Tag Archives: Donald Trump

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:

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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  However, we live in a country where elected officials literally fight to maintain outdated technologies like incandescent lightbulbs on the shelves despite being shown significantly better alternatives.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!

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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.

Friday Linkage 10/27/2017

A little late with the links today, but I was distracted by eastern Iowa’s first flurries.  While most of my co-workers were cursing the sudden snap to cold weather I was dishing out my silent thanks to Ullr.  Winter is coming and those deranged bastards like myself are very excited.  It also helps that I am less than 60 days away from a break in Summit County.

On to the links…

The Key to Tackling Climate Change: Electrify Everything—It is a simple plan.  Step one: clean up electricity.  Step two: electrify everything.  The best part is that step one can be ongoing while we start step two.

Pollution Linked to 9 Million Deaths Worldwide in 2015—Here is the human cost of pollution.  This is why we are working to close down coal fired power plants and electrify our transportation.

Global Tree Cover Loss Reaches a Record High in 2016—Can we all agree that reforestation is an admirable goal?  Who can disagree with trying to regenerate the forests of this planet?

Scott Pruitt Betrays a Deep Distrust of his own Agency with New Announcement—You have to wonder about people who profess to hate government, seek positions in government, work to destroy the things government can do, and wonder why people are upset with them afterward.  When the accounting is done in a few years the Trump presidency and its administration will be considered one of the worst ever.

The Most Effective Clean Energy Policy gets the Least Love—This should be a conservative wet dream.  A state sets a percentage for renewable energy to contribute to the grid by a certain date and industry figures out the most effective way to make that happen.  In Iowa it is wind power all the way, but in Arizona it might be solar.  In Hawaii it might be an expansion of geothermal.  Local solutions, baby!  However, the Koch-addled brain on modern Republicans heard renewable and thought, “Kochs told me renewable power is bad.  Socialism.  Fake news.  Sad.”

Renewable Energy is Creating US Jobs Twice as Fast as Any Other Industry—Republicans might crow about jobs all day long, but they do not care about jobs except as a way to line the pockets of their fossil fuels interest.  Just like the forthcoming tax plan everyone who is not a millionaire or giant corporation will be content with scraps at the end of the feeding trough.

Trump Administration Scrambles to Save Largest Coal Plant in the West—There are no more conservative principles.  These coal fired power plants were priced out of the market by a number of factors with cheap natural gas being the most prominent.  However, the Trump administration needs to bring home the bacon for the coal barons so the book of political tricks is open for them to play from.

Solar Power Crushes its Own Record for Cheapest Electricity ‘Ever, Anywhere, by any Technology’—Think about this for a moment, the lowest price for solar power is now the highest price in current bids.  That is not bending a cost curve, that is blowing it up.

Hybrid Wind, Solar and Energy Storage Project Coming to Australia—The future is here and it might be in Australia.  A season of unreliable power has really forced the folks down under to consider solutions.

Still No Takers For One Of India’s Cheapest Solar Projects—I am blown away by this development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Winners and Losers of the Electric Car Race (So Far)—It is very early in this race so it is my guess that the winners in a few years will look nothing like the winners we think of today.  Heck, some of the companies at the head of the pack might not even exist in a few years.

Refocusing on a Home Based Economy

2009 seems like a long away.  It’s has been “just” eight years, but as Donald Trump continues to be an international embarrassment on a daily basis it makes me wonder about those halcyon days when we waited for Barack Obama to take the oath of office.

2008 was a bear for a lot of people.  The economy literally seemed like it was going off the rails completely and no one had any idea how to fix things.  It turns out the “masters of the universe” in the high finance world had figured out a way to spread the risk and damage from low-grade securitized mortgage loans to almost every aspect of the American economy.  Amazingly, this contagion also spread to the global economy because as much as closed minded right wingers would like to believe the world is not interconnected globalization is a fact of life.

The buzzwords in the winter of 2008 and into 2009 were things like urban homesteading, frugality, DIY, canning, etc.  You get the idea.  We were collectively abandoning a consumer lifestyle focused on buying a plasma television a few inches bigger than the perfectly fine working plasma television in the basement of our home that was half again as big as we needed.  We were all wondering if maybe we had lost something in the pursuit of more square footage, solid surface countertops, nine foot ceilings, and crown molding.  Well, how times have changed.

Or has it?

After eight decent years of economic recovery, which has been uneven and much slower than prior economic recoveries, experts are beginning to wonder if the new era of Trump will also coincide with a recession.  Despite the major stock indices hitting new highs on a seemingly daily basis there is ample evidence that maybe there is just a little gas left in the tank and recession is waiting on the doorstep.

