Tag Archives: biofuel

Friday Linkage 11/7/2014

A few days after the mid-term election is a good time to sit back and reflect on what really happened. Mediocre candidates, running away from the president’s signature law, and a lot of money equaled a bad day for Democrats. Remember, however, that Republicans are now in the tricky spot of getting what they wanted. Now they have to govern with a presidential election looming and a seemingly strong opposition candidate already anointed in Hillary Clinton. Sometimes, I just love politics.

On to the links…

The Koch 130—Do you want to know how the Koch Brothers are influencing parts of your life? Run down this list and see what groups they fund interact with your interests. My guess is that there are several.

What It’s Like To Be Detained And Prosecuted Under Ag-Gag Law—With Republican victories across the U.S. in statehouses and governor’s mansions expect ag-gag laws to pop up in other states. Chilling speech, while unconstitutional, is a great way to stop dissent.

Peak Water: United States Water Use Drops to Lowest Level in 40 Years—I read through these charts and was just amazed at what it was telling me.

Public Opposition has Cost Tar Sands Industry $17 Billion—If you do not think that the public opposition to tar sands and other dirty fuels has had any effect than you have not been watching. This is costing those companies billions of dollars. Now is the time to turn up the heat.

Ethiopia “Regreens” Degraded Land; Plans to Restore 15m More Hectares by 2030—If we want to reverse the worst effects of climate change we need to restore degraded land to a more hospitable state. If Ethiopia can do it—a country whose very name is evocative for anyone who grew up in the 1980s—than other countries can make it work as well.

Brazil Solar Power Auction May Spur $1 Billion in Investment—Every day seems to bring another story of a developing or emerging economy having a huge auction for solar or wind power development. This time it is Brazil.

Wiki-Solar Claims Global Utility-Scale PV Capacity Passed 30 GW—This is just about the march of progress of solar.

Denmark Announces Plan to Wean Itself Off Coal Within 10 Years—Granted, Denmark is small but its progressive policies are sort of like a laboratory for the rest of Europe and eventually those ideas seep across the Atlantic Ocean into America.

A Look inside Sweden’s Recycling-Obsessed, Garbage-Powered Cities—I do not know if garbage incineration is the answer to the problem of landfills, but it is an answer and it seems to be working for Sweden. Could you imagine if the U.S. had to import garbage?

Global Wind Energy Market Rebounding, Set For “Unspectacular Growth”—I think unspectacular growth is a good thing for the wind energy business, so it can wean itself from the boom and bust cycles that have defined its business over the past decade or more.

For Cellulosic Ethanol Makers, The Road Ahead Is Still Uphill—I hold out hope for ethanol’s second generation. The first generation uses corn, which can also be used for food, and thus has the potential to drive up global food prices. Second generation biofuels are going to use non-foodstuffs.

Nissan Leaf Sets Another Monthly Sales Record, Chevy Volt Remains Steady—The thing to remember with these cars is that this is the first generation of both models. Sales never really take off until the second generation. Look at the Toyota Prius’ sales figures. In 2000, the first year the model was available in the U.S., it sold 5,600 units. The second generation vehicle sold 54,000 in the first year of its U.S. availability. Just saying.

Rick Berman Caught on Tape: Hear His 10 Tactics to Aid Dirty Energy Corps—If you thought the mid-term election and the period leading up to it were bad, get ready for this guy’s tactics to be on full display for the next two years in the run up to 2016.

Libertarians Sue White House Over Climate Change Video—I love libertarians and other right wingers who decry activist judges yet use the courts at every turn to advance their agenda or slow down someone else’s. Hypocrisy, it’s what makes the world go round.

Remove or Revive? Dakota County aims to Update Old Dams—The U.S. is covered in old dams that are either failing or no longer serving a useful purpose. Municipalities across the U.S. are going to facing the same decision as Dakota County over the next decade: what to do about old dams?

