Tag Archives: drought

Ripping Out Turfgrass and Planting a Pollinator Retreat: Part One

I am going to be honest.  The project to replace some measure of my lawn with perennial landscaping has been a task that I have put off for years.  Why?

It is freaking hard work.  With the temperatures in Iowa hovering around ninety degrees the past couple of weeks and humidity to match it did not bode well for making progress.  However, the drought-like conditions in my region have made me look at my lawn in a different light.  Watching the grass go from green to a yellow green and some patches turn a desiccated brown will make anyone rethink their landscaping approach.

This particular chunk of my yard is a mess.  To say that the soil conditions are challenging would be an understatement.  The top layer, which was put down with the sod that came when the house was built, only goes down a few inches before reaching a compacted layer of sand.  The top layer is also rock hard even when there is moisture falling from the sky.  I have watched water just flow across the grass without percolating into the soil in moderate storms.  Ugh.

In some locations the compacted sand is also nearly rock hard.  Like break it up with a mattock hard.  Needless to say, grass was never going to thrive in this kind of soil let alone under drought conditions.  It has always seemed like the perfect place to build a large pollinator retreat.

Sod busting is no easy task.  I cannot imagine what it would take to break through soil that had feet of roots, but even a few inches of twisted grass roots makes for tough sledding.  In the following picture you can see the pile of sod chunks that I have accumulated over the past couple of years of building mulched beds around my yard.

With the grass taken out I needed to amend the soil so that it would hold some moisture and actually provide nutrients.  A haphazard mix of peat moss, composted manure, top soil, and vermiculite was worked into the soil prior to planting.  This is similar to what I have worked into other planting beds and it seems to do the trick with sandy soil.  As the yard dries out you can see the grass near the mulched beds stays greener longer due to the soil nearby actually holding moisture.  With climate change taking hold and our weather getting more unpredictable the ability of your landscape to endure dry periods will become increasingly critical.

Planting is the fun part.  Mid-July must be the time of year that our local garden centers decide to discount plants because I found sales all over town.  The first batch of twelve plants in this bed included six Blue Steel Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Steel’) and six Little Goldstar rudbeckia (rudbeckia fulgia ‘Little Goldstar’):

Both of these perennials are drought tolerant and adored by pollinators.  The Russian sage plants had bees all over them at the garden center.  That is a good sign.

Also, in the picture above you can see how mangy the grass is in this section of my yard.  This is probably the best this section has looked in years.  There are no tears being shed at its removal.

A lot of shredded cypress mulch was laid down to keep the moisture in the soil and keep the weeds at bay.  This section of the yard is like a crabgrass nursery, so I will need to come through and conduct some cultural controls.  Otherwise known as weeding.

Part two to follow soon.

The Impacts of Drought Do Not Disappear in a Week

What a difference a week makes.  Take a look at the map of Iowa taken from the United States Drought Monitor on September 10th:

Compare that with an image from September 17th:

It is fairly easy to see the differences.  Areas of “extreme drought,” which are represented in bright red, are completely gone from the state map.  Areas of “severe drought” and “moderate drought” are down dramatically.  Areas of “no drought” increased nearly fourfold.

This is what a period of four days of straight rain will get you.  However, this map only tells the story about soil moisture at a given point.  Drought is a lot more pernicious than the level of soil moisture at any given point in time.

Consider the stress on crops.  Despite the increase in soil moisture, yields for corn and soybeans are likely to be dampened by drought despite the late season rains.  Yields might even be compromised by late season rains if that delays the harvest.  Never mind the more than 550,000 acres of corn fields lost to the derecho in mid-August.  That represents over 40% of the state of Iowa’s corn acreage for 2020 and could cost the state’s farmers an estimated $180M in revenue.

As climate change worsens our weather with the likelihood of extreme events like droughts, derechos, or floods increasing it is important to understand the wide ranging impacts of these phenomena.  Since 2008 we have seen two “one in a lifetime” events occur and the oscillations into drought conditions seem a lot more frequent.

Stay safe out there.

