Tag Archives: climate change

Friday Linkage 1/17/2020

It’s a little more than two weeks away from the Iowa caucus and things are getting testy.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are feuding about electability.  Tom Steyer is being Tom Steyer.  For some reason people actually think Joe Biden would make a good president.

All of this must be placed against the backdrop of the ultimate goal—defeating Donald Trump in such a demonstrative way that the MAGA hats become just as toxic as Confederate battle flags and white hoods.

On to the links…

Good News, Even in Darkness—It is easy to be pessimistic and it is hard to be optimistic in today’s world, but we must address things in a positive way.  We are in a dark valley.  There is light on the horizon.  We must keep pushing forward.

Negative Carbon Dioxide Emissions—This is the goal.  Not net zero, but net negative.

BlackRock’s Larry Fink: Risks from Climate Change are Bigger than the 2008 Financial Crisis with no Fed to Save Us—When the manager of a massive fund—over $7 trillion dollars in assets managed—says that the investment community better be prepared for climate change I am hoping that the markets listen.

The Solution to the Plastic Waste Crisis? It isn’t Recycling—The solution is to stop buying plastic stuff.  Actually, the answer is to just stop buying so much stuff.  Don’t worry about being a savage minimalist who excises the material demons from their home.  Just stop buying stuff and the space will naturally open up through attrition.

The Dark Side of ‘Compostable’ Take-Out Containers—Even if it is compostable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  If it is not reusable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  Plus, it’s really only compostable in specialized facilities as opposed to the black plastic bin in your backyard.  Trust me, I put one of those corn based forks in my bin as an experiment.  Two years later it still looked pretty much the same.

US Electricity: Solar Up 15%, Wind Up 9%–Now, imagine that these trends keep happening year after year.  The back of the envelope calculations show that solar would double every 4.8 years and wind would double every 8 years.

Iceland Reaches 25% EV Market Share! When Will The World Follow?—The world will follow when we price gasoline according to its impact on the climate.  Once all the externalities are accounted for there is no way people are going to pay a per gallon price for gasoline that is orders of magnitude higher than what we see at the pump today.  Just imagine if the United States figured out how much we spend on military adventures in the Middle East and applied that to each gallon of gasoline sold in the country?

Soil Health Hits the Big Time!—The dirt under our feet is full of possibilities.

Can New Bus Lines Chart a Course to Better Travel Options in the West?—The United States is never going to have the passenger rail network like Europe.  That is a good and a bad thing.  It is good when you consider that Europe will never have the heavy rail cargo network of the United States.  It is bad when you consider that transportation emissions from personal vehicles is such a big part of our climate change puzzle.  Maybe modern bus lines could help fill the gap.

Your $14 Salad’s Not as Eco-Friendly as Advertised — but Sweetgreen’s Trying—The key thing is that the company is trying.  We all need to keep trying.  BTW, who buys a $14 take out salad?

Panera Is Making Its Menu More Plant-Based to Become More Sustainable—The more mainstream vegetarian and vegan options become the better off we are as a society.  There is no reason why every fast food hamburger should not be some version of a Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger.  Why?  These are not the pinnacle of taste and texture.  Plus, the volumes of beef that would be replaced are tremendous.

Skiing is Better Without Performance Trackers—Apps that track our performance on the hill are killing the vibe.  I spent this Christmas break skiing without the Epic Mix app telling me how many vertical feet I had skied or what “badges” I had acquired.  It was freaking glorious.  Do you know what I thought about the whole trip?  Skiing.

Friday Linkage 1/10/2020

Although it looks like the Trump administration is backing down from an actual war with Iran as you would expect the schoolyard bully to do when presented with a combatant that is unwilling to gamely play along, it shocks me that we have a Republican president yet again selling a case for a war in the Middle East.

Is there something in the air at Fox News that makes these people so eager for war in the Middle East?

On to the links…

7 High-Impact Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Make 2020 the year that you make changes in your lifestyle that are climate positive in a large way.

Can We Live The Good Life With Less Energy?—The answer is an unequivocal yes.  However, the shocking thing to me is that we can really live a pretty good and modern life on a surprisingly lower amount of energy compared to what we are using today.

How We Cut Our Electricity Usage by 85%—I am not saying that everyone needs to go to this level of reduction, but it shows what is possible.

