Tag Archives: emissions

Friday Linkage 10/5/2018

A little light on the links this first week of October.  I think almost everyone has been glued to the circus that is the Trump administration.

On to the links…

Chuck Grassley Plans to Take Trump’s Federal Farm Bailout Cash, Calls it ‘Equal Treatment’—Nothing says fiscal responsibility like making sure you get your bailout cash from an unnecessary trade spat.  Where was Chuck Grassley when homeowners were taken advantage of by mortgage lenders in the mid-2000s?  Where was Chuck Grassley when people lost their homes to illegal foreclosures?  People in Iowa would elect the corpse of Chuck Grassley.

Trump’s Plan to Scrap Mercury Regulations Won’t Save Coal But It Will Cost Lives—This is America under Trump.  It is a hellscape of increased deadly emissions from ageing power plants propped up by government largesse to line the pockets of a few coal barons.

Trump Administration, EPA say Radiation is Good for You—It is getting downright Orwellian.

U.S. Power Producers’ Coal Consumption Falls to 35-year Low—Every new solar photovoltaic array and wind turbine that I see is another shovel of dirt on the grave of coal.  If we can weather the interminable Trump storm of the next couple of years we can truly put the United States on a clean power path.

Germany’s Coal Habit Proves Hard to Kick—Germany wanted to transition away from coal and to renewables.  The problem with this plan was that Germany also wanted to eliminate its reliance on nuclear energy as well.

Banks turn their Back on Coal amid Emissions Concerns—Modern commerce runs on credit.  If banks are unwilling to lend most schemes are incapable of operating at any scale.  This is bad for coal and good for the planet.

China to Add 259 GW of Coal Capacity, Satellite Imagery Shows—This is bad.

Our Fertilizer Is Killing Us. Here’s A Fix.—Synthetic fertilizer has allowed for billions of people to escape famine.  It is also one of the drivers of bad global impacts like dead zones.

More than 1 in 3 Americans Eat Fast Food on a Typical Day, and We Eat it All Day Long—Is our fast food consumption a cause of our modern problems or is it a symptom?  Do we eat fast food because our modern lives do not allow enough time or flexibility to eat actual food?  Or, do we eat fast food because it taps into some primordial desire for salt, sugar, and fat?  Either way, it is bad for us all.

14 Food Waste Facts That Might Change The Way You Cook, Shop, And Eat—I believe that in order to get our planet right, we need to first get our households right.  The first step to get our households right is to fix our kitchens.  Victory is in the kitchen.

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Pertinent Lessons from Our Recent Past

A little off the beaten path for tourists in London is the Imperial War Museum.  It’s still a quick tube ride from the central part of the city and it is just a two stops away from the always tasty Borough Market.  Plus, depending on the line you take you will get to stop at the Elephant & Castle station.  I think that name is just smashing.

The museum has all the usual exhibits that glorify the British Empire—one quarter of the world’s landmass, one quarter of the world’s population, the sun never sets on the British Empire, etc.—through World War I and II with a small, yet quite impactful, exhibit on the Holocaust.  However, the part of the museum that I found most interesting dealt with the home front during World War II.

The home front usually gets short shrift in any analysis of a war effort.  World War II in Britain was a little different because the horrors of war made it across the English Channel in German raids on London and other cities.  Children were shipped to the countryside where it was deemed safer and Londoners huddled in shelters as bombs or rockets rained down.  With a stiff upper lip, so to speak, the nation kept calm and carried on.

My daughter and I probably spent close to an hour in the home front exhibition looking at the types of food that were available or not available and why or the measures taken by households to conserve materials in order to supply troops.  The impression that my ten year old daughter was left with was how little a house could make do with if it had to. Her seven year old brother, naturally, loved the display of World War I grenades.

As we face an uncertain climate in the coming decades and the attendant consequences of that climate change we may be forced into a situation where our everyday begins to resemble the home front during an armed global conflagration.