An Analysis of Lawn Mower Battery Life

To power my Ryobi 40V cordless electric mower I purchased two additional batteries.  These batteries are made by a company called GERIT BATT and are 6 AH models.  Currently, on Amazon these batteries are available for ~$80which is what I think that I paid for each earlier in the year.

The mower came with a Ryobi branded 4 AH battery and charger.  Thus far it appears that the charger has no problem juicing the off brand batteries, which is a complaint that I read about from some reviewers.  I will note that if I pull the battery off the charger when it claims to be full it runs for a shorter period of time compared to when I leave the battery on for some time after a full charge indication.  Maybe there is some trickle charging going on or a quirk in the firmware of the charger.  I do not know.

Below is a table showing all of my mowing this season and the times each battery lasted while mowing.  I have been recording these results over the course of the lawn mowing season because I have found very little concrete analysis of battery life in cordless electric mowers.  Batteries A and B are the GERIT BATT models while Battery R is the included Ryobi battery:

  Battery A Battery B Battery R
May 1 32 To complete NA
May 8 34 To complete NA
May 17 To complete 32 NA
May 22 40 To complete NA
May 27 To complete 25:28 NA
June 1 18:03 21:37 17:38
June 5 26:42 24:15 To complete
June 8 To complete 38:51 NA
June 12 No time No time NA
June 21 To complete 37:25 NA
June 26 41:57 To complete NA
July 2 39:44 To complete NA
July 8 To complete 48:16 NA
July 13 45:02 To complete NA
July 20 41:51 To complete NA
July 28 37:05 To complate NA
August 14 To complete 36:23 NA
August 28 To complete 39:04 NA

After the first mowing I stopped using the self-propel feature of the mower believing it to use more electricity from the batteries than it was worth.  The mower is quite light and my yard is not steep enough to really justify the extra juice.  Plus, if I consider it a workout it’s better to make it more difficult.  Right?

The biggest change in battery duration seems to be the dampness of the grass rather than the length.  Early in the season we had a lot of spread out rain that kept everything fairly moist.  Even mowing late in the day it would still be damp.  Compared with later in the season when I let the grass grow long as the rain quit and the temperatures rose, mowing damp grass was just an energy suck.  Check out June 1.  It was like mowing through wet concrete.

You can see that the last month was a hot and dry period of time.  I have really only mowed the lawn to even out some spots that grow long while large swaths of my yard stay at about 4-5” of grass height.

Regardless, it seems like mid-30 minute duration is consistent with some deviation to the high or low side dependent upon local conditions.  Given that my yard is about two-thirds of an acre in size I would imagine that most suburban lots—about one quarter of an acre in size—could get buy with one 6 AH battery.  The possibility of large emission reduction from replacing small engines with electric motors is gigantic.

Note: I bought the two GERIT BATT batteries with my own money from Amazon.com.  I have received nothing in compensation for writing about or linking to the batteries.

Friday Linkage 8/21/2020

We are cleaning up in eastern Iowa following last week’s derecho.  I have finally found a word that I dislike more than coronavirus.  2020…what a trip.

It looks like our state government discovered a “glitch” in how they were reporting case numbers.  Hmmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the push to open schools, play fall sports, and get Donald Trump reelected.  It’s not quite as obvious as Vladimir Putin poisoning a political rival, but it probably comes from the same playbook.

This week my daughter made the most surprising statement.  She wanted things to “go back to normal” by which she meant prior to the derecho but still dealing with coronavirus.  What in the Sam Hell is going on here in 2020?

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

‘Highest Temperature on Earth’ as Death Valley Hits 130 Degrees Fahrenheit—Yep, climate change is here and it is ugly.

How to Drive Fossil Fuels Out of the US Economy, Quickly—This is something that I have been saying for years.  We have the technology and the tools to electrify America, which would decarbonize America, but we lack the political will to get it done.  Ok, Republicans lack the political will to do anything that their fossil fuel interests would not want.

Cleaning Up Our Polluted Air Would Save More Money Than It Costs—Just like closing down coal plants would save ratepayers money, cleaning up the air would save us more than it costs.   The reality is that the cleaner, greener future is also an economically better on.

