Tag Archives: drought

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?

Friday Linkage 7/3/2015

Damn, it’s July. Where did June go? That’s right, I spent the month trying to put as many miles on my bikes as possible and spending the rest of my time enjoying a few moments of clam between rain storms.

On to the links…

Americans Are Drinking Less Coffee Thanks to K-Cups—So, we are drinking less coffee but paying more for the privilege of brewing it a single cup at a time. How is this a good trade off?

The Surprising Environmental Reason Weed Should Be Legal—Marijuana should be legal nationwide because the war on drugs is a sham perpetuated by the prison industrial complex. It also appears that there is an environmental benefit to legalization.

Solar Power Per Capita & Wind Power Per Capita Leaders—Lichtenstein is the leader in per capita solar? Really?

Largest Solar Plant On Planet Earth — Solar Star — Comes Online—With all the hype about distributed solar—of which I am a big proponent—sometimes the scale of these utility projects gets lost. Solar Star in California has a rated capacity of 579 megawatts of funky yellow sun fueled electrical power.

How Renewables are Thriving in the US Thanks to State Policies—Government policy can advance the cause of renewables despite what right wingers might say:

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Total Plans 500-800 MW Solar Power Capacity In Bolivia—Bolivia has not ever come up in the links before that I can remember. The French energy titan Total is putting some serious money into renewables in that country.

3 Out Of 4 New Solar Homes In NSW To Include Battery Storage—The more I read and the more I think about the topic the more that I come to the conclusion that Australia seems like the perfect laboratory for the distribution of massive amounts of residential solar.

The West Is Literally On Fire, And The Impacts Could Be Widespread—As the climate changes as a result of global warming we are going to have to deal with the massive impacts of wildfires in drought stricken regions.

Californians Getting Drought Message: Water Usage Plunges—The state still has not addressed some of the agricultural usage insanity—like growing alfalfa to feed to cows or to export—but the residents of the state seem to be getting the idea that el Nino will not rescue them from drought this time.

Mark Bittman Wants You to Know the Drought Isn’t Your Fault—The drought is not our fault, but our food choices may be making things worse. Given the water situation in California there is no logical reason why cows should be residents of that state. None.

Corn Syrup’s DC Attack on Sugar Could Hit Minnesota Beet Industry—Talk about some lobby-on-lobby crime. These two subsidized industries need to get of the government welfare.

Hawaii Just Became The First State To Ban Plastic Bags At Grocery Checkouts—A big thank you to the aloha state for banning the distribution of single use plastic bags. These things are the scourge of the earth.

Hardscaping for the Future

In my yard I have a lot of trees. At the current count, which is going to change soon as I add a few more in various spots to finish my mini arboretum, I have thirteen trees representing six different species of tree. The downside is that all of the trees “required” some form of hardscaping around the base to provide protection from lawn mowers or string trimmers and to break up the monotony of the grass carpet called a lawn. I know that it is un-American to suggest this but vast landscapes of green grass are just boring.

Building planting beds around a tree also gave me an opportunity to bring some color into my yard and increase the water storage capacity of the soil through amendments. It’s not sexy, but if your soil can hold more water you will be thankful when the late summer temperatures start creeping up and nary a rain cloud is on the horizon.

Not long after we moved into our new house I moved the original street tree, so named because it is a required tree planted between the sidewalk and street, to the backyard. It was a boring autumn blaze elm that had been planted on every other house lot on the street. As if we had not learned from the over reliance on single species of trees with the onset of Dutch elm disease and the invasion of the emerald ash borer.

The maple just kind of got stuck in the backyard:

Tree Ring BeforeBoring. After about four hours of hacking through turfgrass, which had me questioning the logic of mowing my grass so high since the roots extend an equidistant amount below the surface making easy removal impossible, I was able to finally place the heavy rocks that formed the tree ring seen below:

Tree Ring AfterThe soil, which in my backyard is as sandy as a beach when you dig past the layer of top soil, was amended with coconut coir. A lot of people in eastern Iowa use peat moss as a soil amendment, but that comes with a whole host of environmental concerns related to the destruction of peat bogs for our gardens. Not gonna’ happen. Coconut coir is a byproduct of coconut production so it has fewer concerns about sustainability outside of the transportation costs. Regardless, it is a great way to increase the moisture carrying capability of sandy soils.

The real difference maker is the plants. I wanted to create a puzzle of color with low maintenance and drought tolerant plants. In a world potentially impacted by climate change—e.g. hotter and drier summers for those of us in eastern Iowa—we need to be very conscious about what we plant in our landscapes to ensure long term viability and resiliency.

