Friday Linkage 6/14/2019

What the actual shit?  This is the Secretary of State of the United States of America telling the public that the solution to climate change is to move to different places. Oh, and the travel time for goods shipped between continents might be slashed because of the lack of sea ice.  I am sure everyone is going to be comforted knowing that their 65” television from China is getting here a little faster as they roast in a climate hellscape.

On to the links…

Report: Global Emissions At 7-Year High—Well, fuck.

EPA’s 3 Dirty Tricks to Undermine Regulation (and Why They Probably Won’t Work)—  We live in an alternate reality now where dirty is clean, good is bad, and facts are fake.

U.S. Renewable Power Capacity Surpasses Coal For The First Time—Buried in all the grim news are some glimmers of hope.

Here’s Proof That Electric Cars Are Displacing Gasoline—Demand destruction is a bitch.  Once that demand is gone it is not coming back and fossil fuel companies are starting to come to that realization.  These are millions of gallons of gasoline demand just…poof…gone from the market:

fotw1081_grande.png

Australia Missing Out on Huge Cuts in Emissions through Energy Efficiency Failure—Basically, if we just were more efficient with the energy that we already produce we could make major headway toward reducing emissions.  Using less energy to begin with is the first step in a net zero emission future.

Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease.—Our modern society is just a joke.  We have become nothing more than money lungs bent on consumption of crap.

US Offshore Wind Race Heats Up, Now Connecticut In The Mix—To get to a zero net emission future offshore wind has to be part of the renewable energy portfolio.

Follow The Money: Global Investors Flee Coal Power Like A Hot Potato—Get used to the term stranded assets.  It essentially means assets that have no value because there is no buyer in the marketplace.  You may have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a coal mine only to find that its value is zero  because there is no other party willing to invest.  What the market giveth the market can taketh away.

Renewlogy Turns Low-Grade Plastic into Usable Fuels—We have a plastic waste problem on this planet.  I do not know if turning plastic waste into a liquid fuel is the right idea, but it is better than anything that we are doing right now.

ALDI Ranks First Out of 20 Retailers for Reducing Single-Use Plastic—This is kind of like winning an ugliest dog contest.  Yes, you are a winner.  However, it is for being an ugly dog.

Processed Foods are a Much Bigger Health Problem than we Thought—Maybe that hokey diet advice about not eating ingredients you cannot pronounce was not that hokey after all.  Maybe there is no reason for PopTarts to exist.

Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?—A bigger house will not make you happier.  A grill with twelve burners and a Bluetooth meat thermometer will not make you happier.  As a matter of fact most stuff will not make you any happier beyond the initial sugar rush of the initial purchase.  Get off the hedonistic treadmill.

Climate Change I Have Known—Climate change is real and its impacts on our lives are noticeable.

Your Coffee-Buying Habit Could Hamper Your Retirement—It is important to think about personal finance in terms that people can understand.  Retirement for most people is something so far away that we fail to understand just how powerful actions taken today can be in setting us up for future success.

Advertisements

Friday Linkage 6/7/2019

Do we live in an alternate reality?  Watching Donald Trump and his family pretend to be royalty on a state visit to the United Kingdom was maybe one of the most disturbing things I have witnessed in recent memory.

It was not as bad as horrible laws passed to punish people based on archaic religious views that have no place in American government.  It was not as jarring as seeing pictures of asylum seekers being ripped from their children to satisfy the base desires of rabidly racist political base.  It was, however, disturbing on a different level.

Donald Trump believes, deep down in his little shriveled soul, that he is analogous to the Queen.  You can see it in his face when he poses with his children in formalwear that the entire corrupt brood feels as if they are American royalty.  Blue collar billionaire my ass.  Donald Trump is a dime store duke or ersatz earl.

