Friday Linkage 2/23/2017

If you ever needed any more evidence that the “blue collar billionaire” Donald Trump does not have the capacity for empathy bare witness:

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This is also the same country where the state legislature in a state where a mass shooting had just taken place declared pornography to be a greater threat to public health than guns.  Do not tell me that it is because guns are protected under the 2nd Amendment because pornography is protected under the 1st Amendment.

On to the links…

Trump’s Cabinet has been Rocked by a Number of Ethics Scandals — here’s a complete guide—When the accounting is done in a little less than three years—my god, is it really that far away—the administration of Donald J. Trump will be regarded as an epic orgy of corruption and debasing of American values the likes of which has not been seen since Warren G. Harding.

At the Department of the Interior, Industry Lobbyists and Revolving-Door Operatives Shape Sage Grouse Policy—Ryan Zinke literally believes that by selling out America’s public lands to oil and gas interests that he can ride that corruption into the White House.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out.

Dirtier than VW Dieselgate: EPA Expands Loophole for Rebuilt—If there is a loophole these people are going to crack it wide open and let the soot fly.  Dirty Donnie and his merry band of oil soaked cronies are the absolute worst.

It’s Been One Year of Amazing Scott Pruitt Accomplishments, All of Them Horrible—Scott Pruitt is your environmental nightmare.  It is like central casting sent out a request for the worst person to be the head of an environmental agency and got Scott Pruitt in return.

Trump Can’t Kill Renewable Energy—Trump and his corrupt band of miscreants will try, but they will fail because their beloved market will speak.

100% Renewable Electricity Worldwide Is A New Cost-Effective Reality—As more countries get an increasingly larger share of electricity from renewable sources we are forced to reevaluate what is possible in terms of both technical feasibility and cost effectiveness when it comes to renewable energy penetration.  That is a good thing because the figures get better all the time.

World’s First Floating Wind Farm Performing Better than Anticipated—Large scale floating wind farms are fairly new technology, so a lot of the predictions about actual performance are based on modeling and assumptions without good real world data.  Now that facilities are coming on line there is a growing data stream that shows good performance, ahead of some estimates, that will give us a better idea about the potential of this renewable energy source.

CSU gets ‘Overwhelming’ Response to Request for Renewable Energy Projects—Every time someone puts forth a call for proposals for renewable energy the response is huge.  Or is it yuge?  Either way, industry is really coming up to bat to deploy a lot of renewables.

Reedy Creek Improvement District Signs New Easement Deal for 50MW Solar Farm—We can all make fun of Walt Disney World for being the apogee of so many things wrong with America—excess in all its forms, artifice to the extreme—but at least the people behind the parks have not totally lost their sense of whimsy even when it comes to solar power.  I just love this existing solar farm:

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This Company may have Solved one of the Hardest Problems in Clean Energy—The hydrogen economy has always been the future that the fossil fuel interests tout as the bridge to the future.  Why?  Because it is not likely to happen, so they can look like they are making progress without actually doing anything substantive.  However, someone may have figured out how to do things economically.

Vast Bioenergy Plantations Could Stave Off Climate Change—and Radically Reshape the Planet—I fear that this is the future.  I can see a future where genetic engineering and bioenergy demand combine to radically alter what we consider the natural world.  Imagine gene edited poplar trees that grow at exceedingly rapid rates and seas of switchgrass replacing corn or soybeans.

Plastic Bans Worldwide will Dent Oil Demand Growth—It is not a lot of demand, but every little bit counts on the path to a fossil fuel free future.  Remember, oil refiners actually make a lot of their profits from the sale of non-transportation fuel by-products during the refining process.  Plastic feedstocks are a big part of this equation.

2022 Winter Olympics To Be Held On Mountains Where It Doesn’t Snow—Maybe it is time to be done with the Olympics?  The parent organization is only saved from being the most corrupt on the planet because FIFA exists, the most recent bidding has been marred by a lot of countries simply dropping out, and now we are going to hold a Winter Olympics on mountains where it does not snow because Beijing was the last city standing.

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Friday Linkage 2/16/2017

There are no words.  There are no prayers.  Nothing matters except action.  The United States is the only developed country that accepts routine mass gun violence.  Every other developed country in the world has acted in some way to address this problem, but the United States has failed to act because a large percentage of its politicians are in the pocket of an industrial gun lobby that masquerades as a defender of constitutional liberties.

On to the links…

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Generated $374 Billion in 2016. It’s Ready to Wield that Influence in Washington and on Wall Street.—The debate over public lands and the giveaways by the Trump administration should highlight the power and clout that outdoor recreation can wield.  Politicians need to realize that when the fossil fuel industry comes knocking its interests are in direct opposition to a large outdoor recreation industry that can generate economic activity without the environmental degradation.

