Tag Archives: climate change

Friday Linkage 11/17/2017

It somehow ended up being more than halfway through November before I even realized that the time had passed.  Maybe I was spending too much time looking at opening dates for ski hills and poring over the long range snow forecasts.

On to the links…

100% Global Renewable Electricity No Longer Flight Of Fancy, More Cost-Effective Than Current System—The economics have turned.  Now all that remains to construct an energy system for the future is to amass the political will.  Obviously that is something that is easier said than done.

Richest 1% Now Owns Half the World’s Wealth—Well, that is depressing.  If you want to understand why politicians could care less about your desires as a voter or those of your community it is encapsulated in this statistic.  You do not grease the wheels of power because you do not have nearly the money that the 1% possesses.

One of the World’s Largest Mining Companies is Ditching Coal—These mines will probably be sold and will probably still be operational for a time.  The key fact to remember is that a giant, international company has decided that coal mines have no future and may become stranded assets sometime in the near future.

Subsidizing Coal, Nuclear Could Drive Customers Off-Grid—From the pages of the book of unintended consequences comes this little gem.  By making grid power more expensive in order to subsidize dying power regimes the genius of Rick Perry’s Department of Energy could hasten the death spiral of the centralized grid.

New Study Shows What Would Happen If the US Went Vegan—It’s just a model, but it is interesting to see what the ramifications would be of such a conversion.  I tend to think the more sustainable model would be a pseudo-vegetarian model with a focus on improved rangeland management, elimination of high fructose corn syrup production, and an emphasis on reduced food waste.

MidAmerican will Spend $1 billion ‘Repowering’ Oldest Wind Turbines—This seems like an amazing opportunity to take wind turbines that are already sited and have the infrastructure in place in an effort to get more power generated.  How many fifteen to twenty year old wind farms are out there that could use a “repowering?”

Tesla Powers Up Nantucket With Grid Storage Installation—Tesla may be a Ponzi scheme masquerading as a next-generation solutions type of company but damn if these guys aren’t out there pushing boundaries.  These are not PowerPoint presentations.  These are on the ground solutions that are operational.

California may Use 50 Percent Renewable Electricity by 2020, a Decade Ahead of Schedule—I am really amazed by this development.

4 Ways Cities can Become Climate Heroes—Cities and other municipalities can become the agents of change in the era when leadership at the state and federal level is in the hands of climate deniers more inclined to line the pockets of coal barons and oil companies than worry about the health and safety of millions of people.

Denver Votes to Require Environment-Friendly ‘Green’ Roofs—Amidst all of the election analysis there was no coverage of this little gem unless you were reading the Denver Post or other regional newspapers.  Now, “green roof” can mean plants but it can also mean solar energy.  Given 300 days of sunshine per year why isn’t every roof on the Front Range a green roof?

One Bitcoin Transaction Takes More Energy than a Household uses in a Week—We tend to think of virtual anything as “free.”  However, all of those cat videos, Jerry of the Day posts, and Bitcoins add up to some serious computer time that uses a lot of electricity.

Millennials Lose Taste for Dining Out, Get Blamed for Puzzling Restaurant Trend—We can blame millennials for a lot of things.  Especially avocado toast and everything else they feel compelled to put avocados on.  Avocados are not that great, so stop putting that vegetable snot in my sushi.  However, can we lay the blame for this trend on crap chain restaurants.  Does anyone really need to go to the Olive Garden or Chili’s?

Vail postpones Opening Day due to lack of snow—Well, fuck.  Even the 1% who frequent this mountain are going to be impacted by climate change.  It’s not too late to join Protect Our Winters kids.

Behold the Wonders of Rep. Louie Gohmert’s Conspiracy Chart—Louie Gohmert is one of the biggest no talent ass clowns in the history of American politics.  This is peak Louie Gohmert:

DD037DEA_D158_43AB_8D8D_FD9357D4606F.jpeg

Did he just sit back listening to Alex Jones on an endless loop and create a flowchart based on that stream of consciousness verbal vomit?  This is what passes for representation in America in 2017.

