Tag Archives: efficiency

MPG (Beer Equivalent)

The comments were lobbed across the common table at the local taproom:

How many miles per gallon do you get on your bike?

Is it really that efficient to ride a bike?

And so on and so forth.  The topic of conversation was the next step in the #myPersonalParis evolution.  In order to reduce my personal emissions of greenhouse gasses I have set the goal of riding my bike to work three days a week through the fall.  Sixty percent of my commuting trips by bike might seem a little aggressive, but I feel that doing more than half will be a sort of tipping point in my daily behaviors.  It’s a theory and I am going to test that theory in practice.

The miles per gallon question is a constant because there is always some smart ass in the room who says, “You aren’t carbon free because you are breathing.”  Sure enough, but I had to be breathing anyway so I consider that a moot point.

However, let’s spend a moment to ruminate on the relative efficiency of riding a bike to work versus commuting in my truck.

A gallon of gasoline contains 7,594 kilocalories of energy and a gallon of e85 contains 5,463 kilocalories of energy. [1]  On average my truck—a Ford F-150 equipped with a flex-fuel V-8 engine—achieves 15 miles per gallon using e85 fuel.  Simple math says that my truck uses approximately 364 kilocalories to travel one mile.

What about the bike.  Based on over 1,110 miles of riding tracked via a Garmin vivoactive HR the kilocalories expended to travel one miles via a bicycle is approximately 65.  The range is anywhere from 60 to 75 with the high end representing some serious pedal mashing on a long distance ride.

Based purely in terms of kilocalories the bicycle is around six times more efficient just to transport myself from point A to point B.

How does that translate to miles per gallon?  I do not care because I am not fueled by gasoline.  Beer on the other hand?  The average pint of beer—not the light lager swill—contains 200 kilocalories.  A gallon therefore contains 1,600 kilocalories.  [2] Therefore, I achieve approximately 25 miles per gallon beer equivalent or MPGBE.

It’s a ridiculous comparison, but sometimes we need a little folly.

 

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Friday Linkage 7/14/2017

The only thing saving our democracy right now is the pure incompetence of everyone surrounding the president.  If the people in the White House were even decent at doing their job we would be in a world of hurt.  However, given that the governing style flows from the “leadership” style of one Donald J. Trump there is a stunning lack of effectiveness.

This should not be surprising.  Governing is hard work.  Crafting legislation is jokingly referred to as sausage making, but it is an apt metaphor for something that can take unappetizing laws and make the palatable for enough members of Congress to actually vote in the affirmative.  Trump and his coterie are under the impression that legislation flows from the pen of the executive branch while everyone else is just a cadet branch of government.

Maybe is someone could explain how modern government works on Fox & Friends so that our dear leader might get the message in a format more to his liking.

On to the links…

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks are Hitting Major Roadblocks—See what I mean about competence.  His administration believes that government is just like one of his golf courses or buildings.  If the dear leader does not like something they can just change it.  Yeah, sorry about that guys but there are rules for a reason.

The End Goal of Trump’s War on Science—Trump and people like Trump, e.g. the Republican Party writ large, do not like science because science tells them no.  No, the Earth is not a few thousand years old.  No, it’s not fluctuations in the sun’s output that is changing our planet’s climate.  These people are acting like nothing short of toddlers plugging their ears and screaming “Not gonna’ listen to you!”

EPA Chief wants Scientists to Debate Climate on TV—Ok, may I suggest that he invite Michael Mann, James Hansen, and Paul Hawken to debate his hacks.

Rick Perry Tries to Make the Economic Case for Coal, Screws up the Economics Part—The best part is that Rick Perry is basically admitting the market for coal is thin and getting thinner.  The hope is that by putting a cheap fuel on the market that someone will choose to consume it.  That’s less a free market and more of a planned economy move folks.

Utilities Fighting against Rooftop Solar are Only Hastening their Own Doom—It is permanent demand destruction coupled with a death spiral. The utilities are trying to fight a battle where people have the option to flip them the bird and say, “Screw you guys, I am going it alone.”

Nearly 1/4 Of All Australian Homes Now Have Solar—I am just in awe of some of these numbers for rooftop solar penetration:

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Depending upon what numbers you believe Australia now gets ~3% of its power from these arrays, which seems small given the penetration rate.  More research to be done.

It’s Not Easy, But Aspen Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy—It’s not easy, as the headline says, but it is possible.

It’s Time To Move On From Notion Of Baseload Power, Says New South Wales Coalition—Renewable energy was able to fill the gap left by the departure of traditional fossil fuel generation options during a wicked heat wave.  This is almost the definition of baseload power.

Solar + Battery Storage Will Power Coal Mine Museum In Victoria—Why don’t we just leave coal in a museum where it belongs?

