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Friday Linkage 1/5/2018

It’s 2018 and it’s cold.  I am not just talking about the relationships in and out of the Trump White House either.

Since it is so cold across much of the United States I am waiting for James Inhofe to give one of his patented rants about how winter disproves any science about global warming or climate change.  It will happen as surely as taxes, ridiculous tweets by Trump, and bad midseason television shows.

On to the links…

Ryan Zinke Taps almost $40,000 from Wildfire Preparedness Fund to Pay for a Helicopter Trip—Scandal and corruption have a name.  That name is Ryan Zinke and he is the head of the Department of the Interior.  The government is nothing but a slush fund for these kleptocrats to live high on the hog while the Donald tweets his latest brain fart.

Vehicles are Now America’s Biggest CO2 Source but EPA is Tearing up Regulations—Reducing our use of fossil fuels for transportation is the single biggest challenge facing us in the coming years.  However, it is one the easiest things for individuals to reduce given our profligate use of personal automobiles for transportation.

Norway Reaches Carbon Emissions Goal From Transportation 3 Years Early, Thanks To Tesla—The solutions to reduce our transportation emissions exist.  It is a question of political will and money.  Norway did it.

100% — Chinese City’s Record-Smashing 16,359 Electric Bus Fleet—Shenzen went all EV for its bus fleet.  Imagine if the major U.S. cities made this kind of commitment?  It would mean a huge buildout in charging infrastructure and demand for EV busses that would drive down the cost for smaller fleets.  It’s a virtuous circle of EV awesomeness.

Finance Institutions Are Making a Massive Investment in Solar—Is this where the worm turns?  Once financial institutions choose renewables over fossil fuels it will be increasingly difficult for the legacy energy regime to finance expansion in any economical manner which will be a death knell for the future of those fuels.  We can hope.

The Dutch Plan to Build an Artificial Island to Support the World’s Largest Wind Farm—The Dutch are not fooling around when it comes to wind.  30 GW of wind power is a huge amount.  How huge?  30 GW roughly equates to 30,000 MW of capacity.  In real terms that represents more than 4 times the wind power installed in the state of Iowa.

New York to Procure 800 MW of Offshore Wind in Next Two Years—After seeing what the Dutch are doing this does not seem like much, but any progress is progress.

Trump Holds Geothermal Card Up His Sleeve When Pitching “Energy Dominance”—What role does geothermal energy play in the future energy mix?  Like hydro, geothermal tends to be a forgotten player despite its benefits of being near baseload power and having a lot of unexplored potential.  The fact that the Trump administration has the near future in its hands—however tiny—makes me very nervous.

Nuclear Agency Has The Hots For Solar Energy Windows—I have the hots for solar windows.  Imagine every multistory building with a glass façade generating electricity because it was covered in transparent solar glass.  That is the future, man.

Takeout Creates a Lot of Trash. It Doesn’t Have To.—Normally, I do not patronize takeout.  Choosing to dine in or eat homecooked meals is my modus operandi.  However, this past week I brought some takeout beignets from the Lost Cajun in Breckenridge to our friend’s condo.  I can attest to the waste of takeout.

Tom Brady Is Drowning In His Own Pseudoscience—Like Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, Tom Brady and his junk science doctor are peddling some serious bullshit.  Here is my two cents: If someone is giving you health advice and also selling an item to further that same advice take the time to question the veracity of every claim.  This includes the health advice from your doctor.  And Tom Brady.  Especially Tom Brady.

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December Brings Short Days and Low Solar Production

December 21st was the shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight and the rest of the month was kind of brutal in terms of solar production as well:

Solar December 2017

Just looking at the month by month production numbers makes me sad.  On the bright side, I can hope that as the days continue to lengthen and the temperatures rise that solar production will start to look more like September.  I am beginning to wonder if my west facing array is impacted to an outsize degree by its orientation as compare to a south facing array which makes me wonder if it will over perform in the summer when days are long and under perform in the winter when days are short.  Only time and data will tell.

