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Friday Linkage 8/10/2018

I watched the returns from Tuesday’s primaries and special elections with a special glee.  It seems that Republicans under Trump are hoping to keep a coalition stitched together that consists of white nationalists, plain old racists, and older less educated white people.  This seems like a recipe for failure when the head cheese puff is not on the ballot.

It is hard to imagine that the same people who would wear a shirt declaring “I would rather be Russian than a Democrat” are going to go to the polls in the midterms to vote for an establishment Republican if their spirit animal in an ill-fitting suit is not headlining the ballot.

Needless to say, Democrats and their allies on the left need to remain energized, get allies to the polls, and pull across the finish line strong.  America may literally depend on it.

On to the links…

The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now—The Republican Party under Donald Trump is nothing more than a country club for corruption that happens to be located in Washington D.C.  If these guys were all based in Hoboken, N.J. there would be a major racketeering investigation happening.

Bribery Trial Reveals Jeff Sessions’ Role in Blocking EPA Action Targeting One of His Biggest Donors—It is going to take years to unpack all of the corruption done by these people in the name of making America “great” again.

Coal Industry on Steady Decline under Trump’s Leadership—This is what you get with Donald Trump.  A few guys will make a lot of money—probably people like Robert Murray—while everyone else gets screwed—usually the employees who actually need the jobs.  Coal will be no different.

We’ve Been Talking About a National Grid for Years. It Might be Time to Do It.—All this talk of energy storage like batteries or pumped hydro misses the biggest “storage” opportunity of all—the gird.  Think of the grid as a battery and a national grid as the biggest battery of all.  Instead of balancing loads across a region you would have the benefit of balancing loads across the country and maybe even parts of Canada or Mexico.

Negative Electricity Pricing Abounds As Wind, Solar Flood the Grid—This is power so cheap that companies are paying people to take it.  This is why we need a national power grid.  When California is over producing that power could be “sent” to states where the wind is not blowing or vice versa.

Analysis Reveals That World’s Largest Battery Saved South Australia $8.9 Million In 6 Months—Now, imagine scaling this type of solution.  Saving money and greenhouse gas emissions.  Win, win.

Permian Decline Rate May be Steeper than Thought—There has been a new school of thought in oil markets that the U.S. is the new swing producer able to bring wells online in places like Texas and North Dakota to ameliorate price increases.  It now looks like the modeling behind the production assumptions of the Permian Basin may have been too optimistic.

Lloyd’s Bank to Ditch Financing New Coal Plants—Bankers are a conservative lot and if their peers stop doing something most of the mainline, reputable banks—e.g. the ones not involved with people like Paul Manafort—will generally cease those activities as well.  Coal projects may have to start looking at the loan sharks of the finance world.

1st Big US Offshore Wind Farm Scores Record-Low Price—Remember, offshore wind in the U.S. is not a mature industry with established cost estimates, employee knowledge, etc.  These costs are likely to come down in the coming years.

Surprise! Electric Buses are Significantly Greener Across the US—I do not know if I would say “surprise” but it is a good outcome nonetheless.  Instead of focusing on personal automobiles we should be putting our resources into electrifying public transit and commercial vehicles.

Explore the Largest Coastal Restoration Project Completed In Louisiana’s History—On an Earth where we, humans, have changed every landscape to some degree the conversation needs to pivot from preservation to restoration.  How do we restore natural ecosystems that have been damaged by humans?

Postcards from the Edge—The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana is what the current administration would like most of America to look like save for the views from Trump’s own golf courses.  Remember, solar panels and wind turbines are a blight but toxic open pit mines are tremendous.

Nuclear Wasteland: The Explosive Boom and Long, Painful Bust of American Uranium Mining—If you want to wonder what will become of places like Bear Ears and Grand Escalante Staircase under a Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump regime just look at the history of uranium mining in the western U.S.  Many of these landscapes and communities have not recovered from the damage done over thirty years ago.

Meet America’s Elite Farm Subsidy Club—It’s Farm Bill time which means that Republicans are going to whine about cutting SNAP benefits for poor people because we all “know” that food stamps is what is bankrupting the United States.  It could not possibly be that we allow rich people to loot America.  Not at all.