On to the links…

The Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less—I think this has less to do with overtly saving the planet and more to do with realigning our human existence.  What has our obsession with every increasing workloads in the name of economic growth done for us lately?  Who is happier?  Who is healthier?  Outside of a few billionaires reaping the benefits of our labors I would endeavor to say that almost no one is better off.

Donald Trump Is Sending Park Rangers to the Border to Help Enforce His Immigration Policies—What the f*ck?  Charles Blow in the New York Times pretty much nailed it when he wrote that every action by this administration is an effort to shore up the continued dominance of conservative white control.

Coal Plants Are a Dying Breed—Despite his best efforts or, maybe because of his best efforts given his track record of business failures, coal is dying.  Check out the chart:

blog_paris_goals_2020_2030.jpg

Now, every wind turbine and solar panel we can install is another kWh we take away from coal.

How California Became Far More Energy-Efficient than the Rest of the Country—This is why Donald Trump and his administration want to hamstring California’s legal right to set its own efficiency targets.  It works.  Less electricity demand means less need for coal.

We Electrified Everything (and So Can You)—This is the personal climate action plan that everyone needs to adopt:

  1. Electrify everything possible in your life
  2. Use as little of those electrified things as possible
  3. Produce as much electricity from your roof as possible

It sounds simple because it is.

Massachusetts Looks to Beef Up Commitment to Offshore Wind—The east coast of the United States is not a good place for onshore wind.  However, offshore wind could put a lot of renewable energy within close geographic proximity to millions of people.

Chile’s Cheap Power – Sign Of A Solar Future?—These prices for solar power are scary low.  Scary for coal and scary for natural gas.  I love the last line in the article: “And that means the future is electric, renewable and, best of all, cheap.”

Diving Gas Costs Spark Potential Rare Switch Away From Coal in Japan—Coal cannot survive in a world where other energy sources are cleaner and less expensive.

Ford Recycles 1.2 Billion Plastic Bottles a Year for Auto Parts—It is a proverbial drop in the bucket, but I wonder if there is an idea here to help create a real market for recycled plastics.  If there is a market for Kardashians there has to be a market for recycled plastics.

NREL Scientists have a Plan to Fight Ocean Plastic: Upcycle it into Something Valuable—Create a market and people will be all over recycling plastic.

Woman Collects 2.4 Tons of Trash on Nova Scotia Beaches in 1 year—If one person can collect more than 2 tons of trash in a year, what can we accompolish as a community dedicated to environmental restoration?

Lyft Offers Free EV Charging to Portland Drivers—I do not know if Uber and Lyft are in this for the long haul given their money losing business models, but this cannot do anything but help increase the adoption of EVs.  Furthermore, if more people are exposed to EVs that is a good thing.

A Pioneer of Battery-Powered Trains Now Wants a Nationwide Fleet of Them—Electrifying transportation is not just about personal automobiles.

The Preachers Getting Rich from Poor Americans—These sons of bitches still exist and are fleecing poor people out of their money.  If you are a pastor and you fly on a private jet you have failed to read and understand the gospel of Jesus.

Why You Want Oysters and a Salt Marsh between You and a Hurricane—Here’s an idea: why don’t we deploy these natural solutions to as many places as possible rather than blindly rebuilding communities in the paths of ever more destructive hurricanes.  It’s not like we can keep building castles in swamps until they stop sinking.

Students in the Philippines must Plant 10 Trees to Graduate—Reminds me of the part in Ecotopia where someone wanting to build a house needed to spend time planting and harvesting trees in order to obtain the building materials.  Would the world be a better place where we understood the origin of the things we consume?

Urban Forests are Dying. Baltimore Shows us How to Bring them Back.—We are urban creatures now.  We need to preserve and regenerate our urban forests.  It is not an impossible task.

The Death of “Middle Craft” Beer

American craft brewing legend Dogfish Head Brewery, the mad geniuses from Delaware, sold to Boston Beer, the parent company that brews Sam Adams Boston Lager among many other beers.  Neither brewery should be considered a micro-brewery, but neither is a macro-brewery.  They both exist in some kind of middle ground.  Being in that middle ground may mean death or consolidation going forward.

