Friday Linkage 8/25/2017

You can be sure that wind power is a big deal in your state when the image of a wind turbine is placed on the state’s license plate:

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On to the links…

What Exxon Mobil Didn’t Say About Climate Change—It appears that Exxon Mobil conducted a campaign of deliberate disinformation with regard to climate change.  This was an act that was counter to even their own internal scientists and experts.  If true, and the evidence appears to show just such veracity, it represents one of the most egregious acts of corporate malfeasance in the modern era.

How 139 Countries Could be Powered by 100 Percent Wind, Water, and Solar Energy by 2050—This is the blueprint for the future:

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Fines for Illegal Pollution Plummet under Trump—It’s not just a matter of changing laws, but also of enforcing existing laws.  Trump and his cronies are likely to just let things slide for their friends who like to pollute and sicken Americans.

Trump Thinks Clean Coal is When Workers Mine Coal and then Actually ‘Clean It’—There has never been a person occupying the big chair in the White House with such an absolute disregard for actual knowledge.  Trump seems to be going out of his way to act like a biggest doofus in Washington D.C., which is an accompolishment in a town shared by Louis Gohmert and Steve King.

Coal Plants Might Be Even More Toxic Than We Thought—As if you needed another reason to push for clean power.  When coal plants are literally producing a new chemical compound that is making people sick you have to wonder about the sanity of anyone who would fight to the death to keep burning coal.

In Solar Scuffle, Big Utilities Meet Their Match—Surprise, surprise…people want their solar power and they want it now.

This Is The Future Of Electricity Pricing—As we build out renewable energy we need to create incentives and systems to match that supply with relevant demand.

Global Solar Capacity Set to Surpass Nuclear for the First Time—We came for nuclear and we are coming for coal.  Solar power is the real deal.

India Added More Renewable Energy Than Thermal Power 4 Consecutive Quarters—Renewable energy has conquered the “India price” and it is showing.

Muscatine, Iowa Looks to Turn Food Waste into Fuel—What would it take to site these types of facilities in towns across the country?  Food and yard waste could be collected and turned into energy.  Seems like a winning deal to me.

Can We Feed The World With Farmed Fish?—Just because we might be able to do so does not mean that we should.  It’s one thing when we are raising native catfish in freshwater ponds in Alabama.  It’s quite another thing when we are raising non-native Atlantic salmon near Seattle.

Growing Concern: Organic Farms Need a New Generation to Keep Them Alive—Maybe millennials will give up living in Brooklyn, Austin, and Portland for a life in the country all “Green Acres” style.  Nah, farming is actual work.  So much better to be a YouTube celebrity or Instagram influencer.

Organic Farmers Sprouting up Across Iowa—Maybe the problem is more of a California thing as it seems like Iowa has people willing to take on the organic farming challenge.  Granted, the odds someone in Iowa knows an actual farmer are probably higher than in California so the career choice is not so alien.

California has a Climate Problem, and Its Name is Cars—It’s not just a problem in California, but for the nation as a whole.  If we cannot or will not address the impact of our transportation choices it may not matter what else we do.

Why We Should be More Materialistic—Materialism is different than consumerism, but I am guessing that the subtlety will be lost on most people.

Goodwill is ‘Overrun’ with Stuff Millennials and Gen Xers Refuse to Take from their Parents—I have cleaned out two houses and one condo for relatives who have passed away.  I do not know why these relatives were saving all of this stuff, but a lot of it just ended up getting tossed.  Some stuff got sold, some stuff got taken, some stuff got donated, but most of it went to the dump.

Rich Kids’ Grades are Rising Faster, and Intelligence Probably Isn’t the Reason Why—This pisses me off more than you would guess.  I have spent a lifetime—okay, 39 years—hearing about the meritocracy of higher education.  Guess what?  The game is rigged in favor of the rich.  Always has been.

We Conservatives Champion Local Power. So We Must Respect the Rights of “Blue” Cities.—Right wingers love local control and states’ rights as long as it is in their interest.  Just like they are all about religious freedom as long as it is Christianity.

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Solar Power is Scary for a Reason

Solar power should scare the daylights out of anyone who generates electricity from coal, natural gas, and/or nuclear.  Why?  It works like some sort of middle ages alchemy.

After two half-days of work, a grip load of procedural hoops, and about $11k in cash I had my solar system installed on my roof:

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Now, it just sits there generating what I hope will be more than 100% of my annual electricity needs.  More so, it does it in the most unspectacular way.  The panels just sit on my roof, unseen from the front of the house, soaking up the sun silently day in and day out.  When I go to work the panels just sit there soaking up the sun without any intervention on my part.  When I go on vacation the same deal applies.