What to do?

My solution is to turn inward and focus on a home based economy.  It’s sort of in line with my theory that the most subversive thing that we can do is nothing.  [LINK]  By focusing our efforts inside of our homes the emphasis is no longer necessarily on the things we buy to consume.  It is inward facing and not concerned with external judgment.

Maybe it is about mindfulness.  Maybe it is about frugality.  Maybe it is about all of those things that we pay lip service to in conversation but forget to act upon the minute we get an email touting the latest sale at REI.  I am as guilty of this behavior as anyone else and it is the single thing that I am trying to break myself from over the course of the next few months.  It is my hope that by focusing on the economy of the home that I will slowly begin to break my own cycle of consumerism.  In the process I hope to solidify household finances and achieve some measure of greater satisfaction.

That sounds great, but what does it mean in practice?

Take a look at the image below:

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This is for the average “consumer unit,” so in reality you will spend more or less on items as your personal circumstances dictate, e.g. I do not smoke so I do not spend $323 per year on tobacco.  However, as a thought exercise it gets you to think about where you spend your money.

It’s easy to key in on the largest single unit related to “housing.”  Yet, for most of us our housing situation is somewhat inflexible because we have a mortgage, lease, etc.  It is easy for some blogger to scream “downsize” but the costs associated with that may actually make the option prohibitive.

Now, look at some of the other categories.  Transportation eats up the next largest portion.  Well, if you start basing your life around your home you will probably drive a lot less.  Trust me, once I started thinking about every mile driven being $0.50 tossed out the window I began to think about every trip I took by car and how I could reduce those miles.  Stay at home and you do not spend the money on transportation.  Yes, you will still spend money on insurance and tags for your vehicle but every mile not driven is less you spend on fuel and maintenance.

Food is the third largest contributor and another place where a home based philosophy can really make a difference.  Modern Americans spend a smaller share of their income on food than at any other time in the country’s history yet we still spend a lot of money both in and out of the home.  Plus, we throw away a lot of food.

The common thread throughout is by focusing on living a frugal life at home the expenses in a lot of these categories can be ameliorated.  If you are buying less stuff you are spending less money and producing fewer carbon emissions.  Like I said earlier the greenest thing you can do is nothing.

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:

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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.

My Personal Paris

The U.S. government will not save us from climate change.  The signs have been apparent long before Donald Trump took the oath of office and handed over the U.S. government to fossil fuel interests in a manner so brazen even Dick Cheney would blush.  The final nail in the coffin of the possibility of leadership from the U.S. government came with the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Make no mistake, the Paris climate accord was not going to be the tool with which to save the world from man-made climate change.  It was a first step in codifying a structure with which to address the issue in a constructive manner.  The current President of the United States does not understand constructive problem solving since it cannot be manhandled into a monosyllabic tweet at five o’clock in the morning.

The Paris climate accord was limited, but it was a start.  Just getting everyone to the table—save for Syria and Nicaragua at the time—was a major accomplishment.  Just getting everyone to agree that man-made climate change was a problem and that we should act was herculean.  We all can agree, however, that the Paris climate accord did not go far enough to address the problem and it does not include forcing functions for countries that fail to live up to the commitments made to the world.

Regardless, the framework of the Paris climate accord is irrelevant for those of us in the United States.  This does not mean that we have to sit idly by and watch as the world tries to address the problem.  I surmise that at this moment in history most of the tools that we need as a civilization exist for us to combat climate change and secure the future of Earth as a viable habitat for humanity.

Consider the following chart of the sources of carbon emissions in the United States:

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As an individual we have a hand in every slice of the pie with a more direct impact on some more than others.  It is our job as residents of the planet to figure out how we can meet or exceed the goals of the Paris climate accord without the agreement of politicians in Washington D.C.

Everyone has to figure out how they will act on a “personal Paris.”  Unlike almost any other time in recent history we have the tools to make meaningful change at a personal level.  Solar photovoltaic systems are cheaper now than ever and make economic sense in almost any market in the country.  Electric vehicles are now more common than ever before and accessible to a larger share of the population that at any other time in the short history of the technology.  Commuting can be reduced or eliminated via bicycling or telecommuting or just becoming an early retiree like all those couples living in vans on Instagram.

My point is that we have a plethora of options in order to address every slice of the emissions pie pictured above.  If you have the discretionary income there are options.  If you have extra time there are options.  If you need to save money there are options.  As I stated earlier, unlike any other time in recent history we have the tools available to use to make meaningful change.