On the plus side I am down to about 275 kWh of consumption in total, so even though my solar array is not producing all of my household needs right now it should shoot past that consumption figure in the coming months.  Okay, it helps that we were gone for the last eight days of the month.

Friday Linkage 12/29/2017

There will be no links today.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying the holidays—drunk Uncle Carl notwithstanding—and taking at least some time to recharge mind, body, and soul.

I am hoping for snow and good times on the sloped like a little kid waiting for the announcement of a snow day.

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See everyone in 2018…it has to be better than 2017, right?

Friday Linkage 12/22/2017

It is time to decompress and enjoy the holidays.  I know that the holidays are actually stressful for a lot of people—dinner arguments with drunk Uncle Carl who want stop saying “MAGA!” and “You’re all a bunch of snowflakes!” would take it out of any of us—but it is important to just stop for a moment.

Yes, the world seems like an unmitigated clusterfuck right now.  For all intents and purposes the world is an unmitigated clusterfuck.  However, it is important to remember that at almost any point in the history of the world things seemed like an unmitigated clusterfuck.  Except the period from 1997 to 1999.  That period of time was freaking awesome.

I digress.

On to the links…

We’re Witnessing the Wholesale Looting of America—Washington D.C. is run by a bunch of sociopaths who want to take from the many and give to the few.  The whole reverse Robin Hood thing is getting old real quick.

The EPA Spent $120,000 in Taxpayer Funds to Hire a GOP Public Relations Firm—Scott Pruitt may actually be the worst person in Trump’s administration.  He is a paranoid party hack who scans his office for bugs, built a secret phone booth like something out of a 1960s spy movie, and he now is hiring partisan opposition research firms to message his mess of a policy platform.

E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email.—If you do not think we are living in an increasingly Orwellian state than Scott Pruitt’s EPA is here to make you nervous all over again.  Remember, the president and all of his men like free speech as long as it is promoting their agenda of coal, tax cuts, foul air, dirty water, and MAGA.

Rick Perry’s Fake Grid Crisis just got Undermined by More Grid Experts—Rick Perry is the gift that keeps on giving.  No matter how much he tries—the “smart guy” glasses are a good disguise—he is just a partisan hack from Texas who has no idea what he is doing when it comes to leading the department of Energy.  His marching orders from the head Cheeto is to find out a way to pay back the coal barons who love America so much they want to blanket it in fly ash.

Global Coal Consumption Forecast to Slow—Other than India the world is trying to get off coal.

The World’s Biggest Coal Port is Now Preparing for the End of Coal—What happens when the market for coal dries up?  It does not matter how much people like Donald Trump want to mine coal if there is no one to burn coal and no place to transport coal.

Burning Wood instead of Coal in Power Stations makes Sense if it’s Waste Wood—When the forests are managed for timber products, like in the southern United States, there is a lot of waste wood that does not get turned into lumber or pulp.

Tesla Responsible for Slide in U.S. Home Solar Sales—Have we entered the slow growth phase of residential solar installations?  Or, is the business model used by companies like the former Solar City not up to long term stability?

Iowa Utilities Adding to State’s Wind Power Portfolio—Announcements like these are pretty routine in Iowa right now as Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy are putting the finishing touches on some serious wind energy expansion.  Iowa is driving toward more than 50% wind produced electricity in the near term when you look at the aggregate numbers.

Germany Predicted To Set Renewable Energy Record In 2017—Take a moment to check out the chart:

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Over 33% is coming from renewables and counting nuclear over 44% is carbon free.  This is progress.

Meet the Microgrid, the Technology Poised to Transform Electricity—As our grid becomes increasingly brittle the solution to future resiliency may be a solution that looks a lot like the early days of electrification when small scale grids dominated.

Solar Power and Battery Storage could Topple 10GW of US Natural Gas Peaker Plants—Peaker plants are the necessary evils of the energy marketplace.  When demand starts to spike in excess of baseload power these plants come on line fast to make up for the deficit.  The downside to this rapid action is a severe lack of efficiency compared to traditional combined cycle generation plants.  Replacing these plants with a renewable solution would be a very green thing kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour.