Fascinating Look at How America Uses its Land—Just take a moment to see how we use land in aggregate in the United States and think about how your personal choices play into this land use.  Think of all the opportunities for restoration:

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Friday Linkage 8/3/2018

Election Day is 95 days away.  On November 6, 2018 the people of the United States have the best chance to show the world that Donald Trump and his coterie of right wing, e.g. Republican, enablers do not represent America.

Here in the 1st district of Iowa we have a chance to eliminate the stain of representation that is Rod Blum, a parody of late stage capitalist politician if ever there was one.  He has the benefit of being from the same state as Steve King so no one ever calls him the worst politician from the state of Iowa.

On to the links…

Friendly Policies Keep US Oil and Coal Afloat Far More than We Thought—This is where the fight needs to be in the near future.  Eliminate all subsidies for energy sources that contribute to climate change.  Seriously, do we need to spend public money to subsidize energy companies that have made more money than any other type of company in the history of mankind?

Congress Tries, Fails, to Destroy ANOTHER National Monument—Remember, this is a Congress led by Republicans in both chambers and they still cannot get anything done.  Government is not inherently incompetent, it is just incompetent when run by right wingers.

Dozens Of Lion Trophy Permits Issued To Hunters As Trump Rolls Back Import Hurdles—Donny Two Scoops is really looking out for the interests of the American people with this one.  How soon before Don Jr. or the goblin shark Eric come back from Africa with a mounted lion?

The EPA Just Undid Scott Pruitt’s Final Act in Office—This is why the election in November is so important.  Without a compliant Congress, any changes made by the corrupt Trump administration will be swept away with a change in the Oval Office.

Andrew Wheeler is Afraid to Revoke California’s Fuel Waiver. He Should Be.—The Trump administration is itching to fight over anything that even hints at the previous administration.  They should be careful about what they wish for when it comes to legal cases.

Coal Mining Has Destroyed 1.5 Million Acres of Appalachian Forest—Imagine if someone came up with a plan to restore these 1.5 million acres to something resembling a forest?  Imagine hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into a region for the largest environmental restoration project in the history of mankind?  I can imagine it being possible, can you?

From Coal Mines To Solar Farms: It’s Complicated, But Doable—The landscapes of coal country have been scarred by an extractive industry, see above, that has no interest in the long term viability of the communities or the health of the people left behind.

US Wind Installations To Surge Before PTC Phase-Out In 2021—We can all hope that by 2020 or so there is a more visionary government installed in the U.S. that extends these tax credits to continue one of the few positive developments in our energy infrastructure.

The $3 Billion Plan to Turn Hoover Dam Into a Giant Battery—The era of “big” public works seems to be over, but what if we could use all of that infrastructure to help the transition to a 100% renewable economy?

‘Peak Coal’ is Getting Closer, Latest Figures Show—This is why the deployment of renewables, energy efficiency, and demand destruction are so important.  Coal is teetering on the edge of economic relevance and we can topple the beast with a concerted effort.

Energy Dept. Coal and Nuclear Subsidy could Cost Average US Household $160 to $500 Per Year—As coal and nuclear are no longer competitive in the electricity generation marketplace it is now the responsibility of the American people to ensure that these companies make money.  Why?  Because they donate a lot of money to people like Donald Trump.  This is not about national security, it is about keeping coal companies humming along.

UPS Partners with L.A.-Based Startup Thor on Electric Delivery Truck—Electrification of the heavy and medium duty truck market would be a more cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than trying to goose adoption through personal automobile electrification.  These commercial vehicles are driven a lot more, bought in large quantities by a single user, and can make an economic case better than personal automobiles.

Have We Reached Peak Storage?—I truly hope we have reached a point where we no longer need to build storage units external to our home to store stuff that we use so infrequently that it can be stored at a remote location.

Marie Kondo Wants You to Buy More Boxes—What the shit?  Is this when you know a trend has really “jumped the shark?”  I thought the idea behind this was to buy less stuff?  We’re all just pimps for something.

Why Your Kid Needs Time Just to Be—As parents we are a seriously neurotic bunch worrying about our kids future.  Maybe, just maybe, the key to raising a happy child is to let them be a kid once in a while.  Or, letting them just be a kid a whole lot.

Back in Black…Electricity Wise

A good month or so of solar photovoltaic production and a nine day vacation put me back in the black in terms of energy production and consumption:

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Eighty two kilowatt hours of clean, green solar electricity production above my household consumption to be specific.