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Friday Linkage 10/24/2014

A week in central Florida will mess with your head. Never mind the artifice of Walt Disney World. The entire place is like a twilight zone of ‘Murica. Case in point, I saw more solar installations on rooftops landing in Detroit than I did landing in Orlando. WTF? Oh, and the governor of the state of Florida is Rick Scott. How embarrassing is that guy?

On to the links…

All 13 Of Obama’s New And Expanded National Monuments In One Map—In our uber polarized political times there is little reflection on the successes of the past six years of Obama’s presidency. Take a look at these new and expanded national monuments with a sense of achievement and hope. Heck, there are two more years to get some more done.

The GOP Intensifies Its Attacks On The National Science Foundation—The Republican Party hates science because it is evidence based and generally objective, which flies in the face of a party that wants to use selected portions of the bible as a guidebook for behavior. Ignorance is bliss for the GOP.

These Republicans Prove You Don’t Have To Be A Scientist To Have A Lot To Say About Science—If you’re a Republican the newest way to start a sentence is “I’m not a scientist, but…” What follows is usually some drivel about science that a fourth grader watching Mr. Wizard would find insulting.

US Energy Efficiency Ranks Released: How’d Your State Do?—Energy efficiency is the renewable energy that is cheapest, returns investment the fastest, and is just hard to argue with unless you’re a Republican. Then it just sounds like socialism. Iowa was in the top third or so, which feels about right.

Wind Power is Cheapest Energy, EU Analysis Finds—When you account for externalities, which any good economic analysis should attempt, wind is the cheapest form of energy. Externalities are like a subsidy that we give to fossil fuels that is off the books, so to speak.

Solar’s $30 Billion Splurge Proves Too Much for Japan—Damn, Japan, $30 billion dollars is a lot to dump into solar projects. In one year Japan installed more solar capacity than in all of Spain. Imagine that for a moment. What if the U.S. did something like this? Oh wait…

An Easy-to-Install Solar Charger That Juices Your EV Off the Grid—I found this to be an interesting and unique solution to providing more recharging stations for EVs. My guess is that EV adoption will outstrip the number of available charging spots away from the home in the near term, so quick and easy solutions will be required to keep pace.

U.S. Solar Is 59 Percent Cheaper Than We Thought It Would Be Back In 2010—Yep, solar is significantly cheaper than it was predicted to be just four short years ago. As the cost curve keeps bending lower the adoption rate will go up. Utilities beware because demand destruction is coming your way.

US Wind Industry Booming, Already Surpassing 2013 Levels—Wind is continuing its winning streak.

Earth to Cellulosic Ethanol: Glad You’re Here, Buddy, What Took so Long?—Cellulosic ethanol, like algae derived biofuels, are always around the corner in terms of commercial scale. It appears that a few projects are up and running that prove concepts of commercial scale plants. If workable, these plants could show a path forward to non-food based biofuels.

Turning to Darwin to Solve the Mystery of Invasive Species—As our climate changes and globalization marches on invasive species are a fact of life. Understanding the mechanisms by which these super competitors evolved is key to preserving some semblance of our ecosystems.

Are goats the answer to the reed choking US east coast marshes?—Got a problem with invasive species? Ask the goats to take care of the problem. These little guys are awesome!

This Is Your Teenager’s Brain on Soda—Soda may not be crack, but it is likely that it is a dangerous “drug” all the same. From obesity to memory problems to diabetes to whatever new study will uncover. The stuff is evil.

Friday Linkage 9/19/2014

It’s a little light on the links this week. Life has a way of getting in the way of research and blogging on my hobbies. Damn.

On to the links…

Duke Energy Invests Heavily in Solar—Duke Energy is a big player in energy. Now the company is making a $500 million investment in solar. A total of eight projects will deliver 278 megawatts of clean solar power to the grid in North Carolina.

There’s a Place in the World that is Fighting Poverty with Solar Power—Solar power can be big improvement for the lives of people who live in countries with limited or no grid infrastructure.

