Tag Archives: Chicago Tribune

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.

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Friday Linkage 11/29/2013

I hope that everyone out there had a great Thanksgiving Day holiday and is spending today with family as opposed to braving the post-apocalyptic training ground that is Black Friday shopping.  Seriously, if there is ever a zombie outbreak I am going to ally myself with the people who swarm WalMart for $99 flat screen televisions.  Those people are straight up loco.

On to the links…

Your Shopping Guide To Stores That Won’t Ruin Their Workers’ Thanksgivings—I hope that people respected Thanksgiving and stayed home rather than look for that one great deal.  Moving forward, I hope that people punish these companies for opening on the holiday:

EDIT_war_on_thanksgiving_guide-02-638x1168

Why We Don’t Eat Beef for Thanksgiving—For those of you wondering, there is a seasonality to animals just as there is a season for fruits and vegetables.

Amid Canned Food Drives, U.S. Food Banks Take Up Farming—The lowly can of corn or green beans is a symbol of the food drive here in the Midwest.  Children dutifully pack cans onto a table in their classrooms before piling everything onto pallets for donation.  Maybe everyone should just pick up a hoe and get dirty.  Wait a second, that sounded wrong.

Rake the Leaves? Some Towns Say Mow Them—Bagging up your leaves and having someone cart them away is like giving away your soil’s fertility.  For years I have just mowed over them with a standard mulching mower to no ill effect on my yard.  Granted, I do not have towering trees dumping piles of leaves yet.

Tackling the Climate Crisis With the Reality of Renewable Energy—For every person who does not think that renewable energy can be a viable source of baseload power, I give you the state of Iowa.  Currently, we generate approximately 25% of our total power from wind.  This is expected to rise to nearly 35% in the next few years as some massive projects come on line.  If we can do it…

Wind Energy In Iowa Cuts 8.4 Million Tons Of Carbon Pollution Per Year—Oh wait, here’s some numbers on the massive size of Iowa’s wind energy.  Dig it.

A Norwegian Oil Company Will Build Largest Floating Wind Farm Off The Coast Of Scotland—I am really interested to see how this whole floating wind turbine thing plays out.  There is a big test underway off the coast of Fukushima, Japan—yes, the same place with all the nuke troubles—and Europe is really pushing the envelope as well.  As usual, the U.S. is lagging behind but maybe we will get a second mover advantage as the technology matures.

Your New House In Texas Could Come With Free Solar Panels—Now, solar PV is part of the OEM or builder market.  Has solar reached a mainstream tipping point in the U.S.?  Did I mention that these homes are being built in Rick Perry’s Texas?

World’s Largest Landfill Will Soon Be NYC’s Biggest Solar Plant—Forget building giant plants out in the desert, what about all of the brownfields and industrial rooftops in the U.S. that could accommodate solar?  In this case, it’s a freaking landfill that is being turned into a park and solar generating park.  Awesome.

Emissions of Methane in U.S. Exceed Estimates, Study Finds—All was not rosy this week as a study found we may be underestimating our level of methane emissions.  This is bad because methane is about twenty time worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Happy holidays!

Toxic Flame Retardants may be on the Way Out—Soon, thanks to the efforts of tireless reporters and California’s legislators, your couch may no longer be a soup of toxic nightmares.  Seriously, why did we let this farce about safety continue?

Maui Signs Agreement With Monsanto Regarding Pesticide Use—It’s amazing the resistance that GMOs and the attendant pesticide use is getting on the islands of Hawaii.  Most people are stunned to learn how much GMO testing is done on Hawaii to begin with—just spend some time on the southern shore of Kauai—so this is coming as a shock to those of us on the mainland not familiar with the islands.

Wisconsin has Grown into Hotbed of Organic Farming—On the way to the Wisconsin Dells to meet my brother for our annual pilgrimage to an indoor water park in the depths of winter we drive through the Driftless Region.  Until you actually drive through here you do not get a sense of the pervasiveness of organic farming and its associated social norms.