Renewable Energy Isn’t to Blame for California’s Blackouts—People are to blame.  California wanted green power and it wanted cheap power.  Too bad the reality is that they could have picked two of the following: green power, cheap power, or reliable power.

Covid-19 Lockdown Will have ‘Negligible’ Impact on Climate Crisis–It was a nice idea that something good could have come out of a shit year.

The Great American Outdoors Act Proves that Grassroots Advocacy and Democracy Still Work—What this legislation will do is an undeniable good in my book.  Does it go far enough?  Probably not, but maybe it can be a framework for further progress under a new presidential administration.  My fear is that this was passed as a sop to vulnerable senators like Colorado’s Cory Gardner in an attempt to shore up reelection chances.

Seven Top Oil Firms Downgrade Assets by $87bn in Nine Months—When an oil company admits that its assets are not worth as much as previously thought it is a signal to the market that a fundamental shift is underway.  You can either try to stop the future, e.g. Donald Trump’s retrograde approach to progress in general, or you can hop on the express train to a better world, e.g. what most people actually want.

Lower Expectations Drive Peabody’s $1.42B Impairment of Largest US Coal Mine—This is an admission by a coal company that its assets are not what they thought the assets were worth in the past.  As in, nobody wants to burn these black rocks anymore.

The Secret To Successfully Closing Down Coal Plants—Fossil fuel operators, especially coal based assets, are going to be worth very little in the market in the near future.  These assets are going to turn into liabilities very quickly.

Texas Solar Hits a Turning Point—When Texas goes for something “progressive” you know that it has reached a turning point.  Just as Texas has been increasingly “purple” in terms of its politics over the past decade the state is also a leader in wind energy.  Solar is next.

The Value Of Rooftop Solar Power In Michigan: 24 Cents Per kWh—Numbers like this can go a long way to developing policies that promote rooftop residential solar across the country.

Solar Panels are Starting to Die. What Will We Do with the Megatons of Toxic Trash?—Like the batteries from first generation electric vehicles, there has to be an opportunity to recycle the valuable components of a solar panel.  This is high grade silicone and other valuable materials just waiting to be reused to make more solar panels.

Slashing Emissions From Tractor Trailers: Electric Semi Axles, Renewable Diesel—The idea is kind of brilliant.  Electrify the trailer not the truck.

Young Trees Have Special Adaptations that Could Save the Amazon—Perhaps all hope is not lost for tropical forests being felled for soybeans and beef.

Tree Planting can Help Tropical Forests ‘Recover 50% Faster’ from Logging—Duh.

In Colombia, ‘Climate-Smart’ Villages Show How the Future of Farming Could Look—It sure as shit does not look anything like how we farm in the United States right now.

The Next Challenge for Plant-Based Meat: Winning the Price War Against Animal Meat—It just has to get close.

Jeff Bezos Offers a Clue to His $10 billion Climate Change Strategy—Do not trust Jeff Bezos for one second.  Do not believe that he will actually spend any of his own money in an effort to mitigate climate change.  Tech billionaires will be remembered in history for being the worst crop of rich people in world history.  At least robber barons left behind railroads and mines before building libraries.

Elephant Population in Kenya has Doubled since 1989—Amidst the constant stream of bad news little nuggets of sunshine manage to poke through.

Bibles, Bar Stools and Cowboy Boots: How the US Market in Giraffe Products is Driving Their ‘Silent Extinction’—Who buys this crap?  I am actually shocked that someone in Texas or Oklahoma has not started raising giraffes for the sole purpose of skinning them later.

As a Plague Sweeps the Land, Zealots See a Gift from Heaven—Right wing extremists will never let a good crisis go to waste.  It is amazing how no matter the situation it can fit their malleable beliefs as they peddle absolute shit to their followers.

A School District in Georgia Says Requiring Masks Is Impractical. But It Already Enforces a Lengthy Dress Code.—Just remember, the greatest threat to America today is probably bare shoulders and the length of a woman’s shorts.  A facemask is just a bridge to tyranny for these asshats.

