Tag Archives: environment

Friday Linkage 7/19/2019

July has really come out swinging with hot weather.  It came in hot and dry and now we get hot and humid.  In reality, I do not know which one I prefer or, rather, hate less.

There is something pernicious about hot and dry weather in a place accustomed to a certain level of moisture.  Here in eastern Iowa plants began to go dormant and things get all crinkly as it dries out.  This is not western Colorado where the plants are adapted to this kind of weather.  It was somewhat of a relief when some drenching rains happened over the past few days and the green returned.

On to the links…

Are We Having Too Much Fun?—I remember a discussion I had with an Iranian ex-patriate who was studying at the University of Minnesota when I was an undergraduate at the Minneapolis campus.  He said that his biggest problem with American society was that we trivialized everything until, at seemingly random intervals, something began to matter.  It did not make sense to him.  It does not make sense to me when put that way.

The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do—Barring some major external event—depression, war, etc.—I doubt that we will ever embrace a relationship with our stuff that is fundamentally different versus today’s paradigm.  However, it is something to strive for on an individual level and hope for the best.

America’s Addiction to Absurdly Fast Shipping has a Hidden Cost—Our addiction to stuff is just a problem.  Why do we feel the need to buy so much stuff?  When did shopping become an activity in and of itself?

Workers with Short or ‘Active’ Commutes are Happier Campers—From the land of “obvious conclusions from studies that did not need to be conducted” comes this gem.  Spend a week in a long commute and you will understand why shorter commutes make for happier people.

US Energy-Related CO2 Emissions Expected to Fall this Year, Almost Solely Due to a Drop in Coal Use—So, how do we drive coal to zero?  More solar.  More wind.  More energy efficiency.  It is not a complicated blueprint.

Fiscal Collapse of Coal Towns Increasingly Likely, New Research Shows—States like Wyoming, which is reliant on coal dollars, are going to have to deal with the reckoning of coal’s collapse sooner rather than later.  These declines usually happen in a stair step, as opposed to linear pattern, as major suppliers are driven out of business and no one steps in to resume operation.

The Game-Changing Spark Iowa’s Solar Industry Needs Could be in Louisa County—We have a lot of wind power built out in Iowa and more is on the way.  Solar could be the next big buildout that pushes Iowa to a nearly carbon free electricity grid.

Minnesota Utilities Weigh Energy Storage as Substitute for Peaker Plants—We are now reaching a point when renewable energy storage, through a variety of mechanisms, is considered a viable alternative to conventional natural gas “peaker” plants.

Fossil Fuels Increasingly Offer a Poor Return on Energy Investment—The economics are turning against fossil fuels.

Former Rick Perry Staffer Raises Six-Figures for Trump’s Reelection Campaign—Donald Trump’s presidency is the best thing that money can buy for the energy industry.

Government Watchdog Fears EPA’s New Climate Scientists Are Not Vetted And Have Conflicts of Interest—I will save everyone the effort: anyone who goes to work in the Trump administration is likely to have not been vetted, probably lacks credible experience, and is riven with conflicts of interest.

Scotland Generated Enough Wind Energy to Power its Homes Twice—There was a time when pundits said that renewable energy could never power more than 5% of the grid.  Then it became 10% and has been revised upward ever since.  Now places like Scotland are generating more power from renewables than needed.

Can Mass Timber Reform Construction’s Carbon Footprint?—Combined with a program of extensive reforestation I believe that mass timber can be the construction method of the future carbon neutral world.

This Colorado Ranch-Made-Lab is Turning Beetle-Kill Trees into Lumber in the Name of Forest Health—Trinchera Blanca Ranch is a living, breathing example of how regenerative ecology can work.

Jump Aboard the eDumper, the World’s Largest Electric Vehicle—Most of us think of Tesla Model 3s or Nissan Leafs when we think of EVs, but maybe we should think of something like the eDumper?

The Humble Pea is America’s Favorite New Crop—One of the upsides to products like the Impossible Burger is that there is a growing demand in the marketplace for peas, which can supplant commodity crops like corn and soybeans.

Clothing You Don’t Have to Wash, Explained—Is this really a good idea?