As you notice from the image above my bill is not zero or even net positive.  Why?  The dreaded facility charge or connection fee.  What is this?  It is the fee charged by your electricity provider for the use of the grid regardless of your electricity consumption or, in my case, production.

Now, the grid essentially acts as my battery since I have a purely grid-tied solar system.  It does not seem like a heavy burden to bear per month for the security of having electricity on demand.  However, in some states—here’s looking at you Arizona—legislators, hand in hand with their energy company lobbyists, are pursuing fees for connecting solar systems and higher facility charges in general to supposedly offset the costs incurred by these systems being active.  Some states have proposed that solar system owners pay an extra per kilowatt hour fee for each kilowatt hour that they draw from the grid.

This all seems fine and dandy to the people running electric utilities, but it may end up creating the conditions for a death spiral.  As costs for battery storage decrease and solar systems proliferate households may choose to sever their connection to the grid entirely.  In high cost or low reliability locations this is already happening.  As increasing numbers of households leave the grid the existing infrastructure is supported by fewer rate payers increasing the individual household’s share of the costs.  Costs go up and the incentive to sever ties to the grid increases thus more households make the leap.

None of this will occur overnight, so to speak, but the conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for such a transition to take place.

 

Friday Linkage 12/1/2017

Has America gone mad?  I am starting to wonder if this is the moment when this country turns toward ruin because its leadership is so disconnected from anything resembling coherence.  The current tax “reform” legislation winding its way through Congress is a thee day old salad bar of bad ideas cribbed from the plethora of failed Republican economic experiments going back to the 1980s.  The only hope that I have if this passes in anything near its current form is that it finally puts the dagger in the heart of any right winger being able to stand on anything that looks like economic principle.

Of course, I said the same thing when Donald Trump got elected about evangelicals and those clowns are falling in line to support Roy Moore because…’Merica!

On to the links…

Sam Brownback Trolls America: The Guy Who Wrecked Kansas is the GOP’s Role Model—Kansas is an abject failure of a state right now because Sam Brownback decided to remake the state in the image of Paul Ryan’s utopia of low tax, low quality life that he dreamed up while short pouring beers from kegs at fraternity parties.  No seriously bro, Ayn Rand was right about everything!

This Map Shows Exactly How Many Republicans in Your District Don’t Believe in Global Warming—These are the same people selling the lie that trickle down economics works.

How Could the Agung Volcano in Bali Affect Global Temperatures?—James Inhofe just got all excited because he might get to talk about snow in the winter again as some kind of perverted proof that climate change is not real.  No talent ass clown.  Notice the trend in temperatures from the chart?  Short term perturbations do not change the long term trend of warming.

Interior Department Mired in Investigations—In a few years the accounting will hold this current presidential administration as the most inept and corrupt in the history of the United States.  No amount of Twitter insults or Fox & Friends call ins will change the reality.

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses: Everything You Need to Know in One Lovely Chart—This is one of those charts to keep around and reference frequently:

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Just look at the rejected energy total.  That essentially equals wasted energy.  Efficiency is the holy grail kids.

Solar Panel Prices Plunge by a Shocking 26 Percent in One Year—I thought that the downward trend in solar panel prices would level out, but at this rate we will just be able to put panels on whatever surface is available.  Oh, and wind is getting cheaper too.

U.S. Coal Industry Shows No Sign of Comeback—No matter what Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, or any other coal obsessed right wing stooge says coal is not coming back.  It’s fake news to say anything other than coal is in a long downward trend that will be almost impossible to come out of unless the fundamentals of economics change.

Oil and Gas Industry is Causing Texas Earthquakes, a “Landmark” Study Suggests—All that natural gas being pulled from the ground in places like Texas might also have been the cause of the ground literally breaking apart.  Awesome.

A Map of $1.1 Billion in Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks—Just remember, these are the same people who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline and others.

Solar Grid Parity For Australia By 2020 As Renewables Surge—That is just a little over two years away.  This means that in all of Australia solar will cost the same as coal or natural gas regardless of condition.  Now, imagine a scenario where natural gas prices spike.  Are Australians going to go back to coal or put up some more solar panels?

Australia Can Meet CO2 Emissions Target By 2030 With Renewables At Zero Net Cost—Net zero cost is the key term here.  When you replace fossil fuels with renewables you are trading a higher upfront cost for a lower long term cost because you no longer need to buy fuel, which tends to increase in cost as time goes on.  The long term tail costs are often excluded from a lot of comparison models because doing so favors fossil fuels.