Do Electric Cars Squander their Juice?—The answer is yes, but not really given the impact to the overall system’s level of electrical power.  It’s like worry about the paint color of a room in a house when there are structural deficiencies.  Yeah, it’s a part of the decision making process but it is not what really swings the deal.

New Plan could Double $2.5 Billion Energy Efficiency Success in Illinois—Efficiency is the vegetables of the modern environmental movement.  It’s the good for you thing that makes everything better and easier but no one really wants to talk about it because you sound like a schoolmarm.

These Coloradans say Earth is Flat. And Gravity’s a Hoax. Now, They’re being Persecuted.—I just sat there kind of dumbfounded when I read the headline and the subsequent article.  Gravity is a hoax?  WTF?  This is the natural conclusion of allowing people to let faith guide beliefs despite actual scientific and empirical evidence.

The Uninhabitable Earth—This is just some scary stuff.

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.

No More Pay TV

I might start sounding like an ascetic here pretty soon. I’ve cut my beer consumption down to near zero. I’ve reduced household spending to such a level that my wife might start howling over the winter. Yes, I turn the heat down to 56 degrees at night. Yes, it’s chilly but everyone is under several layers of down, fleece, and flannel. Deal.

Now, I’ve cut the cord. More accurately I ripped the dish off my house and cancelled DirecTV. Why? Like the average DirecTV customer my bill was ~$105 per month and the television had become a huge time suck. A little wiped out at the end of the day? Just sit down, fire up the DVR, and watch three hours of television shows you really do not care about. Pretty soon it is 10:00 PM and you are off to bed. Rinse and repeat the next day.

Stop the insanity.

With the latest increase in my bill notice coming via email I called DirecTV and cut the cord. The customer service representative was surprisingly pliant when I asked to cancel. It was not the horror show of redirection that I expected. I suppose that they think you will just be back shortly.

Another payoff of cutting the cord was the reduction in energy usage. As Markos Moulitsas has shown in his excellent series of posts on saving energy at Daily Kos  , the energy requirements of entertainment devices are huge. Here is the breakdown:

Even though I upgraded to DirecTV’s latest and most efficient receiver over the summer, my DirecTV infrastructure sucks up 42 watts of continuous power draw, or just over 1 kWh per day—about seven percent of my daily total usage, for something that is on 3-4 hours a day. Cable boxes, particularly those with DVRs, are equally inefficient. When I cut the cord, the 365 kWh I shave off my annual consumption will save me (at my average $0.19 rate) about $70, and that’s before I even tally the savings in programming (which will be dramatic).

My DirecTV infrastructure is probably similar—two receivers with on being a DVR—so compared to my rolling monthly average electricity consumption I would be saving nearly one month’s worth of electricity per year by not having these devices plugged in. Damn. Start multiplying that kind of power consumption across all the people with multiple televisions and receivers. Pretty soon you are talking about some serious energy usage.

In the meantime I do not know how this is going to affect my television viewing. I will more than likely start picking up a lot more movies at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. I might even get a Netflix subscription. Maybe I will read a few more books instead of placing my brain on the end table and absorbing entertainment.

Is the Future Flat?

No, this is not some contrived musing about the “flatness” of our globalized world. Sorry, Mr. Friedman.

This is about the Philips SlimStyle LED light bulb. The light bulb is a really unique design in that it does away with the traditional globe or bulb shape that many LEDs attempt to mimic. See it in profile here:

LED Profile

The bulb is a 60 watt “equivalent,” which means it is supposed to put off the same number of lumens as a 60 watt incandescent, consuming 10.5 watts and the bulb is also dimmable. This was a key requirement as I am looking for bulbs to replace my last incandescent bulbs in a dining area fixture that is often dimmed. Mood lighting baby!

The shape of the bulb is critical to its performance. Generally speaking, LED bulbs use large and heavy aluminum heat sinks to dissipate the buildup of heat.   By flattening the bulb and spacing the individual LEDs this bulb is able to eliminate the heat sink. Pretty cool.

I picked up the bulb for less than $10 at a local Home Depot. Does anyone remember when LED bulbs were near $40? Seems like yesterday.

How does it perform? I was concerned that the flat shape would lead to a weird directional light output. Can you spot the flat LED?

Light Fixture Slim LED

Okay, it’s the one in front.

Here is what the bulb looks like naked and on:

Naked Slim LED

 

Friday Linkage 4/18/2014

I thought that it was going to be a breakthrough week. The temperature was going to warm up and the sand would be cleared from the streets. Instead, it rained all day on Sunday and almost snowed later in the week. Nice start to spring.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 3.4 Percent In 2012, Says EPA—It’s good news, undercut by the fact that GHG will probably rise in 2013. Ugh.

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says—Basically, we are heading blindly into the worst case scenarios for climate change. Joy.

Solar Installation Industry Grows 45 Percent in 2013—Is there bad news about solar anywhere lately? Sure, a few companies are going to fall by the way side and Darrel Issa will probably try and talk about Solyndra but the industry is moving and shaking all the time.

