs and put that money toward incentivizing the transition away from diesel vehicles like buses and trucks.

85% Plugin Vehicle Share In Norway — Pure Combustion Falls Below 10%–The future looks a lot like Norway.

COVID-19 Showed A World Without Oil And Without Commuting—Maybe we can finally kill the insane commuter culture in the United States that has people driving hours a day just to get to and from work.

Why Are Oil Majors Investing In Offshore Wind?—It seems like an easy transition to move from offshore oil and gas to offshore wind.

America’s Recycling System Is Broken – AND Repairable—We do not really recycle in the United States.  We collect trash in multiple streams and some of the material is recycled.  It’s a joke.

Federal Judge’s Ruling Ends Colorado’s Plan to Kill Hundreds of Mountain Lions in Upper Arkansas River Basin—Maybe there is finally some push back on the desire to kill predators willy nilly in the name of preserving game species or protecting livestock. 

First Quarter Progress on My 2021 Personal Goals

Three months into another coronavirus year and it is time to take stock of how I am doing against my personal goals.  Check out the progress below:

  1. Read 60 books—24 books down.
  2. Ride 3,000 miles on my bicycle—38.77 miles so far.  Obviously, this is a weather and seasonally dependent goal.
  3. Ride 3 “new to me” trails—Nothing to report so far.
  4. Local, direct, and packaging free beer—Save for my impulse purchase of a case of Costco Kirkland Signature beer I was keeping it local in 2021.
  5. No new car in 2021—Fail.  After nine months of reduced car ownership the reality of kids’ activities putting us in two different states at the same time set in.  Combined with a killer deal on the Subaru Outback my wife wanted put us back into the car ownership column.  We tried.
  6. Less lawn, more life—Stay tuned.
  7. Deeper decarbonization—The first three months have been interesting.  Our household electricity usage seems to be running ahead of the prior year, which is not surprising given that the first quarter of 2020 was not impacted by coronavirus.  Add in a wicked cold snap in February 2021 and a person ends up in a different spot.  We ended the quarter about 641 kWh “in the red” versus 346 kWh “in the red” for the same period the prior year.  Looking to turn net positive in April.  On the good side, my wife and I worked 59 days from home saving ~2,259 miles of commuting and thereby avoiding 3,012 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Other than our epic fail of not buying a new car in 2021, I would venture to say that we are doing pretty well so far.

Routine Maintenance on Your Electric Vehicle

If you are new to owning an electric vehicle there is one aspect of EV ownership that you will come to appreciate a little bit after the joy of not stopping for gas or the joy of instant torque wears off.  It is the lack of routine maintenance.

When you own an EV gone are the days of oil changes at 3,000 or 5,000 or whatever interval your manufacturer has chosen.  Gone are routine replacements of air filters.  Gone are the dreaded 30,000- or 60,000-mile maintenance milestones that Subaru owners can yell you all about.

However, there is one little thing that no one probably thought to tell you about: the cabin air filter.  I do not know what the normal replacement cycle for one of these elements is normally, but I do know that on our prior Subaru Outback I replaced the cabin air filter once per year.  Excessive?  Maybe, but I was always surprised to see how much junk was stuck in the filter.

On my secondhand Nissan Leaf, which I have owned for a little more than 26 months and ~15,500 mile, I have no idea when or if the original cabin air filter had been replaced.  So, it was with great trepidation, that I endeavored to replace whatever lurked underneath the dash.

For those of you familiar with the Nissan Leaf’s cabin air filter it will come as no shock as to just how awful the placement of one of the few consumable items can be on a car.  The “easy” method involves backing out ten screws and removing two panels to essentially remove the entire glove box assembly.  From there you can “easily” access the small door that hides the cabin air filter.  There is a reason why this is a $100 or so repair at your local dealer.

Well, this is ugly:

Some cabin air filters are grey in color from activate charcoal impregnating the filter media, but this is just old and dirty:

You can see from this angle the white color the filter started as and the near black color that it is in some spots.

Slide the new cabin air filter into the door and reverse the prior steps.  Voila!  Still, who made the design choice to have to basically remove half of the lower dashboard to access a filter?  I thought the Subaru Outback’s “through the glove box” design was flawed.  Not anymore.