Apparently, the top 50 craft brewers are having trouble with many posting severe year-over-year declines.  These are the craft brewers that I would define as “middle craft.”  The challenge for these breweries is giving you the beer drinker a reason to try them over, say, a handful of hyper local breweries that may only sell products from their own taproom or a few commercial accounts.

In the past—okay, the 1990s—middle craft was the place to be as beer drinkers sought out different beers and the quality control at a lot of craft breweries was just bad.  I cannot tell you how many small breweries were making beer that would make most semi-skilled home brewers spit out their stout.  You sought out a New Belgium Fat Tire or Boulevard Wheat because those were well made beers from breweries you trusted.  You knew you were not going to waste $8 on a six pack.  Heck, you might even pick up something a little unusual from the same brewery when you were in the mood for a change.

That dynamic is long gone.  Award winning breweries are scattered across this nation.  Between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City I can patronize a half dozen breweries putting out good and sometimes great beer.  Those same breweries have won medals at prestigious beer festivals and have reputations well beyond the borders of the state.  Expanding my field of view to the entire state opens up a whole host of small, innovative, and well regarded breweries making all sorts of different beers.  If you do not believe me just spend a minute perusing the tap list at the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines.

All things being equal, why would I buy a New Belgium Citradelic over a Lion Bridge Brewing Tag?  Or, why would I buy a Dale’s Pale Ale over a Big Grover Brewery Arms Race?  I like all four of the aforementioned beers.  I choose to buy the local products almost every time.

This is the reality for the beer business in 2019.

May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

share_image__03_Jun_2019__07-35-25

Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/31/2019

It’s the last day of May, which means the high summer is just around the corner.

The crazy thing is that my summer trip to the Rocky Mountains is being altered by the presence of snow from this amazing winter.  The recpath through Ten Mile Canyon is closed due to avalanche debris removal.  Several 14er summits are closed until late summer (e.g. August) because of snowpack.

However, A-Basin might still be open by the time I roll into Summit County so I have that going for me.

On to the links…

Energy Department says Gas Permit Promotes ‘Molecules of Freedom’—That’s right kids, for those of you too young to remember “freedom fries” the Orwellian Trump administration has now rebranded natural gas as “freedom molecules.”  You cannot make this stuff up.

Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever—The market has spoken.  Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.  The future is now.

The Billion-Dollar Coal Bailout Nobody Is Talking About: Self-Committing In Power Markets—The price wars have been won and renewables beat coal.  Now, market forces are being superseded by back door shenanigans.

Rich Farmers, Not Mom-and-Pop Farms, Will Collect Most of Trump’s Tariff Bailout—This is America under Trump.  The rich get bailouts and everyone else is left holding the check.  Don’t believe me?  Ask any contractor that has ever done work with Trump.

Mining Has Been King in Idaho for Generations. A Little-Known Law Might Stop That.—Mining is king across the west.  Outdoor recreation is the new king.

The Bus Wars are Over. Electricity — and China — Won.—Here’s the thing, anyone can buy a lot of electric buses.  Just because China has “won” so far does not mean that another country cannot leapfrog.  The energy transition is not a zero sum game where there must be a winner for every loser.

Visualization: 2012–2019 US Electric Car Sales (This Is A Must See)—This image is just fun to watch.

EV Charging Sites Now Outnumber Petrol Stations in UK—Never mind the plugs available in many homes.  If you build it, the people will come.

Algae: Single-Celled Savior Of The Climate Crisis—I feel like we have been talking about algae as a source for oils and other compounds for decades with the breakthrough just around the corner.  The problem is that we never seem to turn the corner.