San Francisco: Wealthy Opponents of New Shelter Claim Homeless are Bad for Environment—We have really reached peak California with this NIMBYism.  At what point do we just call out California for the hypocrisy that permeates everything?

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Friday Linkage 7/12/2019

July really walloped us with heat and humidity this week in eastern Iowa.  After a wet and cool May and June, this month came in hot, humid, breezy, and dry.  It is just strange to be talking about high humidity and the soil drying out at the same time.  Yet, here we are.

On to the links…

The Most Important Thing You Can do Right Now to Fight Climate Change, According to Science—The best thing we can do is to keep hammering away at building consensus.

The Biggest Lie in Trump’s Environmental Speech Today—The fact that Ol’ Donnie Two Scoops felt the need to walk up to the podium and deliver a speech about his “environmental leadership” is, perhaps, the most appalling example of the man’s deranged ego run amok.

Tree Planting ‘Has Mind-Blowing Potential’ to Tackle Climate Crisis—Regardless of the degree to which this would be effective in combating climate change the question remains: What is the downside?  We have more forests?

Toilet Paper is Getting Less Sustainable, Researchers Warn—If your toilet paper is not recycled or tree free you are wiping your ass with carbon.  Until you clean up your triple ply, soft as angel wings toilet paper habit you are just destroying forests.

Beverage Companies Embrace Recycling, Until It Costs Them—I live in a state with a longstanding bottle deposit law and every couple of years the beverage industry lines up to try for repeal.  That is how you know it must be working to some degree.  Anything that can unite companies that normally fight like cats and dogs must be some kind of good.

New Wyoming Coal Company Abandons Mines and Miners—Coal companies have always treated workers like crap.  It is now just getting more mainstream coverage.

First Major U.S. Insurance Company Moves Away from Coal—Boring but important notice: If you cannot get insurance a lot of projects cannot get financing.  Financing is the lifeblood of fossil fuel projects.

This Is Exactly Why Clean Coal Is A Joke—There can never be “clean coal.”  Just like there cannot be “safe crystal meth” or “healthy White Castle.”

A President, A Parasite And A National Energy Policy Gone Awry—It is amazing that people want clean air and clean water.  Oh wait, that is just basic knowledge about humans desires.

Cheap Clean Energy Makes New Natural Gas A Risky Bet Utility Regulators Should Avoid—This is an editorial written in Forbes, bot Mother Jones.

It’s Time to Expand the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit—Again, Forbes.  It is like these ideas are hitting the mainstream.

Why Blue Jeans are Going Green—It may seem like we live in a business casual and athleisure wear world, but blue jeans are still a core component of our fashion lives.  These pants also happen to be an ecological nightmare.

Herbicide Is What’s for Dinner—Commodity agricultural practices have led us down this path and it is not sustainable.

One-Fifth of Americans are Responsible for Half the Country’s Food-Based Emissions—It’s almost like the 80/20 rule for emissions.  It just goes to show that relatively small changes for a slice of the population can make a big difference in emissions.  Too bad these are also the same people who gobble up “MAGA” hats and loudly proclaim Trump the be the biblical Cryrus.

8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning—The air conditioning impacts are too damn high!  The fact that almost twenty percent of people set their thermostats below 70 degrees is mind blowing to me.

Friday Linkage 6/15/2018

Like many people I will miss Anthony Bourdain’s perspective on the world.  Although he began his career as just a “food” writer he evolved into something much more without losing the common lens we share that is food.

However, at the end I just want everyone to take a moment and read the 1999 article that started it all.  Don’t order the fish on Mondays.

On to the links…

EPA Proposes Changes to How It Measures Costs and Benefits of Regulation—Let me give you an idea of how this is going to work in practice.  Pollution, despite being proven to cost lives, is not going to be regulated because it might cost a big business money and that would mean that Scott Pruitt would have less money for fancy lotion.

This Freaking Guy, Part Infinity—Speaking of lotion…

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Tapped Aide, Donors to Help Wife Land Job at Conservative Group—I am guessing that they Chick-fil-A franchise fell through.  Oh well, just use your position and influence to get your wife a cushy job on a think tank or PAC.