2,000 Gigawatts of Solar Power Needed for 100% Renewables—All right, now we have a number to work towards.

These Three European Countries Broke Major Renewables Records In 2019—Here is the punch line: Denmark at 50%, the United Kingdom at 26.5%, and Germany at 46%.  These are the percentages of power that are coming from truly renewable energy sources for 2019 in those countries.

Parking Has Eaten American Cities—This is when I knew we had a problem with parking in the United States.  At my place of work, your car will get more space than you are allocated in a cubicle.

How Ghent got Rid of Cars and Transformed the City in a Decade—If done properly, the reduction or elimination of cars from our urbanized landscape is effective and popular.  People really do not like cars save for the dream of convenience that is all but gone in modern circumstances.

It’s Time To Let Go Of Commuter Culture—No one is asking people to give up cars for the things that they enjoy, but commuter culture needs to die.  No one likes trudging along in gridlock.  No one.

National Trust to Plant 20 million Trees in UK Over Next Decade—Why not 20 million trees over the next two years?

‘Like sending bees to war’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk Obsession—I want 2020 to be the year that we just sort of give up on milk and its plant-based replacements.  Except for oat milk.  That one seems to come without a lot of problems.  Probably because oats are just kind of awesome.

The Decade Lettuce Tried To Kill Us—Maybe it is time that we gave up on the vegetable that was once described as a fancy way to basically transport water from one place to another.

What is Private Equity, and Why is it Killing Everything You Love?—If you hear someone in an expensive suit say, “I’m from a private equity firm and we are here to help” it is the end times for your business.  The business model is predicated on making more money than is possible in traditional investing with no regard for anything else.

Smart Garbage Disposal Composts Your Food Scraps instead of Grinding Them Up—If this thing actually works, I want one.

Personal Goals for 2020

Welcome to 2020 folks.

I have always said that I do not do “resolutions.”  Except for the year I told people that I was going to take up smoking, gain weight, and drink more.  Granted, I failed on all three but I made some resolutions. However, I will make some goals.

The reason I publish these goals and cadence them on this blog is that I have found it is hugely effective in getting me to execute.  The power of accountability. What follows does build on what I wanted to achieve in 2019.

Here are my goals for 2020:

  • Deeper decarbonization: It is one thing to put solar panels on your roof and buy an electric vehicle.  That is just the start. As I look at my household energy use holistically I can see several opportunities for deeper decarbonization.  A couple of examples: replacing an aging gasoline powered lawn mower with an electric lawn mower; replacing an existing natural gas fired water heater with an electric air source heat pump “smart” water heater.
  • Replace 500 Vehicle Miles with Human Powered Transit: It is one thing to replace a gasoline powered mile with an electric powered mile, but it is an even better thing to replace all of these miles with human powered miles.  Why? While an EV is orders of magnitude more efficient than an ICE vehicle, both pale in comparison to the efficiency of human powered transit. It is not just about the direct energy costs of delivering a human being to their desired location, but the embodied energy of the infrastructure required for cars.
  • Ride 2,500 Miles on my Bicycle: Last year I rode over 3,000 miles.  I am keeping the goal the same for this year because I am looking to incorporate more commuting into my summer riding and I am going to try and branch out with some different riding.  Maybe I will even get back into mountain biking after almost a decade out of the saddle.
  • Ride 2 “New to Me” Trails: There are so many potentially amazing trails just in my region that I have not ridden.  It is easy to become complacent and ride the “usual.” I am going to try and break out of the rut.
  • Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer: It is one thing to buy local beer, but it is better to buy it directly from the brewery without creating packaging waste.  Combining all three is like the holy grail of beer consumption.
  • Read 40 Books: Last year I read 51 books against a goal of 25 books.  I guess that I was sandbagging a little bit. Moving the goal up to 40 books, but there are a lot of thick and dense tomes on my book list.  Like Capital in the Twenty First Century dense.
  • Reduce Lawn, Increase Landscape Variety: There is too much grass.  Our lawns are giant monocultures that are crying to be diversified.  The goal this year is to take some of that grass out and replace it with diverse plantings that are beneficial for both the environment and wildlife.
  • Maximize Local Food: Month in and month out, food is the second largest expense in my household after a mortgage payment.  Directing as much of this money as possible to local vendors and producers is the single biggest change that I can make in 2020.  I have about three months of detailed information from the end of 2019 when I began thinking about this as a baseline, so I think I will know if I am doing a decent job.

