Tag Archives: fossil fuels

Friday Linkage 11/1/2019

It’s a white Halloween…

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Two days of measurable snow accumulation by October 31st.  Weird.

On to the links…

Offshore Windfarms ‘Can Provide More Electricity than the World Needs’This is some change that I can believe in.  How do we make the transition to offshore wind happen faster?

7 Ways Hurricane Sandy Started a Tidal Wave of ResilienceIt took New York City and a chunk of the eastern seaboard getting walloped for people to pay attention to resilience as a way to protect coastal communities and ecosystems, but it is a start.

‘Grand African Savannah Green Up’: Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in AfricaIf only a portion of the projected benefits are realized this is a major victory.  As big as $85 million sounds, it is truly a drop in the bucket in a world where the US spends more than $2 billion a day on defense related accounts.

‘Green Gold’ Tree Offers Brazil Deforestation HopeWe must repair the damage caused by modern society.  Plant these trees now. Plant as many as possible. What is the downside?

The White House Wants Climate Change Off the G7 Agenda. It Doesn’t Really Work That Way.In Donald Trump’s world, Donnie Two Scoops gets what Donnie Two Scoops wants. Rules, decorum, whatever be damned.  It will be interesting to see how he handles a hostile impeachment process as the revelations of his administration’s misdeeds become common knowledge.  Then again this is a man who has a lawyer insist that the president is above the law.

Trump’s Public Lands Chief Wrote For A Cult Extremist’s MagazineThe Trump administration is so messed up and hurting for warm bodies that people aligned with Lyndon LaRouche are getting government posts.

4 Out of 5 EU Coal Plants Are Losing MoneyThe market has spoken and now the effort to phase out coal will run into the nasty business of politics.

Moody’s Sees “Significant” Drops In Powder River Basin Coal ProductionIt’s called a death spiral for a reason.  One company declares bankruptcy. This in turn raised the cost of capital for the existing coal companies.  This in turn caused their prices to rise. This in turn causes utilities and consumers to look at cheaper energy.  This in turn causes another coal company to declare bankruptcy.  

Murray Energy Is 8th Coal Company in a Year to Seek BankruptcyYou better believe that Robert Murray, the Dr. Evil facsimile who pals around with Donald Trump, will find a way to screw the American taxpayer through this bankruptcy.  My guess is that he will pay himself millions, vacate any pension or medical obligations, and find a way to dump clean up costs on the governments where these mines operate.

Kentucky’s Leaders Are Siding With the Coal Industry, and Its Poorest Residents Are Paying a PriceCoal companies have never cared about the people who mine coal or the land from which they mine coal.  They only care about money. The unholy alliance of Trump, coal company CEOs, and regular miners is coming to an end as everyone sees the fraud that is the blue collar billionaire and his corrupt cronies.

World’s Largest Storage Battery — 2.5 GWh — To Replace Gas Peaker Plants In QueensNo one wants a peaker plant in their neighborhood, but a battery can sit in a commercial building or the basement of a residential building just waiting to be deployed to smooth out the differences in supply versus demand on the grid.

No-Gold Perovskite Solar Cells Aim A Dagger At The Heart Of Fossil FuelsNuclear power was supposed to be too cheap to meter, but it looks like solar photovoltaic may actually get to that point if developments in perovskite solar cells can be commercialized.  

A $60,000 Solar Project, with No Money Down: A Colorado Program Helps Businesses Finance Renewable Energy ProjectsIf you hate solar power than a program like this should scare the living shit out of you.  Every panel that gets deployed is demand that is not coming back to the grid.

Heat (The Elephant In The Room)The path to deep decarbonization has to address our desire for heat.  Whether it is to heat our homes or the water with which we bathe this demand for heat drives demand for energy.  A lot of that energy is provided by fossil fuels.

‘Chocogedden’ is Fast ApproachingClimate change is coming for all of the foods that we love.  Maybe we should just get used to subsisting on soylent like “foods.”

It’s Time to Ban Filters on CigarettesThis was my father’s wish.  As a former smoker who occasionally lapsed in his middle age he felt that filters were a way to make people feel like smoking was not as bad for them as was the case.  And he hated the butts being thrown everywhere.

Friday Linkage 10/11/2019

Apparently James O’Keefe and his repugnant brand of “investigative” whatever was a little too tame for the right wing.  Now they are paying for people to go to town halls and say shit like this woman, who is an operative for LaRouche PAC.

We also live in a world where a sixteen year old girl worried about climate change is the subject of an adult wishing he had a sniper rifle.

WTF?

On to the links…

Revealed: The 20 Firms Behind a Third of All Carbon Emissions—You can worry about plastic straws all you want.  These twenty firms are the reason why the planet is screwed.

A Champion of the Unplugged, Earth-Conscious Life, Wendell Berry is Still Ahead of Us—The world needs more Wendell Berry.  This quote says it all, “the origin of climate change is human laziness.”

Record Debt and Inequality Gap? It’s Almost like 40 Years of Republican Tax Cuts Failed.—Can we finally put to bed the lie that is supply side economics?  Arthur Laffer was wrong.  His acolytes were wrong.  Now, if the goal of Republican tax cuts was to wreck the economy, increase inequality, and hamstring the government…mission accomplished.