Victory is in the Kitchen

Victory is in the Kitchen

It is my belief that we can make some of the biggest impacts from the comfort of our homes and the center of our homes is the kitchen.  It is the place where my family spends the most time together and it is probably where I spend the most time teaching my children.  Some parents play catch or go on hikes, I teach my kids how to dice onions, mince garlic, deglaze pans, and build flavors.

Change starts at home.  The food we choose to make and eat forms the core of our value system as self-described environmentalists.  If you are not trying to be a better human in the kitchen you might as well stop sweating the other stuff.

Food: Don’t Waste It

Food Dont Waste It

In the United States it is estimated that 30 to 40% of food goes to waste.  Given the impact of agriculture on climate change this is unacceptable.  Furthermore, given that in this age of abundance when we are dealing with diseases of over consumption, e.g. obesity related illnesses, there are still millions of people that go hungry every day.

Make Do and Mend

Make Do and Mend

Repair is the forgotten action that we can take to conserve.  Almost everything, save for our homes and automobiles, is basically disposable in modern capitalist economies.  Even big ticket items like appliances are seen as disposable, which blows my mind.  Here’s the thing, repairing stuff has never been easier.  The internet is literally chock a block full of people posting repair instructions, wiring diagrams, parts lists, etc. that can help even the least handy of us repair many of the items we once viewed as disposable.

Can I do Without It?

Can I Do Without

Is there a better question to ask yourself about any purchase that you make?  The most environmentally conscious purchase is usually one that we do not make.  Sure, there are the obvious wins like replacing high usage light bulbs with the most efficient LED bulbs or replacing a fifteen year old refrigerator with a more efficient model.  However, many of the “green” purchases we make are just adding consumption to the system that is destroying our planet.  It may be made of organic cotton, but do you really need another t-shirt?

Self-Indulgence at This Time is Helping the Enemy

Self Indulgence

I just love how direct some of the messaging was during World War II.  This poster is basically saying, “Don’t be a dick, we’re fighting a war here.”  How many of our problems, with regard to climate change, could be solved if people were just somewhat less self-indulgent?  I will let you stew on that thought for now.

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.

You Must Read—The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution

Are you a parent, about to become a parent, or even thinking about having a child in the near future?  Good.  Be prepared to be scared shitless on a daily, if not more frequent basis, as only being a person responsible for the existence of another human being can make you.

9781608684816.jpgSaying that “you must read” Mary DeMocker’s The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution is a little misleading.  This is not a book you read cover to cover and take back to the library.  DeMocker admits as much:

Or you might adopt the fortune cookie method—keep the book nearby and, whenever you have a few minutes, crack it open and see what you get.  Most chapters are short enough to fit into the average bathroom breaks parents with young children allow themselves. [xxvi]

This is not a book with a powerful narrative streak built through successive chapters that concludes with a powerful final passage.  We know what the powerful narrative is before we even pick up the book because we are worried that our actions today will create a planet that is unlivable in the future.  The very fate of humanity rests in our hands.

The book is laid out into 100 chapters or fortune cookie moments if you will under broad headings like “Raise Empowered Kids” and “Build a Fossil-Free Future.”  I would quibble it should be a fossil fuel free future because I still want to see fossils at the Field Museum, but I digress.

What were the pieces that I liked best:

  1. Get Clear on Why There is Hope—There is hope. We often forget to message this fact when we are discussing the state of the world with regards to climate change, Donald Trump, Nebraska Cornhusker football…you know, things that seem so dauntingly horrible that nothing will matter. Well, our kids pick up on that vibe and it is our duty to make sure that we convey hope.

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  1. Plant Trees!—Trees are amazing. You will find no bigger advocate of trees as a solution to a lot of problems than me. Planting a tree with your kids is one of those teaching moments that keeps on teaching well after the planting.  Through the seasons and as the tree grows your child will be amazed, as they should be, by what the tree they helped plant does.

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  1. Be the 3.5 Percent—Apparently, non-violent movements become successful when approximately 3.5 percent of the population or more is involved. All right, let’s get 3.5 percent signed up.

