Tag Archives: climate change

Friday Linkage 6/14/2019

What the actual shit?  This is the Secretary of State of the United States of America telling the public that the solution to climate change is to move to different places. Oh, and the travel time for goods shipped between continents might be slashed because of the lack of sea ice.  I am sure everyone is going to be comforted knowing that their 65” television from China is getting here a little faster as they roast in a climate hellscape.

On to the links…

Report: Global Emissions At 7-Year High—Well, fuck.

EPA’s 3 Dirty Tricks to Undermine Regulation (and Why They Probably Won’t Work)—  We live in an alternate reality now where dirty is clean, good is bad, and facts are fake.

U.S. Renewable Power Capacity Surpasses Coal For The First Time—Buried in all the grim news are some glimmers of hope.

Here’s Proof That Electric Cars Are Displacing Gasoline—Demand destruction is a bitch.  Once that demand is gone it is not coming back and fossil fuel companies are starting to come to that realization.  These are millions of gallons of gasoline demand just…poof…gone from the market:

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Australia Missing Out on Huge Cuts in Emissions through Energy Efficiency Failure—Basically, if we just were more efficient with the energy that we already produce we could make major headway toward reducing emissions.  Using less energy to begin with is the first step in a net zero emission future.

Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease.—Our modern society is just a joke.  We have become nothing more than money lungs bent on consumption of crap.

US Offshore Wind Race Heats Up, Now Connecticut In The Mix—To get to a zero net emission future offshore wind has to be part of the renewable energy portfolio.

Follow The Money: Global Investors Flee Coal Power Like A Hot Potato—Get used to the term stranded assets.  It essentially means assets that have no value because there is no buyer in the marketplace.  You may have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a coal mine only to find that its value is zero  because there is no other party willing to invest.  What the market giveth the market can taketh away.

Renewlogy Turns Low-Grade Plastic into Usable Fuels—We have a plastic waste problem on this planet.  I do not know if turning plastic waste into a liquid fuel is the right idea, but it is better than anything that we are doing right now.

ALDI Ranks First Out of 20 Retailers for Reducing Single-Use Plastic—This is kind of like winning an ugliest dog contest.  Yes, you are a winner.  However, it is for being an ugly dog.

Processed Foods are a Much Bigger Health Problem than we Thought—Maybe that hokey diet advice about not eating ingredients you cannot pronounce was not that hokey after all.  Maybe there is no reason for PopTarts to exist.

Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?—A bigger house will not make you happier.  A grill with twelve burners and a Bluetooth meat thermometer will not make you happier.  As a matter of fact most stuff will not make you any happier beyond the initial sugar rush of the initial purchase.  Get off the hedonistic treadmill.

Climate Change I Have Known—Climate change is real and its impacts on our lives are noticeable.

Your Coffee-Buying Habit Could Hamper Your Retirement—It is important to think about personal finance in terms that people can understand.  Retirement for most people is something so far away that we fail to understand just how powerful actions taken today can be in setting us up for future success.

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May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 5/24/2019

You may not believe climate change is here and you may not believe that the strange weather we have seen this spring is the future, but I have seen what our flagrant disregard for science has wrought and it is not pretty.

Rain events that were once rare are now common.  Floods in Iowa are an annual or more regular occurrence.  My prediction is that after a wet and cold spring we will have a hot and dry summer.  Nothing like a little baking heat and drought to bookend the seasons.

On to the links…

How the Baby Boomers Wrecked the Economy for Millennials—Let’s start a new trend where we replace “Millennials are killing…” with “Baby Boomers wrecked…”  Never has a generation produced so little when given so much and left such a mess for future generations to clean up.  As a member of the tail end of Generation X—whatever the hell that means anymore—I feel like we will spend the next twenty years sweeping up the rubble of Baby Boomers’ excess.

If 2020 Democrats Are Going to Be Serious About Climate, They Need to Cut Out Congress—The U.S. Senate is a retrograde institution run by a power hungry vestige of the post-Civil War southern power structure who cares for nothing other than his own political power.  The 2020 Democratic nominees need a plan that can be acted on from Day One in office.