Advertisements

Friday Linkage 11/10/2017

Any time one of your elected officials says that regulations supporting clean air and water are unnecessary offer to buy him or her a one way ticket to New Delhi.  Breathe in deep:

08india3-master675.jpg

On to the links…

Why Is America Wasting So Much Energy?—If we wanted to the United States could cut its energy consumption without materially impacting the quality of daily life.  How?  Energy efficiency.  However, we live in a country where elected officials literally fight to maintain outdated technologies like incandescent lightbulbs on the shelves despite being shown significantly better alternatives.  Why?  I am sure it will come down to freedom and some other right wing word soup.

America’s Pathetic Autocrat—We have come to a point where the thing that is keeping America somewhat whole is that the Trump administration is the single most incompetent presidential administration in recorded history.

The New Coal Crisis—Everyone with half a brain and an interest in good health knows that coal is a public health problem.  Burning coal puts bad stuff in the air, mining coal scars the land, and the remainders left behind by coal combustion foul the water.  How could the Trump administration get behind such a dirty fuel?

Powerful Lawmaker who Wants to ‘invalidate’ the Endangered Species Act is Getting Close—The right wing is in the last throes of its ectasy from the Trump victory and is hoping to lodge a few more grenades in the direction of progress before the United States wakes up to the realization that Republicans are really just gangsters or robber barons.

Rick Perry’s Strange Sex Story—Just when you thought that it was impossible for Rick Perry to do something even more stupid than something he had done in the past…he, well, opens his mouth to speak.  This might be the crowning achievement of his public career.

Extreme Athletes Are Braving the Harshest Environments on Earth For Science—In the absence of actual science being done by organizations charged with the practice, e.g. the EPA under Scott “I Like Oil, A Lot” Pruitt, citizen scientists are trying to fill in some of the void.

He Was a Professional Climate Denier. Then He Switched Sides.—These people are paid well to lie to the public.

Cost of Wind keeps Dropping, and There’s Little Coal, Nuclear can do to Stop It—The market has spoken.  The people have spoken.  Coal and nuclear can fight a rearguard action for a few years, maybe even a decade, but there is little that can be done to stop the march of history and progress.

The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change—If the idea of smallpox, frozen in polar tundra for centuries, does not frighten you consider that an outbreak of smallpox would probably make preppers’ nightmares come true.

Four Dams in the West are Coming Down — A Victory Wrapped in a Defeat for Smart Water Policy—The irony is that this is something that all parties wanted, but Congress just stepped on its own dick again by not finishing the proper authorizations to complete the process.

Add Cargo Shipping to the List of Industries Contributing to Global Warming—This is why one of the most powerful things you can do for the planet is to stop buying crap.  Why?  The global supply chain is dirty as hell.

Thousands of Idled, Dirty Railroad Cars Are Littering the American Landscape—The irony is that if these railroad cars were parked in urban areas where people could actually see them I am sure that something would be done.  This is regardless of them sitting on private property.

Richard Branson is Planning to Rebuild the Caribbean with Clean Energy—I will believe it when I see it.  I have a feeling that there will be beautiful solar panels on vacation homes and resorts, but nothing for the people who actually live and work on these islands.

The Ecolabel Fable—This is why I believe that knowing your producers, e.g. local providers, is more important than trusting a label.  Sure, I cannot know my coffee producer in Eastern Iowa so I will have to rely on a label but I can know who raises the pigs for bacon and the chickens for eggs.

How Flawed Science Helped turn Chocolate into a Health Food—It’s like those links promising the beer diet. Sad.  Fake news!

Friday Linkage 11/3/2017

Could Washington D.C. be a bigger shit show right now?  Just when you think that American democracy has hit a new low, Donald J. Trump and his sycophants come out with some new affront to decency.  At what point do people look around and tally up the damage done—Russia, cronyism, nepotism, money laundering, and the list goes on for sure?  Is it 2018 yet?

On to the links…

This One Quote Shows What Angry White Guys Mean when They Talk About Government Overreach—Nothing says America like making a truck belch thick plumes of diesel smoke.  Oh wait, nothing says ‘Merica quite like the practice of rolling coal.  My bad.  The sooner that politicians stop pandering to this segment of society the sooner we can move on to a more advanced phase of our development as a country.