A Quick Ride on the MoPac East Trail

On the way out to Colorado to finish some trim carpentry on a friend’s vacation home I stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska.  As a reader of this blog would know I end up in Lincoln once or twice a year.  Unfortunately, every time I end up in Lincoln it is usually hot and windy or hot and humid or just so hot it does not matter.  It is my belief that the city of Lincoln is trying to kill me.

Stubborn to a fault, it was my mission to hit up one of the local trails that I had not ridden and see what eastern Nebraska had to offer the gravel set.

The MoPac East Trail is built on an abandoned Missouri Pacific rail line that runs for about 26 miles along its entirety.  The eastern portion, hence the MoPac East, runs just under 22 miles from the eastern edge of Lincoln at the 84th Street trailhead to the town of Wabash.  The difference in mileage is for the portion that runs through town and is paved.

I rode just a little over 15 miles of the 22-mile portion due to a combination a wind, heat, and lack of knowledge about the trail conditions.  I did not want to find myself gassed in 90-plus degree heat facing a headwind on the return trip and end up exhausted the next morning on an eight-hour drive into the mountains.  For the out and back (just over 30 miles round trip) I gained and lost ~450 feet of elevation, which squares with most trails I have ridden in the region.

The trail conditions were fairly good.  I am going to attribute the rutting in some locations to the intense rainstorms that the remnant of Tropical Storm/Depression Cristobal dropped in the region.  Otherwise, the trail was graded well and most of the gravel was evenly distributed.

I will note that I forgot what it is like to ride on crushed limestone.  The white dust is nothing short of insidious.  For whatever reason Easter Iowa trails are using less crushed limestone and more of a cleaned rock.  In preparation for a paving project the northern portion of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail outside of Center Point has a packed base that has been rolled over many times.  It is almost as hard as pavement at this point.

All in all, I would say that I favor the MoPac East trail over the longer Homestead Trail that I rode last year.  The MoPac East’s surface conditions were better and there was enough variation to break up the long slogs.  The Homestead Trail felt like a singularly long bike ride through a straight tunnel of trees.

One trail new to me down and one to go to complete my goal for the year.  Where will I ride next?

Friday Linkage 8/30/2019

It is my belief that the last couple of weeks represent the turning point in the Donald Trump era of American politics.  Between proclaiming himself to be the “chosen one,” blatantly violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by promoting his janky resort as a host site for a future G7 summit, and in general being an incoherent gas bag this is where the vast majority of the American public realizes that our time in the dark valley is near an end.

Perhaps it is the same across the globe as Brazilians realize their current leader is a corrupt profiteer, as Italians wake up from their decades long dysfunction to recognize the threat posed by nationalists, and as the United Kingdom comes to grips with the political calculus of Boris Johnson’s coup via the Queen.

Nothing is complete nor can anything be taken for granted, but within the next eighteen months I believe that we can put down this ugly episode like the diseased dog that is has become.

On to the links…

We Now Have the Technology to Create a Grid of Cheap Fully Renewable Electricity—These are opinions being written for sites like Forbes, Marketwatch, and CNBC.  This is hardly the opinion of green eyed dreamers anymore.  The reality is that the future is possible and it is incumbent upon us to demand that it happen soon.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Issue Largest Clean Energy Procurement to Date; Aim to End Coal Use, Replace Oil—Hawaii, due to its remote island location, is the United States’ energy lab for the future.  When Hawaii goes 100% renewable it will provide the blueprint for the rest of the country and, by extension, the rest of the world.

Energy Lobbyists Changed Politicians’ Official Letters Supporting Gas Project—To get to the ideal future we are going to have to deal with the fact that legislators and regulators literally have fossil fuel lobbyists write the opinions on projects.  This is not politics.  This is corruption.