More and More Republicans are Turning on Scandal-Plagued Scott Pruitt—I do not care how weary no talent ass clowns like James Inhofe get because there is no action to get rid of the most ethically challenged cabinet secretary in modern history.

Why Trump Would Really, Really Rather not Fire Scott Pruitt—In Donald Trump’s mind Scott Pruitt is a “winner” and you do not fire winners unless they somehow manage to outshine the head cheese puff in the Oval Office.

Scott Pruitt Ate at the White House Mess So Often They Asked Him to Stop—The man is nothing more than a dime store grifter. He is the type of person who steals other people’s food from the refrigerator at work because he is too cheap to buy his own lunch.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Made at Least $82 Million in Outside Income Last Year While Serving in the White House—No one in this administration is serving the public in the traditional sense.  These people are using the trappings of public office to line their pockets.  Everything else is just secondary to looting America before America wises up.

DNC Quietly Adopts Ban On Fossil Fuel Company Donations—Everything is about messaging and perception.  Nonetheless, the messaging here is clear going forward.  Fossil fuels are the past and clean energy is the future.  If you want to be part of the future do not vote for anyone resembling a Republican.

FERC Commissioners Agree: No Grid Emergency Exists to Justify Coal, Nuclear Bailout—Trump’s plan to line coal barons’ pockets with our money is running into the reality that no one actually likes the plan.  Oh, and the emergency does not exist for them to use national security as an excuse.

Arizona Water Utility Chooses Solar Over Coal—This might be the final nail in the coffin for the notorious Navajo Generating Station, which is closer to retirement now than ever before.  The other issue here is that a water utility chose solar over coal, which is like your conservative Uncle Carl coming to Thanksgiving Dinner in a Nissan Leaf.

US Solar Tariffs Cost Billions In Cancelled Projects, But 2018 To Remain Flat In “Actually Good News”—The had cheese puff may be trying to strangle solar with tariffs, but the economics are strong with this one.

Uneconomic Coal Could Be Squeezed Out Of European Union Power Markets By 2030—Obviously a lot has to happen for this to actually occur and a little less than 12 years is a long time. However, check out Western Europe:

https___blogs-images_forbes_com_energyinnovation_files_2018_06_EU-coal-phase-out-dates

The big blue blob of Germany in the middle makes me concerned.

It’s so Cheap to Drive Electric Even Trump’s Administration Can’t Ignore It—Maybe Uncle Carl will be coming to Thanksgiving in a Nissan Leaf.

Scotland Hits Annual GHG Emissions Target Third Year Running—It is not all bad news out there.

How America’s Hunting Culture Shaped Masculinity, Environmentalism, and the NRA—America used to have a hunting culture.  It does not have a hunting culture that is broadly based anymore.

Are These ‘Biodegradable’ Water Balloons Really Biodegradable?—These bunch of balloons are the bane of my existence in the summer.  I think that my yard is basically mulched in multi-color rubber.

What Can we Do?—Despite how bad things might seem when you turn on the news, just take a breath, and realize that there is a lot that we can do as individuals and small communities to improve the world.  We have the tools.

Friday Linkage 2/10/2017

The abnormal has become the normal.  The surrogates of the president lie—massacres in Bowling Green, terrorist attacks in Atlanta, who knows that else—with a zeal that makes me wonder if it is overtly encouraged by the current president.  Alternative facts—known as lies to anyone with the sense of a first grader—have become the new currency of cable news.  Have we actually entered the Twilight Zone?

Wake me up in a few years.

On to the links…

U.S. Wind, Solar Power Tout Rural Jobs as Trump Pushes Coal—Trump has a narrative in his simple mind that coal is power and solar is for hippies.  Too bad the reality on the ground—like so many things—does not actually match this narrative.  Maybe it is an alternative fact?

Americans are Now Twice as Likely to Work in Solar as in Coal—If you were going to ask for a group’s support which would you pick: the group with more jobs that is growing or the group with fewer jobs that is declining?  Which one do you think the sitting president chose?

6 Reasons the Clean Energy Revolution Doesn’t need Trump’s Blessing—Trump may think that his perch atop his imperial presidency makes him capable of doing whatever he wants and making it happen via proclamation, but the reality on the ground is very different.

