Friday Linkage 12/8/2017

I am glad to see that Chuck Grassley, one of the most hypocritical members of the Senate, thinks that anyone who does not benefit from the estate tax repeal is just someone spending the money on booze, women, and going to movies.

Hey loyal viewers of Fox News and other right wingers, this is what your elected officials think of you when they take the time to actually think about someone other than the mega rich donor class.  Your opinion, desires, and hopes only matter so long as it enables clowns like Chuck Grassley to keep getting elected and lining the pockets of his donors.

BTW, Chuck Grassley likes to point out that the estate tax endangers Iowa family farms but the reality is quite different.

I will save you the hassle of reading the article.  Every year approximately 1.4 million Iowans file tax returns and, depending upon the year, approximately 30 to 60 are subject to the estate tax.  Chuck Grassley is worried about the smallest percentage of Iowans it is not even funny.  Like strange mathematical results small percentage.

On to the links…

Ryan Zinke Memo Signals Trump’s Attack on Public Lands is Just Getting Started—This issue needs to be the rocks upon which the Donald Trump presidency falters.

Senate Tax Measure Helps President Trump Pivot Away from Clean Energy and Back to Fossil Fuels—Never mind the jobs in renewable energy and, heaven forbid, you think about climate change in a realistic manner for once.  This is about a final payoff to the fossil fuel interests that have greased the skids for people like Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

EPA Scuttles Rule on Mining Cleanup Funding—This is what you get from the party of “personal responsibility.”  Mine companies know that the cleanup costs from their waste will be borne by the public and it is how they model their financials.  The plan is to declare bankruptcy, move the productive assets to a new legal entity, and stick the liabilities for cleanup with the bankrupt company that communities, states, and the federal government have to deal with for decades more.

Trump Science Job Nominees Missing Advanced Science Degrees—How many times do Republicans get to say, “I’m not a scientist” right before offering an opinion on a complex scientific issue.

“Alternative Facts” about Climate Change—Let me tell you what Trump and his cronies are doing: lying.  Alternative facts is just an Orwellian…er, Trumpian way of saying lies.

Zinke Seeks Protections for Public Lands in his Home State While Attacking Utah Monuments—I guess you can add being a hypocrite to being a corrupt public official.

The Accelerating Market for Zero Emission Trucks—There is no better place to invest dollars in zero emission vehicles than heavy dirty commercial trucks.  A smallish fleet is responsible for a disproportionate share of emissions.

Electricity Sector No Longer Biggest Emissions Source In US — Guess What Is—This is why dealing with transportation emissions is such a big deal:

BNEF-Emission-chart-Dec-17-570x336.png

Iowa Might Lack Green Policy But It Still Beats Out California With Cleanest Power—This is a great look at power generation across states.  What this fails to see is that with the pipeline of projects in Iowa over the course of the next couple of years the percentage of power in Iowa generated from clean sources will be greater than 50%.

Wind Power Capacity Has Surpassed Coal in Texas—That is to say that clean energy from the wind is a bigger part of the mix than coal.  What do you think is going to happen in the future as coal gets more expensive and wind turbines keep producing electricity with no fuel costs?

As Coal Falters, Larimer County’s Largest Polluter Could Close its Doors—It looks like another one is going to bite the dust.

One of the Biggest US Oil Fields Turns to an Unexpected Power Source: Solar—This is one of those odd juxtapositions of old versus new.  The Belridge field in California is a monstrosity of Twentieth Century oil extraction.  It is also a huge user of energy as it takes a lot of power to coax black gold from the ground.

10 Stubborn Body Myths That Just Won’t Die, Debunked by Science—Please don’t pea on anything as a solution.  That is really my takeaway from this.

Advertisements

An Ugly Month for Solar in November

November was ugly.  Especially in terms of solar production from my rooftop solar photovoltaic system:

November 2017 solar.jpg

The production was nice and steady save for some real dog days when the system produced less than 3 kWh per day.  I am really surprised by the actual production numbers because the system is producing far below my calculated expectations, which were based on fairly pessimistic assumptions.

Like October there is a sort of silver lining.  Even though my photovoltaic system produced slightly more than 212 kWh for the month I consumed less than 300 kWh in total, including both grid and on-site consumption.  Considering how much the family has been staying at home and cooking at home I am going to consider this a victory.  It will be interesting to see what the numbers look like in December with a long holiday vacation at the end of the month.

On the bright side, it looks like solar is contagious.  Two new systems went live over the past week and I know of at least two more that are going live soon.  This is in addition to the several systems going up that I can see on my way to work.  Each one of these systems is like a little dagger in the black heart of the coal economy.