Unconventional Solar Panel Siting Saves Agricultural Land While Providing Plenty Of Power—Basically, there is a lot of potential space for solar panels that would not in any way imperil our ability to produce food.  Just sock this away for that moment this holiday season when drunk Uncle Carl starts talking about how solar panels are taking away land from the farmers.

Food Waste is 20 Percent of Iowa Trash—Waste is bad.  Twenty percent is crazy because it is just money in the dump.

One-Third of Forests aren’t Growing Back after Wildfires—Well, that sucks.

Wine Glasses are Seven Times as Big as they Used to Be—Given how messed up things seem lately I am surprised that the glasses are just seven times bigger than before.

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Do You Have a Little Ninja?

No, this is not the lead in to the feel good children’s movie of the winter.  Although “A Little Ninja” could be a great children’s movie.  Rather, it’s a question I ask of anyone who has a child who loves American Ninja Warrior?

Does your child love Daniel Gil or name drop Jessie Graff?  My six year old does that and a whole lot more.  Does any piece of furniture of built-up area become some kind of obstacle?  My six year old has turned just about anything into a pseudo-parkour course.

Have terms like “flying squirrel,” “wing nut,” and “floating steps” become part of your everyday vernacular?  If so, you have a little ninja.

Thankfully the ninja craze has led to the creation of so-called ninja gyms throughout the country.  One class a week, however, is not enough for some little ninjas.  What to do?

If you live in my house that question is answered with trips to the lumber yard and a weekend spent tearing up an unfinished room in your basement.  Merry Christmas little ninja:

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Rather than just bolt some eye hooks to the floor joists, which I do not recommend, I chose to build a pair of beams running the width of the room.  The span is just under 12’6” so the 2×10 is actually rated to carry the load.  A 2×8 probably would have been sufficient but I felt the extra strength provided by the larger lumber was worth the slight extra expense.  Once you are bringing home a pair of fourteen foot boards it is not really much of an additional hassle to go big.

The 2x10s span the entirety of the room without any additional support and are locked into place at either end in a load bearing wall.  At either end the 2×10 is supported by a jack stud and sandwiched between two other wall studs that run the height of the wall.  Four bolts through the entire thickness secure all of the boards together.  It’s a fairly beefy piece of construction:

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In this configuration the setup is fairly stout but there is some wobble in the boards.  To alleviate this flex several 2x6s were attached between the 2x10s to increase rigidity. Here is what things look like along the length of the span:

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It is difficult to tell from the pictures, but the 2×10 does not touch the floor joists above.  It is a free span.

To give you an idea of how rigid I can hang and swing from the approximate middle with little or no noticeable flex between the boards.  There is no noticeable flex I the vertical orientation.  Oh yeah, I weigh in at over 200 pounds so my 50 pound little ninja should be able to do regrips to his heart’s content.

A ninja gym is just not a ninja gym without some sort of obstacle.  To provide a multi-point training environment I installed monkey bars—eleven in total—at one foot intervals across the length of the span.  At one end the monkey bars—assembled from ¾” galvanized pipe—are attached to the beam with a pipe flange and at the other end a whole is drilled for the bar to pass through.  On the opposite side of the beam is a “hook” assembled from an elbow, nipple, and cap.  This will allow for the use of loose gymnastics rings to be hooked up and over in a favorite ninja obstacle:

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The whole kit and caboodle is waiting for my son to “discover” his new ninja gym on Christmas morning.  Scratch that, a few days before Christmas morning because that day is reserved for skiing.

Friday Linkage 12/15/2017

I was prepared to write some snarky comments about how the voters of Alabama could look past someone being a certifiable crazy person and child molester but could not stomach voting for a Democrat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least enough voters in Alabama had the good sense to not vote for Roy Moore.

The frightening thing is that more than 48% of voters who participated in that special election thought that Roy Moore was the right person to represent them, the state of Alabama, and the values of the United States of America.  There is nothing that encapsulates our broken system, riven by partisanship, more than that fact.