I went with nine plants—three of each variety—to fill in the space. The plants are a “Purrsian Blue” catmint, dianthus “Kahori,” and “Desert Eve” yarrow.

The other benefit of all of these plants is that the pollinators seem to already love the little garden. Just the other day I saw at least three bees buzzing around. Gotta’ help the pollinators.

Friday Linkage 6/5/2015

The week just flies when you get a bike ride in for six straight days. I could get used to this life if the weather would just continue to be pleasant. Fat chance of that happening as the summer humidity is already starting to build here in Eastern Iowa.

On to the links…

Solon Farm Converts 25 Acres into Largest Hopyard in Iowa—I cannot wait to enjoy some of these local hops in a tall glass of Big Grover Brewery beer.

Research Downplaying Impending Global Warming is Overturned—If all this is looking a lot like what happened to tobacco companies in the 1990s it should because a lot of the same players are involved on the side of industry. They just shifted issues and are still getting paid to spread disinformation and lies.

The Beginning Of Wildfire Season Means More Bad News For Drought-Stricken West—No one knows how big or bad this wildfire season will be, but considering how dry California is right now there is the potential that it could be huge.

The Texas Floods Are So Big They Ended the State’s Drought—I doubt that the solution will be long lived, but it is amazing how much rain the storms in Texas brought to bear.

Disturbing Infographic Shows How Plastic is Clogging our Oceans—Hint, it’s a lot:

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New Report Suggests U.S. Can Meet Its Climate Goals Without Congressional Action—We have the tools to address the worst aspects of climate change and it does not require a functioning legislative branch of government. Imagine that.

Regulators Give Green Light to Largest Minnesota Solar Energy Project—$250 million spread over 21 sites is a lot of solar in a state more associated with hot dish and passive aggressive behavior than harvesting the sun. Is Minnesota the United States’ Germany when it comes to solar PV?

Insane Solar Jobs Boom About To Get $32 Million More Insane—Here is when things start to snowball. As jobs become realized and the sector becomes attractive to investment the ancillary jobs in R&D, program management, etc. will start to flourish. There may be hope for us yet.

Coal Industry Received More Than $73 Billion In Last 8 Years—War on coal my ass. The world spends billions every year propping up this dirty fuel.

How Renewable Energy in South Africa is Quietly Stealing a March on Coal—Coal is dead. Developing countries are trying to get out from under the long term entrapment of coal fired power and renewables are the go to source because they are not dependent on the old paradigm.

Meat Giant Hormel To Gobble Up Slightly Smaller Meat Giant Applegate Farms—“Big organic” just got even bigger as the purveyor of everyone’s favorite canned meat product is buying the maker of those ubiquitous chicken sausages that come out during grilling season.

We’re Eating Less Meat—Yet Factory Farms Are Still Growing—It’s like the Lorax. These operations just keep on biggering and biggering. Everyone needs a thneed.

It’s Raining Nitrogen In A Colorado Park. Farmers Can Help Make It Stop—Between nitrates in the water and nitrogen in the air modern farming is a very dirty business. Unsurprisingly, modern management and practices can reduce the impact significantly.

Invasive Carp Caught Farther Upstream on St. Croix River—This is a big deal for the water ecosystems of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region because these invasive species decimate local populations of fish.

The Real Sharing Economy Doesn’t Require Apps, Just Kindness—The “sharing economy” is a buzzy term for something that people in closer knit communities have been practicing since the dawn of time. When you know your neighbors it’s a lot easier to ask someone to borrow a tool you might use once a year. Trust me, I own a pickup and I am everyone’s friend about once a year.

Friday Linkage 5/29/2015

You have to love the politicians in Texas. There are some who voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane, er Superstorm Sandy who are now advocating for federal assistance in the wake of the massive storms that hit the region. Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to the Republican Party in 2015.

On to the links…

EPA Finalizes New Clean-Water Rule Protecting Thousands more Waterways—The new rule, sure to set off some serious litigation jones by the right wing, cleans up the language surrounding what waterways are protected under the auspices of the Clean Water Act. For decades polluters have used the idea behind navigable waterways and waterways contained within a state as loopholes to keep our waters dirty. No more.

Why are Federal Dollars Financing this Thirsty Crop in Arizona?—Take the time to read this relatively long article on cotton subsidies that enable cotton to be grown in the desert. Remember, there is a global glut of cotton and there are places much more suitable to grow cotton than Arizona. These are your tax dollars at work.

