Tag Archives: carbon emissions

Decarbonizing Transportation Due to Coronavirus

Like almost everyone else in the United States, my family has been hunkered down at home since mid-March due to concerns about spreading coronavirus.  This has meant a cessation of all my children’s activities like dance and soccer.  Therefore, it has also meant cancelled trips for dance competitions and soccer tournaments.

Furthermore, my wife and I have been working from home since returning from an aborted ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado.  There is nothing quite like the ski resort effectively closing for the season a mere two hours after you arrive in town.  It is a real kick in the groin to have to go up and over the Berthoud Pass twice in thirty-six hours.

All of this has already added up to seventeen days of working from home, so two cars have been practically parked for that same time period.  Just my driving alone for those seventeen days would equal more than 350 miles of driving my Nissan Leaf not counting any additional mileage for grocery shopping or shuttling kids.  This demand for transportation has not been shifted.  It has been destroyed.

Along with the demand destruction for transportation is a corresponding drop in carbon emissions as a matter of course.  The dramatically altered commuting habits of Americans and others across the globe have decarbonized our transportation.  It’s not permanent, but it does show that a radically different future is possible.

One of my goals for 2020 was to replace 500 miles of car-centric transportation with human powered transit.  I had hoped to start commuting one or two days a week via bicycle to my job, but coronavirus has had other ideas about how things are going to develop this year.

While I have not been replacing car miles with bicycle miles I have watched the number of miles driven drop precipitously.  For example, during the first two weeks of April I have driven my Nissan Leaf less than 60 miles which includes all of my household’s car transportation to do things like pick up groceries.  Sixty miles is what I would generally average across less than three days during normal conditions.  I guess all of the kilowatt hours from my solar array are going to get shunted onto the grid for someone else to enjoy.  Each day of no car travel in my Leaf is like putting 4 kWh onto the grid for someone else to use.  Maybe it will displace just a little bit of coal.

The upside to this whole shit sandwich of coronavirus, specifically, and 2020, generally, is that we are witness to a different possibility for the future that is a departure from our current path without being dependent upon radical technological change.

The sky is blue because we just stopped driving.

December 2019 Solar Production and EV Performance

The additional capacity for my solar photovoltaic array was finally turned on in the middle of December.  For some reason the monitoring software is screwed up—probably because it is tied to the old inverter that is now powering an array for a friend in northeast Iowa.  It is my hope that the issue is resolved in the next few days and I can start comparing total production of the array.

Regardless, I have a decent idea of how I am doing relative to total consumption versus total production using the readout from my bi-directional meter.  For December I ended up using ~208 kWh more than I produced.  Considering that my system was not operational for half of the month I am going to take this as a good sign that I should now produce more than I consume most months out of the year.  In the past December has been one of the worst for solar production.

Knowing my numbers at the beginning of the year it is my estimate that I will be net positive when it comes to total consumption versus total production even including my electricity usage for driving my Nissan Leaf.

For the month of December I drove my Nissan Lead 574.7 miles at an average efficiency of 5.0 miles per kWh.  This translates into a CO2 savings of ~651 pounds compared to driving my prior vehicle assuming an average carbon intensity of electricity from the grid.

For the entire year, I drove my Nissan Leaf ~7,987 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh.  I think this is a pretty good average efficiency based on what I am seeing on forums and what not.  This represents a savings ~9,119 pounds of CO2 compared to driving my prior vehicle assuming an average carbon intensity of electricity from the grid.  It also represents ~$1,132 savings in fuel costs assuming I draw power from the grid at my residential rate.

October 2019 Solar Production and EV Performance

October 2019 was an okay month for solar production:

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As you can see, my solar array exceeded the production of 2017 but fell short of what was produced in 2018.  Those are the breaks.  All in, my household ended up down ~229 kWh.

Granted, a lot of this delta between consumption and production can be accounted for by the Nissan Leaf sitting in my garage.  For the month of October I drove 900.3 miles at an average efficiency of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Total electricity consumption to drive my EV was ~167 kWh.  This represents an approximate savings of 1,034 pounds of CO2 versus driving my prior vehicle.

For the year I have driven 6,794 miles with an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Assuming all of the electricity I have used comes from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region I have saved ~7,767 pounds of CO2 from being emitted.

What is really a good sign is that I should really be in the black when it comes to consumption versus production within a month or so.  My local electric cooperative approved my revised interconnection agreement and an additional 8 360 watt solar panels are waiting to be installed.  A weekend with snow has kind of messed up everyone’s schedule around these parts so I am just waiting for the phone call from the installers.  Any day now.

An extra 62% production capacity will put me well above my consumption numbers, including my EV’s needs and a few electrification projects I have pending, for the foreseeable future.  For the year I estimate that I would be ahead of consumption by 1,858 kWh assuming similar weather patterns.  That is a lot of cushion to further decarbonize my household.

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.

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.