Tag Archives: energy

Friday Linkage 4/7/2017

At what point do we look into the abyss and see nothing but Donald Trump’s searing ineptitude staring back at us?  Every time the man goes to the podium with a world leader to his right he stumbles through a word salad of “very this” and “tremendous that” without ever actually saying something of substance.

Every time he steps to the podium I am reminded of Robin Williams’ line in Dead Poets Society:

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Unfortunately laziness is now the currency of the land.

On to the links…

The Question I Get Asked the Most—Take a moment and read the entirety of Bill McKibben’s piece at Resilience.org.  Think about the meaning and do something.

Can Steve King be Defeated? History Says Probably Not—People in his district love Steve King.  He is one of the most embarrassing human beings in politics and the people in his district will reelect him in a walk in 2018.   Why?  They are also the same people who are probably standing behind Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly.

Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?—Why?  It does not fit his easy narrative and the man is lazy.  It does not matter that renewable energy employs more people than coal and that the renewable energy jobs sector is growing.  It also is a narrative that does not line the pockets of Koch Industries and other Trump lovers.

6 Charts That Show Trump Isn’t Stopping the Renewable Energy Revolution Any Time Soon—I hope the conclusion is right.  I just hope that there is enough inertia to overcome the amazing level of stupidity coming from Washington D.C. right now.

US Coal Production Hits 38 Year Low—Here is the thing.  As coal production volumes fall there is a self-perpetuating cycle of decline that follows because it is a capital intensive business.  As coal gets more expensive to mine it gets more expensive to make coal fired electricity, which leads to utilities closing down coal fired power plants.  This causes coal demand to fall further which causes the price of mining coal to increase.  So on and so forth.

While Trump Promotes Coal, Chile and Others are Turning to Cheap Sun Power—Again, it does not fit his lazy narrative.  Plus, solar jobs don’t allow you put on cool hard hats and gesticulate:

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Wastewater: The Best Hidden Energy Source You’ve Never Heard Of—I hesitate to call this renewable energy, so why don’t we go with recovered energy.  Nonetheless, in a system where we are looking for every kilowatt hour that can be generated from non-fossil fuels this is a potential source of goodness.

What Pollutes the Urban Mississippi? Lawns, Dogs and Lots of Pavement Runoff—We may not be able to make rural communities do something about the runoff from farm fields because the rightward lurch of those areas has made progress a daunting task, but there is a lot that can be done in our urban watersheds.

Pot’s Cousin Explored as Viable Crop Option for Minnesota—Illinois is talking about legalization and Minnesota is exploring hemp.  Paying taxes and giving rural communities another crop option is the death knell of federal prohibition.

Ten Cool Facts About Hemp From the NoCo Expo—Did you have an acquaintance in college who spent hours telling you all the cool facts about hemp that “the man” would not allow to become mainstream because reasons?  That person is mainstream now.

Peak Auto? These Charts Point to Industry, U.S. Economy Concerns—We may be “over auto-ed” as a country.  The implications for the economy are fairly dramatic.

The Couple who Coaxed 300 Acres of Barren Farmland Back into Lush Forest—It’s only 300 acres, but it is also only two people.  We have the tools to make the world a better place.  Let’s get cracking.

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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.

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.

Friday Linkage 10/25/2013

I survived Florida.  Trust me, it is usually an ordeal in some way or another when I venture into Rick Scott’s land of strange.  Thankfully I did not run across any monitor lizards or pythons.  Nor did I fall victim to any sinkholes.  Just an uneventful trip to see the mouse.

On to the links…

America’s CO2 Emissions Hit 18-Year Low—The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a wealth of information on energy issues, estimates that U.S. CO2 emissions in 2012 were actually at levels not seen since 1994.  A lot of this is due to the emergence of natural gas replacing coal in electrical generation and a reduction in the demand for heat due to warmer winters.  It’s still some decent news.

Exploring Solar, Efficiency, Gas and More with Amory Lovins and Joel Makower—If you get a chance to see either of these men speak, it’s a treat.  To get both of them on the stage talking about energy issues is just like Christmas in October.  Take a break and enjoy the talk.

