Tag Archives: carbon emissions

Cracking the Electric Vehicle and Solar Photovoltaic Code in April

April felt like the month where I cracked the code on this whole electric vehicle thing.  How so?  After averaging 5.0 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh) in March and considerable less in the prior two months I ended April at an average of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Over the course of ~630 miles of driving I saved ~724 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared with my prior ICE vehicle.

Since mid-January when I acquired my used Nissan Leaf, I have driven a total of ~2,214 miles and saved ~2,456 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Not to mention saving ~$230 in fuel costs, which is a number that is sure to go up as fuel costs are creeping up here in eastern Iowa along with the spring time temperatures.

The story gets even better when you factor in April’s solar production:

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The numbers are not dramatic in and of themselves.  However, for the month—including the electricity that I used to “fuel” my EV—I produced ~95 kWh in excess of my needs.  For the month of April my house and my car were more than fueled by the sun.  That is the future.

Imagine what things will be like when I increase the generating capacity of my solar array by almost 60%.  Based on my calculations that will allow for more than 15,000 miles of electric driving per year which should cover both my and my wife’s commuting miles in town.

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Twenty Days in January with My Nissan Leaf

The biggest step that I have taken to decarbonize my transportation was to buy a used 2015 Nissan Leaf.  Depreciation and other market forces made purchasing a lightly used electric vehicle an easier decision than it had been in the past.  It also helps that I had already wired my garage for 240V operation, making charging that much faster than relying on legacy 120V outlets.

January 2019 was a weird month and I only owned the Leaf for twenty days of the month due to a lengthy process to get the car delivered.  No one wants to hear that their newly purchased car was on the delivery vehicle that went off the interstate in high winds.  Combined with a week or more of polar vortex and the first appearance of significant snow this winter I have a hard time making heads or tails of my driving results.

Anyway, for the twenty days that I had possession of the Nissan Lead I drove a total of 352.5 miles (~17.6 per day) at an energy efficiency of 3.6 miles per kWh.

Until the temperatures dropped into colder than a well digger’s rear end on the shady side I was average around 4.5 miles per kWh.  This goes to show you how much an impact using a resistive heater can have on your EV’s energy efficiency.  I have also come to discover that the Nissan Leaf’s battery has a thermal management system that will heat the battery in extreme cold to prevent “freeze up.”  That is just more energy used to make heat and not drive the wheels.

Regardless, I am still saving in terms of fuel cost and carbon emissions.  Based on my prior primary vehicle—a 2013 Ford F-150—I saved $12.73 in fuel costs and 372.1 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This assumes that I drew all of the power to move my Nissan Leaf from the grid, which when I rack and stack January’s solar production looks very likely.

Friday Linkage 11/30/2018

I feel that this article on CNBC.com just about nails the past two years:

Donald Trump’s all-GOP government in Washington ends a two-year run as it began, by struggling to govern at all.

The president who vowed to make America great again has rattled financial markets, reduced farm exports and raised manufacturing costs with his tariff policies. As growth slows, he blames the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates and threatens General Motors for closing plants.

The president who promised law and order, having previously fired the FBI director, fired his attorney general over the Justice Department’s Trump-Russia investigation. The acting attorney general has been openly hostile to the probe.

The president who insisted Mexico would finance a border wall now wants American taxpayers to pay as a condition of keeping their government open. Congress doesn’t intend to build the wall, so the government could shut down next week.

Thus completes the chaotic circle of governance by Trump and the GOP Congress: fanciful promises, contradictory priorities, presidential provocations that Republicans won’t rein in. Voters responded this month by handing the House to Democrats.

Obamacare survived. The better, cheaper Republican alternative never existed.

The infrastructure plan Trump promised business and blue-collar supporters has not materialized. GOP congressional leaders prefer to spend on tax cuts.

Republicans delivered tax cuts, but not as advertised. Proceeds profited the wealthy far more than the middle class and ballooned the budget deficit, with no evidence of giving the economy more than a short-term stimulative boost.

Trump’s abandonment of the fight against climate change has not revived the coal industry, which keeps closing unprofitable facilities. The president answers his own government’s warnings about the climate by saying he doesn’t believe them.

Republican congressional leaders want cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to shrink government, reduce deficits and relieve pressure for tax hikes. Trump vows to protect those popular benefits.