Survey Says: The American Public is Souring on Coal—No one wants these plants in their communities,  no one wants to deal with the waste in their environment, and no one wants to hear Trump talk about beautiful, clean coal.

MidAmerican Energy Completes Two New Wind Farms in Iowa—The amazing thing is that there is a lot more wind power in the plan for the state and older turbines are being replaced with newer, more powerful turbines generating more clean power from the wind.

2018 Solar Power Rocks Report Grades Every State On Solar Friendliness—How does your state compare:

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Major Utility Fails to get West Virginia Customers to Bail out its Aging Coal Plant—Right wing coal barons love the free market except when it is crushing their pet fuel.  The plan here was just ridiculous.  FirstEnergy wanted to take a non-competitive coal plant supplying a deregulated energy market and transfer it to a regulated markets thus burdening the regulated market with a costly energy source that no one wanted.

Mix of Solar and Batteries Is Beating Natural Gas—This is where the future begins.  Having the ability to store and dispatch renewable energy allows for the leveling of demand across the day to match production which moderates the variability of renewable production.

Australia’s Solar Energy Capacity Could Almost Double in One Year—These are monster numbers.  Imagine if the western United States deployed solar at these kind of rates?

Total Wind Capacity Surges While Total Number Of Turbines May Soon Plummet: Indulging In 4 Decades Of Danish Wind Energy Data—This is a treasure trove of data.  The opportunity to replace existing sited turbines with infrastructure in place with more powerful turbines represents a mind boggling opportunity to deploy more power in a quick manner.

Where Does The IOC’s Money Go?—Let me give you a hint: the billions do not go to the local communities or the cities or the athletes.  The money goes into the pockets of the IOC which is a corrupt cabal extorting money from countries with the promise of global goodwill.  Remember this as your city might consider bidding for the games.

The Uncanny Valley of Faux Meat

Americans love hamburgers.  Let me amend that because the world seems to love hamburgers.  I have seen people—not just tourists, mind you—chowing down on hamburgers on at least three continents.  However, the United States takes it to another level.  The saying may be “as American as apple pie” but you could easily substitute a hamburger and no one would bat an eyelash.

That love of hamburgers has a big environmental impact.  How big?  Consider that it is estimated that Americans eat approximately 50 billion hamburgers per year or enough to circle the Earth 32 times if laid next to each other. That is a lot of meat in disc form.

Assuming that each hamburger patty is 4 ounces—the literal quarter pounder—that equates to 12.5 billion pounds of hamburger.  Consider for a moment that one pound of beef represents an average of 1,800 gallons of water or close to 16 pounds of released carbon dioxide.  That is a lot of impact, which still does not take into account factors like antibiotic resistance from feedlot operations, land use considerations, or just general animal welfare.

The odds that Americans would be willing to give up their hamburgers is low, so why not just have them give up the beef patty?  Let’s be honest and consider that for a lot of people the patty is just a vehicle for the toppings and accoutrements.  Just replace those beef patties with veggie burgers…

Oh yeah, most veggie burgers are wet cardboard masquerading as a viable alternative to an American favorite.  No thanks.  That sad patty may have been acceptable for Carl the guy from accounting who does not eat meat that Susie invited to the work function for some reason, but for the rest of the red blooded Americans in the backyard this is a no go.

Enter the start-ups, dreamers, and just plain ambitious people who think that there is way to enjoy something that is much more burger like without the stench of sadness that is a traditional veggie burger.  I would love to tell you all about the much hyped Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods, but it has been impossible—sorry, I could not help myself—to find locally or in any of the places I have been on a trip recently.  The reviews have been trickling in online for a while and it seems to hold a lot of promise.  There is a location in Nebraska that I will pass by in four weeks that is supposed to have the item on the menu, so there is a chance.

Locally, I can find the other much hyped faux meat burger from Beyond Meat: the Beyond Burger.  The concept behind this burger is that it is a “plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and tastes like a fresh beef burger.”  Beyond Meat wants you to think of this as a direct analogue to regular ground beef patties so much that it had placed the patties in the meat cases of grocery stores rather than with the Tofurkey.

On a plate and ready for the grill these sure do look like a regular beef patty:

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Off the grill and on a bun with all the fixings…I am not so sure.  I think it comes down to expectations.  This is, hands down, the best non-meat burger I have ever eaten.  However, if I come at the evaluation purely from the viewpoint of an all-beef patty I am left underwhelmed.  That is why I feel that this new generation of faux meat patties is potentially stuck in an uncanny valley.  It’s better than any faux meat that has come before, but in coming so close to the real thing it falls considerably short in some way.

The Beyond Burger did grill like its animal protein cousin…kind of.  It sizzled appropriately when introduced to the hot grill plates and there were even a few flare ups as combustible juices flowed down onto the heat shields.  The patties developed an appealing crust and cooked in about the same amount of time as a dead cow patty.