EPA Plans to Abandon Regulations on Methane Emissions, Reports Say—Industry is breaking with the Trump administration on this and other proposals because they realized that the backlash that is coming is going to be brutal.  It will be even more so due to the Trump administration’s brazen gutting of anything that even looks like it might be beneficial to the environment.  What incentive does a Democratic lead government have to help an industry that was so in bed with Trump?  None.  Furthermore, the logic the Trump administration is using to gut these regulations works in reverse so the change will be quick, fierce, and dramatic when change comes to the White House.

These Are the Cities That Should Be Worried the Most About Climate Change Disaster—Is it any surprise that Florida is at risk and not prepared?

Can Solar Panels Handle the Heat of a Warming World?—It is a valid question, but does it really matter in a world where we need to stop burning fossil fuels?

The $30 Billion Exodus: Foreign Oil Firms Bail on Canada—The “smart” money in the investment community is turning against oil and gas investments that are seen as vulnerable in a world where there is an emerging political consensus to keep the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Coal Sector Outlook Drops from ‘Stable’ to ‘Negative’: Moody’s—Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts, which is really about the same as your kid putting all his toys under the bed when he “cleans” his room, coal is seen as a loser by people who actually have to put their money where their mouth is.

Australian Thermal Coal Exporters Warned of Falling Demand from India—India was the great hope of the Australian coal industry, but a softening global economy will reduce demand.

Offshore Oil and Gas Rigs Leak More Greenhouse Gas than Expected—The story about fossil fuel emissions is much more complex than just what is released when these fuels are burned to produce energy.  At every stage of production and consumption there is a contribution to the emissions of potent greenhouse gases.

The Surprisingly Great Idea in Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal: Electric School Buses—Why is this not a standalone idea for all potential Democratic presidential candidates?  The benefits are well established and this could serve as a seed for a wider adoption of electric commercial vehicles.

‘World’s First’ Solar-Powered Rail Line Opens in the UK—I actually believe that there is a short line railroad in Australia that beat the Brits to the punch, but who is counting amongst friends?

This New York Agency Cut Its Energy Usage By 40%, & So Can You—Now, imagine a world where we took the initiative to reduce our energy usage by 40%.  It’s not hard and the tools exist.   All that is lacking is will.

How Copenhagen Plans to Reach Carbon-Neutral Status in Just Six Years—I applaud just about everything that happens in Copenhagen, but what I really want to know more about is this place:

Crazy Bike Lanes.jpg

Betting the Farm on Drought—As a group, farmers may lean toward conservative politics and not be great believers in the science behind climate change.  However, the reality on the ground is forcing farmers across the world to figure out what adaptions must be made in a changing climate.

Getting Coral To Reproduce—Is there going to be a time when the default question about music to get animals into the mood does not involve the smooth baritone of the late Barry White?

Friday Linkage 9/21/2018

It is just 46 days until the midterm election.  If the Keystone cops routine led by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley with regard to the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh is anything it is motivation to get another party in power as a check or balance to the Trumpian instincts of the Republican Party.

The midterms are not about impeachment.  The midterms are about rescuing a sense of common decency that is lost when people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump control all the levers of power.

On to the links…

Why Growth Can’t Be Green—I do not know if I agree with the entirety of the thesis that growth cannot be green, but I do agree that we need to rethink our entire economic paradigm.  It is leading us to ruin.

Here’s A Radical New Plan To Tax Carbon And Give Everyone In America $2,237—A carbon tax is coming.  Once the basic mechanism is in place it will be the most powerful ecological and economic tool in the recent history of the United States.

Trump’s Methane Rule Rollback Burns the Natural Gas Bridge—Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.  Natural gas wells and pipelines that leak methane might as well be coal plants shooting dirty flue gas into the sky.

U.S. Cities, States, and Businesses can Nearly Hit the Paris Climate Goals–Without Trump—Action on a state, local, and corporate level can make a difference.  Our federal government may be an obtuse retrograde comedy of errors, but we can make progress in the interim in other locales.

Renewables = 43% of New Power Capacity in USA in 1st Half of 2018—I wish it were closer to 100%, but baby steps.

Utilities have a Problem: The Public Wants 100% Renewable Energy, and Quick—You would be hard pressed to find a more hide bound and conservative industry than utility companies.  These companies make banks and insurance companies look like early stage tech startups run by nineteen year olds living on Red Bull and Taco Bell.