Tough executive branch oversight, which preoccupied Obama-era Republicans, vanished when their party won the White House. Lawmakers who talked of prosecuting Hillary Clinton skipped past Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email for government business.

Unlike Obama, Trump has supplied a steady stream of genuine scandal. Cabinet members and senior presidential aides have departed under ethical clouds, while Trump’s former national security advisor and campaign chairman confessed to felonies.

Unprecedented turnover and turmoil hinder White House operations. Trump has filled just over half the administration jobs important enough to require Senate confirmation.

How Republicans attempted to retain power in this fall’s elections exposed the chasm between their policies and public sentiment. Most voters believe the GOP tax cut has not made them better off, so Trump promised a new one.

Republicans who earlier favored repeal ran as defenders of a principal Obamacare achievement — guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions. Trump accused Democrats, rather than his own party, of threatening Medicare.

On Election Day, Americans issued their verdict. They cast 9 million more votes for Democrats than Republicans in House races, the largest margin in midterm election history.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

On to the links…

Trump’s Latest Talking Points on Climate Change Will Make Your Brain Hurt So Bad—This is what happens when a minority of the American people elect a coddled man child with the intellectual capacity of a fifth grader throwing a temper tantrum about chicken nuggets.

The White House Talking Points About the National Climate Assessment Are Demonstrably False—There has to be a special place in hell for Sarah Huckabee Sanders who has spent her time in the Trump Administration glibly lying her way to a position as a commentator on Fox News.

Solar Energy Beats Coal On Critical Infrastructure Resilience—Remember when Rick Perry was going to save coal and nuclear plants by using an obscure national security rationale?  Looks like renewables are good for a resilient grid after all.

US Could Meet Paris Emissions Pledge with ‘Natural Climate Solutions’—Restoration and better management of our natural resources could go a long way in helping us mitigate the worst effects of climate change.  These are not exotic technological solutions waiting for discovery.

Climate Change: Report says ‘Cut Lamb and Beef’—No surprise here, but the evidence is getting to be as damning as that against smoking.  Eating beef and lamb is bad for the environment.  It’s just a question of how bad.

Massive 14-Year Oil Spill Ordered To Be Cleaned As Leaks Continue—It is appalling that this has taken fourteen years and over 150 million gallons of oil to finally come to this solution.

Colorado Joins California Low Emission Vehicle Program In Rebuke To Trump—Our federal government is hamstrung by the fact that the Senate is controlled by a minority of Americans.  However, the states with the most population and dynamic economies can move forward with climate sensible policies.

FedEx is Getting 1,000 More Electric Delivery Vans—FedEx has over 60,000 trucks so 1,000 is not a sea change, but it is a start.

Meanwhile In China, The Electric Mobility Revolution Is In Full Swing—There is a lot to dislike or even loathe about China—Muslim “reeducation” camps in the western part of the country for example—but the command driven economy is really moving forward on electric mobility.

The Case Against Cruises—Apparently, cruises are a disaster for the environment and the communities in which these mega ships port.  I always liked the line about cruises being the penultimate example of “premium medicore.”

Lettuce is Stupid and You Shouldn’t be Eating it Now Anyway—Lettuce is just a refrigerated water delivery vehicle.  Salads are a waste.  Never mind that eating lettuce is about the most likely way to get food poisoning anymore.

Friday Linkage 10/26/2018

It is eleven days until election day.  I will start every post for next eleven days with the same message.

This week has seen a terrorist send pipe bombs to the same people that Donald Trump demonizes via tweets and whatever air time the media will allow him these days.  Coincidence?  I am fairly confident in saying that the odds the terrorist owns a MAGA hat are good.

I understand that it is hyperbole, to some extent, in claiming that this is the most important election in history.  However, I do believe that this may be the most important election in my lifetime.  At least until 2020.

On to the links…

The Most Important Science Policy Issue in Every State—I can almost guarantee you that whatever state you live in that the Republican candidate for national office is on the wrong side of this issue.

The Midterms Have the Power to Usher in an Era of Climate Action—Vote in eleven days to make this a reality.

Why Conservatives Keep Gaslighting the Nation about Climate Change—It is not really a secret.  People care about climate change and want action.  Republicans are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel lobby, so Republicans listen to their paymasters.