Department Of Defense Undertakes Largest Solar Project To Date—The DoD is going crazy for solar. I have been to several military installations where south facing roofs are covered in solar panels and tracking arrays populate barren no-man’s lands between access roads. Just drive down I-25 near the Air Force Academy and you can see this in full effect. This is your tax dollars at work. In a good way.

World Wind Power Poised to Bounce Back after Slowing in 2013—Wind power worldwide can now power the equivalent of the European Union. Awesome. What is even cooler is that by 2015 Iowa will generate the equivalent of 33% of its power from the wind. We rule.

Ikea is Investing in First Wind Farm in U.S.—If every company put as much thought into sustainability as IKEA the world would be a better place. Of course, IKEA still sells furniture that is essentially disposable so it is not completely off the hook. Love that lingonberry jelly though.

The Denver Post’s ‘Energy And Environment’ Section Is Produced By The Oil And Gas Industry—I post links to the Denver Post a lot, so it is critical that people know where some of the information in that paper is coming from. Campaigns like this are just a joke.

Born-in-Boulder Wild Oats Brand to Re-launch in Walmart Stores—I am not a fan of WalMart. No matter what it does it will still be a planet and soul killing retail behemoth that should go the way of the dinosaur and Woolworth’s. However, anything that puts organic products in reach of more people is a good thing. Unless it is an organic Cheeto.

Small Seed Supply Remains Large Hurdle for Legal Hemp Farming—As more states outright legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana and by extension hemp there is going to have to be some federal action to clear up the muddied waters. Why can’t we farm hemp nationwide?

Minnesota’s Wild Turkeys: A Wildlife Success Story—It’s hard for me to believe that there was a time when wild turkeys were not all over the place. I grew up in southeastern Minnesota in the 1990s and we saw those creepy birds all the time. Heck, on my drive home in suburban Cedar Rapids there is a flock of fifteen or so wild turkeys. Still, it’s a good story.

Invasive Lionfish On The Decline In Jamaica After National Campaign To Save Reefs—I’ve never had a lionfish, but I would eat one if it was on the menu. I am glad to see that our voracious appetite for seafood has had at least one positive effect on the marine environment. Now, if we could only figure out a way to get people to crave Asian carp.

Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds—Farmers are an often overlooked ally in attempts to restore habitat. As a group farmers own a lot of land. Although it is a cliché, farmers also have a connection to the land that most non-farmers would not understand.

How to Make A Refrigerator More Efficient in Five Steps—It’s easy and with Earth Day quickly approaching it’s the least you can do. Okay, the least you can do is sign onto some silly Facebook page about Earth Day. At least making your refrigerator more efficient could actually help.

You Must Read—The World We Made: Alex McKay’s Story from 2050

I have always thought labeling something as a “thought exercise” was a convenient way to describe a book where the technical writing components were lacking relative to an interesting viewpoint.  It was something that got thrown around a lot when I was a graduate student in history for books that had obviously begun their lives as dissertations and read as such.

9780714863610Jonathon Porritt’s The World We Made: Alex McKay’s Story from 2050 is a thought exercise that manages to be technically competent without losing its core theme of hope for the future of our planet.

The idea is simple: we remade the world in a sustainable way by 2050.

It is a hopeful idea.  Instead of the world crashing into some apocalyptic miasma, people and their leaders got off their collective asses to make positive change for the planet writ large.  The theme being that if it is good for the planet it is fundamentally good for the people who live on the planet.  Stunning stuff, but pretty much basic thought for people who want to move beyond measuring everything’s value in dollars and cents.

The organization of the book is broken into sections that deal with a certain topic—e.g. solar proliferation, travel, etc.—in bite size or quick read chunks.  This is not a book you need to sit down and devote massive amounts of attention.  I sat down and read through a few sections at a time in between my children fighting over which Legos were each other’s.  Is winter over yet?

Some of the book reads a little Pollyanna-esque in that it imagines a world where we all sort of come to the same conclusion about sustainability at the same time.  And act accordingly.  I tend to think that the world will come to this conclusion, but it will occur much more rapidly in certain places and may never reach other places due to a variety of factors.

On the continuum of hope for the future, The World We Made is on the far end of optimistic with a movie like Mad Max being at the other end.  I tend to think that the future looks a lot more like the one portrayed in The World Made by Hand, but I am hopeful that we can craft a future that is a little less bleak.

In some ways, I wished that this book read more like Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.  That is to say I wish it were more like a first-person narrative tour through a remade world and less a catalog like the old Worldchanging encyclopedia that every Eco-conscious person I know has on their bookshelf.

Nonetheless, I think that The World We Made is useful for making a person consider what the future could be like without losing hope.  Pick it up at your local library—because buying a copy for ~$40 seems a little steep—and dream about a planet where sustainability is the metric we use to determine utility and solar panels proliferate.