The Trump Administration Is Teeming With Climate-Change Deniers—It is like Donald Trump sat down with his chief of staff and asked, “Can you find me the biggest sack of sorry ass climate deniers to staff my administration with because…fake news.  Sad.  Isn’t Ivanka amazing?”

Scott Pruitt Is Using the Bible as His Guide for Reorganizing EPA’s Science Boards—If you thought it could not get worse, it usually does with the Trump administration.  I always wonder why these guys manage to peel out the parts of the Bible that they like without actually having to follow all of its prescriptions like, say, not eating shrimp.  Just consider this list of things “banned” in Leviticus.

Scandals Pile up for Interior Secretary—Sam Clovis did not even get to assume his post, so maybe we can now focus on the organizational dumpster fire that is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  We’ve got campaign finance chicanery, disaster relief scandals, plane scandals, and a whole bag full of other crap.

Global Solar Market Demand Expected To Reach 100 Gigawatts In 2017—What does 100 GW mean?  It would be a 30% increase over what was installed in 2016.  This makes solar the fastest growing form of energy in the world.

US Wind Energy Pipeline Nears 30 Gigawatts—This is not 30 GW worldwide, but 30 GW just in the United States.  Suck it coal.

Trump Admin. Desperate To Keep Coal Power Plant Alive With Taxpayer Dollars—It is not and it never was about the free market.  Trump’s obsession with coal goes back to his need for adoration and coal barons are always ready to give Trump the love because he is their last hope.  The market does not love them.  The utilities do not love them.  Trump does love him some coal.

Italy To Phase Out Coal By 2025—Another one bites the dust.

Electric Buses are Coming, and They’re Going to Help Fix 4 Big Urban Problems—If I had to put my money behind the electrification of transportation in America I would start with buses and garbage trucks.  There are few vehicles I see that could benefit from the advantages of an electric drivetrains and getting black smoke billowing diesel engines out of our cities would be a good thing.

Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?—The moral of this story is that it is hard to undo damage.  Especially when that damage occurred over a thousand years ago and your country happens to be a volcanic hot zone.  It does not mean, however, that you do not try.

If You Care About Cleantech, You Have To Change Your Diet—There are few more impactful things you can do in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than changing your diet to one that does not feature meat or other animal products.

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies—You are what you eat.  Literally.  It does however make sense for you to exercise to be healthy.  There is nothing more liberating than following an exercise regimen to reach a goal that is not weight specific.  The scale is no longer your enemy.  It’s just another diagnostic tool.

An October Solar Surprise

October 2017 was kind of an ugly month for my solar photovoltaic system.  I calculated an expected production of approximately 400 kWh and saw production come in at just over 265 kWh.  This works out to about 66% of the predicted output.  Here is how ugly it was:

Solar October 2017.png

Do you see the period of time from October 10th through the 14th?  It must have been almost night out there all day.  What happened?

Easy.  Eastern Iowa saw some seriously gray conditions throughout the month.  Apparently we are entering into the so-called “stratus season” when local climate conditions produce low hanging stratus cloud formations that block out the sun.  November and December are apparently the worst months for this condition.  Awesome.

On the bright side I only ended up using approximately 73 kWh of grid electricity this month, which is not very much in the grand scheme of things.  Considering how well September turned out in terms of production I think I am still ahead of the game by about 64 kWh since my system became active at the end of August.  I will take net positive as we head into the gray months of November and December.

Friday Linkage 10/20/2017

Days without being an international embarrassment: 0.

Do I even need to tell you who I am talking about?  The thing that amazes me most about the incompetent orangutan in the Oval Office is that no matter what the issue or topic of the day may be he finds a way to make it about himself and how he is better than any other man to ever hold the office.  His need for a constant stream of affirmation of his supposed excellence on any topic is a field day for arm chair psychologists and political observers.  When the final days of this putrid presidency wind down in a few years—has it really only been nine months—the historians will take decades to unravel the shit storm.

On to the links…

Interior Secretary Zinke Has A Flag Raised When He’s At HQ—Scott Pruitt has a special phone booth and a private security army while Ryan Zinke thinks that the Department of the Interior is his personal military command.  What is it with Trump and his minions having to declare dominion over everything that they survey?  The inferiority complexes are stunning.

Secretary Zinke, it’s Time to Call it Quits—I think this is really a race between Zinke and Tillerson.