By 2035, the ‘Great Fuel Switch’ will Mark the End of the Age of Oil and Gas—The question is not if such a switch will happen, but how do we accelerate the timeline?

Zinke is Latest Trump Cabinet Member to have Abused Travel Privileges—Scandals that would have had Sean Hannity palpitating and salivating at during the Obama years are just another day in D.C. when the cheese puff is in charge.  Imagine what the investigations will be like when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

In Response to Trump Administration Efforts, Oregon Moves to Ban Offshore Drilling—What this fight not be about state’s rights, but the power of the federal government to determine oil and gas policy.  Remember, Republicans love state’s rights as long as it is about suppressing the votes of minorities, banning abortion, and generally being shitty to regular people.

14-Year-Long Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico Verges on Becoming One of the Worst in U.S. History—If someone back up a tractor trailer and dumped 500 barrels of sludge a day into a river that person would go to jail.  However, because this was done by a corporation there is no recourse for the lasting environmental damage.  The next time someone tells you about the great safety and environmental record of America’s gas and oil industry send them this link.

This Is The Deadly Ocean Plastic Pollution You Never Hear About—Ban plastic straws all you want, it is not a bad idea but it is kind of small potatoes, because abandoned fishing nets are a much bigger problem.

US Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement Hits Record Levels—It is hard to comprehend how big many corporations are, but they exert the same influence as most nation states are able to bring to bear.  If these corporations move to renewable energy, it is by default that the countries that they are based in will move to renewable energy.

The True People of the Amazon Help Save the World—Save the forests, save the world.

As Climate Change Worsens, Trees may be the Key to Saving our Future—The geography is different, but the story is the same.  Save the forests, save the world.

The Battle to Curb our Appetite for Concrete—Concrete is an emissions disaster.

Could We Grow All the Food We Need in Our Yards?—It may sound like the premise for a dystopian young adult novel, but the question remains.  Just how much food could we grow in the space occupied by our lawns?

Dig for Victory: 16 Posters from When our Food was Fighting—It is no secret that I love war time homefront posters.  These show you that maybe “victory is in the kitchen” via the garden.

Friday Linkage 10/19/2018

It is eighteen days until election day.  I will start every post for next eighteen days with the same message.

If you care about the outdoors, whether it is just to appreciate nature or to recreate, you need to read this guide to the midterm election put together by the Outdoor Industry Association.  Let me skip to the punch line: most, if not all, Republicans are bad for the land.

I understand that it is hyperbole, to some extent, in claiming that this is the most important election in history.  However, I do believe that this may be the most important election in my lifetime.  At least until 2020.

On to the links…

8 Things You Need to Know About the IPCC 1.5˚C Report—The IPCC’s report is not getting the attention it deserves because the United States is run by an orange monster who fills our heads with childish insults and ridiculous lies that a fourth grader using Google can debunk.

Can Consumer Choices Ward Off the Worst Effects of Climate Change? An Expert Explains.—We are told that our choices do not matter, but that is bunk.  Some choices matter more than others.  It is okay to get down in the dumps a little bit about climate change.  However, it is not all right to do nothing.

What Tiny Bhutan can Teach the World about Being Carbon Negative—I want to see a movement where people start saying, “Be like Bhutan.”

The Best Way to Reduce Your Personal Carbon Emissions: Don’t be Rich—Well, that is some advice.

How Much Energy is Used to Heat, Cool, and Light our Homes in Different U.S. Climate Regions?—Where we live goes a long way in determining our energy usage patterns.  However, I would argue that this analysis is incomplete without looking at transportation emissions by climate region. Someone in New York City may use more energy to heat and cool their residence than someone in Orlando but that Floridian sure as hell uses a lot more energy for transportation.

Even Trump is Beginning to Realize that He can’t Save Coal—Coal is dead.  Trump, in some ways, hastened its demise because political opponents have no need to even attempt to cater to a craven interest group that will utilize all the political chicanery of nationalism to achieve its financial goals.

White House Shuns Energy Secretary’s Coal & Nuclear Bailout—The plan was shit, but that did not stop Rick Perry from trying to accomplish the goals of his buddies in the coal industry with the nuclear boys along for the ride.  When even Donald Trump’s administration realizes that something is a bad idea you know it was really bottom feeding.