Scientists Have Pinpointed the Mystery Source of an Ozone-Destroying Chemical—Trump may be wrong on almost everything, but his desire to realign our relationship with China may not be that awful.  His methods are crap, but there is something fundamentally rotten about the way that China does business.  Agreements are meaningless, business is paramount, everything else be damned…kind of sounds like the modern Republican Party.

Xcel’s Plan to 2030: Close Two Coal Plants, Extend Nuclear Plant, Add More Solar—Coal is dead.  It is just going to take some time for the dinosaur to roll over and actually know its dead.

Puerto Rico Got Rid of Its Coal Ash Pits. Now the Company Responsible Is Moving Them to Florida.—At what point can we just write off the entire state of Florida?  If there is a bad idea that has failed everywhere else, it will get a new lease on life in Florida.  If there is a grifter who has been run out of every town in America, that person will eventually end up somewhere in Florida.

Critics Question Ethics Behind Impossible Burger’s Rapid Fast-Food Expansion—The purity police are out to get Impossible Foods now that they are working with fast food chains.  This is ridiculous.  Every animal based burger replaced with a plant based burger is a win.

Impossible Foods’ Rising Empire of Almost-Meat—The buzz is there.  Now it is time for Impossible Foods to see if they can execute in an efficient enough manner to actually scale their business.

It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain—Maybe the new guideline should be “If you cannot figure out how to make the food at home you should not eat that food.”  Can’t figure out how to make a homemade PopTart?  Do not eat a PopTart.

It is Solved by Walking—Just putting one foot in front of the other is a powerful choice in a world defined by our mechanized transport.

Americans Need More Bike Transit – And these Nonprofits are Bringing It—Bicycles are a humble solution to the problem of transportation emissions.

There Is No Excuse for You to Casually Drink Bottled Water—Outside of people dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, why are we even having this discussion about bottled water?

It’s Time to Embrace American Hemp Production—Did you have that guy in your dorm who always liked to tell you about the magic nature of hemp?  I remember that guy.  Maybe he was not so crazy after all.

Friday Linkage 5/17/2019

The race for the Democratic nomination to face off against Donald Trump in 2020 is officially ridiculous.  Bill De Blasio?  Really?  As if we needed another egomaniacal New Yorker running for the White House when it is already occupied by the worst version of that sort.

As the temperatures increase here in Iowa we are preparing to be deluged with candidates at every county fair, sporting event, Pizza Ranch…whatever.  If you get three registered Democrats together on a Tuesday night you could probably book at least one presidential hopeful.

Thank god I do not watch commercial television anymore.

On to the links…

The Dark Reason so Many Millennials are Miserable and Broke—Minus some organizing for social causes, what good has social media brought us as a civilization?  I would argue it has done much more harm than good.  Who really gives a shit what someone you have never met on Instagram is doing?

Exxon Predicted 2019’s Ominous CO2 Milestone in 1982—Has there been a company more destructive to the planet than Exxon-Mobil?  These guys are behind every bad action regarding the climate since the dawn of time it seems.

The World Blows Over $5 Trillion a Year on Oil and Gas Subsidies—The next time your drunk Uncle Carl starts spouting off about the production tax credit or tax credits for residential solar arrays remind him about the subsidies that oil and gas companies utilize to distort the market.

The Hidden Subsidy of Fossil Fuels—The report above seems to have sent a lot of writers looking at the murky world of fossil fuel subsidies.  Happy hunting.

Future of Workers Uncertain as Third-Biggest US Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy—I will cut right to the punch line: workers will get screwed in this bankruptcy.  Workers get screwed every time.  Executives will get paid.  Heck, executives will likely get bonuses for some reason.  Workers will get screwed.

The Simple, Yet Elusive, Key To Fighting The Climate Crisis—Radical reforestation should be at the top of any agenda to stop the worst impacts of climate change.  What is the downside?  Extra trees?  Okay, I will take that downside risk.

Why Aren’t North Americans Buying Electric Cars?—I have an idea: it’s the dealers.  Seriously, have you ever been to a non-Tesla showroom to look at an EV?  Don’t do it because it is a horrifying experience.