Friday Linkage 12/1/2017

Has America gone mad?  I am starting to wonder if this is the moment when this country turns toward ruin because its leadership is so disconnected from anything resembling coherence.  The current tax “reform” legislation winding its way through Congress is a thee day old salad bar of bad ideas cribbed from the plethora of failed Republican economic experiments going back to the 1980s.  The only hope that I have if this passes in anything near its current form is that it finally puts the dagger in the heart of any right winger being able to stand on anything that looks like economic principle.

Of course, I said the same thing when Donald Trump got elected about evangelicals and those clowns are falling in line to support Roy Moore because…’Merica!

On to the links…

Sam Brownback Trolls America: The Guy Who Wrecked Kansas is the GOP’s Role Model—Kansas is an abject failure of a state right now because Sam Brownback decided to remake the state in the image of Paul Ryan’s utopia of low tax, low quality life that he dreamed up while short pouring beers from kegs at fraternity parties.  No seriously bro, Ayn Rand was right about everything!

This Map Shows Exactly How Many Republicans in Your District Don’t Believe in Global Warming—These are the same people selling the lie that trickle down economics works.

How Could the Agung Volcano in Bali Affect Global Temperatures?—James Inhofe just got all excited because he might get to talk about snow in the winter again as some kind of perverted proof that climate change is not real.  No talent ass clown.  Notice the trend in temperatures from the chart?  Short term perturbations do not change the long term trend of warming.

Interior Department Mired in Investigations—In a few years the accounting will hold this current presidential administration as the most inept and corrupt in the history of the United States.  No amount of Twitter insults or Fox & Friends call ins will change the reality.

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses: Everything You Need to Know in One Lovely Chart—This is one of those charts to keep around and reference frequently:

estimated-u-s-energy-consumption-in-2016-graphic-lawrence-livermore-national-laboratory_100634001_l.jpg

Just look at the rejected energy total.  That essentially equals wasted energy.  Efficiency is the holy grail kids.

Solar Panel Prices Plunge by a Shocking 26 Percent in One Year—I thought that the downward trend in solar panel prices would level out, but at this rate we will just be able to put panels on whatever surface is available.  Oh, and wind is getting cheaper too.

U.S. Coal Industry Shows No Sign of Comeback—No matter what Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, or any other coal obsessed right wing stooge says coal is not coming back.  It’s fake news to say anything other than coal is in a long downward trend that will be almost impossible to come out of unless the fundamentals of economics change.

Oil and Gas Industry is Causing Texas Earthquakes, a “Landmark” Study Suggests—All that natural gas being pulled from the ground in places like Texas might also have been the cause of the ground literally breaking apart.  Awesome.

A Map of $1.1 Billion in Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks—Just remember, these are the same people who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline and others.

Solar Grid Parity For Australia By 2020 As Renewables Surge—That is just a little over two years away.  This means that in all of Australia solar will cost the same as coal or natural gas regardless of condition.  Now, imagine a scenario where natural gas prices spike.  Are Australians going to go back to coal or put up some more solar panels?

Australia Can Meet CO2 Emissions Target By 2030 With Renewables At Zero Net Cost—Net zero cost is the key term here.  When you replace fossil fuels with renewables you are trading a higher upfront cost for a lower long term cost because you no longer need to buy fuel, which tends to increase in cost as time goes on.  The long term tail costs are often excluded from a lot of comparison models because doing so favors fossil fuels.

Elon Musk bet that Tesla could Build the World’s Biggest Battery in 100 days. He Won.—Say what you will about Elon Musk and his affiliated companies, but the guy does bold in business in an era when bland is the rule of the day.

Iowa Airports Going Green, Saving on Energy Costs—Nearly $650K for a solar photovoltaic system is great.  That puts 240kWh system to make power to be consumed on site.  I think the real story if that just over $200K is being spent to reduce energy consumption by up to 80%.  Granted that project happened over six years ago it shows you the relative power of putting money into energy efficiency.

Look-alike Apartment Buildings in Northeast Minneapolis Showcase New Ideas in Energy Efficiency—Do we really need a demonstration like this to prove the benefits of building a well-designed energy efficient building?

These ‘Chilling’ Soviet Maps of San Francisco, Bay Area Likely Intended for the Communist Takeover—The world seems like a scary place right now, but this is a reminder of just how scary things were during the Cold War.

Friday Linkage 11/24/2017

I hope that you are catching up on this post on Monday after a long weekend with family and, hopefully, little to no shopping.  When did Thanksgiving become all about the shopping and not about the actual holiday?  I find it ironic or, perhaps, unsettling that a holiday associated with being thankful has been co-opted by the forces of consumerism.  Nothing is sacred.

Things are going to be a little light this week since I hope to spend Friday through Sunday outdoors with my kids getting ready for the upcoming ski season.  This is the time of year when we start layering up and spending hours outside to “prepare our bones” as my son says.  Hopefully you #OptOutside.