Hawai’i Looks To Add 260 Megawatts Of Solar & 1+ Gigawatt-Hour Of Storage—If there is one U.S. state that can go completely renewable in the short term it is probably Hawaii.  The state’s residents pay a lot for electricity and it is disconnected from any larger electrical grids as each island is basically its own mini-grid.

Sony Brings its 100 Percent Renewable Energy Goal Forward a Decade—The federal government and many states may be absent from going after ambitious goals, but large private companies that are bigger energy users than some small countries are making a commitment to renewable energy.

40% Of China’s Coal Plants Are Losing Money, Reports Carbon Tracker—Is China the great economic bubble of our time?  I am beginning to wonder if the entire economy is being run like a giant Ponzi scheme that everyone is afraid to question because the impact of collapse would be so damaging to the world economy.

Global Warming to Leave us Crying in our Costlier Beer—Global warming has come for chocolate and coffee.  Now it is coming for our beer.

Beyond Meat’s Veggie Burger Produces 90% Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Cow-Based Burgers—You can question the health benefits of an ersatz beef patty.  You can even question whether the effort to mimic animal protein is worth the effort when high protein, meat free dishes can be ultra-appetizing without resorting to culinary trickery.  You cannot deny that on a emissions versus emissions basis there is no question replacing a beef patty with a veggie patty is a winner.

New Study Suggests it’s Time to Replace Modern, Grassy Lawns—If there is one change I wish every homeowner, regardless of climate, would do it is taking out as much of their home’s lawn as possible.  Yes, it is hard work to initially remove lawn and replace it with something more planet friendly but think about the benefits.  No more mowing.  ‘Nuff said.

We Have the Tools to Create Meaningful Change

For the first time in my memory, which stretches back to the now fuzzy early 1980s, I feel that we have the tools to positively combat climate change available at a personal level.  No longer are we limited to advocating for municipal recycling, agitating McDonald’s to get rid of polystyrene clamshells, or hanging our undergarments out to dry in the sun.  Hey, it was the 1980s and I wanted save the whales so I spent a lot of time writing letters to McDonald’s threatening to boycott Happy Meals forever unless they got rid of those old school burger boxes.

Let me use solar power as an example of a tool that we have available down here at a personal level.  Consider the cost per watt in dollar terms from 1977 until 2015:

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In simple mathematical terms that is a decline in price per way of over 99.5%.  Whereas a solar photovoltaic system was probably only something that strange science teacher who drove an ancient Volvo actually had on his house is now something a lot more people can install.

Take my solar photovoltaic installation.  In a little more than two half days and for a cost of less than $11K I had 4.64 kWh of solar installed in a single array on a west facing garage roof.  After tax credits the total cost will come in somewhere around $6K.  For six thousand dollars I now produce all of my electricity needs from the sun.  Granted, it is a grid tie system so I use traditional utility power on occasion.

Yes, I use a lot less electricity than the average peer house but it’s not like I live in an off-grid yurt.  I have a typically large American refrigerator, I run the air conditioning when it is hot, I have a large screen television that gets turned on to watch football games, and so on.  Hell, I have an electric dryer and range.  The point is that you can use a lot less electricity and produce it all via the sun with a fairly minimal investment and without sacrificing the quality of life we have come to assume is natural in the United States.  This is not Ed Begley Jr. being eco-dramatic on Living with Ed.

Even better is that none of the technology used in a solar system is in its infancy, so the maturity of the design is well along which means the systems are reliable.  No one is going to be spending hours up on a roof trying to figure out why the panels are not producing any juice.  The solid state system just sits on top of the roof generating power from the sun without any moving parts or noise.  Day in and day out whenever the sun shines and even when it does not.  If that is not a powerful tool to combat carbon emissions and the resultant climate change I do not know what would qualify.

Going solar is just one of the many tools available to us to make a difference.  We all need to take a moment and examine our lives.  What are the activities that we engage in that have an outsize impact on our carbon emissions.  Tools exist and are available to us that can ameliorate almost any source of emissions if we are willing to make the effort.

Given the horrible state of national leadership on climate issues it is incumbent upon us as concerned individuals to make every effort and deploy every tool.  You might feel good about yourself when you sign a petition, but it has to go further than that if we are to have any hope of a sustainable and equitable future on this planet.

My goal over the next few months is to really examine what the tools are that can help me—a guy living a fairly normal suburban life with three other people in eastern Iowa—eliminate my carbon emissions.

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.