A New Government Report Shows More Coal Plants Are Retiring Than Previously Thought—There is not a war on coal, per se, because the economic argument for burning coal is a losing proposition. Take a look at the map and see just how much coal generating capacity is going offline.

U.S. Moves to Reduce Global Warming Emissions—This is one of those “boring but important” announcements. The Obama administration may not be able to make any progress through Congress, but at least they can try and make progress other ways.

New Hydrogen Production Method Could Help Store Renewable Energy—The storage of renewable energy is a big deal because of the need for stable power and renewables inherent lumpiness relative to demand peaks. Maybe this is a way to “store” energy for future use.

Jatropha Biofuel Around the World: A 13-country Tour of Development Activity—Jatropha is an interesting feedstock for biofuels because the plant has some attractive qualities compared with more traditional feedstock like corn, soy, or palm oil.

California Drought: Dramatic Before-and-After Photos—If you do not believe in the severity of the drought gripping California spend a few minutes looking at these photos. If you are still not a believer, you are probably a Republican funded by the Koch brothers.

Zoos Weigh Pp the Costs of China’s ‘Pandanomics’—I am going to say it. Pandas suck. These obstinate little vegans are the absolute worst animals at the zoo. At least naked mole rats run around cool habitats. Pandas just sit there munching on bamboo and looking out with disinterested eyes. At least someone is questioning the value of playing into China’s hands when it comes to pandas.

The Truth about the Peer-Reviewed Science Produced by Japan’s Whaling—Regardless of the official numbers, the reality is that Japan’s whaling program has produced little if any scientific knowledge because it is a program designed to kill whales for consumption. It’s like asking the makers of “pink slime” about their scientific research of the sustainability of naturally occurring cow herds. It’s incongruous.

You Must Read—Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution

Perhaps more important, the simple ancient cannabis plant provides, after industrial harvest, a residual feedstock for regional-based sustainable energy production that cuts out at once Monsanto, BP, and Middle East oil dictators. And it gets out Ring Around the Collar. [Page 105]

9781603585439I am unabashed fan of Doug Fine. I loved Farewell, My Subaru. I told you to read Too High To Fail. So, I am going back to the well one more time and asking that you spend a couple of hours reading his latest book Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.

It feels like we are at an inflection point in the silly War on Drugs and the collateral damage that the over four decade long folly. You would think that after forty years of failed policy the answer would finally be do something different rather than more of the same. However, this is America and doing more of the same usually means that someone is making a lot of money off the failed status quo.

Led by Colorado and Washington, two states that boldly legalized recreational marijuana through ballot initiatives, the conversation is completely different surrounding all issues regarding the war on drugs. One of the long term casualties in this war was industrial hemp. Hemp is not psychoactive, but because of hyperventilating officials who thought that cartels would farm some Sour Diesel in with acres of hemp the crop remained illegal. Oh how some citizens voting have upended that apple cart.

Fields of hemp have been planted in Colorado. Kentucky is going forward with its own program that has the backing of current U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell—yes, that Mitch McConnell from the “repeal Obamacare because it is evil” camp—and his opponent in this fall’s upcoming mid-term election. If someone can find anything that a Republican and a Democrat can agree on these days it should be a cause for massive celebration.

The author shares my opinion of hemp aficionados who claim that the plant is a panacea for everything. Don’t you remember that person in college who had a bookshelf of odd little paperbacks that claimed hemp could take the place of every modern chemical, but it was forbidden because the big chemical companies were afraid of going out of business.  That image will endure because there are people out there still toeing that line. However, the reality is that there are a lot of smart and ambitious people in the U.S. and, especially, abroad who are putting their noses to the grindstone to build a modern hemp industry.

The hemp plant may not be the solution, but as I have said many times it can be a tool in the box for solving problems. Given the apparent fragility of our climate and our need to find alternatives to destructive modern practices don’t you think that we should gather every potential solution and put them to work? The answer is self-evident.