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  1. Let Kids Play with Knives—I would like to amend this to also say let kids play with saws and shovels and hammers and what not. We have created a generation or two of children that have little experience with actually making things from bare components as opposed to pre-selected bits with tidy instructions. See what they can do with some potatoes and onions or a few scrap pieces of wood in the garage.

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  1. Tame Your Tongue—This one is the hardest for me because in a time when crass political language dominates the only method of communication that seems to break through is to out nasty the nasty. However, we are better served not behaving in such a way and it is my hope that I can follow this advice.

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I could have picked a lot more of the one hundred fortune cookie moments, but you get the idea.  You will pick the book up and key in on different moments.   That is the purpose of the book.

Friday Linkage 6/29/2018

If anyone does not believe that elections matter, consider that Donald Trump—a man wholly unfit to be president who lost an election by over three million votes—will get to choose the second Supreme Court justice of his presidency.  By the end of four years of this man the United States may no longer be a country that I recognize.

On to the links…

The Dangers of Distracted Parenting—The world would be better is everyone were just a little more present in the “real.”  I cannot count how many times I have been in a bar or restaurant and seen entire tables of people staring into their phones’ screens.  It is insanity.

She Spoke out About Climate Change—and They Tried to Make Her Pay for It—Sarah Myhre is right.  Science has always been political.  There is a reason why religious authorities persecuted scientists.  Empirical observations served to undermine the authority of the religious entity because their authority was based on a flawed text interpreted over the course of generations. Nothing has really changed.

News of Scott Pruitt’s ‘quid pro quo’ Condo Deal Raises Questions about Criminal Law Violations—Does anyone actually think that Scott Pruitt or any other member of the Trump administration would actually be prosecuted for doing something criminal?  This is the most ethically and criminally compromised presidency in American history and the Republican party is allowing it to run amok with no oversight.  Do you remember when the process in which Hillary Clinton handled her emails was considered the height of impropriety?

Scott Pruitt Was So Sloppy Telling Oil Execs and Cronies He Could Get Them Hired, It’s Embarrassing—This fucking guy:

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Scott Pruitt’s “Tactical Pants” Scandal, Very Briefly Explained—It’s not nearly as much fun as his lotion runs or his attempts to buy a used mattress or his attempts to weasel a chicken franchise for his wife or…well, it is Scott Pruitt and every week brings a new scandal.

How Trump is Letting Polluters Off the Hook, in One Chart—When the EPA is run by an industry toadie more interested in finding his special lotion to keep his skin soft while he lounges in his used bed this is the result:

POLLUTER_FINES_BY_PRESIDENT

Ethically compromised is one thing, but being just downright pathetic at your job is turning out to be a Trumpian trait du jour.

The Argument for Fracking as a Climate Solution Just Went Down in Flames—Methane is a bad climate actor and mismanaged wells are releasing a lot of methane.  Sorry folks, but fracked natural gas is not the bridge fuel to the future.  It’s just another fossil fuel bait and switch.

Investigators say China is Behind Illegal CFC Emissions—Maybe Donny two scoops will add this to his list of grievances with China or he will just use it as a another lever to extract payoffs from the Chinese for a project somewhere in the world.

UPS Places Order For 950 Workhorse N-GEN Electric Delivery Vans—Before we spend a lot of time and energy electrifying personal automobiles, the government should focus its efforts on converting the fleets of commercial vehicles to electric.  These are large buyers of vehicles, so one sales pitch can lead to a lot of sales, that are very sensitive to fuel cost fluctuation.

Will the Boomers Leave Us Bust?—Let me skip to the punch line: if baby boomers have to give an inch to save future generations they will fight tooth and nail to preserve that inch because they are the most self-centered generation in American history.  As the, hopefully, last baby boomer president wreaks havoc on the national and international order it is starting to look like a multi-decade fixer upper job for those of use left.

Goats Used For Colorado Wildfire Mitigation—The world just might be a better place if we spent more time thinking about goats.  Everyone else can worry about Trump today.  I am going to spend my day thinking about goats.