Friday Linkage 4/2/2021

It is April.  With one shot of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine in my arm it almost feels like this spring has some hope.

Granted, I am not Florida man Matt Gaetz right now so my definition of hopeful could be a little different.  When someone consistently shows themselves to be a piece of human garbage do not be surprised when they sink lower than you thought possible.  There is no route low enough for people like Gaetz or Gosar or Trump.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Republicans Trumpet Elements of Covid-19 Relief Bill they Voted Against—This is the Republican Party in a nutshell.  Trying to have things both ways is a right of passage for today’s right wing.  Remember, modern Republicans are not trying to get the votes of the average voter but rather the extreme partisans who vote in primaries in gerrymandered districts.  Granted, these are the same people who equate proof of vaccination with the “mark of the beast.” 

Medical Marijuana is Popular with Everyone, Except Iowa Lawmakers—Iowa’s Republican Party is like a microcosm of the national party.  These no talent ass clowns are out passing bills that are unpopular in order to satiate their rabid base while ignoring issues that the entire state agrees upon.  The sad thing is that people will reflexively vote for these same politicians despite their disagreements because…uh…reasons?

The Coming Disruption: The Global Alternative Energy Megatrend—Read the book.  It’s a monster.  It’s also a fairly hopeful look into our energy future.  Fifteen years from now we look at ICE cars like classic collector items?  Yes, please. 

What’s Good for the Ocean May Also Be Good for Business—There is a business model that can achieve many of our goals.  We need to embrace these possibilities.

‘The Urgency Is Immense’: Wind And Solar Power Double In 5 Years, But Countries Are Clinging To Coal—What will things look like if we could double wind and solar in less than 5 years and repeat the feat several times more?  I do not know, but that is a future I want to embrace.

China Generated Over Half World’s Coal-Fired Power in 2020—It might not matter what we do if China keeps burning coal like crazy.

Scotland’s Renewable Energy Matched 97 Percent of Demand in 2020—Scotland—a magical land where the national animal is a freaking unicorn—did not reach its goal of 100% renewable energy in 2020.  It did reach 97% renewable energy.  I am going to give them the win.

The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet—Can we finally kill the whole biomass as a green power alternative?

Can Offshore Wind Energy Deliver Power To Millions Of Americans?—People act like offshore wind is new.  Europe has been doing this for years.  In 2020 there was over 8,000 MW of offshore wind capacity in the U.K. with another 10,500 or so in the pipeline.  That’s more wind power in the pipeline than is on the ground in Iowa and no one is questioning if wind power is viable in Iowa.

Lockdown did not Reduce Air Pollution from Tire Wear in London—The story of pollution from our driving is not limited to what comes out of the tailpipe.  The wear of tires from movement on pavement releases small particles as well that are harmful to our health.

Forget the End of Internal Combustion; Let’s Cancel Commuter Culture—If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that commuter culture is the worst.  You might not enjoy working from home, but almost no one misses the commute to the office.

Cycling is Ten Times More Important than Electric Cars for Reaching Net-Zero Cities—The humble bicycle is our climate hero.

All Eyes On $4 Million Diesel-Killing Hydrogen Locomotive In California—Every gallon of diesel that can be replaced by electricity or hydrogen is a good thing.  Diesel is just an air pollution bad actor.

Solar Panels and Water Canals Could Form a Real Power Couple in California—Before anyone tries this out, let’s consider how many acres of surface parking lots exist in California.  Why not cover those in solar panels first?

St. Louis Startup says it’s Developed Eco-Friendly ‘cash cover crop’ to Add to Corn-Soybean Rotation—Cover crops work, but farmers generally do not make any bankable income from the effort so the practice is not widespread.

President Biden’s Trustbusters Aren’t Just Experts on Tech. They Know About Big Ag.—Big Ag is a big problem in the United States.  These monstrous companies squeeze farmers—who shoulder most of the production risk—on both the supply and demand side of the equation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Illegally Paid for Colorado Predator Hunt, Judge Rules—The people at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service act like they are the personal executioners for ranchers in the western United States.

