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Friday Linkage 4/19/2019

Easter is such a strange holiday in the United States.  It is, ostensibly, a religious holiday for Christians but it is also a non-denominational consumption opportunity.  There is nothing Christian about dying eggs, eating candy, and buying pastel colored crap.

And what is up with having a family dinner centered on ham for Easter?

On to the links…

A Shocking Discovery Shows Just How Far Wind Can Carry Microplastics—The planet is our wastebasket for plastic.  It is everywhere.

This Scientist Thinks She has the Key to Curb Climate Change: Super Plants—This may be our only hope and at the same time it may be our undoing.

Lack of Demand Hasn’t Stopped Trump from Opening Tons of Land to Oil and Gas Drilling—Fossil fuel interests are treating the Trump administration like the last orgy before everyone finds religion.  It does not matter what the oil and gas interests want, Trump will give it to them.

How a Single Sentence in a Colorado Bill Could Pump the Brakes on the Fracking Boom—Imagine governments being told to regulate rather than foster oil and gas development.  As if there was any other purpose to government besides making money for fossil fuel companies.

Global Economy Would Save up to $160 trillion by Shifting to Renewables, Electric Cars—Here is a punch line for everyone to remember: Invest a dollar in renewables, get seven in return.

California’s Solar Power Record Setting Season is Here—This chart is amazing:

generation.png

That is a whole lot of solar.  What surprises me is solar’s “shoulders” in terms of its ability to generate a lot of power.  It does not peak and decline.  It peaks and stays.  This is the future.

How Coal-Killing Solar Panels Can Help US Farmers—Let’s have a real discussion here.  Besides coal, who does not benefit from more deployment of solar?  This is why, even with the most rabid anti-renewable energy administration in the White House, people are still installing solar.  It just makes sense.

Republicans Push Anti-Wind Bills in Several States as Renewables Grow Increasingly Popular—This is your modern day Republican party fighting against stuff that a majority of people like because a small coterie of wealthy donors and a reactionary base are what fuels its policy decisions.

Plummeting Battery Prices to Make Electric Cars Cheaper than Gas Cars in 3 Years—Like solar before it, the cost of electrical vehicles is dropping by a lot.  Now parity with gas cars is three years away.

US Electric Car Registrations Doubled Between 2017 and 2018—Most of the increase was in California, but a doubling is still a big deal.  I think the bigger problem for states not named California is that dealers are reluctant to embrace electric vehicles.  Trust me, when I bought a used Nissan Leaf it was like pulling teeth at the dealership.

Amazon says it’s a Leader on Fighting Climate Change. 5,000 Employees Disagree.—No business that sends a single order of five things to your house in five boxes can be a leader on climate change.  Amazon is part of the problem, not the solution.

The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed—Hudson Yards is an architectural monstrosity that was constructed for the lowest price per square foot.  Even worse is that it was financed by the lies of the EB5 visa program.

Hormel Admits Natural Choice Meats Aren’t Very Natural—The term “natural” means jack shit nothing when it comes to food labeling.

A 30-year Harvard Study Reveals the 5 Simple Habits that May Prolong Your Life by 10 Years or More—Are we really shocked to learn that these habits will help us live longer?

Breckenridge Tourist Walking Dog Injured After 10 Minute Standoff With A Moose—I may get a chuckle out of the signs warning skiers about moose on the trails, but these giants are no laughing matter.

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Friday Linkage 4/12/2019

Yep, pretty much sums up the world we are living in nowadays:

1433ckCOMIC-who-acknowledges-climate-change.png

On to the links…

A Virtual Solar Power Plant for L.A.? ‘It Will Happen’—The idea is to turn a conglomeration of batteries into a virtual power bank that charges in the middle of the day, when solar power is at peak generating capacity, and save the power for the late afternoon/early evening, when electricity demand spikes as people return home.

U.S. Wind Capacity Grew 8% in 2018—These are not crazy growth numbers, but 8% growth in a country led by Donald Trump has to be considered a success.  Now imagine an environment with a rational president.  Whoa!

Saudi Arabia To Build 6.2 Gigawatts Of Wind Capacity By 2028—Saudi Arabia is putting a lot of money into renewables.

DTE Energy Speeds up Closing of Coal-Fired Plants—This is why coal is dead.  Less cost, fewer emissions…the headlines sort of write themselves.