April had a Solar Turnaround

Black Friday used to be a big deal in retail because it signified the moment during the year when the establishment turned “into the black” or profitable for the year.  The rest of the holiday shopping season was the profit for the enterprise for the year.  It seems a little doubtful that this story is entirely true, but in this age of Amazon let us give legacy retail its moment.

April was my Black Friday for solar.  Check out picture one:

IMG_1427

And compare that with picture two:

IMG_1426

What’s the big deal?  My bi-drectional electric meter is showing that I consumed (picture 1) less than I have produced (picture 2) since the meter was installed in August last year.  April was a really good month for solar and, just as importantly, a low month for consumption:

April 2018 Solar

April 2018 was the system’s best full month thus far and I am looking forward to the next four months of big production.  Based on my back of the napkin calculations, which are the best kind, I clawed back into net positive energy production by producing a little more than 270 kWh more than I consumed.  Assuming May is not extreme in any way weather wise I should be able to best my consumption from April given how brutal that month was with late season snow and cold.  You can see where the snowstorms rolled in last month when the solar production dropped off.

The Best Way to Cut Your Emissions is to Stop Driving and Start Biking

Depending upon how you calculate the numbers transportation is now the greatest source of emissions in the United States:

Transportation Emissions

No matter the degree to which we decarbonize are electric grid the effort will be for naught if we do not begin to address the emissions that are a result of our transportation choices.  Transportation emissions come from a lot of sources—personal automobiles, delivery vehicles, mass transit, etc.  The most direct control that we have over transportation emissions is to control how much we drive personal automobiles.  If we do not drive our vehicles do not produce emissions.  It is a fairly simple calculus.

A gallon of gasoline produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when combusted. The average fuel economy for a new car is 23.4 miles per gallon.   Simple math gives you 0.85 pounds of carbon dioxide produced for each mile driven.  Considering that the U.S. is such a truck/SUV/crossover/whatever market I am going to round that up to one pound of carbon dioxide produced for every one mile driven.

Do not drive a mile, save a pound.  It is a direct, one-for-one relationship in my mind and it makes for a fairly simple accounting of progress.

The average American drivers puts 13,474 miles per year in behind the wheel or, according to my simple math, creates 13,474 pounds of carbon dioxide via combustion to drive.  That is a lot of carbon dioxide.  To put it into comparison, the solar array on my home that went active last August is calculated to have saved approximately 3,350 pounds of carbon dioxide in just over seven months.  If the average driver reduced miles driven by approximately 25% the savings would be roughly the same.  This is why we have to address our addiction to fossil fuels in the transportation sector in order to have any significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change.

My goal for the next nine months is to drive less than 2,500 miles in total.  Why 2,500 miles?  It’s the length of time, in miles, until my next oil change.  Why nine months?  It’s the length of time, in months, before my next trip to Colorado. Everything seemed to line up in such a way to make this an easy target to measure and understand.  This would also put me on pace to drive approximately 5,000 miles per year including regular trips to Colorado.

A goal of 5,000 miles per year or less would mean a reduction of almost 63% versus the average American driver and a similar reduction in carbon emissions.  Now imagine a world where the United States reduced its emissions from transportation by 63%.  Wow.

It is not just a story about emissions.  Personal automobiles are expensive.  Most people do not realize the full costs of driving in a way that is easily quantified.  You could spend a lot of time calculating the actual cost per mile of driving for your particular situation or you could just let the IRS do the leg work.  For 2017 the IRS has set the “mileage rate” at 53.5 cents per mile.

In my particular case nine months of driving will cost $1338.  However, every trip to work that I replace with a bicycle trip will save me $6.  Greenhouse gas emissions are hard to imagine.  Six dollars in my pocket every time I decide to commute to work on the dirt wagon is concrete.  Somewhere along the way I am going to translate these savings into a Chris King headset for my bike.

I anticipate a degree of failure, but I feel that I will make little progress toward an ambitious goal unless I make some sort of public proclamation.