Clean-Water Laws: The Second Front in the War on Greenhouse Gases—It’s not just about regulating emissions explicitly.  There are solutions to the issue of regulating greenhouse gas emissions that are much more covert.

The World Isn’t Keeping Up With The Need To Invest In Sustainable Energy—  To address the coming threat of climate change and keep warming to a “manageable” 2 degrees Celsius, the world needs to invest ~$625 billion per year through 2020.  Currently, the investment is at ~$359 billion.  It’s a pretty big shortfall, but what amazes me is that the total figure ($625 billion) is about what the U.S. spends on its military when you account for operations in Afghanistan and other ancillary defense agencies.

0.3% of GPD Would Protect East Asia from Climate Change—So, we can spend a large but manageable amount now to mitigate the impacts of climate change.  Or, we can ignore the signs and deal with apocalyptic conditions later on.  Guess which one the world will choose?

Koch Brother Wages 12-Year Fight Over Wind Farm—William Koch rarely hits the news like his more politically active brothers.  Usually, he is in the press for the strange western frontier town that he has built in Colorado.  Well, it looks like he hates renewable energy as much as his brothers.

To Expand Offshore Power, Japan Builds Floating Windmills—Thankfully the Kochs are not Japanese because it looks like Japan is going to go all in on offshore wind to replace nuclear power as the backbone of the countries electrical generation.  It will be interesting to see if a large investment can push the industry forward.

First Auction of Solar Rights on Public Lands in Colorado Draws No Bids—I was surprised to read that no one bid on the rights to build solar projects in southern Colorado.  Then I read the end of the article and was amazed at the amount of solar power already on-line in the region.

Residential Solar is a Middle Class Phenomenon—It looks like the Koch brothers, all three of those clowns, are not the only rich people who do not like renewables.  Apparently, its relatively well-to-do middle class households that like renewables.  At least when it comes to residential solar.

Independence Through Microgrids: When The Power Goes Out, Some Are Just Going Off The Grid—Every time a disaster hits where the grid is knocked out, stories flow about how a few islands—powered by renewables—kept the lights on and served as community hubs.

How The Department Of Energy Is Working To Reduce The Cost Of Solar By 75 Percent—The balance of system costs—those costs associated with a solar system that are not panel related—continue to bedevil systems as the costs prove sticky.  However, more effort is being focused on bringing those costs down.

Eating Raw Whale Meat While Dishing up Baloney — How Industry is Imperiling the Oceans While We Aren’t Looking—Man, it’s frightening just how fudged up large companies are making the world’s oceans.

Now this is Natural Food—I do not know why I have never read about the idea of perennial food systems.  Sure, permaculture has a place in the reading list and I try to incorporate some of those principles into my landscape but this seems different.

Fifteen Tons of Groceries, Sailing Down the Hudson—I have linked to articles about the Vermont Sail Freight Project before.  It is cool to see pictures of the initial voyage to New York City.

Where Do Baby Carrots Come From?—If your house is anything like mine, baby carrots are consumed in large quantities.  My children will eat bowlfuls after school or at dinner without any encouragement.  It’s interesting to see the journey to the grocery store for this staple of snacks.

Friday Linkage 9/27/2013

So, it looks like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that the preponderance of global warming is caused by humans.  Boom, outta’ here!  While this may be hailed as a revelation in some quarters, it will be treated with disdain by a large chunk of the political establishment in the U.S. that treats any news about climate change by sticking their fingers in their ears and singing Christian rock.  Yes, I am looking at you Steve King.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the conversation can move beyond the whole “the science is not settled” debate.  Not likely, but I am hopeful.

On to the links…
Cherokee Bear Park May Be Sued By Tribal Elders For Violating Endangered Species Act–The fact that this place exists is a damn shame.  A similar park was shut down recently and the bears were relocated to a sanctuary.  PETA has been trying for years to get these animals released from hellish conditions.

In 2013, Worldwide Solar Power Installations Will Overtake Wind For The First Time–Part of it was a function of regulations and taxation, but solar is really coming on as a competitive source of energy.  Not just renewable energy, but energy overall.