March 2021 Solar Production and EV Efficiency…Almost Back to Even

Well, it has been a little more than a year since most of the United States started this whole “dealing with a pandemic” thing.  For my family, the moment we will always anchor the pandemic’s start will be when Colorado closed all of its ski resorts in 2020 about two hours after we arrived in Winter Park for what was supposed to be spring break.  About thirty-six hours later we were at home where we have been for the last year.

The interesting thing to watch over the past year—if you are into worrying about your electricity consumption—is how our patterns of consumption have changed due to spending so much time at home.  We have very little so-called leakage of electricity where we shift our home’s use to a workplace.  In fact, we have none of that anymore since we have not gone into the office in over a year.

So, how did we do in March:

Just under 689 kWh for the month.  Compared with consumption that put us about 7 kWh “in the red.”  This was, interestingly, a lot worse than the same month the prior year.  The weather—colder than the prior year—and some space heating—my wife moved her “office” downstairs where it gets cold no matter the season—contributed to our increased electricity consumption.  Also, my kids were baking fiends last month.  I think that they were making something in the oven at least three nights a week for the entire month.

For the year, my household is ~641 kWh “in the red” with better months of solar production to come.  I hope that with mild spring temperatures, sunnier days, and less baking we can move back into net positive territory soon.  It also makes me want to install another array of solar panels on my roof to really knock things out of the park on a monthly basis.

The converse side of the coronavirus equation is that we are driving a lot less.  So much less that we sold my wife’s car in June 2020.

For the month of March we drove the Nissan Leaf ~577 miles at an average efficiency of 5.1 kWh per mile.  This was down ~11.5% versus the same month a year ago.  It is highly doubtful that I will be down in mileage compared to April and May 2020 when we drove less than 200 miles per month due to lockdowns.

Assuming I pulled all of my electricity for the Nissan Leaf from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region, I calculate that I “avoided” ~656 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.  For the year, making the same assumptions about carbon intensity, I have “avoided” ~1,579 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.  This is all compared versus driving my truck.

The crazier thing is just how many miles we have “avoided” by not going into work on a daily basis.  So far in 2021 we have not commuted to work for 59 days—not including vacation, holidays, and what not—which has resulted in not driving ~2,259 miles and not emitting ~3,013 pounds of carbon dioxide between the two commutes our household used to undertake.

Books I Read in the First Quarter of 2021

My goal was to read to read 60 books in 2021.  Three months in and I have read 24 books.  Is this the year that I break 100 books?  We shall see.  Below is what I have completed in the first quarter of the year:

Note: I borrowed most of these books from one of several local libraries.  If you click on a link and buy a books from Powell’s I receive nothing.  I am just linking to an independent online bookseller because I am down on Amazon.

Friday Linkage 3/26/2021

The Republican Party in Iowa is a hoot.

As if America did not have a problem with too many firearms in the hands of too many people Republicans in Iowa decided that the mere inconvenience of having to get a permit to purchase a pistol or carry a weapon was just too much.

Republicans in Iowa also do not like people getting unemployment.  The benefits are apparently too generous in their opinion, so despite public opinion against the policy move they are going to cut benefits.  I am sure that if someone could tie unemployment benefits to expanded gun ownership they would be all over it like white on rice.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Ancient Greenland Cave Sediments Contain a Climate Change Warning—It’s going to be a strange planet that we live on fairly soon.

The Fossil Fuel Industry Would Be Screwed Without the U.S. Government Propping It Up—I have an idea for progressives and conservatives alike: end the subsidies.  Whether direct or indirect, tax deduction or credit, reduced lease payment or lower royalties…end them all.

Gasoline Demand May Have Already Peaked Thanks to the Pandemic—Uh oh.  You need to remember that making money off of oil and gas refining is a tricky business.  If refiners start losing money off of one portion of the process then the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

Volkswagen Will Use Hydrometallurgy To Recycle 95 Percent Of A Cell—If batteries are the most expensive part of an EV then figuring out how to recycle the constituent components of a battery is essential to bringing the price down.

Rooftop Solar in California is Ready to Take the Next Step—It will be interesting to see how California’s market for residential solar develops over the next few years.  An important consideration in California is the deployment of battery storage at the residential level due to the threat of periodic blackouts in high fire conditions.