Australia on Track to Miss Paris Climate Targets as Emissions Hit Record Highs—Just when I think we are doing the worst in the United States, Australia seems to jump out of the corner of the room and yell, “Look at me!”  Government instability, coal industry trying to run things, etc.

Steep Emissions Reductions Targets Won’t Drive Up Power Bills, Modelling Shows—We can do right by the planet and it will not cost us an arm or a leg.  Or both.

EIA Report Says Coal Still King on State-by-State Basis—Despite all the progress made in reducing coal’s role in electricity generation, it is still the dominant form of electricity generation in most states.  More work to be done folks.

“Golden Sandwich” Photoelectrode Harvests 85% Of Sunlight—Wow.  Just wow.  How can we find money to deploy into making this a commercially viable product?  Imagine my smallish 4.69 kWh solar array suddenly being able to produce over 20 kWh in the same area. Talk about repowering.

This Breakthrough in a Type of Photosynthesis could Provide the World with Unlimited Energy—This reminds me of 1950s newsreels that promised nuclear energy would produce electricity that was too cheap to meter.

Bombardier Revives the Battery-Powered Train—For the short haul train routes between urban locales doesn’t using this type of train make more sense than stringing high power lines all over the place?

Tenfold Improvement in Liquid Batteries mean Electric Car Refuelling could Take Minutes—Liquid or flow batteries have been touted as an alternative to lithium ion batteries for a long time.  The energy density has always been too low to make the debate serious.  Maybe times they are a changing.

What Bison in South Dakota can Teach us about Fighting Climate Change—More effective rangelands policy could help the world sequester carbon in soils, improve water quality, and produce animal protein at the same time.  Now, the impediment would be that we would probably have to get rid of the cows and sheep on rangelands.

Frisco Leads Water Efficiency Charge, Reduces Municipal Consumption by 30 Percent—Drought will become the new normal for much of the American west.  However, our profligate use of water continues unabated.  This does mean that we have a long way to go with efficiency as a way of reducing our demand on precious water resources.

Why Fashion Brands Destroy Billions’ Worth of Their Own Merchandise Every Year—What a freaking waste.

20 Habits of Frugal People—There is an intersection of frugal people and environmentalists that is not really discussed.  Frugal people, generally, are not big consumers and environmentalists should also not be big consumers because of consumption’s ecological footprint.  The best part is that being frugal is a cheap way to be an environmentalist.

Friday Linkage 5/12/2017

Is this how it ends?  With a complicit Congress, an ineffective opposition party, and an egomaniac in the White House do we end up miles down the road to tyranny in just a few years?  Or does America pull its collective head out of its ass and do something about the ridiculous state of affairs?

Considering how well things went during the prelude to the Civil War I do not have the highest hopes for a peaceful decade.  Maybe Dwayne Johnson really will be our next president.  Or Michelle Obama.

On to the links…

EPA Dismisses 5 Scientists from Key Review Panel—Let me guess what the industry panel members are going to recommend…regulation bad…oil and gas good…EPA bad…emissions are good for you…money is even better…and so on.  Your government is owned by fossil fuels and Russians.

Here’s How Easy It Is to Get Trump Officials to Click on a Fake Link in Email—I imagined that it would be as easy as saying “Click here to support Bill O’Reilly against all those evil women.”

Watch Anderson Cooper Roll His Eyes at Kellyanne Conway As She Tries to Defend Trump—And the Oscar goes to Anderson Cooper:


A New Book Ranks the Top 100 Solutions to Climate Change. The Results are Surprising.—Maybe the solutions are within our grasp.  Drawdown is on my reading list at the library.  I just happen to be about ten people back in the queue.

Remorseless Coal Baron Gets Out Of Prison, Has Twitter Meltdown Over Mine Disaster—Do you notice a trend with Donald Trump and other narcissists like Don Blankenship?  In their mind’s eye he or she is never wrong.  Even when convicted in a court of law and sent to prison he is going back to the well that he did nothing wrong.