Covered in some American cheese—the appropriate choice for melty nirvana—and the other typically American cornucopia of condiments—onion, ketchup, and mustard—resulted in a satisfying burger-esque experience.  It was not a half pound of fresh ground Pat La Frida beef, but I did not expect it to be either.  Upon further review I might change how I cooked the patties moving from an outdoor grill to a flattop.

The biggest downside of these patties?  The packaging:

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Hamburger buns come in packages of eight and I always make extra because leftover burgers are a lunch time staple in my house.  Four plastic trays, four cardboard wrappers, and some trash plastic film is a little much.  How about a sleeve of these bad boys available at Costco?

It appears that Beyond Meat is bullish on the future of its approach.  The company recently announced a major expansion of its research capabilities.  

Friday Linkage 2/9/2017

So Herr Trump wants a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue now.  Why?  Probably because he got to go to a parade in France and he cannot be upstaged by the French.

Can we just allow this doofus to get a few parades, drive a few tanks, make a few speeches, and let him believe he is the President of the United States while some adults actually do the governing?  I do not think that I can take three more years of this clown.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—This is a lot more important than I think even the authors believe.  People are literally living in a way that is trying to compete with complete strangers on social media platforms and it’s killing them.  Not literally, which has to be the millennials favorite word, but spiritually.  Just stop.

Why Trump Wants to Repeal an Obama-Era Clean Water Rule—The reason why he wants to repeal this rule has to do with him hating anything to do with Obama and Scott Pruitt being a toady for industry.  The real question will be what these stooges come up with to replace the current rules.

Every Climate Denier in Trump’s Cabinet—It is always good to see what kind of no talent ass clowns Trumps has surrounded himself with these days.  Now, it is likely that by the end of the month several of these people will have angered the head cheese puff so take it with a grain of salt.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Debate over 100% Renewable Energy—No one knows what is possible or probable because the assumptions we make today will not be in valid in three to five years anyway.  The one thing I think we all can agree on is that clean energy is better than fossil fuel energy.  Anything after that is just a discussion about degrees of development.

Regulatory Relief Didn’t Help Coal Industry in 2017 and Can’t Save it in 2018—Trump can hold a hundred rallies and talk about “beautiful clean coal” all he wants because the market does not want it anymore.  It’s called a death spiral for a reason.

Coal’s Foes and Friends get Fired up in Hearing Over Future of Xcel Plants in Colorado—This is like trench warfare.  Each coal plant that gets retired is not going to be replaced with other coal fired power, so it is gone forever.  However, you have to fight every battle anew and each fight is entered with renewed vigor by all sides.

5 Graphs Explain Coal in Trump’s First Year—It’s not a pretty picture if you like “beautiful clean coal.”

Squaw Valley to Be First Ski Resort in U.S. to Run Just on Renewables—If you ski then you understand how at risk our pastime is to the impacts of climate change.  The powers that be running these ski resorts are woke to the reality.

Australian Solar Installs Are Going Through The Roof—Australia can feel like the future and a vision of the past all at the same time.

Tesla To Construct Virtual Solar Power Plant Using 50,000 Homes In South Australia—Let’s consider Australia to be the laboratory for what large scale solar power integrating into a larger grid looks like for the future of every sunny place in the world.  If they get it figured out we just scale it worldwide.

Nebraska Republican Seeks to Hobble Wind Power by Redefining it as Not ‘Renewable’—This is why Nebraska should not be allowed to have nice things.

What Bison in South Dakota can Teach us About Fighting Climate Change—Land use and agriculture are two areas where we can make dramatic gains in the fight against catastrophic climate change without having to confront the same demons of the fossil fuel industrial complex.

Being A Homebody Has A Surprising Environmental Upside—Anyone who spends a bunch of time at home—like me—understands this almost implicitly.  Once you get away from the temptation of online shopping—buying stuff is not good no matter how green the product—it becomes almost like a passion project.

Climate Strange—Maybe we should all just embrace a little bit of our weird side.  I got looked at a little bit strange when I put solar panels on my roof, but now at least a half dozen homes have panels on the roof in my neighborhood.  Who’s strange now?  Hopefully my bike commuting catches on in a similar way.

H&M is Closing Stores as Sales Shrink—Could we finally be reaching a point when we are past peak fast fashion crap?

Friday Linkage 2/2/2017

Is anyone else going to spend the weekend consciously avoiding the Super Bowl?  Maybe it is a good weekend to hit up the local ski hill.  #OptOutside does not just have to be about the day after Thanksgiving.