Scott Pruitt’s Quest to Kill Obama’s Climate Regulations is Deeply Shady — and Legally Vulnerable—Is Scott Pruitt the shadiest person in government in a long time?  He is essentially a self-admitted shill for the fossil fuel industry who is going about his day with a plan drafted by those same interests.

Perry Questions Value of ‘Free Market’ in Energy—The free market, like religious freedom for Republicans, is great as long as it supports your pet cause but when it causes damage to the pocketbooks of your masters it is unacceptable.  In the drive to placate the coal barons the Trump administration has pissed off just about everyone else involved in energy.  Too bad for them that the total of everyone else is a hell of a lot bigger and more important than what remains of the coal industry.

Coal Country is Finding Little Relief in Trump’s Climate Actions—It was not the government that was killing coal, it was the free market.  People and companies were voting with their dollars to support non-coal sources of energy.

4 Signs that Trump’s Furious Efforts to Save Coal are Futile—When an industry pins all of its hoped on a huckster more famous for a b-grade reality show and bankruptcies you know times are desperate.

The War on Coal is Over. Coal Lost.—All that remains is the rear guard action on the long retreat.  The question is how much additional damage will be done during the long retreat.

This is What America’s Eco City of the Future Looks Like—The future is green and powered by renewables.  Even in Texas.

Americans are willing to pay $177 a year to avoid climate change—We need to keep pounding home the message that climate change is real and that the tools are available to prevent the worst of its impacts.  All that is required is political will and a measure of sacrifice, whether that is economic or social.

The Future of Renewable Energy—What will renewable energy systems look like in a few years?  Now that we have moved beyond niche applications we need to ask ourselves these larger questions.

Electrifying Heating—I have thought about this topic somewhat lately now that I produce my own electricity on my roof.  If I added a similar size solar photovoltaic system on my southeast facing roof I would be able to heat my home with the sun via electricity.  I cannot make natural gas at home, but I can make electricity.

World’s First Floating Wind Farm now Operating in Scotland—Technology like floating wind turbines allows for less expensive construction in deeper water with less environmental impact.  Sort of like a win-win that opens up more sites for offshore wind development.  As if coal needed some more bad news.

Regreening The Earth Could Lower Carbon Levels As Much As Ending Use Of Fossil Fuels—Why don’t we do both?  What would a national program of regenerative forestry practices, improved grassland management, and general regreening do for our planet and our economy? I think it would be huge.  Not yuge, just huge.

This Is How to Substitute Lentils for Ground Beef—If everyone made a few substitutions like this on a weekly basis we would be a long way to reducing the greenhouse gas impact of our food choices.  Remember, meat is a huge source of our personal emissions.

To Uber or Not? Why Car Ownership may no Longer be a Good Deal—I am already beginning to see this with some colleagues who have children in college.  Instead of trolling the dorms for that one person with a car they just split an Uber X to go to the store or choose to have items delivered instead of doing it themselves.  I believe it is more than a simple story about replacing rides with Uber or other car sharing services, but rather replacing the utility provided by a personal automobile with a portfolio of services.

Friday Linkage 10/13/2017

Every day I think that we have reached a new low with the Trump administration.  If it is not family corruption, it is cabinet members using the taxpayer as a personal travel expense account.  If it is not crude behavior, it is stoking the fires of racial unrest.

Now it looks like Trump has set his dim sights on war with North Korea and threatening the 1st Amendment.  I know that the right wing only really loves the 2nd Amendment, but a threat to the Constitution cannot go unchallenged.  However, nothing else matters save for tax cuts for billionaires so the Republican members of Congress may grumble but they will kiss the ring of their dear leader.

On to the links…

Trump’s Plans To Demolish Clean Power Plan Revealed—Scott Pruitt has one goal in this world: make the world a better place for fossil fuel interests at the expense of everything else.  Once you understand this motivation every action makes sense.  Furthermore, Trump and his cabal are wedded to coal because they need to keep the narrative alive that Trump is saving rural jobs.

The GOP wants to repeal Obama’s Climate Plan. Like Health Care, it’s Going to be a Fiasco.—Can we all just agree that any day Trump and his cronies are in the White House has the potential to be a fiasco.  Actually trying to govern is a freaking dumpster fire.