On to the links…

Colorado Springs still Rolls Coal in Heart of City, but may Shut Drake Plant by 2025—I have eaten at a quirky little restaurant beneath the shadow of the Drake’s smokestacks.  It is just odd that a huge coal power plant still operates in the midst of a growing city.  Apparently the people of Colorado Springs are starting to feel the same way.

New Global Survey Reveals that Everyone Loves Green Energy — Especially the Chinese—It looks like that we can agree that we all like clean energy and we all pretty much hate coal.  Sure there are some segments of the population who still like the genuflect before coal—ahem, Scott Pruitt—but, by and large, the world has moved on to clean energy.

Here’s a Road Map for Solving 3 of the World’s Biggest Problems—Here’s the punch line: decarbonize the energy sector in developing countries by skipping centralized grid paradigms in favor of distributed clean energy generation.

World’s Cheapest Solar Power to be Generated in Mexico—If Mexico can pull this off, why can’t Arizona and New Mexico do the same thing?

Cycling Downhill: Has Copenhagen hit Peak Bike?—Maybe you can actually have too many bicycles?

Tesla has Takers for Electric Semi: J.B. Hunt, Walmart, Grocery Chains—You can spend a lot of time getting individuals to buy electric vehicles or you could spend that same amount of time on a few commercial accounts.  Which do you think will have more impact?  According to the EPA heavy and medium duty commercial trucks account for 23% of all transportation emissions.

Friday Linkage 11/17/2017

It somehow ended up being more than halfway through November before I even realized that the time had passed.  Maybe I was spending too much time looking at opening dates for ski hills and poring over the long range snow forecasts.

On to the links…

100% Global Renewable Electricity No Longer Flight Of Fancy, More Cost-Effective Than Current System—The economics have turned.  Now all that remains to construct an energy system for the future is to amass the political will.  Obviously that is something that is easier said than done.

Richest 1% Now Owns Half the World’s Wealth—Well, that is depressing.  If you want to understand why politicians could care less about your desires as a voter or those of your community it is encapsulated in this statistic.  You do not grease the wheels of power because you do not have nearly the money that the 1% possesses.

One of the World’s Largest Mining Companies is Ditching Coal—These mines will probably be sold and will probably still be operational for a time.  The key fact to remember is that a giant, international company has decided that coal mines have no future and may become stranded assets sometime in the near future.

Subsidizing Coal, Nuclear Could Drive Customers Off-Grid—From the pages of the book of unintended consequences comes this little gem.  By making grid power more expensive in order to subsidize dying power regimes the genius of Rick Perry’s Department of Energy could hasten the death spiral of the centralized grid.

New Study Shows What Would Happen If the US Went Vegan—It’s just a model, but it is interesting to see what the ramifications would be of such a conversion.  I tend to think the more sustainable model would be a pseudo-vegetarian model with a focus on improved rangeland management, elimination of high fructose corn syrup production, and an emphasis on reduced food waste.

MidAmerican will Spend $1 billion ‘Repowering’ Oldest Wind Turbines—This seems like an amazing opportunity to take wind turbines that are already sited and have the infrastructure in place in an effort to get more power generated.  How many fifteen to twenty year old wind farms are out there that could use a “repowering?”

Tesla Powers Up Nantucket With Grid Storage Installation—Tesla may be a Ponzi scheme masquerading as a next-generation solutions type of company but damn if these guys aren’t out there pushing boundaries.  These are not PowerPoint presentations.  These are on the ground solutions that are operational.

California may Use 50 Percent Renewable Electricity by 2020, a Decade Ahead of Schedule—I am really amazed by this development.

4 Ways Cities can Become Climate Heroes—Cities and other municipalities can become the agents of change in the era when leadership at the state and federal level is in the hands of climate deniers more inclined to line the pockets of coal barons and oil companies than worry about the health and safety of millions of people.

Denver Votes to Require Environment-Friendly ‘Green’ Roofs—Amidst all of the election analysis there was no coverage of this little gem unless you were reading the Denver Post or other regional newspapers.  Now, “green roof” can mean plants but it can also mean solar energy.  Given 300 days of sunshine per year why isn’t every roof on the Front Range a green roof?

One Bitcoin Transaction Takes More Energy than a Household uses in a Week—We tend to think of virtual anything as “free.”  However, all of those cat videos, Jerry of the Day posts, and Bitcoins add up to some serious computer time that uses a lot of electricity.

Millennials Lose Taste for Dining Out, Get Blamed for Puzzling Restaurant Trend—We can blame millennials for a lot of things.  Especially avocado toast and everything else they feel compelled to put avocados on.  Avocados are not that great, so stop putting that vegetable snot in my sushi.  However, can we lay the blame for this trend on crap chain restaurants.  Does anyone really need to go to the Olive Garden or Chili’s?