“Innovation”: the Latest GOP Smokescreen on Climate Change Policies—How do I know Republicans are blowing smoke about climate change?  Their lips are moving.  Normally it is “national security” that is used as a blanket defense/reasoning for whatever draconian policy they want to institute.

An Easy, Cost-Effective Way to Address Climate Change? Massive Reforestation.—No shit.  This should be point number one in any climate change mitigation plan.  Why?  It is so dead simple and the downside to planting a lot of trees is…what exactly?

Corn Pollution Kills Thousands of Americans a Year—So, we need to grow less corn.

As Mass Timber Takes Off, How Green Is This New Building Material?—This is where we get into trouble.  Instead of asking if mass timber is better than other methods we end up trying to evaluate its “green” credentials in a vacuum.

Amazon Accused of Abandoning 100 Percent Renewable Energy Goal—Corporations will only be held accountable as long as customers keep them so.  Otherwise, a decision will be made deep in a conference room somewhere that guts whatever environmental commitment has been made.

China wants to Ban Bitcoin Mining because it ‘Seriously Wasted Resources’—No truer paragraph has ever been written about Bitcoin:

In a typical Bitcoin mining operation, powerful banks of computers are dedicated to crunching out “blockchain” numbers that serve absolutely no purpose, but have value because people think they do.

Climate Change Could Make Duluth America’s Premier Destination—This is a little tongue in cheek, but the future is a scary place right now.

Forever Wild—If you have only skied major resorts tied to corporations like Vail Resorts it is likely that you have missed the spirit of skiing embodied by shaggier ski hills.  If only we could all capture a little of this magic.

Baby Boomers Commit the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ of Retirement Planning—Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.  Subsequent generations are going to be stuck cleaning up the mess of a generation that accomplished so little relative to what they were given.  Yet, we have to hear endless stories of their greatness.

Friday Linkage 4/5/2019

Now wind turbines cause cancer.  Okay, only Donald Trump believes that but he also said his father was born in Germany when in fact Fred Trump was born in New York.  You say tomato and Trump says Germany.

At least Chuck Grassley, the senior and most useless senator from Iowa, finally got off his lazy rear end to criticize something the president said.  Yes, Trump’s comments about wind turbines causing cancer are idiotic.

On to the links…

Trump’s Pick for Interior Dept. Continued Lobbying After Officially Vowing to Stop—Nothing can stop the corruption of the Trump Administration because it is corrupt at heart.  The entire act is an exercise to loot America.

Renewables ‘Have Won the Race’ against Coal and are Starting to Beat Natural Gas—It’s over with except for the accounting.

New Coal Power Projects Are In Decline Across The World—Every solar panel and wind turbine installed is another nail in the coffin of coal.  The march is on across the globe:

20190328_Coal_Power_Forbes.jpg

A Good Problem to Have—California has a problem.  California almost has too much renewable energy.  Okay, it really has a lot of renewable energy in the middle of the day:

March 23 renewables

We have now gotten to the point where we are trying to figure out how to reconfigure demand to match renewable energy production.

A Silver Lining to Sage Grouse Rollbacks?—States are where the action will have to be for the foreseeable future as Congress is riven with the division of Mitch McConnell.  However, great strides can be made at the state and local level.

High-Density EV Battery could Offer 600-mile Range on a Single Charge—This is a long way away from prime time, but imagine an EV with 600 miles of range.  My truck with a 36 gallon tank scratches that kind of range on highway trips.

Behold the Beefless ‘Impossible Whopper’—I love fine dining as much as anyone, but rolling out a product at a national fast food chain is scale like no other.  This is the kind of move that can make a product like the Impossible Burger as mainstream as any other food.

Inside the Race to Build the Burger of the Future—AOC is not coming for your burger.  However, there is a lot of effort to make your burger less bad for the environment.  Expect that little bit of nuance to be lost on the hosts of Fox News.

First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.

Drinking Local in 2019

One of my 2019 “resolutions” was to drink local.  Now, I already spend most of my beer dollars on local beer but I thought it would be instructive if I really went out of my way to drink local and record the results.