If you take into account the tax credits that I will receive from the federal and state governments, I am looking at a net cost of approximately $6k to generate all or more of my electricity needs from the sun via solar panels on my roof.  I keep looking around wondering if there is a catch that I missed somewhere that states this is not really possible.

Solar power used to be the stuff of Mother Earth News and Homepower, both great magazines but hardly the harbingers of mainstream adoption.  Sure, the hippie dippie science teacher at your middle school had solar panels, biked to work, and wore tie dyed hemp shirts but he was an outlier.  Solar power is no longer an outlier.  It is something that nearly everyone, including someone like me who lives in a very “basic” suburban home in a nondescript development in eastern Iowa, can put on their roof and break free of the fossil fuel monopoly.

These are seemingly dark times.  The threat of climate change is real.  Our government is led by a cadre of profiteers in the pocket of business interests with a nominal figurehead who is the single most unfit human to ever hold that office.  Our civil society seems not so civil anymore as polarization and animosity appear to be at extremely high levels compared with the relative calm of the recent past.

However, I hold out hope because solutions to some of these problems seem so close at hand.  We have the tools to create lasting and meaningful change that will lead to a resilient and abundant future.

Beware the Drop Bar Mafia

I tried.  I really tried.

First, I tried to find a level of comfort or rather less discomfort with the compact bend drop bar that came stock on my cyclocross bike many years ago.  Ugh.  It was nothing less than an exercise in shifting my hands constantly to find a position where something did not ache.

Next, following the advice of many fellow riders in the area I went with a Salsa Cowchipper.  The flared drops and increased width seemed to do the trick along with some generous bar tape and gel padding underneath that bar tape.

I thought this was the ticket.  Riding in the drops was much more comfortable with the flare and the extra cushy bar tape/gel padding combo seemed to dull the pain of long rides on the tops.  Over time—as in thousands of miles the past couple of summers—several problems reared their ugly heads.

I was never comfortable in the drops for anything other than a moment or two.  I was never comfortable with the drops or hoods being the only place to grab a handful of lever.  This is not a big deal on wide open country roads or trails, but in town surprises are many and if you are not in the drops you might not be able to brake in time.  At least that was the problem for me.

Riding on the tops was okay, never truly comfortable but better than being in the drops.  However, with no accessible brake levers I always felt like was riding somewhere between secure and without hands.  Call it the mountain biker in me.

With a handful of scavenged parts from my garage and those of a friend I went all-in on a flat bar conversion:

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The Answer Protaper Expert bar is 685mm in width and has a nice brown finish.  Does anyone else remember when bars came in black or silver only?  Maybe that is just me.  The bar has an eight degree sweep to the back.  The bar ends are some cheap Titecs that would have cost an arm and a leg in the 1990s because of the carbon fiber construction.  Grips are repurposed Ergons from another mountain bike build that has been languishing in my garage for the better part of two years.

The result looks a little odd.  It is almost like the gawky half-brother of a NORBA cross country rig from the early days of mountain bike racing.

The drop bar mafia is coming for me.  I can feel it.  Around here fellow riders have already looked somewhat askew at my dirt wagon—the half-kidding nickname given to me well-loved and well-worn bike—as if it were some unwelcome chimera among the carbon fiber matchy matchy set that seems to dominate the weekend population.  The best part is that I just do not give a flying f*ck.  For the first time in at least three years I am comfortable in the saddle.  That is all that matters.

Friday Linkage 8/11/2017

Heading out on vacation in a few hours because nothing says relaxing like Orlando in August with your extended family.  There is absolutely nothing quite like late summer Florida heat and humidity to really bring people together.  At least there will be Dole Whip.

On to the links…

Utah Commission: Keep “Negro Bill Canyon” the Same—Between the zealots who cannot stop fighting the Civil War by idiotically flying what they assume is the flag of the Confederacy—when in truth it is bastardization of a battle flag flown by either the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee—to maintaining symbols of hate like this we will never grow as a nation.

How Midwestern Farmers Could Help Save the Gulf of Mexico—It will never happen with the current White House and most of the governors being Republicans, but there should be a national program to pay farmers to deploy cover crops.  No single action would be better for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and our nation’s water quality.  It is a proven solution.

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God—Be wary of the man who claims to be godly, but spends his time talking about earthly matters.  It usually means that he is hiding an agenda and using a veneer of piety as a shield against criticism.  As I tell people all the time, “I do not remember a single passage in the bible where Jesus talks about the rights of oil companies to drill on public lands.”

Americans Are Using Less Electricity Today Than A Decade Ago—The key caveat here is per capita.  There are more people, but we are using less electricity per each person.

Thanks To Co-op, Small Iowa Town Goes Big On Solar—I went to a wedding this summer just outside of Kalona and the solar panels were all over the place.  Ground mount arrays were at almost every farm that was not owned by an older order Amish or Mennonite family.  If everyone could embrace solar like the customers of Farmers Electric Cooperative the world would be a better place.