Energy Needs Water and Water Needs Energy–The two are inexorably tied.  Without water there cannot be energy production and vice versa.  It’s one of the angles about hydraulic fracturing that often goes unreported.

Will Offshore Wind Finally Take Off on the East Coast–It’s a trend in Europe, but the U.S. has yet to utilize offshore wind resources.  Will that end with several offshore wind farms in the planning stages on the eastern seaboard?

India Plans To Build The Largest Solar Plant In The World–When solar power reaches the “India price” it should take off, so say the experts.  Guess what?  It’s already passed that boundary.  Get ready for liftoff.

How Algae Could Create Better, More Efficient Gasoline Than Corn–Algae is the next great promising biofuel.  Unlike first generation biofuels it does not compete as a food source and it can utilize marginal land.  However, with biofuels the promise always seems to be illusory.

Supermarkets Should Sell More Ugly Fruit–Walk into the produce section of your supermarket and it is a veritable cornucopia of good looking fruits or vegetables.  Now think back to the produce that comes out of your garden.  How much of the homegrown produce would conform to the beauty standards imposed by retail?  Not much I imagine.

The Solution to America’s Food Waste Problem?  Feed People–It seems so simple, but the systems need to be in place to take advantage of the tremendous waste that exists in the system.  The fact that we waste so much food while so many people go hungry.

Does Corporate Farming Exist?  Just Barely–Mother Jones magazine has an interesting look at the ownership structure of some sectors of the agriculture economy.  The good news is that corporate ownership is not yet monolithic.

Into the Wildfire–In a world where climate change is a reality, knowledge about wildfires will be increasingly important because it is likely that we will see more frequent and intense wildland fires.  Ugh.

Patagonia’s Radical Transparency Keeps Getting Traction–It’s great to see that a company is so committed to this level of transparency, but it is sad to think about how small of a player such a company is in the grand scheme of things.  Keep on keepin’ on Patagonia.

Friday Linkage 2/1/2013

It’s February.  Wow.  Hard to believe and then…not so hard considering I have spent the past two weeks watching the sports section of anything I read turned into a non-stop parade of useless articles about the impending Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl signifies one thing to me—pitchers and catchers are about to report.  Say what you will about baseball, but it is that first taste of the warm weather to come when spring training starts in Arizona and Florida.

On to the links…

Coastal Snobbery, ‘The Masses,’ And Respecting The Lowest Common Denominator—Thank god someone actually put pen to paper and wrote about this perception.  It’s as if everyone who lives in an enclave on the east or west coast feels that everyone living more than an hour’s drive from salt water is some sort of backwards rube.  Granted, Buckwild is doing nothing to help that perception.

In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change—Taxes have become the new “thing that shall remain nameless” in any discussion about public policy unless the focus is on tax cuts.  It is too bad because targeted taxes on energy could really change behavior and raise a lot of money to fund the fight against climate change.  Wonder what Grover Norquist thinks?

New ERCOT Report Shows Texas Wind And Solar Are Highly Competitive With Natural Gas—The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is not known as a bastion of trippy hippie thinking, so when it comes out with an assessment that wind and solar are competitive…no wait, highly competitive with natural gas people need to pay attention.

Fake Protesters Offered $20 To Stand At Anti-Wind Energy Rally—Like the incident in 2012 where pro-coal groups paid people $50 to attend hearings, the fossil fuel complex and its cronies cannot drum up actual grassroots support.  So, they pay people.

How Volkswagen Turns Tennessee Sunshine Into Passats—I find the picture of all those solar photovoltaic panels amazing.  I also find it a bit disheartening because there are so many places we could be deploying solar photovoltaic panels that are not open fields—e.g. the roofs of big box stores, warehouses, schools, etc.  At least it is something.

A Solar Powered Shed for India’s Food—Food waste is a huge problem all across the world—developed and developing—but in the developing world the main problems are keeping food from spoiling before it can reach consumers.  Refrigeration and distribution headaches are two of the primary concerns.  Here is a simple solution to take care of the refrigeration component.