With a Letter a Day, West Virginian Tried to Remind Coal Executive of his Role in 29 Deaths—Don Blankenship was complicit in the conditions that directly led to the death of 29 people.  He does not care nor did he ever care about actual human beings in his employ as long as the coal kept coming out of the mountains and the profits kept flowing to bank accounts.

California’s Drought May Be Over, But Its Water Troubles Aren’t—Judging long term climatic conditions based on a single season is a bad idea.  Climate scientists, hydrologists, and anyone with half a brain has always said that but as California “exits” the recent drought it needs saying even more.

California Set an Ambitious Goal for Fighting Global Warming. Now Comes the Hard Part—The goals are ambitious.  We have to hope that California can be the model for the rest of the states because there will be no guidance from the capital.

Could Trump Dismantle the American West?—Why don’t we just come out and say that Donald Trump is bad for America?  Who stands to benefit from anything that has happened in Washington D.C. recently?  Jared Kushner maybe.

The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Just Shut Down a Diesel Plant—It’s not a huge victory, but every dirty power generation source that we can shut down is a victory.  In the age of Trump and Pruitt I will take what I can get.

Iceland’s “Thor” Volcano Power Plant can Generate 10X More Energy than Oil or Gas Wells—Geothermal is the odd cousin who comes to your wedding who turns out to be a pretty cool guy that makes the weekend all the more fun.  This geothermal plant is the rock star cousin who owns the weekend.

Germany Breaks A Solar Record — Gets 85% Of Electricity From Renewables—These headlines are a little misleading, but generating this much renewable energy for this large an economy is a big deal.

Arrogance of Space—People ask me why I think bikes are such a great way to get around.  If I had to pick one photo to illustrate many of the reasons it would be this:


Imagine what our infrastructure costs would look like if we were managing a world of cyclists instead of a world of single occupancy automobiles.  Believe it!

Dan Barber on the Future of Food—Dan Barber can get a little preachy, but so can Michael Pollan and Anthony Bourdain but I still listen to what they have to say about food.  Dan Barber is no different.  His thoughts on food matter because he is an influencer of chefs and what not the world over.

Friday Linkage 4/21/2017

Jason Chaffetz chooses not to run in 2018.  John Ossoff almost pulled it off in deep red Georgia.  Damn. Things might actually be looking up.

Oh wait, Trump is talking tough about North Korea.  Mike Pence is talking tough about North Korea.  Is it time for the tail to wag the dog and our lunatic politicians to wrap themselves in the flag before starting a war.  Worked for W.  Too bad it did not work out for the country.

On to the links…

The United States of Work—Read this entire article before commenting or dashing off a response email.  Think about its implications.  Our private employers have become a de facto parallel state to the federal government.

7 Reasons Why Today’s Left Should be Optimistic—I have hope because when you actually ask people if they support things like single payer healthcare, social security, worker protections, etc. the support is overwhelming.  We just need to translate that support into votes.  Ahh, the easy stuff.

6 Ways Trump’s Administration Could Literally Make America More Toxic—Our vigilance is required more than ever.  Plus, we have the opportunity to hit members of Congress with the reality that they have supported an administration that has made the air and water we depend on for life more toxic.  Defend that in front of the people.

6 Times Trump’s EPA Head did Exactly what Industry Told Him To—Scott Pruitt is the fossil fuel industry’s meat puppet.  He does what they want and that has allowed him to rise to his current position.  He is not an original thinker or a policy professional.  He is a shill for fossil fuels.

The 3 Stages of a Country Embracing Renewable Energy—I’ve got a number thing going on this week.  It’s a little bit too much like Harvard writing, but the idea is important.  What the world will look like as countries enter into the third stage of renewable energy development will be critical to our future on this planet.

Climate’s New Best Friend—Get used to the term “stranded assets.”  Basically, oil companies made plans to develop fossil fuel sources when prices were high.  Now that oil is under $60 a barrel these projects are no longer cost competitive.  Hence, stranded assets.

Europe’s Coal Power Is Going up in Smoke – Fast—The death spiral is real in Europe.