Friday Linkage 1/3/2020

Welcome to 2020.  What will the New Year and new decade bring?  I have a list of things I hope will happen, but I do not want to jinx the possibility of actual progress by writing those things downs.

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable holiday and is ready to make 2020 a great year for all people.

On to the links…

Trump Vs. Toilets (And Showers, Dishwashers And Lightbulbs)—This is like your drunk Uncle Carl from Thanksgiving getting to be President of the United States.  Just when you think the situation is at its nadir, Trump steps up to the podium and delivers a new stream of drivel.  What will the campaign bring out from this monster?

Rise Of The Wind Turbines – The Force Is With Them And They Are Great For America—Trump may not like wind turbines because a wind farm in Scotland “mars” his view from his golf course, but the verdict is that wind turbines are good for the economy and the environment.

Who’s Gonna Win The Race For Floating Offshore Wind Turbines, Maine Or California?—Whoever wins the race means that we all win as offshore wind comes online in the United States.  If you thought onshore wind was a good thing then you will love offshore wind.  Imagine wind turbines bobbing near markets along the eastern seaboard.

Fossil Fuels Fall to Record Low Proportion of UK Energy Mix—Almost 39% of electricity from renewables seems amazing for an entire country for an entire year.  We’re not talking about a day or a week or a month, but a year.

With Most Electricity From Renewables, South Australia Has Lowest Utility Cost—So, in South Australia you get more than 50% of your power from renewables and it has the lowest cost compared to others.  What am I missing?

California Will Require Solar Panels on All New Homes. That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing.—I am of the mind that this is a good thing.  Yes, California will overbuild solar capacity but this will lead to innovations in demand shifting and energy storage.  If the power is cheap or free, someone will figure out a way to use it at a different time when it would be expensive.

Coal-Killing Long-Duration Energy Storage For Vermont—We are already starting to see solutions for so-called long-duration energy storage.

3 Breakthroughs That Could Shake The Energy World In The Next Decade—I think that number three on this list could also be a big factor if the reverse is true.  Rising fossil fuel costs could accelerate the transition to renewables.  Nothing will make an EV looks more attractive than $4 a gallon gas in the United States.

Shipping Fuel Regulation to Cut Sulfur Levels Comes into Force—Maritime shipping emissions are a big deal because each of these ships is like an outdated power plant spewing pollution out its smokestacks.  Considering how much global trade is moved via ships this is one of those “boring, but important” changes.

10 Ways That Car Dealerships Can Step Up To Sell Electric Vehicles—The number one thing missing from this list is for most dealerships to stop being dicks to their customers.  If you want to understand why customers are willing to buy relatively expensive cars sight unseen from an app—yes, I am talking about Teslas—walk into the average new car dealer and tell me about the experience.

The Missing 99%: Why Can’t We Find the Vast Majority of Ocean Plastic?—Man, this is just depressing.  When future generations look back on our time period they will just shake their head at the sheer stupidity of people in general.

A Recycling Renegade Is Out of Prison—and Ready to Tackle the Electric Vehicle Battery Crisis—Eric Lundgren went to jail because of a quirk in digital copyright law, but now he is back with a plan to tackle the rising tide of battery refuse from the EV industry’s growth.  I wish him the best of luck.

Replanting Britain: ‘It’s About the Right Tree in the Right Place’—Reforestation is one of the best tools that we have to fight climate change, but the experience in Britain shows that it is not as simple as just planting a tree wherever.  However, it is instructive that we have the knowledge to actually do reforestation right.

Snow Machines and Fleece Blankets: Inside the Ski Industry’s Battle with Climate Change—The future does not look too good for those of us who enjoy winter sports.

Mystery Pork Will Soon Hit The Stores—This reminds me of the quintessential line from Fast Food Nation: There is shit in the meat.

Those ‘Flushable’ Bathroom Wipes May not be so Flushable After All—Can we just stop using these damn things?

Go Slow to Help Slow the Climate Crisis—I think this is a solution to so much more than the climate crisis.  We are all stuck in a loop where we think going faster will help us accomplish more, but all it does is put pressure on us to do more faster.  It is a treadmill you cannot escape.