Vail postpones Opening Day due to lack of snow—Well, fuck.  Even the 1% who frequent this mountain are going to be impacted by climate change.  It’s not too late to join Protect Our Winters kids.

Behold the Wonders of Rep. Louie Gohmert’s Conspiracy Chart—Louie Gohmert is one of the biggest no talent ass clowns in the history of American politics.  This is peak Louie Gohmert:

DD037DEA_D158_43AB_8D8D_FD9357D4606F.jpeg

Did he just sit back listening to Alex Jones on an endless loop and create a flowchart based on that stream of consciousness verbal vomit?  This is what passes for representation in America in 2017.

We Have More than Enough Money to Decarbonize Our Energy System

If I ever hear another American politician say that we cannot afford the transition to clean energy I will scream.  Why you ask?

In 2012 it was estimated that consumers in the U.S spent approximately $65 billion on soda.  In that same year it was estimated that consumers in the U.S. spent approximately $11 billion on bottled water.  [1] That is to say that American consumers spent over $75 billion on unnecessary drinks and, in the case of soda, a product that is generally regarded to be detrimental to your health.  Not to mention the environmental impact of disposable, single use containers.

Okay, why is that relevant in the terms of this discussion?  In 2016, the most recent year for which full year data is available, the U.S. invested $44 billion in clean energy including both private investing and government expenditure.  [2]

Therefore, we spend more than 50% more on soda and bottled water per year than we invest in clean energy.  If we just directed the money from soda and bottled water to clean energy investment it would represent an increase of 172%.  That is a lot of solar panels and wind turbines.

Someone may argue that this scenario is impractical, but I would challenge such an argument on several fronts.  One, spending on soda and bottled water—for the most part—is totally discretionary.  No one needs a Diet Coke to survive and other than emergency situations no one needs bottled water.  It could be argued that it would be better if no one consumed bottled water given the economic and environmental impact of a product that can also be obtained from municipal water supplies.  Two, by and large individuals now have the power to redirect their discretionary spending toward renewable energy.  As long as you have the capital or alternative financing arrangements are available you can put solar panels directly on your roof.  Thus, your Diet Coke and Evian habit can be turned into clean energy.  A direct substitution, so to speak.

My point is to illuminate that when we discuss the level of investment necessary to decarbonize our energy system it needs to be placed in direct comparison to some broader economic choices.  Is the future our planet worth skipping that Dr. Pepper?

  1. http://classroom.synonym.com/how-much-do-americans-spend-on-soft-drinks-12081634.html
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/us-2015-renewable-energy-investments-2016-5

In Defense of So-Called Unitaskers

Unitaskers are loathed by the kitchen cognoscenti, but I am here to come to the defense of unitaskers.  As someone who spends a lot of time cooking at home I have come to the realization that there are certain tasks best left to a specialized tool.  It is ironic that specialized tools for the kitchen receive so much scorn when specialized tools for many other endeavors are given little consideration as an affront to skill.

Here are two unitaskers that may have you scratching your head:

IMG_1267.JPG

On the left is a Kyocera ginger grater and on the right is a Le Creuset pie bird funnel.

Just get a knife to dice your ginger, says the guy who watches Top Chef and thinks he is suddenly a sous chef for Thomas Keller.  Suck it.  I cook with fresh ginger at least a couple of times a week and this little ceramic disc is godsend.

Instead of spending the time dicing, I simply peel about half of the ginger root and gently rub the peeled end along the abrasive middle section of the ceramic disc.  It takes maybe thirty seconds or a minute at most to get the ginger you need for almost any recipe.

The pie bird funnel is a something else entirely.  It does a single task that no other item can perform.  What does this cute little red bird do?  It redirects the steam from the inside of your pie, in my case usually it is an apple pie, and routes it through the mouth of the bird.  Amazingly you will not have any more bubbling messes around the edges of your pie and the shoulders of the bird support the top crust amazingly.

Yes, the pie bird funnel is an extreme unitasker.  However, like having the right tool for a certain job there is nothing that it can be compared to when doing its intended purpose.  You cannot remove an external bearing bottom bracket on a bicycle with a crescent wrench, you need the specific tool for that particular job.  If you want to make amazing apple pies at home with a full top crust then you will need to get a pie bird funnel.

Here is the thing, anything that helps us spend more time cooking meals at home with our families as opposed to spending time and money on going out is a good thing.  If there is a task that you hate in the kitchen that is an impediment to more home cooking then by all means find the unitasker that makes that task simpler.  I do not think it is wrong for people to use a garlic press to make a quick pasta sauce on a weeknight when the alternative is freaking take out.

NOTE: I receive no compensation whatsoever if you click on the link and buy one of these products.  I bought them with my own money and I am promoting them with no benefit to myself save knowing that people will use more ginger if they have a ginger grater.  Or bake more pies.  How could the world not be a better place if people were baking more pies?