Peecycling will Fertilize Green Roofs in Amsterdam—Does Amsterdam have some of the best public urinals in the world?  I remember seeing one in the middle of an intersection of about five streets and a pair of streetcar lines.  Talk about stage fright.

Friday Linkage 7/26/2013

The heat of the last couple of weeks broke over the last couple of days and we have been treated to those perfect Iowa summer days: warm days and cool nights.  It is so nice to be able to open the windows and enjoy the cool fresh air.

On to the links…

Landmark ‘Ag Gag’ Lawsuit Fights Threat to Freedom of Speech—Watch this court case closely because the future of our ability to expose bad practices may be in danger.  Conversely, this may end up like the “McLibel” case where winning the case was not as important as the information that was exposed by the winning side.

Climate Change is Making Poison Ivy Grow Out of Control—If you thought rising seas and weird weather were bad, wait until you get a load of this.  Poison ivy, every hikers friend in the woods, is going gangbusters in the newly changed climate.  Great.

How Do We Use Electricity—If you asked people how they used electricity the answer would probably be “Flipping on a switch.”  That is the amount of thought that most of us put into our energy use on a daily basis.

Americans Continue to Use More Renewable Energy—This report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has some really interesting charts about the sources of our electricity.

Cool Ways to Save this Season—Does anyone ever really think about how successful of a program Energy Star has been?  I never hear about it.  Here’s a nice little infographic from the folks at Energy Star:

Cool_Ways_to_Save_Infographic

Intermittency Of Renewables? … Not So Much—One of the major problems with renewable energy has been its intermittency.  That is to say, it does not produce power on a steady stream like a coal or nuclear plant.  As the amount of renewable power has increased, however, the intermittency has decreased.  Interesting.

How Twelve States Are Succeeding In Solar Energy Installation—Solar is kicking ass in several states as new and innovative programs are launched to get people access and take advantage of the dramatically lower costs.  In Iowa we are focused on wind energy over solar, but with the state producing over one quarter of its electricity from wind power I am not one to complain.  Much.  I still want solar panels on my roof.

The Community Solar Holy Grail—This idea just might be ticket to get me my solar power.  Interesting.

Zero Carbon Britain Possible by 2030—I see these studies a lot and the key component that is not ever factored in is political will.  The technology exists.  The tools for analysis exists.  The rationale exists.  But no politician is ever going to stand behind such an idea for more than five minutes.

Saudi Arabia to invest $109 billion to get 1/3 of its energy from renewables by 2032—Saudi Arabia has lots of empty land, sun, and money.  Seems like a perfect marriage of factors for a solar revolution.

U.S., Europe Launch Center for Smart Grids and Plug-in Vehicles—Speaking of intermittency.  As plug-in vehicles become more widespread the batteries in these vehicles represent a huge opportunity because taken as a whole they can help regulate the power grid.

Why A Nerve Eating Chemical, Cancer Causing is Still on the Market—This is what I hate about our regulatory regime.  Products that are harmful are allowed to be sold until the harm that they cause is considered so great the product is pulled.  Rather, the products should be proven safe before being allowed onto the market.

Staying Healthy May Mean Learning to Lover Our Microbiomes—There is so much that we do not understand about bacteria because we have spent the better part of the last century conducting all-out war on all bacteria.  The concept that some of these bacteria may be beneficial is gaining a lot of ground.

Nothing to See Here: Demoting the Uncertainty Principle—This article is one of those fun philosophical arguments that I miss so much now that I am no longer in college.  No one in the military-industrial complex has a discussion about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  Schrodinger’s cat on the other hand…

Re-Imagining Rubber: PLUSfoam’s Flip Flop Recycling Revolution—This product from PLUSfoam is pretty sweet.  Unlike a lot of recycling, where the product is actually downcycled, the foam in these flip flops can easily be turned into new flip flops.  The trick with the Foreman grill is sweet.