Dirty Energy’s Quiet War on Solar Panels—They can try and stem the tide but solar panels will win in the end.  The guys who put the panels on my house this week were booked solid with jobs for the rest of the summer and fall.  Solar power is real and it is here.

To Solve ‘Duck Curve,’ Missouri Utility to Pay Bonus for West-Facing Solar Panels—It’s not just about south facing roofs anymore.  As someone who has installed a west facing array—270 degree azimuth baby—I cannot wait to see how my peak production lines up with the duck curve.

Shell Oil CEO Stunner: ‘My Next Car will be Electric’—The worm has turned.

More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane—Bikes are amazing and can be a major component of the mobility solutions puzzle we, as a nation and species, are trying to solve.  Seriously, if people are willing to bike in New York City you should be willing to bike in Cedar Rapids.

A Perfect Illustration of the Spatial Inefficiency of the Automobile—Remember, if you work in a cubicle your parking space is bigger than your office.  What do we truly value?

Pedal Power: How Denver Bike Crews are Rescuing Food from Landfills One Ride at a Time—I love this business model.  Collect scraps—for a fee—with a no-emissions bicycle and create wonderful compost to nourish the soil.

Here’s Proof the Average U.S. Household Isn’t the ‘Dumb Money’—I spent twenty one months in business school listening to the icons of “smart money” tell aspiring investment bankers how they were the masters of the universe and what not.  The financial crisis in 2008 was a total nut punch to these guys, but it obviously did not make them humble.

Papa John’s has Made a Gluten-Free Pizza that Gluten-Intolerant Diners can’t Eat—Here is proof that the gluten free trend is not about people with celiac disease and more about marketing.

Impossible Burger’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Highlights Challenges of Food Tech—Soy leghemoglobin may be an allergen, but I love the government’s concern.  I also find it stunning that the FDA has acted so quickly when other problems in our food system are persistent and pernicious going on for years and decades without any government intervention.  Do you think big meat is behind this?  Oh yeah…

What’s in the Box: Nomadik August 2017

This month’s theme may be “summer adventure” but I am going to go with flashback.  Seriously, the stuff that came in this month’s box takes me back to an earlier time in my life.  How so?

Consider the Mountainsmith Cooler Tube:

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Do you remember when these were all over your college campus in the 1990s?  Granted, the earlier versions were usually made of black nylon as opposed to eco-friendly hemp but the idea was the same.  Load a six pack of cold beer into a tube, sling it over your shoulder, and enjoy the great outdoors with a few beers.

For me this meant spending the better part of a lazy weekend afternoon playing ultimate and sharing cold Pabst Blue Ribbons—before that beer became the choice of flannel clad hipsters—with my fellow disc chuckers.  Now we have better options.  Soft sided coolers hold more beer at a colder temperature for longer for not much of a penalty in weight or comfort.  Other than hiding a six pack in a golf bag what purpose does the cooler tube serve anymore?

You want another flashback?  Check out the Chums:

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I thought these were only used by river guides and people at theme parks.  Now, the good folks at Nomadik do admit that these are the choice of water sports enthusiasts for retaining glasses in all conditions.

Combined with the final item of Surface Face Stick I cannot help but tell a few river guide jokes:

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What do you call a river guide who just broke up with his girlfriend?  Homeless.

How do you find a river guide in the dark?  It’s hard.

What is the difference between a river guide and god?  God does not think that he is a river guide.

Sorry, river guide jokes just tend to roll off the tongue this time of year.  You could substitute ski instructor for river guide and get about the same impact.

I said in prior posts that Nomadik was going to have to come on strong to get me to consider renewing my gift subscription.  I am just not feeling the need.  The problem is that I am not exposed to new things as much as I get things in the mail that I just do not care about.  It is kind of the same problem I see whenever I visit an REI or Sierra Trading Post.  People seem enamored with buying stuff that seems cool in the store, but that they will rarely if ever use once they get home.  Come on, how many of those cool shaped bottle openers by the cash registers do people every actually use to open a bottle of beer?

Demand Destruction from Home

Demand destruction is what coal mining companies, utilities, and anyone who benefits from a centrally controlled power grid dreads.  Why?  Demand destruction represents an existential threat to the entire business model of these entities.

Consider the state of Iowa’s electricity generation mix and my recently installed solar photovoltaic system.  Iowa’s electricity generation mix breaks down like this for April of 2017:

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In Iowa non-hydroelectric renewables usually equals wind given the relatively low penetration of solar photovoltaic generation.  Another caveat is that the wind tends to blow strongly in the spring and demand for electricity has not spiked with the onset of the summer air conditioning season.