Gas Car Sales ‘have already peaked and may never recover’ as Battery Prices Plunge—I can personally vouch that we likely bought our last internal combustion engine car in 2013.  My used Leaf has proven to be revelatory as a driving experience.  In a couple of years we will be looking to replace my wife’s Subaru Outback and the first choice will be an EV.

All Aboard the Electric Bus – Modern Public Transport Powered by Electricity is Coming Back—Buses are the humble players in the decarbonization game.  No one really thinks about the bus when compared with subways or light rail.  However, there is not quicker way to get carbon out of our transit than by replacing diesel buses with electric buses.

The Morning After: Germany Starts Testing its ‘Electric Highway’—This idea is simple, old school, and amazingly timely.

Toronto Restaurant Fights Waste By Chopping Menu Prices Till Food Is Gone—I just love this concept.

The Little Technology That Could—This is one those technologies that makes you ask, “Why is this not a requirement for every large building?”  The answer is that it costs more money up front and builders are looking to put up buildings in the cheapest manner possible.  Just look at the newly opened Hudson Yards in New York City.

Could You Live a Low Carbon Life? Meet the People Who Already Are—Reducing our carbon footprint does not mean going back to some stone age like existence.  It is about eliminating the most wasteful aspects of our modern life.

Metal Straws, Mason Jars, Bamboo Forks: Do You Have to Buy More Stuff to Go Zero Waste?—Be wary of anyone who tells you that in order to reduce your consumption you need to buy something first.  It’s a lie.  Just stop using the thing you want to stop using.

How Recreation Boosts the Economy—As the extraction economy of the western United States winds down the number one driver of economic activity will be outdoor recreation.

Friday Linkage 5/10/2019

Steve King, the vile racist from northwest Iowa who inexplicably gets elected every two years to the House of Representatives despite achieving nothing for his time in Congress, is the fucking worst.  As Davenport, a city in Iowa that sits along the Mississippi River as part of the Quad Cities, was dealing with flooding downtown following epic early season rain and a failure of a temporary barrier Steve King had the audacity to speak:

… That means it will rain more and more places. It might rain harder in some places, it might snow in some of those places. But it’s surely gotta shrink the deserts and expand the green growth, there’s surely got to be some good in that. So I just look at the other, good side.

Seriously?  This is the modern Republican Party in the age of Trump.  Don’t worry about global ecological disaster because it might get better in a few places.

On to the links…

How Taxpayers Covered a $1,000 Liquor Bill for Trump Staffers (and More) at Trump’s Club—Nothing like a little self-serving corruption to line the pockets.  My favorite part?  Lining out the taxes on the bill.  Only the little people pay taxes.

The Tax Bill for Many Big Polluters Last Year: $0—The Trump Administration is an orgy of bad behavior and giveaways to industry.  Everyone is fat, drunk, and happy right now because they get to keep on drilling and dumping like there is no tomorrow.  The hangover in 2021 is going to be brutal for these people.

Environmentalists Fight Mining Plan By Ivanka Trump’s Billionaire Landlord—The key thing in Trump world is to make sure that you ladle benefits upon Trump and his children.  If you can manage to butter the family circle up the world is your oyster.  Or open pit mine.

The Trump Organization’s Problem with Possible Money Laundering—Just in case you needed a little reminder as to the myriad ways that the Trump Organization is profiting from the public trust.

Mike Pompeo Admitted the Arctic Is Melting. He Just Didn’t Mention Why.—This is the new Republican message on climate change.  Yes, I recognize that the planet is going haywire.  I am not a scientist, so I cannot speculate as to why.  Would you like to drill for oil on public lands?

Can New York Make Buildings Super-Efficient, Fast?—Imagine this kind of effort on a regional or nationwide scale?  This is the type of near term “victory” that we can achieve vis a vis energy usage to reduce our carbon emissions without radically altering our way of life.

We’ll Soon Know the Exact Air Pollution from Every Power Plant in the World. That’s Huge.—Or is it yuge?

1 in 5 Americans Now Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Power—Twenty percent is a lot, but more is better.  I am sure there was a time when it looked like we would ever get rid of leaded gas and catalytic converters seemed like techno-mumbo jumbo.