Elon Musk bet that Tesla could Build the World’s Biggest Battery in 100 days. He Won.—Say what you will about Elon Musk and his affiliated companies, but the guy does bold in business in an era when bland is the rule of the day.

Iowa Airports Going Green, Saving on Energy Costs—Nearly $650K for a solar photovoltaic system is great.  That puts 240kWh system to make power to be consumed on site.  I think the real story if that just over $200K is being spent to reduce energy consumption by up to 80%.  Granted that project happened over six years ago it shows you the relative power of putting money into energy efficiency.

Look-alike Apartment Buildings in Northeast Minneapolis Showcase New Ideas in Energy Efficiency—Do we really need a demonstration like this to prove the benefits of building a well-designed energy efficient building?

These ‘Chilling’ Soviet Maps of San Francisco, Bay Area Likely Intended for the Communist Takeover—The world seems like a scary place right now, but this is a reminder of just how scary things were during the Cold War.

Friday Linkage 9/8/2017

Labor Day week and the links are a little light.  Maybe I spent too much time reading about DACA, Hurricane Irma, and the forthcoming Iowa vs. Iowa State football game to really get my head into other news stories.

On to the links…

This EPA Statement Reads Like Something You’d Find in Breitbart—In a few years when the Trump Administration is little more than a steaming pile of bad memories the lasting damage will be unwound slowly and shit like this will just make us cringe in collective disbelief.  It is amazing that a group of politicians who accuse everyone outside their circle of being “fake news” is probably the largest source of bullshit every spewed from the West Wing.

Potential Carbon Capture Game Changer Nears Completion—Natural gas as a source of electricity is here to stay for a while, so if we could find a way to effectively and economically capture the carbon released as a result of combustion it could be a pathway to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion in Solar, Battery Investment—This happened in Florida, which is a state as hostile to a good idea as any that exists.  Heck, it’s a state that has elected Rick Scott to be its governor more than once.

How Tennessee’s Taken the Politics Out of Renewable Energy—Make it about choosing economically efficient solutions that provide renewable energy and even red states like Tennessee can get behind the green revolution.

Huge Tunisian Solar Park Hopes to Provide Saharan Power to Europe—The numbers are staggering.  4.5GW of solar is a monster number.  However, the dreams of tapping the Sahara Desert to power Europe always seem to be just a little out of reach.

After its Dams Came Down, a River is Reborn—The Elwha River will be a test case for dam removal going forward and it looks like an amazing success story.  Nature will find a way.

Friday Linkage 9/25/2015

The rides the past couple of weeks have been perfect. Just perfect. The temps are in the 70s to low 80s, the winds have not been too bad, and the crowds are gone. Especially on Saturdays when people are busy tailgating and watching college football, I have the trails and gravel all to myself. Unheard of in July.

On to the links…

Ban on Microbeads Offers Best Chance to Protect Oceans, Aquatic Species—The U.S. needs to enact a nationwide ban on plastic microbeads. Exfoliation is not worth the health of the oceans.

How Strict California Rules on Emissions led to Lower Cancer Risk—Regulation works. Plain and simple. Without emissions reductions California would still be blanketed in a horrible stew of smog and death.

Taxpayers Lose Billions to Coal Subsidies—Stories like this cannot get enough press. As taxpayers we pay billions to coal companies in order for them foul our air, dirty the water, and generally behave badly.

Balls of DNA Could Fix Geothermal Energy’s Biggest Problem—Geothermal is a great renewable energy resource because it is dependable enough to be considered “base load” like coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Unlike hydropower, the other base load renewable, large dams are not required and drought will not impact production. It looks like one of the thorniest problems may now be solved as well.

Obama Sets Up Cost Of US Solar Energy For Another Freefall—Fundamental research is being paid for that will drive down the entire system cost for solar. Remember when solar panels were only something you saw in Mother Earth News or on the lot of some burnt out hippie? Yeah, it’s mainstream now and will be more so in a few years.

Beyond Sprawl: A New Vision of The Solar Suburbs of the Future—We have a lot of development tied up in suburbs. This infrastructure is not going to go away and be replaced by dense, urban communities. How can we reform the suburb to make sense in a new era?

Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%–A reduction of this magnitude would make some serious waves.

UK To Remain Offshore Wind Giant With Forecasted 23.2 GW By 2025, GlobalData—I keep wondering when offshore wind is going to explode. Maybe that time is now.

China’s Wind Energy Capacity To Triple By 2020, Says GlobalData—For all of the bad things China does—pollution out of control, corruption, political repression—they sure are going after this whole renewable energy thing with gusto.

Your Body Immediately After Drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte—It’s that time of year when the pumpkin spice comes out and everyone wearing Ugg boots seems to have one in their hands. Here is what that concoction from satan’s belly does to your body.

I Ate a Bunch of Vegan Cheese, and It Was Actually Quite Tasty—As someone who has a child who is lactose intolerant and loves cheese all of these products are going to be on my next shopping list.

If You Never Knew You Needed It, Don’t Buy It—This is a rule we all should live by when shopping. How do you think Costco works? How many times have you ended up with something that was not on your list because it seemed so cool and useful?

Imagine a World without Waste: It’s Possible with a Circular Economy—Would this even fly in the west anymore? The minute someone would talk about these concepts in a political space the cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” would ring out.

Friday Linkage 4/24/2015

Earth Day came and went. I hardly even noticed save for some really shameless corporate greenwashing and lame ass ads about “going green.” Not using plastic t-shirt bags and single use bottles is great, but there are much larger problems that we fail to start a conversation about and these are the problems that threaten our very survival.

On to the links…

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Was Five Years Ago Today. Here’s What We Still Don’t Know.—On April 20th of 2010 the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and began spewing oil. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The scariest part is that we have little to no idea about the long term impacts of all that oil in the gulf. Heck, we wonder where some of it even went.

Idaho’s Panther Creek Comes Back from the Dead—We have the ability to bring restoration to the landscapes that we have destroyed. It may not be pristine, but it can be better.

Interior Considers Hike in Oil and Gas Royalty Rates—It is critical to remember that we lease lands to oil and gas companies out of the public trust for low rates. Not only do these companies enjoy generous subsidies and are not required to compensate anyone for the externalities associated with fossil fuels, our government allows them to do it for a rate far below what the market would bear.

Conservatives Upset At Pope’s ‘Green Agenda’—The Catholic Church may be behind the times on a lot of issues, but it is amazing to see the transformation of tone under Pope Francis. The conservatives of the world who used the Catholic Church as a common ally in all things retrograde are flipping a gasket that the pope would talk about things like poverty and equity.

Emissions, Economic Growth Parting Ways—The lockstep rise in emissions and economic growth was one of those economic laws you just figured on. When emissions went down it was usually because the economy was in a recession. The reverse being true when emissions went up. Data suggests that this linkage may be broken.

How Solar Got Cheap—A lot of factors went into making this dramatic drop in costs happen. Take fifteen minutes and listen.

SolarCity Gets Help From Credit Suisse To Finance Over $1 Billion In Commercial Solar + Storage Projects—Solar plus storage is going to be the next big development in distributed renewables. Mark my words. Or better yet, mark Elon Musk’s words.

Tesla’s New Battery Could Solve One of Solar Power’s Biggest Problems—Everyone is anticipating that on April 30th Tesla will announce the development of a battery meant to store power generated at a home. It might be a game changer.

China’s Risen Energy Lands 1.2 GW Solar Power Deal In Inner Mongolia—Even Inner Mongolia is getting on the solar PV bandwagon.

Ghana Off-Grid Households To Benefit From 100,000 Solar PV Systems—In the developing world solar and other distributed renewables have the chance to leapfrog the centralized power grid paradigm of western economies.

300 MW Of Solar Connected To UK Grid In March By Schneider Electric—Remember for a moment that these are numbers coming from one company in one country that is not known for its great solar resources. It would have not been too long ago that the announcement of 300MW of solar capacity would have been cheered. Now it is barely noticed.

We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership—All companies that sell you products want to make it a rental economy because that guarantees a stream of revenue. If they can prevent you from customizing or repairing your items than you do not really own them. You are just renting them from The Man.

Inside the Hellscape Where Our Computers Go to Die—The western world’s e-waste is out of sight and out of mind. However, someone ends up dealing with the waste and trying to make a living from whatever value can be extracted despite the huge environmental and health cost.