Here is how things shaped up for the first three months of 2019:

First Quarter 2019 Beer List.png

Big Grove Brewery, ReUnion Brewery, Lion Bridge Brewing Company, SingleSpeed Brewing, and Exile Brewing are all breweries from Iowa.  The six pack of Denver Beer Company Incredible Pedal was purchased in Colorado, so I am going to count that as local.  Therefore, the only non-local beer that I purchased for home consumption in the first quarter of the year were two six packs from New Belgium and Lagunitas.

Away from home things look a little different.  Most of the beers I consumed were either purchased at the brewery taproom (Barn Town Brewing, Lion Bridge Brewing Company, Big Grove Brewery) or close to the brewery (SingleSpeed Brewing, Clock House Brewing, Green Tree Brewery, Outer Range Brewing, Bonfire Brewing).

I did end up drinking some Lagunitas IPA at an event in Davenport.  This was the most “craft” option available and it goes to show how far beer has come in the last decade.  When you are somewhat disappointed that Lagunitas IPA is the best option you know things are pretty good right now in the state of beer consumption.

The only other non-local beers that I consumed away from home were a Surly Liquid Stardust that I was eager to try when it became available on draft at a local establishment and Roadhouse Brewing Mountain Jam that was recommended to me by a server in a Colorado stop.

Looking back I would say that my efforts were solid.  Only Lagunitas, owned by Heineken, would not be considered a craft brewer under the guidelines set forth by the Brewer’s Association.

Books I Read in 2019…So Far

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read twenty five books.  Here is what I read in the first three months of the year:

Thirteen down leaves twelve to go.  Twenty five books seems like a light goal, but I have some monster books to finish that will slow down my completion rate.

The best aspect of this, in my opinion, is that all of these books were borrowed from my local public libraries.  Yes, I said “libraries.”  I am one of those weird people who has a library card for three different library networks in the area—Cedar Rapids Metro Library Network, Iowa City Library, and the University of Iowa Library.

Note: The links to buy the books from Powell’s yield me no benefit.  I would encourage you to find these books at your local library, but if you must buy a book do not buy it from Amazon.

Spring has Sprung: March 2019 Solar Production and EV Stats

Can you tell the exact time when the snow finally melted in Iowa and it began to feel like spring?  I will give you one guess looking at the image below:

Image-1 (1)

It was like someone opened a door and spring rushed in looking for treats like a good boy.  I said it last year and I will say it again this year…I need to get a roof rake so that I can brush the snow off when it refuses to slide off my solar panels.  The way these things go it will probably be a very light snow year next season and the roof rake will sit in the garage unused for months.

It is my hope that April sees a production number on par with the prior year as the previous few months have really been mediocre in terms of solar production.  There is something ironic about getting an electric vehicle at the same time that my solar production fell off a cliff.  Oh well.

Speaking of the Nissan Leaf it also had a month when it became obvious that the weather had turned.  I drove 603.4 miles at an average efficiency of 5.0 miles per kWh.  This compares with average efficiencies of 3.6 and 3.9 miles per kWh in January and February respectively.

Two factors played into this efficiency increase: warmer weather that resulted in less use of the resistive heater and better knowledge of how to wring out mileage from the vehicle.  It is kind of amazing how you can optimize your driving along a route without resorting to any crazy hypermiling or vehicle modification. This is the kind of improvement that makes me wonder how much efficiency we can wring out of the transportation system without having to resort to draconian measures.

Over the course of the past two and a half months I have driven a total of 1583.6 miles in my Nissan Leaf.  That has saved 1731.9 pound of CO2 versus my prior vehicle and cost a total of $49.34.  The emissions and cost numbers are based on me using grid electricity for the entirety.

As an aside, I utilized a public charger for the first time this month.  In practical terms it was super easy.  I pulled up to one of the two spots at my place of work, tapped my Chargepoint RFID keycard, and got to charging.  There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure for charging and how it impacts the widespread adoption of EVs.  In my experience, the publicly available charging infrastructure is not the major hurdle to adoption for a lot of people.  Unlike urban areas, the suburban area that I live in is rife with attached garages where people can charge their vehicle at home overnight.  Within line of sight of my garage are two houses with Tesla Model 3s and in conversations with the owners I have found that they also rarely, if ever, utilize public chargers, including Tesla’s vaunted Supercharger.  It is just not necessary for the majority of driving that takes place in an average day.  Heck, I only used the charger at work to ensure that my Chargepoint card worked so that I could take my Leaf down to Iowa City in the summer.