Reasons to be Cheerful: A Full Switch to Low-Carbon Energy is in Sight—I like the positive spin on this.

Cheaper Renewables to Halt Coal and Oil Demand Growth from 2020—This is what the death spiral looks like.  As the technology doing the replacing gets cheaper and easier to deploy there is no way that the displaced technology can compete on either cost or performance, so it’s displacement becomes self-fulfilling.  Once the coal mines shutter who is going to invest in coal?

Electric Vehicles Will Be A Major Oil Price Driver In The Future—The question is how much a disruption in oil demand will be needed to make a major difference in price.  Recently, we have seen swing production of less than 10% cause major price disruptions.

We’re Probably Underestimating How Quickly Electric Vehicles will Disrupt the Oil Market—Disruption can happen fast.  I cannot wait to see what the EV market looks like when both Chevrolet and Tesla are selling EVs at volume for an attainable price.

Californians are Paying Billions for Power they Don’t Need—This story kind of blew my mind.

Rachel Carson, ‘Mass Murderer’? A Right-Wing Myth about ‘Silent Spring’ is Poised for a Revival—With people like Scott Pruitt installed at the EPA and right wing whack jobs in Congress I am expecting this old trope to get a lot of play on the cable news cycle.

L.A.’s Mayor Wants to Lower the City’s Temperature, and these Scientists are Figuring out How to do it—The L.A. Times came strong with some stories this week that I think are of relevance to our understanding of the world.

Invading Pythons and the Weird, Uncertain Future of the Florida Everglades—Florida is a petri dish for everything we have screwed up over the past few decades.  Now it is also a living laboratory for what happens when invasive species change the dynamic.  After reading The New Wild [https://www.amazon.com/New-Wild-Invasive-Species-Salvation/dp/0807039551] I am left to wonder if anything can be considered invasive in Florida anymore given how dramatically that landscape has been changed over the last few centuries.

Friday Linkage 12/16/2016

Is Donald Trump just trolling America now with his picks?  The Scott Pruitt choice was bad, but Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy is just ridiculous.  Rick Perry literally does not know what the Department of Energy does.  Most of the people claiming he will do a good job talk about his coming from an oil and gas state.  Never mind that oil and gas exploitation falls under other federal agencies and the Department of Energy actually spends most of its time and budget on nuclear responsibilities.  Maybe we will get a return of George W. Bush’s interesting pronunciation of nuclear.

On to the links…

Full Levelized Cost of Electricity In the United States by County—This is an amazing interactive map that lets you play with assumptions about cost, tax incentives, etc. to see at what the lowest LCOE of various electricity generation methods would be by county.  I am surprised that nuclear is able to be competitive in any of these scenarios.

If Trump Wants to Dismantle Obama’s EPA Rules, Here are all the Obstacles He’ll Face—Given the makeup of the cabinet and its glaring lack of experience in public service, I cannot wait to see them whine, moan, and bitch that government does not operate like their personal business fiefdoms.  No shit Sherlock, there is a reason that government does not work like a private business…it’s not a private business.

Solar Capacity has Increased 99% since Last Quarter—Maybe the best thing I have heard in a while: “The industry is booming, and President Trump will be hard-pressed to stop it.”

White House Releases Strategy for Deep Decarbonization by 2050—Save this document because we are about to spend four years without such vision.  We are far more likely to see reports about how we can make America great again by being big league and classy and yuge.

The End of the Commonwealth—The gilded age has returned and the crony capitalists have swept into power.  Populism was co-opted to allow for a takeover by wealthy elites.  The “blue collar billionaire” who criticized his opponent for giving speeches to Goldman Sachs has tapped former employees of the bank for key positions and even nominated the CEO of the most reviled oil company to be Secretary of State.  Our government is at the service of a very few very rich people.

Without These Ads, There Wouldn’t be Money in Fake News—The dictum “follow the money” has always been true.  Without the ability to garner revenue from clicks, fake news would be a gnat’s ass.

Renewables Produce 56% Of Denmark’s Domestic Electricity—The U.S. is unlikely to be leading a lot in this area for the next few years, so we need to take solace in the world making progress.

