Tag Archives: automobile

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…


Friday Linkage 11/21/2014

Winter blew in with some force. Keystone XL went down in the Senate. Obama pissed off Republicans by leading, taking executive action, and doing something about the mess that is U.S. immigration policy. Remember, every time you hear a Republican moan about the imperial presidency these were the same people who were okay with W using signing statements to change the intent of laws. Every time a Republican screams an angel’s head explodes.

On to the links…

Chicken Abuse Revealed by Undercover Videos at Koch Foods Sites—Well, it looks like the Kochs just don’t hate liberals but they also hate chickens.  I wonder how fast ag gag laws are going to show up in every state with a Koch funded legislator and lobbyist?

Emissions Rules Yield Little Benefit along Colorado’s Front Range—Basically, even if emissions from any one particular well are decreasing the impact of so many new wells swamps the improvement of a single site. If you drive anywhere in eastern Colorado you get a real sense of the boom in oil and gas drilling.

‘Scandalous’ Solyndra Program Actually Earned Taxpayers A $5 Billion Profit—Where is Darrell Issa’s righteous indignation now? Oh right, he’s a vaudeville performer in politician’s clothing. The program, in total, worked even if particular projects failed.

Don Blankenship Charged with Conspiracy over Mine Explosion that Killed 29—Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy or a snappier dresser:

rally12_i0909072049581.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleIn case you were wondering, he plead not guilty.

New ‘Solar Cloth’ Allows Solar Cells To Be Stretched Across Parking Lots, Stadiums—The U.S. is covered in an estimated 61,000 square miles of roads and parking lots. Imagine if just a fraction of that were covered in relatively easy to deploy solar cloth?

Google, IKEA, And SunEdison Bought A Lot Of Wind Power This Week—Private companies and utilities are adding a lot of wind to their portfolios. I wonder what the driver of this behavior is right now?

Wave Goodbye to the Two-Car Family—Has there been a bigger driver of bad planning behavior than the American love affair with the personal automobile? Not that I can think of, but the switch away from auto ownership will have equally huge outcomes.

The 10 Biggest Factors Changing Millennial Driving Habits—I was going to blame hipsters, but it looks like there are a lot of correlations driving behavior here.

Why Going to the Library is one of the Best Things I Do—I think I said something similar a short while ago, even using the term “original sharing economy.” It’s good to see people agree with me.

Hellmann’s Are a Bunch of Giant, Eggless “Mayo”-Slinging Hypocrites—These clowns got all huffy with a company using the term mayonnaise in reference to their spread which did not contain eggs, but the plaintiffs also did the same thing. Huh? Oh right, it’s big food trying to smash an upstart. My bad.

Appliance Science: The illuminating physics behind LED lights—LEDs are transforming lighting, but how many of us actually understand how the little buggers work?

Friday Linkage 1/18/2013

Friday turns into Saturday and all of a sudden it’s Sunday afternoon before you realize that you have failed to post the links.  Whoops.  Sorry about that.

On to the links…

In Rural Minnesota, a 70 Acre Lab for Sustainable Living–How many places like this exist throughout the United States?  Places where people are putting to the test all of the ideas and theories about how we can live in modernity without placing ever greater strain on the planet.

Will 2013 Continue 7 Year Trend of Decreasing Driving–Lost in the noise lately has been the continued trend of Americans driving less.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the graph:


Not only are Americans driving less, but if you listen to the car people at any auto show or in any trade rag and the primary concern is the waning love affair with the automobile.  Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Animals versus Automobiles–As someone who grew up in southeastern Minnesota, I was intimately familiar with the intersection of animals and automobiles.  Most notably, deer were a common hindrance to continued forward progress on the roads.  Wait a second, it’s an infographic:


Clean Energy Investment Fell 11% as Government Cut Subsidies–Okay, so for anyone who does not believe the production tax credit is vital to the continued growth of domestic renewable energy witness this story.  I take back that statement about their being hope for us yet.

Solar Could Meet all the World’s Electricity Needs by 2050 with 1% of Land–It will never happen, but can you imagine a world where we replaced all fossil fuel electricity generation with distributed solar?  Yeah, I cannot imagine that world either because it seems so wonderful.

Why the Government Should Pay Farmers to Plant Cover Crops–As if we did not know our domestic farm policy was crap, there seem to be so many sensible, low cost ideas out there to make things better that it seems even more stupid when you really think about things for a moment.  I suppose if the government promoted cover crops then Monsanto and company would sell a few bags less of GMo seeds.  Now I get the problem.