We need to take responsibility for our actions and act in a correspondingly restorative way.  We need to become the change we want to see in the world.

Friday Linkage 5/19/2017

At what point do we begin to point the finger for this entire Donald Trump mess at the people who enabled him.  Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe is partially to blame for giving Donald Trump a national platform for free in exchange for ratings in the early days of the campaign.  The entire Republican establishment is on notice for allowing this charlatan in orange to assume the Oval Office because they felt that it would be beneficial for their agenda.  Paul Ryan and the rest of his elected Republican cronies need to get in line and get behind the real investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection.

Furthermore, the American people need to demand that all of our elected representatives act as the Constitutionally mandated check to Trump’s deranged ambition.  I am sure of the fact that Donald Trump feels he has the ultimate authority regardless of law and will do anything to facilitate this delusion.

On to the links…

Under Trump, Inconvenient Data that was Previously Public is Being Sidelined—You don’t think that people like Scott Pruitt are loving this action.  This is an administration and a Republican party that is allergic to facts in general and almost violently reactive to anything that even hints at an opposing viewpoint.  It’s like your drunk Uncle Carl who yells about the “lamestream media” is in charge of the country.

Why Trump Will Make the Wrong Decision on Paris—I do not think this really needed a long explanation.  Donald Trump is an under informed reactionary decision maker who loathes anyone with more expertise or knowledge on a topic than himself thus he is prone to making bone headed decisions.  Furthermore, he surrounds himself with family and sycophants utterly dependent upon his wealth thus the toadies are always telling him how great he is doing.  Is it any wonder we are doomed?

Trump’s EPA Greenlights a Nasty Chemical. A Month Later, It Poisons a Bunch of Farmworkers.—Color me surprised, but I am not.  Chlorpyrifos is nasty stuff, but Trump’s corporate allies wanted it allowed so it was made so under the guise of…profits and screw everything else.  Only profits matter now.

The EPA Asked the Public which Rules to Scrap and Got Chewed Out—People like clean air and water.  People like it when toxins are not prevalent in their food.  People like health.  It must have been a real surprise to Trump’s denizens of death that people prefer to keep regulations that prevent profit seeking companies from polluting.

The Surprising Story of the Decline of Electricity use in American Households—It all comes down to LED lighting based on back of the envelope calculations.  Those are the same LEDs that talking heads like Sarah Palin derided as some liberal conspiracy.  Granted, most of those talking heads are nitwits who supported Trump.  And you thought those pictures of your high school fashion choices were embarrassing.

Three Reasons to Believe in China’s Renewable Energy Boom—China is all in on renewable energy because the leadership of that country believes it is critical to their staying in power.

By 2020, Every Chinese Coal Plant will be More Efficient than Every US Coal Plant—However, a coal plant still produces a lot more pollution than a solar panel.

Terawatts of Solar Power are Within our Reach—Solar power will soon reach a tipping point where it is like a large snowball going downhill picking up speed and gaining in size.  The victims of its destructive path will be old line fossil fuels and maybe your drunk Uncle Carl who hates hippies, Volkswagens, and solar panels.

New US Residential Solar Capacity Additions Drop 17% In First Quarter—So goes California…as California is responsible for almost 50% of residential solar installations the golden state has an outsize impact on the aggregate numbers for the U.S.  Other states saw smaller declines and it may be due to major installers pursuing more profitable installations over heady growth figures.

Coal and Natural Gas Are Foes, Not Natural Allies—This is the real inconvenient truth for Trump and his coal cronies.  Natural gas and coal compete directly with each other so any policy that favors both fuels—relaxed emissions targets, etc.—also favors the fuel that directly replaces coal.

Trump Coal Obsession Largely Irrelevant To Electric Utility CEOs—Those darned market forces just get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Stanford Study says Fossil-Fueled Cars will Vanish in 8 years as ‘Big Oil’ Collapses—I doubt it will happen in eight years, but I think there is a time in my lifetime when my truck will be a classic because of its fuel choice.

You May Live Longer if You Bike to Work—Let us count all of the ways that bicycles rule.

New American Study Confirms: Physically Separated Bike Lanes are Crucial for Safety—Add this to the list of things that seem obvious but that someone felt a study was needed to confirm.  As someone who rides both types of bike lanes I can assure you that the protected and/or separated bike lanes are the better option for a cyclist.

Denver’s Bike-Friendly Plans Seem To Be Panning Out—People actually like biking to work and play.  It’s a proven fact.