Electric Semi Trucks Are Actually Cheaper Per Mile Than Diesel Trucks, Report Finds—This is where EVs begin to crush gas and diesel demand.  As fleet operators work their spreadsheets and see the cost savings there is going to be a rush on the order books.

DIA has Oil and Gas Rigs that Aren’t Producing any Oil or Gas. Denver just Approved $4 million to Keep Taking Care of Them.—Oil field services companies make money drilling well, pumping wells, and “managing” dormant wells.  It must be good to be the arsonist, firefighter, and rebuilding contractor rolled into one.

Lawmakers Consider Banning Minnesota’s Most Widely used Pesticide—Chlorpyrifos is not nice stuff.  Study after study have shown that it persists in the environment and poses a threat to humans, particularly children who are still developing.  You can bet a coalition of companies—headlined by Koch Industries—will line up in opposition.

The American Obsession with Lawns—It is spring in the American Midwest, so that means the lawn care death march has begun for millions of households.  The small engines will be belching noxious smoke, broadcast spreaders will be showering the landscape with petrochemicals, and I will just watch in horror.  Man, I hate lawns.

Trawling for Fish May Unleash as Much Carbon as Air Travel, Study Says—Ban trawling tomorrow.  Simple.

That Salmon on Your Plate Might Have Been a Vegetarian—If salmon can be vegetarians, why can’t you?

Feeding Cows Seaweed could Cut Their Methane Emissions by 82%, Scientists Say—The first step is to eat less beef.  The greenest cow is the one that was not born to be slaughtered.  If you must eat beef, and as someone living in the United States there is an obsession with this particular meat, then make it the least worst beef you can.

Who are the Biggest Tax Cheats? The 1% — and Here’s How They Get Away with It—The rich really are not like you and me.  They can break the law and get away with it all under the guise of “tax avoidance.”  It’s like a Wall Street trading firm engaging in high speed trading.  If you or I used privileged information to trade we would be charged with insider trading, but when traders do the same thing it is called high speed trading.

‘Our biggest challenge? Lack of imagination’: the Scientists Turning the Desert Green—Our collective lack of imagination is front and center in so many aspects of modern life.  We lack the ability, broadly speaking, to be amazed and filled with wonder so we spend our time in the morass of the mundane.

Stuff I Life: Mr. Scrappy

For more than a year most Americans have been spending almost all of their time at home.  If these Americans are anything like me it means that they are spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  With almost every meal being prepped and cooked at home save for a few nights of takeout I have been laser focused on the cleanliness of my kitchen

Things were never dirty, but I have adopted the night time ritual of shutting down the kitchen.  My wife thinks it is a placeholder for being able to control anything outside of the house.  There is probably some truth to that theory, but I also like having a clean kitchen every morning.

Part of that routine is cleaning my sink.  It is a single bowl composite sink.  A few minutes with some soapy water and a Scrub Daddy is all it takes to get things ready for the next morning.  Running hot, soapy water down the disposal feels good but I was wondering if it was actually helping to clean things.

Enter Mr. Scrappy:

Silly name, but for about $15 it works wonders.  The somewhat phallic shape fits perfectly into the garbage disposal opening where buildup occurs.  Work the brush around the sides of the disposal with copious quantities of soapy water and you will be surprised what comes up for air:

I apologize for not having a picture of the sliminess that I scrubbed off the first time I used Mr. Scrappy.  Trust me, it was a little disturbing that there was that much grime in a sink that I clean every night.

I do not use Mr. Scrappy every night.  It seems like a twice weekly sort of task.  It will be interesting to see if this extra cleaning helps with the drain flies of the summer season.

While you are at it: clean the black rubber noise baffle.  That thing is like a slime fest after even a couple of days.  Ugh.

Note: I purchased Mr. Scrappy with my own money and receive nothing in return for writing about this product.  It’s just something that took care of a problem at a reasonable price.

Friday Linkage 3/19/2021

You have to love Iowa Republicans.  Following an election where they maintained control of state government, took 2 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats, retained a seat in the U.S. Senate, and voted for Donald Trump by a greater than 8 point margin they have decided that there are some real problems in the state.