Now consider the impact of a solar photovoltaic system, mine or someone else’s.  When that demand leaves the grid, so to speak, what generation sources do you think will be curtailed?  In order I think it would be coal, nuclear, natural gas, and finally wind.  Why?  Wind turbines do not have a recurring fuel cost, so the cost to retire them does not include a perpetuity of fuel cost baked in which can be a significant driver for an asset with a long life.

In other terms, do you keep generating power by paying to burn a fuel or just harvest the wind for free?  In business school the number one lesson I learned in marketing was to not compete with free.  You will lose every time.

So, as demand disappears from the grid as a result of distributed residential solar the traditional fossil fuel sources are forced to compete with installed and cheap wind power for a dwindling number of customers.  I exaggerate to some degree to get the point across, but in Iowa this may not be such a moot point given the plans for wind power development in the next three years.

Depending upon how you measure it Iowa has more than 6,900 megawatts of wind power providing anywhere from 35% to 40% of the state’s electricity.  This is great news in and of itself, but the state’s two major utilities—MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy—have announced investments for an additional 3,000 megawatts or more by 2020.  Just with these additions—barring any additional activity by other energy players—would bring Iowa nearly 10,000 megawatts of wind power and give the state the capacity to produce more than 50% of its electricity from the wind.  This is without a significant portion of the state’s electricity demand being displaced by distributed residential solar or energy efficiency.

As you can see from the chart that when the wind blows heavily, which it tends to do in the spring, wind is already the largest source of electricity generation in the state.  That trend was true for February, March, and April of 2017. This is only going to grow in the future.

Our homes can be the drivers of change for a cleaner and greener world.

Friday Linkage 8/4/2017

I am trying to be positive as I work on several things regarding the homefront—trying to get my solar panels installed, reducing my electricity usage to below 300 kWh per month on average, etc.—but this world is really depressing.

On to the links…

If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef—One change—not giving up our cars, not giving up our 70” LCD televisions—could almost get us to the targets agreed to in the now-abandoned Paris Climate Accord.  If we just gave up beef for beans.  Not chicken or pork or fish.  Just beef.  Let that sink in for a moment when people whine that there is nothing we can do to prevent catastrophic climate change.

New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks—Florida is an amazing septic system for America’s worst ideas.  It seems like things just slide down into that state and never really go away.  Somehow I see this working out really well.

Department Of Energy Boosts Perry: ‘Winning’ Fight Against Climate Scientists—The propaganda is real and it is pervasive.  Rick Perry has not “won” anything except a public perception that he is incompetent.  The only thing keeping people from laughing at him more is that he serves in a government full of incompetent people who are significantly more offensive.

The Interior Secretary Gave a Closed-Door Speech to ALEC—This administration is possibly the most corrupt in American history and it is certainly the most corrupt since the administration of Warren G. Harding.  When all is said and done we are looking at a government run by thugs and thieves for the benefit of a few.

Congress Is Still Fighting Over Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs—This ship has sailed and energy efficiency won.  However, Republicans in Congress are nothing if not dogged and bitter in their fight to…well, I do not really understand what the problem is here.  Oh right, this is something that they associate with former President Barack Obama so it must be bad.

Wind Power Supplied 124% of Household Electricity Needs in Scotland from January through June—There are a few caveats here in that it “just” supplied residential electricity demand, but take a moment to read that wind power provided 57% of the country’s total electricity demand.

Europe Adds 6.1 Gigawatts Of New Wind Capacity In 1st Half Of 2017—2017 may not set a record for wind installations, but if big year follows big year and electricity demand does not rise in lockstep the result will be a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

Despite Minimal Installations, US Wind Development Surges Second Quarter—The U.S. wind industry typically goes through these odd cycles where installations lag until a breakout quarter, which is partly a function of how the financing works and the drive to maximize tax benefit without impacting capital costs.

Michigan Program Finances First Megawatt of Solar, With Ambitious Goals Ahead—Republicans won’t say it, but this is a great example of using public funds to leverage a greater degree of private investment.  Granted, it’s for clean energy so the right wing just puked a little in their mouth.  If it had been for a community coal mine maybe our dear leader would be tweeting about it.

Swapping Cars for Bikes, not Diesel for Electric, is the Best Route to Clean Air—Bicycles are the future.  EVs are nice and all, but bicycles trump EVs.  Do not even get me started on diesel.  Unless it is a veggie van.  I love SVO vehicles.

Bollinger B1 Electric Truck Debuts In Manhattan—I love older Land Rovers and Toyota FJ40s.  This truck shares those lines and updates the powertrain.  Granted, this company will probably disappear in the next year without actually producing a single truck but it’s a pretty truck.

Shopping, The Secret To Saving The Planet—I am unwilling to say that shopping is the secret.  However, when you must buy something do it with the utmost regard to the impact on the planet.