The other good point that I am glad is driven home is that hemp will not be easy. Sure, it grows like a weed but unlike corn or soybeans there is not a lot of institutional knowledge in the U.S. given that the plant has not been legal to cultivate since before World War II. Plus, seed varieties need to be matched to climate, geography, and intended industrial purpose to maximize the potential return.

The books reads a little bit like blog posts…er, dispatches that seem rushed to print rather than woven into a central narrative because I imagine there was a perceived time crunch to get the book into print. The landscape surrounding the reintroduction of industrial hemp in the United States is changing so rapidly that printing words on dead trees almost seems like a quaint exercise in the self-confidence of one’s own ability to project the future. The book is short—I read it on the outbound flight to Denver this weekend, which took a little more than 90 minutes—so the investment is minimal. Hemp, it’s the future.

Friday Linkage 1/10/2014

You can call it a polar vortex.  You can call it some frigid ass Canadian air barreling across the Dakotas to freeze my rear end off.  But, there is not another way to slice the weather at the beginning of the week.  It was cold.

I was in the state of Minnesota 17 years earlier when cold cancelled schools statewide—but not classes at the University of Minnesota for which I am still bitter—and this time it felt colder.  Maybe that has something to do with shuffling two children in and out of the car in the cold.  Everything seems to take longer and feel worse when you are struggling with buckling a squirming two year old.

On to the links…

Silver Lining? Cold Snap Cripples Emerald Ash Borer Threat—This little invasive species is a real bad actor.  So, enduring a little cold that might kill a whole lot or larvae is a fair trade in my book.  Granted, the level of emerald ash borer death is determined by how cold it really got and for how long so Minnesota might come out pretty good while Iowa only gets a year reprieve.  Damn.

Soda-Can Furnaces Powered by Solar Energy Heat Denver Neighborhood—With a few soda cans and some simple materials a person can build an effective heater for the winter season.  For approximately $30?  Why aren’t we trying to develop a better model, using some more durable materials, for about $100?  Make it a challenge and get some smart people crack-a-lackin’.

A Symbol of the Range Returns Home—Bighorn sheep are again dotting the landscape.  Considering the success of wolves, mountain lions, and other species in returning to numbers in the wild I have a little hope that we have not irrevocably destroyed our natural heritage.

Number of Gray Whales seen Migrating South Doubles from a Year Ago—Whether it’s an increase in population or a change in migratory patterns, more gray whales are being spotted off the coast of California than in a long time.  Good for whale watchers I guess.

Can America’s Grasslands Be Saved?—The native grasslands that once covered a great portion of the U.S have been subject to the largest eco-cide in the history of our country.  Plowed under, built upon, drilled under, strip mined…you name it and the grasslands have endured it without a fraction of the protest that would have been shouted if these landscapes were dotted with redwoods.  It’s a shame.

Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States—For years watchers of the American west have wondered when the over reliance on the Colorado River would force western states to realize the razor thin thread upon which their viability hung.  Well, the payment is coming due.

Wind Power was Spain’s Top Source of Electricity in 2013—I am not suggesting that we copy much from Spain, but the development of wind power is pretty amazing.  Nationwide wind power provides over 21% of the electricity in Spain.  Damn.  Of course, I live in Iowa where we are nearing 30% of our electricity from wind so maybe I am not so jealous.

Australia has 2 Million Small-Scale Renewable Systems—Small scale renewables on Australian homes produce enough power to provide for the equivalent of Perth, Hobart, Darwin, and Canberra combined.  That is something I am jealous of because I feel that distributed generation is the future.  Despite what ALEC tries to do in the halls of Congress.

Renewable Energy to Thrive in 2014, Despite ALEC’s Aggressive Tactics—Like the Kochs, ALEC shows up everywhere there is something even remotely planet positive.  Oh, they are always in opposition to those planet positive developments.  Too bad that there influence seems to be waning at the precise time when they have become even more strident in pursuit of their right wing jihad.