Wily Coyotes Take up Residence at Trump’s New York City Golf Course—I can already see the campaign rally rant about coyotes.  Trump will stand at the podium and riff about how it used to be glorious when you could just shoot animals onsite.  Donny Jr. will take the stage with his lame ass beard and pressed camouflage attire to rile up the crowd while asking daddy for permission to rid the golf course of this animal invasion.  It may sound like a fever dream, but it is oh so plausible.

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.

Friday Linkage 12/20/2019

This will probably be the last post of 2019 as I am readying for a trip to the mountains where the phones and computers get put away.  People ask me why I love heading to a place that is colder and snowier than home for the holidays and I can only smile.  There is nothing more like freedom from the modern than spending fifteen minutes riding a fixed grip chairlift with just your own thoughts to occupy the time.

Some people meditate.  Some people go to spa retreats.  I seek out secluded and slow lifts.

See you in 2020.

On to the links…

These 91 Companies Paid no Federal Taxes in 2018—Make no mistake, this is a feature of the system as designed by Republicans.  If you want to know why we cannot afford anything at the federal level look no further than corporate tax policy.

U.S. Forest Service Allows Mining Company to Write Its Own Environmental Report, Docs Show—This is just the everyday sort of corruption you get in the Trump administration that never gets any press mentions outside of a very niche set of publications.  It’s like Teapot Dome every day with these people.

Trump’s Food Stamp Cuts Will Be Devastating to Trump Country—How is that MAGA hat working out for you now?

Scientists Feared Unstoppable Emissions from Melting Permafrost. They May have Already Started.—From the “Well, that’s not good news” department comes this little gem.  We may have already started the unstoppable negative feedback loop of climate change.

We Need a Massive Climate War Effort—Now—The thing I do not understand about arguments against combatting climate change is that the skeptics act like the money spent on mitigation is going down a drain.  This is money that will be spent in the United State employing Americans to deploy technologies that will make us less reliant on volatile fossil fuel markets.  It sounds like a national security and economic development package all in one.

Energy Waste: Can We Half Emissions At The Flick Of A Switch?—Probably not half, but my guess is that we could cut our emissions in a quarter just by being more efficient.  Heck, given the number of ways I can see to reduce electricity consumption in my small neighborhood it cannot be that hard.

US has Only One Offshore Wind Energy Farm, but a $70 billion Market is on the Way—I do not really know what $70B in investment buys when it comes to offshore wind.  However, a 12MW turbine capable of producing the power necessary for ~16,000 homes is freaking cool.

Almost Two-Thirds of Australia’s Coal-Fired Generation will be Out by 2040—Why can’t we make this a 2030 goal?  Or 100% shut down by 2040?

Coal Will Remain World’s Largest Source of Electricity Through 2024—Not great news, but in less than five years it will not be the biggest source of electricity.  Cold comfort in a world ravaged by climate change, though.

Dutch Electric Vehicle Sales Explosion-Market will Not Return to Normal—Or, this is the new normal for vehicle sales in the Netherlands:

Top-5-vehicles-in-Netherlands-Tesla-Model-3-January-November-2019-CleanTechnica-Chart.png

I am just surprised to learn that this may be a function of buyers who get company cars.  I thought that was a thing that went out of style with Mad Men.

Daimler is Bringing Electric School Buses to Virginia—Here is an idea: a federal program ot bridge the cost difference between a traditional diesel bus and an electric bus for every school district in America.

IBM’s Cobalt-Free EV Battery Uses Materials Extracted from Seawater—Cobalt is in the news for all the wrong reasons right now.  The thing about these headlines is that it shows the market coming to bear, with all of its resources, on the sticky problem of batteries for EVs.  When it’s a few compliance cars for California, the market does not really care.  When it is for millions of cars across the globe, the market really cares.

University of Arizona to Transition to 100% Renewable Electricity By 2022—Was that really so hard?  Given the nature of the in state rivalry, I have to ask, “Can you do it Arizona State?”

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom To Be 80% Powered By Solar Carport—I often wonder why every surface parking lot is not covered by some form of a solar carport.  Imagine every airport parking lot covered with solar panels.  You can still park there for the low, low price of a percentage of your soul per day but the same area could also be producing clean energy.