Solar Parity Coming Faster Than Expected—The death knell for traditional fossil fuels outside of certain applications is coming faster than a lot of people expected because of trends like this:

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Solar PV Costs To Fall Another 25% In Three Years—Another 25%? Damn. Someone is going to start giving away solar systems at this rate.

2 Cool Maps that Show how Wind Power is Poised to go Big—Just in case you thought I was neglecting wind power with my love of solar power check out this trend map:

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The Six Craziest Arguments Politicians Are Making Against Protecting National Parks And Wildlife—Republicans do not like National Parks or nature. So, naturally, they fall back on arguments like “it’s vital for national security” to justify gutting protections that most Americans agree are a good thing.

Food Poisoning Bug ‘Found in 73% of Shop-Bought Chickens’—Sure, this was in the U.K., but if you think the meat in the U.S. is any safer I have a few books for you to read. Our global food system is screwed because of our hunger for cheap meat.

Jail Doesn’t Cost What You Think It Does—This is an issue I am glad is finally making some headway in the national conversation. We incarcerate too many people in the United States and we spend too much money on that incarceration. We have allowed a system of private prisons to develop that is incentivized to keep people in prison. It is shameful.

13 Story Timber Tower to be Built in Quebec City—I am really interested in the potential of cross laminated timber construction as an alternative to carbon intensive concrete construction for buildings taller than one or two stories.

Netflix Says Streaming Is Greener Than Reading (or Breathing)—Is my Netflix habit bad for the environment? I do not know, but I somehow doubt that it is better than breathing in terms of carbon footprint. Sorry, but I do not need Netflix whereas I need to breathe. Just saying.

Friday Linkage 5/15/2015

Where did May go? I know that I have a similar sentiment a lot of months, but May really got to the halfway mark pretty fast without me noticing. Here is to hoping that summer can be a slower and lazier season than spring has been thus far.

On to the links…

Iowa Landowner Claims he was Offered Prostitute by Oil Pipeline Rep—This story is getting a lot of play here in eastern Iowa as the debate over a proposed Bakken oil pipeline is really heating up. If anyone is surprised that an oil company would act like this does not know oil companies. Seriously, read about oil company hospitality suites in the 1980s.

Renewables = 84% of New Electricity Generation Capacity in 1st Quarter of 2015—Yes, 84% of the electrical generation capability added in the first quarter of 2015 in the United States came from renewables. For the first time utility scale solar tipped over 1% of the total U.S. generation capacity. Dig it.

Tesla’s Powerwall Home Battery is already Sold Out through 2016—If you wanted to get a Powerwall home battery you are out of luck until sometime after we choose a new president.

MIT Report: Today’s Solar Panels Fine For Tomorrow’s Needs—We have the technical tools right now to supply the world with clean and green power from the sun. Any further efficiencies will only make the economics better in the long term.

Coal Investments are Increasingly Risky, says Bank of America—The real war on coal is occurring between coal companies and the investment community, which sees the industry as an increasingly riskier place to put their money to use. This is truly the death knell because modern corporations run on debt and financing. It is the lifeblood of large scale economic activity.

Oil And Gas Wells Are Leaking Huge Amounts Of Methane, And It’s Costing Taxpayers Millions—Basically, oil and gas exploration companies are allowing a lot of methane to leak out of wells drilled on public lands. Remember that these are the same oil and gas companies that pay lower than market rates for the right to drill on public lands. What a scam.

In Wyoming, Taking A Photo Of A Polluted Stream Could Land You In Jail—Like “ag gag” laws this law is just waiting for court case to blow open the cozy relationship between lawmakers, polluters, and the chilling effect such a relationships have on free speech. Isn’t it amazing how right wingers love the second amendment, talk about freedom constantly, and are the first in line to trample any freedom that does not involve a firearm?

Is Corn Ethanol Breaking The Law?—Uh oh. Inevitably, farm state lawmakers will pass a correction to this little piece of legislation that will remove the illegality.

Buh-Bye, Corn Ethanol: Joule Makes The Same Thing From Recycled CO2—I would love to fill my truck on ethanol derived in this manner.

First Large-Scale Hemp Processing Plant begins in Colorado—One of the overlooked part of the marijuana legalization in Colorado was the concurrent legalization of industrial hemp. Hemp will not be an instant agricultural miracle, but it could become part of a broader portfolio of options for farmers.

Who Controls California’s Water?—The story is a little more complex than Chinatown makes it out to be, but the problems can be traced to policies that can be changed. Maybe.

Monsanto Bets $45 Billion on a Pesticide-Soaked Future—You can buy organic all day long, but the big companies pushing pesticides and herbicides are betting big on a future where we continue to soak our fields in their deadly chemicals. Who do you think will win?