Freighter Carrying Oil Derails, Burns In New Brunswick—Here is what an oil soaked future looks like…it’s not pretty.  What happens when a solar rooftop fails?  That’s right, nothing.  It just sits there like a discarded mirror.  What happens when a shipment of oil fails?  That’s right, it’s apocalyptic.

Honduras and the Dirty War Fueled by the West’s Drive for “Clean” Energy—  Palm oil, used in shelf stable foods and as a feedstock for biofuel, is going to turn out to be a bigger environmental boondoggle than ethanol derived from corn.  Mark my words.

60 Minutes Hit Job On Clean Energy Ignores The Facts—Is 60 Minutes even credible anymore?  When I was a kid it was the news program of record on the weekend.  If something was on 60 Minutes it was the national conversation.  Now it seems like a junkyard of journalism and hackery.

Big Beef—This is an excellent look into the various ways that the beef industry has woven itself into our political system to guarantee certain privileges for their product.  It’s just a shame that their product is probably bad for our health, bad for the environment, and just plain gross when produced in industrial settings.  Good use of our tax dollars, though.

General Mills cuts GMOs from Cheerios—Anytime a food giant like General Mills makes a move like this it is a big deal whether in reality or perception.

GMO-Free Cheerios Are an Empty Gesture—Remember, there are two sides to every argument.

Friday Linkage 9/6/2013

Some of these links may be a little dated given that it is the news that I have been interested in over the past couple of weeks.  Obviously, I had some stuff going on at the homefront.

On to the links…

Beer vs. Oil: Beer Wins—Enbridge Oil is a ship of fools.  First, they spill a bunch of nasty tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.  When they get ordered to clean up their spill completely, which they probably tried to get out of using some technicality, the plan was a joke.  At least the good guys won this one.

The Untold Story Of Western Ranchers And Their Epic Battle Against Coal—Has the coal industry found a way to piss off everyone in the U.S.?  Now it looks like they have lost the rugged ranchers of the western U.S.  Who is left on their side?  Congress.  Damn.

Climate Change’s Original Sin—There is no discrete “environmental” journalism anymore because climate change is the single issue that is enmeshed with every decision that we will make for the foreseeable future.

Cattle—not climate change—killing the Great Barrier Reef—It looks like the obsession with eating meat is the primary cause of destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.  Enjoy the hamburger, mate!

The Real Reason Kansas Is Running Out of Water—So, we suck water out of the ground to grow corn that we stuff down the gullets of feedlot cattle.  Great system.

A Nevada Tribe’s Epic Battle To Replace A Deadly Coal Plant With Solar—Even if the Moapa Paiutes are successful in cleaning up the Reid-Gardner power plant there is a chance that natural gas development will follow.  Given the history of suffering of native people, is there an end in sight?

The Fracking Rig Next Door—Do you wonder what it would be like to have a fracking rig move in down the street?  Well, here are the photos.  Think about what it would be like before you spout off that fracking is our pathway to energy independence.

Four New Wind Farms In The Upper Midwest Could Power 750,000 Homes— Every week or month seems to bring news of a windfarm development in my neck of the woods that is bigger and badder than the prior announcement.  One of the numbers in the article that is crazy is 1,650.  That is the number of windpower megawatts that Xcel is awaiting on approval.  Blow, baby blow!

With Rooftop Solar on Rise, U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back—Utilities are scared of the rise in rooftop solar because it shakes their business model to its very foundations.  They also like total control.  Bullies don’t like it when someone takes away their toys and control.  Get ready for the playground fight of the next decade.

The Latest Clean Energy Cocktail: Bacteria And Fungus—It is crazy to see what scientists are doing with simple organisms in the pursuit of biofuels.  As the technology develops and matures there may be a hope for next generation biofuels to fulfill the promise of the current generation of biofuels.