A Major US Utility is Moving Toward 100% Clean Energy Faster than Expected—This is happening under a Trump administration.  Imagine how fast the transition could be under a progressive president.  I am hoping that the last few years have been storing up momentum for the transition like winding a spring.  Once some barriers are removed it will be like letting go of a slingshot.

Illinois Will Make Polluters Pay for Coal Ash Cleanup—How expensive will coal be for utilities when they are forced to pay for the cleanup of the leftovers?

The Ticket to 100% Renewable Power is Underneath Our Feet—Geothermal energy is the unloved member of the renewable energy family.  Part of it is that I think the technology, at face value, resembles fossil fuel electricity generating plants and even utilizes some of the same drilling technology.  However, geothermal is green and it is base load power.

Cool Your Home Without Air Conditioning—It’s almost air conditioning season here in the Midwest, although a cool and wet spring has moderated that arrival somewhat.  Just going a little bit longer without turning on the AC can be a big energy saver.

Scientists Develop a Super-Strong Wood that Completely Reflects the Sun’s Heat—How do I get siding made of this material?

Friday Linkage 5/24/2019

You may not believe climate change is here and you may not believe that the strange weather we have seen this spring is the future, but I have seen what our flagrant disregard for science has wrought and it is not pretty.

Rain events that were once rare are now common.  Floods in Iowa are an annual or more regular occurrence.  My prediction is that after a wet and cold spring we will have a hot and dry summer.  Nothing like a little baking heat and drought to bookend the seasons.

On to the links…

How the Baby Boomers Wrecked the Economy for Millennials—Let’s start a new trend where we replace “Millennials are killing…” with “Baby Boomers wrecked…”  Never has a generation produced so little when given so much and left such a mess for future generations to clean up.  As a member of the tail end of Generation X—whatever the hell that means anymore—I feel like we will spend the next twenty years sweeping up the rubble of Baby Boomers’ excess.

If 2020 Democrats Are Going to Be Serious About Climate, They Need to Cut Out Congress—The U.S. Senate is a retrograde institution run by a power hungry vestige of the post-Civil War southern power structure who cares for nothing other than his own political power.  The 2020 Democratic nominees need a plan that can be acted on from Day One in office.

Scientists Have Pinpointed the Mystery Source of an Ozone-Destroying Chemical—Trump may be wrong on almost everything, but his desire to realign our relationship with China may not be that awful.  His methods are crap, but there is something fundamentally rotten about the way that China does business.  Agreements are meaningless, business is paramount, everything else be damned…kind of sounds like the modern Republican Party.

Xcel’s Plan to 2030: Close Two Coal Plants, Extend Nuclear Plant, Add More Solar—Coal is dead.  It is just going to take some time for the dinosaur to roll over and actually know its dead.

Puerto Rico Got Rid of Its Coal Ash Pits. Now the Company Responsible Is Moving Them to Florida.—At what point can we just write off the entire state of Florida?  If there is a bad idea that has failed everywhere else, it will get a new lease on life in Florida.  If there is a grifter who has been run out of every town in America, that person will eventually end up somewhere in Florida.

Critics Question Ethics Behind Impossible Burger’s Rapid Fast-Food Expansion—The purity police are out to get Impossible Foods now that they are working with fast food chains.  This is ridiculous.  Every animal based burger replaced with a plant based burger is a win.

Impossible Foods’ Rising Empire of Almost-Meat—The buzz is there.  Now it is time for Impossible Foods to see if they can execute in an efficient enough manner to actually scale their business.

It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain—Maybe the new guideline should be “If you cannot figure out how to make the food at home you should not eat that food.”  Can’t figure out how to make a homemade PopTart?  Do not eat a PopTart.

It is Solved by Walking—Just putting one foot in front of the other is a powerful choice in a world defined by our mechanized transport.

Americans Need More Bike Transit – And these Nonprofits are Bringing It—Bicycles are a humble solution to the problem of transportation emissions.

There Is No Excuse for You to Casually Drink Bottled Water—Outside of people dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, why are we even having this discussion about bottled water?