Why the Bicycle’s Future Looks Bright—The bicycle’s future has always been bright because there is no simpler device that can return such ample benefit.

Dark Money Group Spent $1.25 Million on TV Ads Supporting Bill Imposing New Fee on Solar Panels—I do not watch much television, so I did not see these ads, but apparently these ads were on all the time.  Nothing says transparency like a dark money campaign to get people to pay more.

Iowans Use a Lot of Energy. Here’s How Much.—Damn, we use a lot of energy per capita in this state.

The Problem With Lab-Grown Meat—This is the same problem with organic when “big food” got into the game.  It replicated the ills of the industrial agriculture system with a veneer of planetary benefit.

The Complicated Gender Politics of Going Zero Waste—This kind of reminds me of the joke about newspapers announcing the end of the world.  The Washington Post’s headline was going to be “World Ends: Women and Children Impacted Most.”

Do Married Millennials Cheat on Each Other?—Every time I see an article about Millennials having a marked improvement in a certain behavior I believe that the headline is missing the point.  Millennials, in many wars, are reverting to norms of behavior that predate the worst generation in American history: baby boomers.  Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.
Oh, No, Not Knotweed!—I have yet to run across this nasty invasive yet, but based on this article I never hope to see a single sprout.

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.

Friday Linkage 4/26/2019

Steve King, the white supremacist representative from northwest Iowa, is not a man of faith.  He uses his so-called faith as a shield for his vile beliefs and his lack of a record in Congress.  He is not like Jesus Christ, but he will waste no time in making the comparison if he thinks it will help him get elected.

This is the same strain of “faith” that allows people like Michele Bachmann to claim that Donald Trump is “godly.”

It is the same strain of “faith” that allows hucksters like Jerry Falwell Jr. to claim that Donald Trump can do no wrong in his eyes.

It is not faith.  It is naked lust for power.

On to the links…

Interior Department Watchdog Opens Ethics Probe Into 6 Agency Officials—Repeat after me, “This is the most corrupt administration in the history of the United States.”

This GIF Captures Just How Gigantic the U.S. Carbon Footprint Is—It’s kind of alarming to see this play out.

There’s an Amazingly Simple, Beautiful Way to Fix Midwestern Farmlands—This is the most impactful potential change I have seen proposed and it makes so much sense.  For too long the modus operandi has been to encourage farmers, at their own economic risk, to plant as much acreage as possible. What if the solution is to maximize the efficiency of capital relative to planted acreage?

10 Ways to Accelerate Progress Against Climate Change—We know what we can do in the near term to accelerate the fight against climate change.  None of these actions require breakthroughs in technology.  It just requires political will.

7 Things We’ve Learned about Earth since the Last Earth Day—Knowledge is power.

How America’s ‘Tree-to-Toilet Pipeline’ is Destroying Forests—We are literally wiping our asses with boreal forest.  There is a better way.

Eco-Friendly Solid Could Replace Conventional Refrigerants—No one talks about the damage refrigerants can cause because we think we beat this beast in the 1990s with bans on certain CFCs.  Nope and in a world where air conditioning becomes more prevalent the damage will be greater.

Could Hawaii Be Paradise For Hydrogen-Powered Public Transit?—Hawaii is our energy laboratory.  The hydrogen economy never really got off the ground because it was just a better idea to feed renewable energy into the grid instead of converting it to hydrogen and dealing with the attendant losses.  However, what if you have too much renewable energy at certain times?  Now it makes sense to think about hydrogen as a chemical battery of sorts.

The Problem with Online Shopping—I think the article could have stopped at the “problem with online” and answered a lot of questions.  The most frightening passage in the article is this:

Consumption has reached an all-time high in the United States. In 2017, people spent $240 billion on random stuff like clothes, shoes, phones, books, and toys – double what was spent in 2002, despite the population growing by only 13 percent.

What the hell?

Why You Should Join the ‘Do Nothing’ Club—Maybe we should all aspire to be Peter Gibbons.

Back to Earth: Washington Set to Allow ‘Human Composting’—Ashes to ashes and dust to dust…yeah, this is the way I want my family to deal with my mortal remains in the end.