Sri Lanka First Nation to Protect all Mangrove Forests—Mangrove forests are those great unsung ecosystems. Threatened, like swamps, because they seem like a hindrance to development but the value is not realized until the ecosystem is gone.

M&Ms Candy Maker says, “Don’t eat too many”—Sugar is the equivalent of a drug. It’s addictive and it causes health problems. Now, the pushers are telling consumers that it is a bad idea to eat too much of their own product.

The Brutal Reality of Life in China’s Most Polluted Cities—You do not need to spend $10 and see the new Mad Max movie to witness what a scarred hellscape would be like in the future because China has done all the work for you without the explosions or insane cars.

Friday Linkage 5/8/2015

I know that the people in California do not want to hear this, but eastern Iowa is a little sick of rain right now. It has stormed almost every day for the past week and the ground is the consistency of a soaked sponge. The forecast, unfortunately, calls for another week of similar showers and it means that most outdoor projects are going to get delayed another week. Ugh.

On to the links…

Why the Koch Brothers’ War against Clean Energy is Still Failing—You would think for a couple of supposedly astute business people—who got a nice helping hand by inheriting some level of wealth from their parents—the Koch brothers do not seem to get a good return on their investment in trying to fight progress. Of course, trying to fight progress is never a good idea in the long term because reactionary elements tend to die out leaving you alone as a flag bearer of outdated ideas.

MidAmerican Energy Plans $900 Million Wind Expansion in Iowa—That is almost a billion dollars and the news kind of flew under the radar. Including this investment MidAmerican Energy will have nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power in Iowa with a total investment of almost $7 billion dollars. When the projects are completed the utility may be able to serve 57 percent of its total retail load with wind.

100% Renewable Electricity Goal Passed By Hawaiian Legislature—Hawaii should be 100% renewable considering the prices ratepayers are paying, the danger of bringing in fuel on tankers, and the state’s abundant renewable resource potential. Maybe politicians have finally listened.

95% Renewable Power-Mix Cheaper Than Nuclear And Gas—In a nutshell, at current costs with a decent share of renewables deployed the cost to deploy a nearly 100% renewable grid will cost nothing more to the consumer. The clean power revolution is already at the tipping point. We just need to apply some more pressure and leverage.

The New Normal? Renewables, Efficiency, And “Too Much Electricity”—Overgen might be something we need to get used to in the future and it speaks to the need for energy storage. Widely deployed energy storage, be it in the form of EVs or wall mounted batteries, can serve to level out the disparity between generation and demand of electricity.

Refrigeration Battery is a Cool Idea for Saving Energy at the Supermarket—I remember these ice systems being the rage a few years ago and I remember seeing one in action at New Belgium Brewery’s facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, as time of day pricing becomes more prevalent these systems may start to proliferate.

Western Towns Hard-Hit by Climate Change Unite, Target Coal for Funds—There is a movement afoot at the grass roots level to adapt to the threat of climate change. National politicians will not see it because they are beholden to small number of primary voters and big ticket donors, but when reliably conservative western towns start making a ruckus they will have lost the war.

Hundreds of Lapsed Permits Found on Forest Service Land—Basically, private companies are not paying for what they are taking from the public trust. Criminals.

Bill Would Roll Back Public Lands Protections In The Name Of National Security—When will the insanity of the border protection industrial complex stop? Building more walls and radio towers and roads will not stop people trying to flee truly horrible situations in their own countries. Maybe if we put some of those resources into trying to make these countries better places there would not be such an exodus. Just saying.

Central Valley’s Growing Concern: Crops Raised with Oil Field Water—Would you like some heavy metals and other chemicals with your salad mix? Didn’t think so.

EPA Faces Struggle to Regulate Formaldehyde—Can’t we all just agree that formaldehyde is nasty stuff. People who lived in FEMA trailers know this. People who bought cheap laminate flooring from China at Lumber Liquidators know this. And kids in biology class know this.

The World’s First Self-Driving Semi-Truck Hits the Road—Imagine the increased efficiency of trucks that could drive at non-peak hours in a very consistent manner safely. Awesome. It would also be awesome if this technology were in consumer cars and I could just zone out during the stretch of interstate from North Platte, Nebraska until Denver. I-76 must die.

UPS to Experiment with Renewable Biogas in 400 Vehicles—Some places call it “poo” gas, but biogas derived from rotting organic material can be a drop in replacement from gas from fossil fuel sources. You can actually tap the landfill. How cool is that?