Beijing’s Air is so Bad…–This is just a story that begs for a series of jokes patterned on the old “Your mama is so” meme from the 1990s.  Oh yeah, I referenced the 1990s like it was sooooo long ago.  First, what the heck is in the air?  The Guardian took a stab at it:

Climate desk Beijing air pollution

Or, you could go the NPR route and wonder what it looks like from space

Black Carbon Larger Cause of Climate Change than Previosuly Thought–We do not know what we do not know until we really spend time researching the problem.  It’s too bad that scientists have to spend countless hours defending their work on climate science because a small percentage of people–hack scientists and quack politicians–have “doubts” about the integrity of their work.  How come no one every gets to question a Republican politician’s integrity when it comes to positions that they take on issues?  Like, what is their agenda exactly?

Sweet Sodas and Soft Drinks May Raise Your Risk for Depression–Basically, soda and soft drinks are just bad stuff.  There is no place in our diet for such beverages.  Just put down that one gallon soda from the corner conveinence store and grab a bottle of water.  Make sure it is not water in a disposable container.  Okay?


Living the Outback Life

The day finally arrived…

I bought a new car.  For someone who drives about 6,000 miles a year and has had the same car for over 10 years it comes as a surprise to people who know me that I finally “bit the bullet.”  Having two kids, a stroller, and a trunk full of groceries will make a person quickly realize that the car that worked very well when you were just married does not cut the mustard anymore.  Besides, a co-worker offered me a good price on the old Protégé that he wanted to buy for his kid.

Plus, staring up the hill to my house a full day after a snowstorm with no plow in sight and lovely neighbors who blow snow from their driveways into the street made task of getting home dicey on the best of days.

The choices were actually pretty easy to narrow down because the feature set was four doors, hatchback style, and all-wheel drive.  Oh, yeah, it was going to be a Subaru.  Why?  If you are an IMBA member you know about the Subaru VIP program.  If not, become an IMBA member.  Basically, as an IMBA member you are given the benefit of purchasing a Subaru—most models are included—at 2% below invoice and you are eligible for any incentives.  On top of that, Subaru donates $125 to IMBA for every automobile purchased under the program.

So, things basically came down to the newly redesigned Impreza, Forester, and Outback.  All were four door hatchback style bodies with all-wheel drive.  I deep sixed the Forester because of the outdated four speed automatic transmission.  I am not the biggest fan of the CVT used in the Impreza and Outback, but the improvement in mileage is worth the annoyance.

I test drove both and liked them for different reasons.  The newly redesigned Impreza was a lot like my old Mazda Protégé, but with all-wheel drive.  It was zippy around town and felt like a car, it got great mileage, and it was easy to put a roof rack on for my bicycles.  However, the first time I put my son’s Britax Roundabout behind the driver’s seat the decision was made in favor of the Outback.  Considering I sit closer to the wheel than anyone I know—a legacy of having really short legs—this was a deal breaker.

A week into the ownership “experience” and I am happy with my purchase.  Spending a week driving through snow, ice, freezing fog, and just about whatever other nice weather Iowa in winter can throw at the driver makes me even happier.  Not once have I spun my wheels or felt like I was going to get stuck in those lovely ridges of snow that appear in intersections.  Plus, my daughter can no longer kick the backseat because of the extra space.

It was not the most eco-conscious choice.  I probably should have kept my car for a few more years, but I can try to assuage my green guilt another way.

Stuff I Like: Valvoline NextGen motor oil

It may seem odd that a guy trying to green his life would like motor oil, but if you drive a car and it is not driven purely by electrons the time will come when you have to change the oil.  If you are like me and drive about 5,000 miles a year these oil changes come about once a year.  Even at this extremely reduced amount of maintenance I always wondered about what happened to the oil that was drained from my engine.  Where did it go?  What became of it once it reached that destination?  And so on and so forth…

All kinds of places apparently.  In some locations, the oil was filtered to get some of the nasty bits out and burnt in combination with fuel oil to provide heat.  For those of us who live in the Midwest and are accustomed to natural gas providing the heat the entire concept of fuel oil heat is foreign.  The great majority was sent to recyclers who reprocess the oil into a myriad of products.  How much oil you ask?  More than 750 million gallons per year.  That is a lot of oil being used once and then sent on its merry way.

Recently, Valvoline announced NextGen which is a motor oil comprised of 50% recycled content.  Technically, the motor oil should have the same protective properties of its convetional non-recycled bretheren.  The advertising copy basically reads that oil is not “used up” when it is changed at regular intervals, it is the non-oil content of motor oil that is degraded.  Therefore, the oil component of motor oil–about 85% according to Valvoline–can be recycled and reused as a component of motor oil again.  This is not downcycling like so many products that contain recycled content, this is truly recycling a product into its former self with no apparent loss of capability.

If there is no difference in performance why aren’t all motor oils comprised of some recycled content?  Why isn’t everything this way?

Note: Through September 2011, Valvoline is offering a $7 rebate for the regular NextGen and a $10 rebate for the NextGen MaxLife products.  You qualify for the rebate if you get your oil changed at a service center as long as the rebate calls our the NextGen product.  So, for $30–after rebate–my car’s oil was changed and 50% of it was recycled.  I call that progress.