How Electricity, Water And Food Could Be Produced In Desert Areas With Minimal Ecological Footprint—There is something to these combined facilities that really speaks to me.  When I was a kid I used to love reading stories about the ideas for moon bases or terraforming.  I do not know how viable this project would be in the “real world” but it is fun to think about for a few moments.

Officials Back Deep Cuts in Atlantic Cod Harvest to Save Industry—The collapse of the cod fisheries in the Atlantic has to stand as one of the great environmental catastrophes of the Twentieth Century.  As other species of wildlife have returned to some level of abundance, the cod has been a stubborn fish.

Bacon, and How it Came to Be—Maybe it’s where I come from—eastern Iowa—but butchers never really went away.  In town I can easily think of a half dozen meat markets where a real, honest to goodness butcher is behind the counter.  Nonetheless, it is good to see a focus returning to the people who actually prepare the foods we cook.  Even if this did seem a little bit like elitist foodie tourism.

Alex Bogusky talks about Boulder, SmartWool, bikes and being American—  When I was in b-school, Alex Bogusky was one of the few ad people that I actually found interesting to read about or listen to.  This opinion continues with this piece.  BTW, I love the “random” conversations that the Denver Post has in this feature.  It’s great.

Friday Linkage 1/18/2013

Friday turns into Saturday and all of a sudden it’s Sunday afternoon before you realize that you have failed to post the links.  Whoops.  Sorry about that.

On to the links…

In Rural Minnesota, a 70 Acre Lab for Sustainable Living–How many places like this exist throughout the United States?  Places where people are putting to the test all of the ideas and theories about how we can live in modernity without placing ever greater strain on the planet.

Will 2013 Continue 7 Year Trend of Decreasing Driving–Lost in the noise lately has been the continued trend of Americans driving less.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the graph:

miles-driven-CNP16OV-adjusted

Not only are Americans driving less, but if you listen to the car people at any auto show or in any trade rag and the primary concern is the waning love affair with the automobile.  Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Animals versus Automobiles–As someone who grew up in southeastern Minnesota, I was intimately familiar with the intersection of animals and automobiles.  Most notably, deer were a common hindrance to continued forward progress on the roads.  Wait a second, it’s an infographic:

animal-roadkill

Clean Energy Investment Fell 11% as Government Cut Subsidies–Okay, so for anyone who does not believe the production tax credit is vital to the continued growth of domestic renewable energy witness this story.  I take back that statement about their being hope for us yet.

Solar Could Meet all the World’s Electricity Needs by 2050 with 1% of Land–It will never happen, but can you imagine a world where we replaced all fossil fuel electricity generation with distributed solar?  Yeah, I cannot imagine that world either because it seems so wonderful.

Why the Government Should Pay Farmers to Plant Cover Crops–As if we did not know our domestic farm policy was crap, there seem to be so many sensible, low cost ideas out there to make things better that it seems even more stupid when you really think about things for a moment.  I suppose if the government promoted cover crops then Monsanto and company would sell a few bags less of GMo seeds.  Now I get the problem.

Beijing’s Air is so Bad…–This is just a story that begs for a series of jokes patterned on the old “Your mama is so” meme from the 1990s.  Oh yeah, I referenced the 1990s like it was sooooo long ago.  First, what the heck is in the air?  The Guardian took a stab at it:

Climate desk Beijing air pollution

Or, you could go the NPR route and wonder what it looks like from space

Black Carbon Larger Cause of Climate Change than Previosuly Thought–We do not know what we do not know until we really spend time researching the problem.  It’s too bad that scientists have to spend countless hours defending their work on climate science because a small percentage of people–hack scientists and quack politicians–have “doubts” about the integrity of their work.  How come no one every gets to question a Republican politician’s integrity when it comes to positions that they take on issues?  Like, what is their agenda exactly?

Sweet Sodas and Soft Drinks May Raise Your Risk for Depression–Basically, soda and soft drinks are just bad stuff.  There is no place in our diet for such beverages.  Just put down that one gallon soda from the corner conveinence store and grab a bottle of water.  Make sure it is not water in a disposable container.  Okay?