Why Pushing Alternate Fuels Makes for Bad Public Policy—John DeCicco makes a salient point that there is no environmental reason to make a headlong rush into promoting alternative fuels for transportation use.  His point is that cleaning upstream power generation—in terms of both pollutants and carbon dioxide—is more important than cleaning up downstream users—e.g. you and I.  I am down with this point to a certain level.  I believe that we need to attack the problem from both ends, but the political reality is that there is only so much political capital to tackle these problems.

The United States uses 39% of the energy it produces, wastes 61%…—If you thought that there was not room for efficiency in the portfolio of climate change solutions, I give you this graphic:

llnl-usa-energy-usage-2012.png.0x545_q100_crop-scale

Six Tips to Buying Better Olive Oil—Olive oil is such a huge part of my culinary regime that it is hard to read an article like this and not wonder about the liquid in my cabinet.  Of course, I try to buy oil sourced from U.S. farms so some of my concerns are overblown. As it says in the final tip, “If there’s a shorthand way of looking for quality, reach for olive oil from the Golden State.”

Building a Better Mass-Market Tomato—There is not better way to improve the lot of grocery store vegetables than to finally develop a tomato that actually tastes like something more than acid water.  We can all hope, right?

The Obesity Era—This has to be one of the most thought provoking and depressing things that I have read in a long time.  Do we live in the obesity era?

Where Sand Is Gold, the Reserves Are Running Dry—Is there a more unsustainable state than Florida?  It’s beaches are eroding, the ground literally swallows buildings, and the landscape is a haven for invasive species.  Does it ever end?  I cannot wait for vacation in Orlando.

After the Fire: The Uncertain Future of Yosemite’s Forests—Our management policies and climate change may have conspired to create a fire regime that now threatens to permanently alter the landscape of the western U.S.  Uh oh!

Friday Linkage 7/5/2013

It’s July…where did June go?  I got sick, when to a funeral, and all of a sudden three weeks passed by in no time.  Damn.

On to the links…

President Obama’s Climate Change Plan (Infographic)–If you can boil it down to an infographic, everyone wins:

climate_change_report_62513_final_0.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart

Federal Government Hopes More Rigs will Become Reefs–Until now, it had been a real challenge for oil companies to leave drilling rigs alone in the Gulf of Mexico as fish habitats.  Here’s hoping some of these artificial reefs are allowed to survive.

For Perfect Bacon, Add a Little Water to the Pan–Huh?  Try it.  It works.

Seaweed Biofuels: A Green Alternative that Might Save the Planet–I still have hope for biofuels, just not the first generation of fuels derived from the same crops as food.  Seaweed derived fuel would be badass.

Clean Energy For All: California Advances Pioneering Shared Renewables Bill–As renewables enter the mainstream more and more, the options for obtaining different renewables will increase.  Solar gardens for victory, man!

Can Electric School Buses Help Solve Our Grid Problems?–Renewables are “lumpy.”  That is to say that the amount of power going into the grid is not consistent 100% of the time.  Moderating those peaks and valleys is a challenge.

How the Koch Brothers Screwed the Climate More than You Think–Just when you think that these two ass wipes have reached bottom there is another rung down into the slime that they descend.  Impressive.

Bright Kids, Small City–Maybe chasing one’s dreams in the “big city” is not the only option for people out there.  Here is to hoping that a new generation does not immediately fall for the allure of a major metro.

WWOOF Experiences Cheaper Way to try Farming–Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms sounds really interesting.  It’s hard to find an experience on the farm if you do not intimately know someone who farms.  Wait a second.  Maybe that’s one of the problems with out food system.  Oh snap!

Eight Rules of Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette–I cannot imagine how pissed I would be if I drove my Nissan Leaf to a charging spot and saw am SUV parked in the spot.  Whoops, I don’t own an EV yet.  Yet.

Could The NSA Spy On Environmental Activists?–Do you remember the stories about police in Britain embedding themselves as undercover agents?  Who says that the NSA would not spy on Could The NSA Spy On Environmental Activists? as well?