This ‘Ponzi Scheme’ Surrounding Development Leaves Most Cities and Towns Functionally Insolvent—Let’s be honest for a moment.  It should surprise no one that big retail and real estate developers are engaged in what is essentialy a Ponzi scheme to get their ticky tacky boxes built.

The Future of Building is Communities that are All-Electric and Ultra-Efficient—Truly deep decarbonization will require us to examine every facet of our energy use, but especially our homes and buildings.

‘It’s pretty staggering’: Returned Online Purchases Often Sent to Landfill, Journalist’s Research Reveals—This is why it is critically important to reduce shopping generally and to reduce shopping form massive online retailers specifically.

Lawn-Mowing Reduction can Help Wildlife, says Study—Can 2020 be the year where we finally stop praying to the gods of manicured lawns?

There’s Nothing Wrong with Repetitive Cooking—This is a sentiment that needs to get pounded into peoples’ skulls.  The single most important thing to my household’s reduction in eating out was the fact that I have a handful of recipes that I can “whip up” from memory on most weeknights.

Plant-Based Meat Takes Center Stage at Kroger—Sometimes it can feel like we live in the future:

plant-based-meat.jpeg.860x0_q70_crop-scale.jpg

Friday Linkage 12/13/2019

It’s Friday the 13th and I am wondering how we got here.  By here I mean the current situation that we find ourselves in.  A situation where a literal madman is President of the United States and restrained solely by his incompetence.  A situation where a dime store version of that same madman is the elected leader of the United Kingdom and taking that country down a ruinous path purely for vanity.  A situation where we all realize, at some level, that our climate is changing because of our behaviors but we act as If we are powerless to change.

Are we doomed?

On to the links…

American Trash: How an E-Waste Sting Uncovered a Shocking Betrayal—You should just assume that whatever you drop off to be recycled is not going to be recycled.  Whether it is e-waste being shipped around the world to illicit dumps or plastic being burned in an incinerator the idea and reality of recycling in the West is broken.

The Dark Side of Recycling—Not buying as much stuff that needs to be recycled is the important thing, not figuring out ways to recycle our trash.  Remember: reduce, reuse, and recycle.  The first R is the most important because it is the most impactful.

Air Pollution is Much More Harmful than You Know—Air pollution is a prime cause of cognitive impairment in people who are exposed.  Naturally, the Trump administration wants to allow companies to pollute even more because…reasons.

New Energy Secretary: Trump has Directed Agency to Find ‘Different Ways to Utilize Coal’—When no one wants to use your product you have to find new markets.  Get ready to hear a lot about coal as Trump heads out on the never ending campaign rally.  It’s about the only thing his mind can get a handle on anymore.

Move Over, Coal: Gas now Emits More CO2 in U.S.—It was bound to happen as coal was replaced by natural gas.  However, it brings home the fact that while natural gas is better than coal it is not better than renewables.

Natural Gas Companies Call for Carbon Tax—When an industry is amenable to a tax on itself you know that it is trying to protect itself from something far worse.

Island Utility Aims For Two-Thirds Renewable Energy By 2020—Kauai can show us the future.

A 2.9-Megawatt Solar Project For 10 Schools & 24% Of Richmond Public Schools’ Electricity Needs—How much energy could we make if we covered all of our big buildings with solar panels.  Let’s say its twenty percent or so.  That means without using any additional land we could make twenty percent of our energy from existing buildings at the point of use.

Electric Car Battery Production Causes Less CO2 Emissions than Once Thought: Study—The holidays are not over yet, so you might end up in an argument with your Fox News loving drunk Uncle Carl who thinks that the production of a single battery for a Tesla is the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez running aground because Alex Jones told him so.

Nissan Showcases Brake Regen Tech With LEAF Christmas Tree—As the owner of a Nissan Leaf I wish there was a way for me to know how much energy I have recaptured through regenerative braking.  Like a little dash readout or something.

These 3 Supertrees can Protect Us from Climate Collapse—Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “tree guy.”  I believe that trees hold the potential to save us from a climate catastrophe if we are willing to help reforest the planet.  Whether it is forests of “super trees” or just basic trees in your suburban yard, it is trees that have the power.

The No-Flush Movement: The Unexpected Rise of the Composting Toilet—Is this really a thing?  I get composting toilets for people who do not want to deal with a septic system or who have an otherwise “off grid” lifestyle.

Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?—Will there be any havens when the climate crisis gets bad?