Ice Energy & NRG Announce World’s Largest Ice Bear Energy Storage Deployment—Shifting peak electricity demand is a huge component of making our grid greener as the prime hours of solar production are just short of the peak demand from residential users.  Plus, the wind blows hard at night when no one is using electricity.  This is a low tech, established solution to shift demand to other times of the day.

Walmart Secures 40 MWh of Energy Storage for Southern California Stores—Big box stores are a prime location for energy storage.  Why?  Land, lots of land, parking lots, and a need to make sure that the freezers stay cold so they do not lose thousands of dollars’ worth of frozen pizzas in a power outage.  Helping to balance the demand load is a nice little side benefit.

Here’s What Our Food Might Look Like in a Climate Change-Induced Dystopia—Top Chef Hunger Games this is not.

Tokyo’s Skyline Set to See 45 New Skyscrapers by 2020 Olympics—When people tell me that we cannot quickly add buildings to our urban landscape for housing I wonder what they would say about Tokyo?

One Key Way Soggy California Could Save Water for the Next Dry Spell—California may be out of the worst of its recent drought, but the state is essentially on a roller coaster of moisture and has been for thousands of years.  Preparing the landscape for the next cycle is critical.

Why Shopping Should be a Last Resort—We should all have a copy of this taped to the door of our refrigerators at home:


Friday Linkage 10/16/2015

Made it out of Los Angeles. Barely. No, seriously, I thought I might get stuck forever walking the mile and a half from the car rental return to my airport hotel. Two dead ends and a convoluted route finally got me to my destination. Maybe it is true that no one actually walks in Los Angeles.

On to the links…

Dire Glimpses of What Pollution Is Doing in Bangladesh—Bangladesh is not a nation that is at the fore of the consciousness of the West. The fact is that the nation will likely be devastated by climate change and that has the potential to destabilize the entire region.

California Bans Microbeads to Protect Marine Life—California has done what should be done at the national level. Microbeads should be outlawed immediately.

Wyoming Made It Illegal To Take A Photo Of A Polluted Stream. Now They’re Being Sued For It.—This case needs to be watched because it will set the boundaries for what can be done to prevent the use of citizen science and journalism to expose the threats to our natural world.

Chile to Create One of World’s Largest Marine Parks around Easter Island—Marine parks may be one of the few good tools we have to preserve pockets of ocean health as our rapacious appetite destroys the oceans.

The World is on Target to Get 26 Percent of Energy from Renewables by 2020—This is according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Gorgeous 11MW Bioenergy Plant in Leeds will sort 214,000 Tons of Waste Each Year—In Leeds the black bins collect general household waste and it will be converted into energy at this amazing power plant. Damn, I want one of these in my town to replace the ugly coal turning into natural gas hulk that inhabits the south side of town.

Chinese Solar to Jump Fourfold by 2020, Official Tells Xinhua—Get ready for solar to feel the “China price” phenomenon full force in the coming five years.

Solar Power Bids Fall By Over 50% In 5 Years In India—Think about a 50% reduction in price in 5 years. It is a pretty wild decline in the price of solar power.

Big Victory in Minnesota Will Retire Coal, Ramp up Wind and Solar—Xcel Energy has bent to the will of its ratepayers and will retire fossil fuels in favor of renewables. The support for renewables in Minnesota is simply amazing right now.

This Startup Wants To Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones—I love this idea for drone technology. Think about reforesting huge swaths of rugged country following wildfires or beetle kills with drones instead of people. We live in the future.

Church Protests That Bike Lane Would Impede Their Free Practice of Religion—In a post-Hobby Lobby world I am anticipating that churches will object to everything on the grounds that it impedes their personal freedom to practice religion. Granted, it’s generally a load of hogwash but that is the world we live in today.

A Farmer Explains Why Fall Is the Best Time to Join a CSA—Maybe this is the fall where I make the leap and join another CSA. Maybe…

Who Is the Wet Prince of Bel Air?—What does 12 million gallons of water per year even get from a landscaping and lifestyle perspective?