It’s Time to Embrace American Hemp Production—Did you have that guy in your dorm who always liked to tell you about the magic nature of hemp?  I remember that guy.  Maybe he was not so crazy after all.

Friday Linkage 5/17/2019

The race for the Democratic nomination to face off against Donald Trump in 2020 is officially ridiculous.  Bill De Blasio?  Really?  As if we needed another egomaniacal New Yorker running for the White House when it is already occupied by the worst version of that sort.

As the temperatures increase here in Iowa we are preparing to be deluged with candidates at every county fair, sporting event, Pizza Ranch…whatever.  If you get three registered Democrats together on a Tuesday night you could probably book at least one presidential hopeful.

Thank god I do not watch commercial television anymore.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—Minus some organizing for social causes, what good has social media brought us as a civilization?  I would argue it has done much more harm than good.  Who really gives a shit what someone you have never met on Instagram is doing?

Exxon Predicted 2019’s Ominous CO2 Milestone in 1982—Has there been a company more destructive to the planet than Exxon-Mobil?  These guys are behind every bad action regarding the climate since the dawn of time it seems.

The World Blows Over $5 Trillion a Year on Oil and Gas Subsidies—The next time your drunk Uncle Carl starts spouting off about the production tax credit or tax credits for residential solar arrays remind him about the subsidies that oil and gas companies utilize to distort the market.

The Hidden Subsidy of Fossil Fuels—The report above seems to have sent a lot of writers looking at the murky world of fossil fuel subsidies.  Happy hunting.

Future of Workers Uncertain as Third-Biggest US Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy—I will cut right to the punch line: workers will get screwed in this bankruptcy.  Workers get screwed every time.  Executives will get paid.  Heck, executives will likely get bonuses for some reason.  Workers will get screwed.

The Simple, Yet Elusive, Key To Fighting The Climate Crisis—Radical reforestation should be at the top of any agenda to stop the worst impacts of climate change.  What is the downside?  Extra trees?  Okay, I will take that downside risk.

Why Aren’t North Americans Buying Electric Cars?—I have an idea: it’s the dealers.  Seriously, have you ever been to a non-Tesla showroom to look at an EV?  Don’t do it because it is a horrifying experience.

Gas Car Sales ‘have already peaked and may never recover’ as Battery Prices Plunge—I can personally vouch that we likely bought our last internal combustion engine car in 2013.  My used Leaf has proven to be revelatory as a driving experience.  In a couple of years we will be looking to replace my wife’s Subaru Outback and the first choice will be an EV.

All Aboard the Electric Bus – Modern Public Transport Powered by Electricity is Coming Back—Buses are the humble players in the decarbonization game.  No one really thinks about the bus when compared with subways or light rail.  However, there is not quicker way to get carbon out of our transit than by replacing diesel buses with electric buses.

The Morning After: Germany Starts Testing its ‘Electric Highway’—This idea is simple, old school, and amazingly timely.

Toronto Restaurant Fights Waste By Chopping Menu Prices Till Food Is Gone—I just love this concept.

The Little Technology That Could—This is one those technologies that makes you ask, “Why is this not a requirement for every large building?”  The answer is that it costs more money up front and builders are looking to put up buildings in the cheapest manner possible.  Just look at the newly opened Hudson Yards in New York City.

Could You Live a Low Carbon Life? Meet the People Who Already Are—Reducing our carbon footprint does not mean going back to some stone age like existence.  It is about eliminating the most wasteful aspects of our modern life.

Metal Straws, Mason Jars, Bamboo Forks: Do You Have to Buy More Stuff to Go Zero Waste?—Be wary of anyone who tells you that in order to reduce your consumption you need to buy something first.  It’s a lie.  Just stop using the thing you want to stop using.

How Recreation Boosts the Economy—As the extraction economy of the western United States winds down the number one driver of economic activity will be outdoor recreation.