Imagine there was a special election in say Colorado where the Democratic candidate was accused of cruising the mall for teenagers, had been twice removed from office for failing to follow the laws of the land, and had defended slavery.  Can you imagine the howls from people like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends.  Instead, put an elephant on that candidate and he is the last, best chance to protect America from…access to healthcare?

On to the links…

Trump’s Interior Secretary: Shameless Tool of Oil and Gas Industries—The more light that we can shine on Ryan Zinke’s agenda and actions the better the world will be for it.  Like the other Trump kleptocrats he is gorging on a buffet of public goods to enrich his friends and donors.  Take a moment and read up on the scandals of the Warren G. Harding administration and tell me if you see some similarities.

The Interior Department Is Giving Business to Secretary Zinke’s Billionaire Pal—Can you smell the corruption that Ryan Zinke is cooking?  This guy does not care that he is corrupt because there is nothing you can do about it.  This guy is the point man for the theft of your public goods.

Reclaiming Appalachia: A Push to Bring Back Native Forests to Coal Country—Coal country is a damaged place.  Decades of dominance by companies that care little for the land or people has left a landscape scarred.  Healing that landscape in a deliberative way is a great step forward.

How American Cities & States are Fighting Climate Change Globally—The federal government is in the bag for fossil fuels and ideologues who would have you believe that human caused climate change is some kind of hoax cooked up by academics and liberals.  As if those groups can be counted on to agree on a menu for a campus mixer without things devolving into a bloodbath of recriminations let alone conspire on a global scale in secret.  Cities, municipalities, and states are where the climate change action is happening right now.

Here’s What Carbon Neutral Electricity Could Look Like for Fort Collins—Cities are starting to figure out just how much power they have to transform the energy system of the future.

Trump’s Coal and Nuclear Subsidy Won’t Keep Power Plants Open but Will Raise Prices—Let’s see, a plan championed by all hat, no cows Rick Perry is destined to fail in its ultimate goal yet still raise prices for consumers. It’s like Republicans under Trump have decided that it is okay to get all of the downside risk while achieving none of the goals.  Also remember that this plan is essentially a sop to a half dozen or so coal barons who want a federal bailout without actually asking for a federal bailout.  You know, the free market and all.

The Federal Land at Stake in Trump’s Rush for More Drilling—Trump and the rest of his kleptocrat cronies are running high on the hog right now in transferring public goods into private resources.  If you think that there is anything public about land being opened for oil and gas drilling try getting near one of these facilities out west.  Your ass will end up in the back of a sheriff’s car real fast.

‘Death spiral’: Half of Europe’s Coal Plants are Losing Money—Coal is on the brink.  Why?  It is losing money.

Australia Has Already Hit 1 Gigawatt Of Solar Installed In 2017, Breaking Multiple Records—1 GW is a lot of solar.  Every week seems to bring a solar story from Australia that highlights that country going all in on solar.

Rooftop Solar and EVs Save Water and Cut Pollution in Texas – and Data can Help Us go Further—As we enter a period of climate change stressing water supplies it is important to consider the second order effects of renewable electricity.  It takes a lot of water to produce grid electricity from coal, nuclear, or natural gas.  A solar panel requires zero water to do the same thing.

Are Pigs Eating our Food?—This is a fairly nuanced look at the idea that livestock is eating our food in a 1:1 direct substitution.  The truth is much more complex, as the truth tends to be, as livestock—depending upon the species—eat residues from other agricultural production processes that are essentially waste products or eat substances that humans cannot eat directly for sustenance.

Expect a Meat Tax within 5-10 Years—Five to ten years seems a little sporty, but as we fully understand both the environmental and health impacts of eating meat there will be an increasing drumbeat for some sort of action.  In the United States I think that the easiest solution would be to end the crop subsidies that make CAFOs possible.  Without subsidized corn and soy there would be no way that companies could make CAFOs work.

How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult—Is it just our housing or is it our entire society?

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:

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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.