On to the links…

Iowa Lawmakers Consider Ditching State’s Energy Efficiency Programs—These programs are popular.  These programs save people money.  These programs save energy.  What say you Republicans?  Kill it!  It is as if Republicans across the country have spent the last year huffing paint fumes and decided that they were going to gut popular programs nationwide in one orgy of political self immolation.

Trumps Asked for a Van Gogh; The Guggenheim Offered this Gold Toilet—This is just too perfect.  Who said museum directors do not have a sense of humor?

Scott Pruitt’s First Senate Oversight Hearing Was a Total Sham—Sham?  I was going to go for goat rope or shit show myself.  What do you say Scott:

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EPA Uses Posters to Troll its Own Employees—Just when you thought it could not get more Orwellian under the Trump administration Scott Pruitt comes out of his hole—soundproof and guarded by an around the clock security detail—to one up everyone else.

New Emails Reveal Scott Pruitt was Personally Involved in Erasing Climate Data from EPA Website—It’s our boy again.  He really hates the truth doesn’t he?

Scott Pruitt is Slowly Strangling the EPA—Scott Pruitt has basically stopped the EPA from doing its mandated job because he does not like anyone getting in the way of the fossil fuel industry.  He is a paid lackey of oil and gas.  Nothing more and nothing less.

Don’t Look, But a Couple of Mega-Companies Are About to Take Over Your Food Supply—You may not pay attention to mergers between agri-chemical giants, but you should.  Our farm economy is going to be pinned between a few gigantic suppliers of inputs and a few gigantic buyers of commodities.

Cliven Bundy Is a Free Man. His Cows Are Still a Nuisance.—Cliven Bundy is a scam artist.  His children are fellow scam artists.  He has shown that he has no principles and cares only for keeping his name in the news as a way to keep dollars flowing in what is surely some twisted scheme.

The Real Lesson of the Energiewende is that the German Economy uses Too Much Energy—There is something important in this line of thinking.  We can never deploy enough renewables or enough clean energy if we do not adjust both the volume and patterns of our consumption.

The Allure of Horse-Powered Farms—I do not know about allure, but it sure looks a lot more peaceful than the mechanized warfare of a modern farm.

Seabins want to be the garbage cans of the ocean—How do we deploy these things into every marina in the country?  Seriously, how much could it really cost?

The Future of Nuclear Power? Think Small—Nuclear energy is like a zombie.  This idea never dies.

LPGAer And Frequent Trump Golf Partner: “He Cheats Like Hell”—I am sure just as he is pocketing his ball on a “gimme” 35 foot two break putt he is telling everyone within earshot that he is the best golfer.  So good, in fact, that if he had not wanted to be a multiple time bankrupt developer he would have gone on the PGA tour.  No lie.  The best.  Tremendous.  Put me down for a birdie.

Almost 200 kWh of Solar Electricity in January

So close.  Like less than 5 kWh away from a total of 200 kWh for the month:

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Still, I like that production is trending upward after some fairly light months in the last quarter of 2017.  It will be very interesting to see how quickly my system ramps up production as the days increase in length and the amount of solar radiation increases.

Based on my, admittedly crude, calculations I should overproduce against my initial estimates in the summer months and underperform during the winter months.  Only time will tell if my math works out this time.

Maybe I should add some more panels?

For the month I figure that my solar photovoltaic system produced more than two-thirds of the electricity that we used for the month.  Considering that we were home for the entire month and only went out to eat twice—I call that a “home based life”—it feels even more like success.

Paying More for the Growler Privilege

Lately, I have been getting my local beer fix via growlers filled when I stop in somewhere to have a beer and maybe eat some food.  If my son had his way we would eat at the brewery all the time because he gets to have a grilled cheese and a soda.  His motivation is always easy to figure out.

Something has started to gnaw at me a little bit when it comes to growlers.  I am paying more for the privilege of using a reusable container.  Hear me out.

On average a growler costs me $12 to $14 to fill.  Not bad for 64 ounces of fresh, local craft beer.  However, a six pack of 12 ounce bottles from a local brewery only costs $9 to $10 at the grocery store.   For the math challenged that works out to an average of $13 for 64 ounces of beer versus an average of $9.50 for 72 ounce of beer.  Or, on a per unit basis, approximately $0.20 per ounce for the growler versus approximately $0.13 per ounce for the six pack.  Therefore, I am paying more for less beer from the same brewery.  Why?

You could argue that the taproom has to be staffed to fill a growler, but I would counter that the same brewery has to staff a bottling line, pay for packaging, deliver the beer to retailers, and in a lot of cases share some promotional cost.  Never mind the costs of designing packaging, getting approval from regulators, and what not.  This is all for the same beer from the same brewer.

Thus, I am spending more money to use my own container, which is reusable a nearly unlimited number of times, to directly purchase beer from the brewer, so no retailer or middle man gets a cut.  What is up with that?