Vintage Photos Taken by the EPA Reveal what America Looked like before Pollution was Regulated—Even Scott Pruitt’s EPA has documentation to show just how much better our country is now that pollution is regulated.  I realize that people like Trump do not like to read because it is hard, so pictures can supply the necessary knowledge.

The Two Clean Energy Bills that Could take California’s Climate Action to the Next Level—California may be burning right now, but the state is pushing ahead with aggressive climate change related legislation.  Leadership at the national level may be lacking.  States can create a critical mass to generate meaningful change.

Will Iowa Continue Adopting Wind, Solar without Federal Mandate?—This is a little closer to home.  Here is the thing, Iowa was deploying large amounts of wind before the Clean Power Plan.  The economics for that development have not changed in any measurable way that would favor a change.  Furthermore, the state already gets almost 40% of its electricity from the wind and has projects in the pipeline that will take that number north of 50% in the coming few years.  This all comes at the expense of coal because no one is retiring cheap to run wind turbines or cleaner natural gas facilities to keep an old coal boiler running.  Solar  is the icing on the cake.

Friendly Policies Keep US Oil and Coal Afloat Far More than We Thought—What is Scott Pruitt’s answer to the question of oil and gas subsidies?  He has come out vociferously against the small amount of subsidies for wind and solar, but he is silent on the taxpayer money going to prop up his friends in oil, gas, and coal.  We already knew who lined his pockets, but these questions need to be asked loudly, often, and on the record.

This Coal Baron has Trump’s Ear. What he says is Utter Nonsense.—This is Robert Murray.  He likes coal because coal made him rich.  He likes Trump because Trump likes his money, so Trump likes coal.  Too bad everything that comes out of his mouth is just garbage.

Rooftop Solar & Storage – Cheaper Than Subsidizing Old Coal—Facts will not get in the way of people like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry pushing a dirty fuels agenda.  This is the administration built on falsity and outright lies that answers facts with “We will agree to disagree.”  The future is now and we need to keep pushing.

Solar Competitors Band Together to Help Bring Electricity to Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico—The federal government will not help Puerto Rico in a sensible way because the sitting president does not like people who happen to be brown, don’t play golf, and don’t want to join his shitty club in Florida.  Socially conscious private industry is rising to the occasion to provide solutions in the wake of a dearth of actual leadership in Washington D.C.

Rooftop Solar Provides 48% Of South Australia Power, Pushing Grid Demand To Record Low—This graph is full of amazing insights:

RenewEconomy-8.jpg

We are just beginning to realize the potential of distributed renewables.

Australia Adds 97 MW Rooftop Solar In September, Set For Record 1 GW In 2017—Those will not be the last charts of that type you see from Australia either.

Let’s Take A Moment To Remember How Shitty Electric Cars Once Were—The most amazing thing, in my opinion, about the current electric vehicles on the market is that they are true vehicles.  These are not souped up golf carts or hacked conversions.  These are vehicles that can easily replace all but the longest road trips.

GM’s SURUS Fuel-Cell Truck Platform Could be a Disaster-Relief Hero—In general, I find fuel cell concepts to be half-baked.  However, this idea has real merit for a number of reasons.  The most pressing of which is made clear in places like Puerto Rico or New York after Superstorm Sandy.  People need electricity and liquid fuel runs out quickly.  Imagine a fleet of these disembarking from a Joint High Speed Vessel to a damaged seaside location.

The Empty Countryside—This story may be about rural England, but it could easily have been used to describe northwest Iowa or southeastern Colorado.  It is a long term demographic and development trend that I see no chance of abating in the near future.

Why Forest Kindergartens are the Best Schools for Our Young Kids—Maybe it is not just the forest, but the opportunity to freely apply lessons to an environment of your own choosing.

McDonald’s is Now Selling a “McVegan”—It is meatless and dairy free.  It is only available in Finland for some reason.

The Chicken Experiment That Shook the World—If there is going to be a global health crisis we are completely unprepared to deal with it will be antibiotic resistance.  It is amazing to think that so many of our problems can be traced back to a single experiment in the 1940s.  That is history for you.

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:

Price_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg.png

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.