Despite their electoral success and high turnout—third highest in the nation at 78.6% of eligible voters—Republicans in the state legislature have decided to work on bills that would reduce the number of early voting days, close polls an hour earlier on election day, and generally make it harder for people to vote.

All of these changes were supported by the governor, who has mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic in the state on so many levels that the only thing not making her the object of scorn nationwide is that Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis are out there doing their thing.

Remember, Republicans only what certain people to vote because only those certain people are “real” Americans.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

Republicans Shamelessly Take Credit for Covid Relief they Voted Against—You have to love Republicans in 2020.  They have to satisfy their plutocrat interests while appearing to actually care about the populist voters of the Trump wing of the party.  How exactly they are going to keep this up is anyone’s guess.

U.S. Solar Saw Record Growth during the Pandemic Year—Here is the deal: solar is cheap.  Once installed, it pumps free electrons into the grid.  Free of emissions and free of cost.

Doubling Uptake of Wind and Solar Power could set up Australia for Net Zero Emissions by 2040—I do not think it will happen, but the blueprint seems feasible.

Commercial Truck Electrification is within Reach—If I were making policy I would abandon incentives for personal EVs and focus every dollar on commercial vehicle EVs.  These are smaller fleets that are run by managers focused on lower total cost of ownership and the vehicles they use are responsible for a larger share of emissions when compared with automobiles.

These 10 Golden Rules for Planting Trees Could Help Save the Planet—Follow the best practices and get to planting trees.

The Environmental Perils of Road Salt—This stuff is surprisingly bad.

Road Salt Contaminating Dubuque Waterways—A little closer to home they are dealing with the same problem.

Making Buildings Energy Efficient Just got Harder—This is one of those boring but important stories that will have impacts across the United States.  It is amazing how moneyed interests win the day.

First Microwave-Powered Home Boiler could Help Cut Emissions—Boilers are boring.  Boilers are extremely important in combating emissions.  This seems like an ideal solution to replace gas fired boilers.

Idaho State Lands could End Up in Private Hands—I have no doubt that rich people will get what they want from government at the expense of everyone else.  It is the American way.

Here’s Even More Evidence That Plant Protein Is Better for You Than Animal Protein—Haven’t we gotten to the point where the science is fairly established that there is no biological reason for us to be eating meat?  Our meat obsession is a completely social construct.

Special Brew: Eco-Friendly Peruvian Coffee Leaves Others in the Shade—The idea of shade grown coffee is not new, but understanding why it is important is as critical as ever.

A Pain-Free Way to Cut Down on the Stuff in Your Home—We all own too much dam stuff.  Every time I drive past a self-storage place I wonder what people are paying to store in these sad little units.

“Empowering” My Ass— It’s all about selling you some shit.  Everyone is just pimping some shit.

The Breezer Got a New Pair of Shoes

With the 2021 riding season right around the corner I installed a new set of tires on my trusty Breezer Radar.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have already started riding the local roads and trails so I guess the season has begun.

For the upcoming year I replaced my well worn WTB Venture 40C tires with WTB Byway 40C tires:

Both sets of tires were setup as tubeless with Orange Seal Endurance latex sealant.

The tubeless setup on the Byways was a little troublesome.  The folding bead on both tires did not want to seat even when using a compressor.  I was forced to remove the tubeless valve cores, use a tube to seat the bead, and remove one side of the tire to complete the tubeless setup.  A pain the rear, yes but worth it for the advantages conferred by tubeless tires.  Interestingly, the Byways show almost no sealant bubbling through the casing whereas the Ventures had little blobs of sealant all over.

My decision to go with the Byways, which have a smooth center section, was based on the increasing number of paved miles I ride.  It seems like every season it takes me a little longer to get away from the pavement.  This year the pavement on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is expected to be extended a few miles northward again.  Progress, I guess.

As the riding season progresses I will update everyone on these tires.  My initial impressions from a single 20 mile ride on pavement was that these tires feel faster and corner more smoothly than the Ventures.  When cornering there feels like there is a lack of a “flop” when transitioning across the tread’s profile.  For anyone who remembers the more square profile mountain bike tires of the 1990s the “flop” will be a not so pleasant memory.

Below you will see how my tires have weathered the riding season so far: