Friday Linkage 3/24/2017

I find it interesting or, rather, frightening that poll after poll indicates a super majority—as in greater than 60%–of Americans believe climate change is real and driven by human activities.  However, we manage to have an elected government at state and federal levels that fails to do anything other than obfuscate the issue with right wing rhetoric and outright lies.

Now, I understand that this is a dynamic driven by gerrymandering which has led to elected officials that care only for satisfying the core interests of a very skewed base.  It just seems like there should be enough reasonable people to sway the pendulum toward reasonable action.  Granted, we also saw this same electorate put Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office.

On to the links…

A Trump Budget Would Hurt Americans’ Access To Our Public Lands—Trump and his cronies, Russian or otherwise, like access to land as long as no one who is not a member of the club can access the land.  In practice this means that the rich get access and the rest get screwed.  It’s the oligarchs’ way.

The Crazy Theory About Smog That’s Gaining Ground in the White House—When you spend all your time denying science I guess it was going to come to a point when you started to deny common sense as well.  We are so doomed.

CO2 Emissions Flat For Third Straight Year, Still Decoupled From Economic Growth—When economists say economic growth is decouple from emissions growth they are really trying to say that the relationship is less positively correlated.  It used to be something that marched in lockstep, but as the world has cleaned up power generation the relationship has frayed.  This trend destroys the argument that a transition to clean energy will destroy economic growth.

UK Carbon Emissions Fell 6% in 2016 after Record Drop in Coal Use—It may be very difficult over the next few years to achieve broad based success on environmental initiatives, but retiring coal plants can be something that could be achieved given all the impediments faced by coal.  Just retiring these dirty power plants and replacing them with natural gas is a short term win.

Coal in ‘Freefall’ as New Power Plants Dive by Two-Thirds—The export dream of American coal is dying because no one is going to want the coal.

Google’s Project Sunroof Claims 80% Of US Roofs Analyzed Are Suitable For Solar Panels—Let’s get cracking on installing solar panels.  A world where hundreds of thousands of people are employed installing solar panels on 80% of our nation’s roofs is a vision that I think most Americans can get behind.

NASA Finds Biofuels Make Air Travel 70 Percent Greener—I believe that we should try and electrify surface transportation as soon as possible reserving biofuels for applications where energy dense liquid fuels are essential like aviation.

Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell with Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency—This is boring but important.  Advances in solar cell technology are leading us to a point where we are bumping up against the theoretical limit of efficiency.

Huge Plastic Waste Footprint Revealed—We use and throw away too much god damned plastic.  Simple.  Use less of the stuff.

Chesapeake Bay’s Booming Oyster Industry Is Alarmed By Trump’s EPA Budget Cuts—Oysters and the attendant reefs are a big part of the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.  After decades of work these systems are being put back into balance and there are now jobs associated with working the bay.  Too bad Scott Pruitt will lead the charge to destroy the progress.

Small-Scale Farming Could Restore America’s Rural Towns—Small scale agriculture is almost by definition labor intensive, so a return to a patchwork of smaller, diversified farms would lead to a growth in demand for people to work the land.  Why would giant corporations be against that?  Oh wait…

Churchyards are Our Forgotten Nature Reserves—Small, forgotten plots of land are a surprising source of biodiversity.

Meanwhile in Washington D.C.

Trying to figure out what is going on in Washington D.C. with respect to health care.  Look no further:

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Did Rod Blum Get a Spine?

Thursday is apparently the day when Paul Ryan, the anointed intellectual godfather of the right wing in Congress, and Donald Trump, otherwise known as a Russian stooge at this point, are going to put the American Health Care Act to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

According to members of the Freedom Caucus, a right wing group of Tea Party conservatives, the bill does not have the votes.  According to Donald Trump, the self-styled ultimate closer and dealmaker who somehow went bankrupt in the casino business, the bill is going to pass because…um, Obamacare bad.  Seriously, that is the logic at this point.

What about Iowa’s first district Congressman Rod Blum?  Normally, his vote is in line with Paul Ryan and the stooges because Rod Blum is a nothing member of the House.  Really, take a moment and try and find any legislation the guy has authored or fought for in any way that is substantive.  Take a moment and try to find a hearing where he was a forceful contributor.  I will be here waiting for your reply.

The guy will not meet with his constituents, but according to his own Twitter account he is not going to support the bill.  Blum adds the important caveat “in its current form” which allows him the wiggle room to vote yes if some inconsequential change is made and he can go home without being called a spineless liar.

I will not hold my breath expecting him to be an actual no vote when the arm twisting is done, but stranger things have happened.

Friday Linkage 1/6/2017

After more than a week spent skiing with family in Colorado I finally descended the mountains to the reality that it is really 2017.  Donald Trump will actually be our sitting president in less than two weeks.  Damn that is a reality check.

A little light on the links this first week back from break because I really struggled to read through more than a week’s worth of news.  It is really refreshing to spend days untethered from the outside world save for quick glances at a television screen while grabbing a beer.  It’s almost human.

On to the links…

The Rape Of America Will Begin After Trump Inauguration—Donald Trump will be bad for the vast majority of American people.  He will only make the Trump family and it coterie of sycophants great in any measurable way.  Everyone else will suffer.

Donald Trump’s “Carbon Bubble” Economy is Bound to Pop — the Only Question is How Bad it Will Be—Right wingers led by Donald Trump are doubling down on fossil fuels at the same time technology and markets are signaling that the time may be ripe to reduce investment.  Think about someone pouring money into coal a couple of years ago.  How did that investment work out?  Not so well considering the rash of bankruptcies.

Germans Get Almost One-Third of Electricity from Renewables in 2016—A lot of ink has been spilled being critical of the German transition to clean energy, but the reality is that almost one-third of German power is coming from renewables.

US Geothermal Experiment Set To Go Global Real Soon—Geothermal may be the renewable that gets overlooked because it seems so much like traditional fossil fuels.  However, it is carbon free and it uses the power of the Earth’s core to generate electricity.

The Great Garbage Fire Debate: Should We be Burning our Trash into Energy?—Maybe the question should be how we reduce our garbage before resorting to incineration?

Michigan Just Made it Illegal for Cities to Ban Plastic Bags—Republicans love “local control” as long as it is their local control.  Considering that most of the populous cities in the U.S. are run by left of center politicians expect to see a lot of state and federal level control efforts because Republicans know best just like 1950s fathers of lore.

I Grew up in a House that Looked like a ‘hygge’ Postcard. It was a lot of work.—I look longingly at hygge scenes and wish for my wood burning fireplace.  Oh well.  It’s a lot of work.

Posters from World War 1 are Still Inspiring Today—These posters may be propaganda, but there is a salient message even in these dark times:

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Spring Suffering

Suffering comes in two flavors during the spring: end of season suffering for skiers and beginning of season suffering for cyclists.  Unfortunately, I find myself suffering on both ends of those seasons.  Damn.

Spring skiing sounds like fun, right?  Warmer temperatures, laid back crowds, decent base…blah, blah, blah.  For the first couple of hours everything holds true.  The runs are great and the kids are happy.  Sometime around noon as the sun bakes off any cloud cover you slowly descend into a slushy hell known as the last run of the day.

The crowds wake up from their jaeger bomb comas for the two runs they will do for the day before going back to an après scene focused on even more jaeger bombs, but not before completely chewing up all of the decent runs and clogging the lift lines.  Seriously bro, do you even lift?  Sorry, I could not help myself.

Spring skiing starts off with so much potential and ends up being a sufferfest of slogging through snow more reminiscent of mashed potatoes than anything else.  At least my kids do not complain about cold fingers and toes.  So I have that going for me.

Spring biking is never meant to be fun and no one is really going to try and convince you otherwise.  The weather is usually leaning toward cold and wet.  The wind is never blowing less than ten to fifteen miles an hour with gusts of double those numbers.  And your legs are somehow not prepared for even a light day despite a winter of working out and skiing.

You spend the first few rides wiping snot every five minutes, huffing cold air like an asthmatic weed smoker, and generally struggling to push a gear that would be light in the middle of July.  What the hell spring?  At some point during every early spring ride you ask yourself why you do this and why aren’t you inside watching Netflix?

Why?  Because we are masochists who need to suffer in order to feel alive.  None of this activity is necessary to our living yet it is essential to our happiness.  We are smug in looking across the bar at a fellow skier with sun burnt cheeks and a wiped out thousand yard stare at the end of a long day plowing through snow cone conditions.  We are a member of that tribe.  We wave stealthily to the other hardy cyclists out in these early days of spring knowing that their lungs are struggling to suck down air just like us.  We are bonded in our suffering.

It is easy to go out when the skies are clear, the temps are in the teens, and there is an inch of fresh snow on the front side of the mountain.   It is easy to get in the saddle when the sun is out, the wind is mild, and your neighbors are out mowing their lawns.  What defines us as members of a different tribe is when we commit to the suffering willingly.

Friday Linkage 3/10/2017

There will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be in Colorado enjoying all that Beaver Creek has to offer a low-rent skier like myself.

On to the links…

Iowa Sees Second Warmest February in 145 Years—Nothing to see here, right?

These Photos Show How the EPA Transformed America—Now that the fox is in charge of the hen house it is important to remember what America was like before the EPA and other agencies focused on cleaning our air and water.  No one wants to bring disco back and no one wants to bring 1960s style pollution back either.

Scientists Are Standing Up to Trump Because They’ve Always Stood Up to Bullshit—The right wing loves people to be active in politics as long as they agree with their narrow world view and, generally, assume positions that are free from a factual basis.  “But, Jesus said so in the Bible!”  Scientists and scholars are duty bound to resist this shit.

Yet Another Energy Company Bails On Canadian Tar Sands Oil — Is Koch Next?—Tar sands are too expensive to extract under the current market conditions, too dirty for most people to accept as a fuel source, and stuck in Canada.  So why exactly are people in the fossil fuel industry and the White House so hell bent on the Keystone XL pipeline?

California Just Hit an Incredible Solar Power Milestone—It was for just a moment, but California was producing some serious solar power in the middle of the day.

Colorado’s Solar Power Capacity Jumped 70 Percent in 2016—The best part for me is that even though Colorado added 70% more capacity its relative ranking compared to other states feel because it did not add enough capacity.  When you add 70% more capacity in one year and lose ground you know that something is happening that is going to be hard to stop.

Solar Now Cheapest Electricity Option On Average In 58 Emerging Economies—The new guard of electricity is here and it is based on the sun.  These countries have no incentive to build out a fossil fuel based grid because they have no capital investment tied to legacy systems.

Chinese Coal Draw-Down Gathers Pace—China is always the savior of some down-on-its-luck industry.  Guess what?  China does not want our coal anymore.

Coder Creates Ultimate Tesla Model S + Home Solar Data Visualization Tool—I cannot create the fuel for my truck at home, but I could create the fuel for a Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt at home.  The future seems to be happening right now.

America’s Television Graveyards—When the apocalypse comes in the next couple of years I imagine people will roam the shattered United States and happen upon one of these warehouses full of old CRTs.  It will be a gigantic metaphor for how we got into this mess.

General Mills Boosts Eco-Friendly Grain Kernza—What if we could replace a portion of destructive annual wheat production with perennial Kernza?  What is wide strips of Kernza were planted along streams to slow runoff and deter erosion?  Imagine the potential.

Climate Ecoforestry—Let’s look to restorative ecology to rebuild our planet’s lost resilience.

This Man is Cloning Old-Growth Redwoods and Planting them in Safe Places—Imagine efforts like this replicated on a larger, dare I say nationally mobilized scale, and imagine what we could achieve in a short period of time.  This requires no new technology or process.  It would simply require political will and capital.

You’re Using Recipes Wrong—I have this complaint with cookbooks and recipes because I feel like I am buying bespoke ingredients only to repeat effort time and time again.  Ugh.  An efficient kitchen in terms of time and money should be one of my 2017 goals.

The Right Wing Health Care Shell Game

Republicans in Congress, with the House leading the charge under the guidance of Paul Ryan, are conducting a great game of three card Monte with the American public.

The proposed American Health Care Act is a joke.  It’s like Diet Obamacare and everyone with half a brain understands that fact.  It is also the type of bill that is so neutered yet destructive enough that it is finding strange bedfellows in opposition like the entirety of the Democrats in Congress and Rand Paul.  If you ever thought Rand Paul would be a dissenting vote on Republicans’ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act raise your hand?

Now the spin begins.  Republicans and Donald Trump are trying to sell the idea that the goal is cheaper health insurance.  This is a farce because cheaper health insurance generally does not cover any health care.  If something is cheaper it usually means one of two things: someone else is picking up the tab or you are getting less coverage.  It is a zero sum game.

Under the Affordable Care Act the federal government was subsidizing your health insurance if you were so qualified to receive subsidies on the individual market.  Under the American Health Care Act you will just receive less coverage.  “But it is cheaper!” Paul Ryan will scream with Ayn Rand-esque shrillness.  Yes, just like a regular cab rear wheel drive F-150 is less expensive than a crew cab four wheel drive F-150.  Both trucks are F-150s, but one is cheaper because it has less content.  Everyone understands why those two trucks are priced differently and people will understand why health insurance is cheaper under Paul Ryan’s plan when they discover it covers no actual health care.

Thankfully, after seven years of claiming to work on a replacement for Obamacare and despite Donald Trump’s promise of amazing coverage for everyone Republicans have shown their utter lack of vision and leadership on the issue by producing a piece of crap bill.  Furthermore, provisions in the bill that would be windfalls to multi-millionaire CEOs and other rich people just show who the paymaster of the Republican Party really is in 2017.