Solar Panels have been Benefiting the Climate ‘since 2011’—The carbon debt has been paid.

Your Hobby Is Action, Not Accumulation—I used to be so guilty of this when it came to books.  I read a lot, but I still acquired books like crazy.  It became more about a good looking library as opposed to actually reading and accumulating knowledge.  At what point do the things we own begin to own us?

I Love Meat. But these New “Bleeding” Veggie Burgers Convinced Me to Give it up for Good.—These burgers are only available in limited markets right now, but I cannot wait to try them once availability increases to more markets.  Now, if they could tackle the whole veggie bacon thing we would be cooking so to speak.

Homeopathic “Drugs” Will Have to Carry Disclaimers That They Are Bunk—Finally.  Homeopathic drugs are just ridiculous.  It’s like the snake oil salesmen of yesteryear were allowed to continue peddling patent medications without any repurcussions.

First Industrial Hemp Seeds Certified by Colorado Department of Agriculture—The “Green Rush” hype in Colorado has focused on the recreational smoking aspect of marijuana legalization, but there has been a steady increase in the interest of farmers and industry to exploit industrial—e.g. non-psychoactive—hemp as an alternative crop.

Degrowth Is Punk as F*ck—Maybe this is the answer.

Friday Linkage 12/9/2016

It seems like the announced cabinet for President-Elect Trump, which still makes me vomit a little in my mouth every time I say it, gets worse every day.  Now we have Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  This is a guy who has made a career out of suing the EPA.  Is it any wonder that government fails to work when we elect people who do not want to make it work?

On to the links…

Why the International Energy Agency has Grown Bullish, but Perhaps not Bullish Enough, on Renewables—In Trump land I do not know if we can be bearish enough about anything environmentally friendly.  I fear that the next four years will be nothing but walking backwards into climate change oblivion.

Trump Advisors Aim to Privatize Oil-Rich American Indian Reservations—I am sure that this will go really well.  Nothing like allowing Trump’s fossil fuel besties to grab resources from native communities.

Four Reasons 30% Wind and Solar is Technically No Big Deal—The important part of this story is that there are places that are already operating at over 30% renewables.  We have made a lot of progress and need to fight to make it stick.

Solar Panels Repay their Energy ‘Debt’—One of the negatives that climate change deniers and fossil fuel lovers like to spew is that solar panels can never produce more energy than was used in the manufacture of the panels.  Wrong.

U.S. Brewery Count Topples 5,000-mark per Brewers Association 2016 Year in Review—5,000 breweries is amazing and scary.  Is this a bubble?

My DIY IKEA Backpack—In the forthcoming Trumpocalypse I can see lots of people having to make survival gear from whatever they can find around.  These blue IKEA bags may be the bees knees.

China’s Environment is Screwed and so is its Economy

China’s economy may be a growth miracle, but the externalities associated with that growth are certainly coming home to roost.

The infamous smog, that wonderful concoction of airborne pollutants and atmospheric conditions, made well-known during the run-up to the Olympics in 2008 has not gotten better. It’s gotten worse.

Recently, the U.S. embassy in Beijing—which has become a trusted source on the quality of the air in China—reported that its air quality index measuring so-called PM2.5 particles hit 545. A number greater than 300 is considered immediately hazardous to one’s health. The visibility in the city is expected to be reduced to less than 500 meters.

What does that look like? Here you go:

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Granted, the smog gets worse in the winter as atmospheric conditions and increased heating burden mix to create this lovely toxic stew.

However, the long term trend is that China’s air is so messed up that it will inhibit long term economic security. Why? People will not want to live there.

Businesses will not be able to locate themselves in China because no one will want to work there or will demand what amounts to hazard pay in order to relocate. Don’t believe it? Coca-Cola is offering its employees a so-called “environmental hardship allowance” for expatriate employees.

Panasonic is doing the same thing.

For Republicans or anyone who believes that air quality is a luxury remember that people like to breathe clean air. The lack of clean air will impact the economic viability of companies and countries. It looks like China is going to be the laboratory for this particular experiment in free market thinking. Here is to hoping the invisible hand of the market slaps the libertarians in the house.