Five Radical Climate Policies That Most Americans Actually Like—It is not really that difficult to find a consensus on addressing climate change through proposals that the vast majority of people understand and would accept.  I am sure that Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity would bloviate otherwise but they can run themselves with their millions of dollars to make themselves feel better while we move on to real solutions.

The Northeast US has a Carbon-Trading System. It is Boosting, not Hurting, State Economies.—This is a free market solution that should have right wingers slobbering, but since it does not allow fossil fuel companies to spew emissions at an unchallenged rate there is no way they can agree.  Too bad.

The U.S. Southeast: A Hotspot For Uneconomic Fossil Power, Already Costs Consumers Millions—It is almost as if red states led by Republicans are trying to prove that they will follow bad policies for no other reason than…um…Fox News?

Trump’s Pledge to Save US Coal is Failing, Leaving Coal Country in Crisis—There was never a “war on coal” as understood by Republicans.  The market moved against coal in such a way that made it fundamentally non-competitive before environmental concerns were figured in.  Combine the two and it is a loser for just about everyone who does not have a vested interest in burning more coal.

Plastic Waste is Everywhere in Grocery Stores. Can They Cut Down?—Shopping for groceries is like shopping for plastic sometimes.

A Carbon-Neutral Burger? It’s not Impossible.—All right, if all we ate was an occasional grass fed, grass finished hamburger or steak there would not be any problem.  However, people do not just eat red meat occasionally.  It is a constant presence in their daily diet.

Here’s the Actual Impact of Cutting Down on Red Meat (and Everything Else)—Let’s just simplify this entire exercise.  Reducing animal based food products—meat, eggs, dairy, whatever—is the single biggest dietary change you can make in terms of emissions reductions.

Planters on Brighton Boulevard Aren’t Just for Show, They’re Keeping Garbage Out of Waterways—This is just a really cool idea that seems like it would be easy to deploy in a lot of places.

In a Sign of Cleanup Success, Dolphins Are Living and Giving Birth in the Potomac—We can do better.  We can restore ecosystems.  We have to power.

How Interchangeable Parts Revolutionized the Way Things are Made—What seems obvious in hindsight was not so obvious at the time.

This is What the Future Looks Like

People frequently ask me what I think the future looks like.  Rarely do I provide a coherent answer because what I think will happen is constantly changing based on the conditions of the day.  There do exist some constants, however, and solar power is one of those constants.

Why?  For one, it is easy.  Once the panels are installed your array will just sit on your roof producing electricity regardless of what you do.  When you go to work the panels produce electricity.  When you go on vacation the panels produce electricity.  It is the ultimate in “set it and forget it” environmentally beneficial behaviors.

Second, you can see the impact at a household level.  If my utility purchased electricity produced by wind turbines I have no real concept of what that means to me.  Was 15% of my electricity produced by the wind?  More?  Less?  However, with solar panels installed you get a very local idea of how much energy you have produced versus how much you have consumed.  Witness this portion of my latest utility bill:

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Notice the lack of green bars from April through August?  That signifies my solar array produced all or more of the electricity that I consumed during that period.  Sometimes my math and the utility company’s math will not align because billing periods do not align with calendar months but the general outlines agree.

Now, imagine approximately 60% more solar photovoltaic capacity being added to this chart.  The contract has been signed, the check has been sent, the plans have been approved, and the panels are waiting in a local warehouse for my system expansion.  I am just waiting to hear when the installers are scheduled to make it happen.

This is what the future looks like.

Friday Linkage 9/6/2019

If you have a Sharpie and you are the President of the United States then anything is possible:

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It is an old trope to ask someone what the right wing would have said or done in the wake of President Obama doing the same thing, but can you imagine the cerebral hemorrhage that Sean Hannity would have had in this case?

We live in strange times.

On to the links…

15 Things a President can Actually do to Tackle the Climate Crisis—It’s not like number fifteen on this list is ever going to happen.

Cedar Rapids Electric Bill Could be Slashed in Half from New LED Lighting in Downtown—It’s a small change, but why hasn’t every city in America switched to LED streetlights?

Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Lightbulbs—Does Donald Trump just sit in his private residence during “executive time” and mumble things like, “LEDs…bad…horrible…old, hot lights…good.”  In a little more than one year and four months someone with half a brain can take the executive pen and reassert some sanity.

Economics of Electric Vehicles Mean Oil’s Days As A Transport Fuel Are Numbered—Anyone who drives an electric vehicle will agree with this hypothesis.  In my case, I spend approximately 2 cents per mile to drive my Nissan Leaf versus approximately 15 cents per mile to drive my Ford F150.  Even if I doubled the mileage of my truck it could not compete.

China’s Very Ambitious Transportation Revolution—China was supposed to be the “swing” consumer for fossil fuels as developed Western economies transitioned to cleaner energy.  Looks like China is going to try and just bypass the whole dependency on fossil fuels stage of economic development.

While ‘Zombie’ Mines Idle, Cleanup and Workers Suffer in Limbo—Coal companies do not care about workers or the communities that they leave behind when they close up shop.  Coal executives fly away on private jets after paying themselves while leaving workers high and dry.

The Feds Tried to Make an Example of a small Washington Coal Mine. It Didn’t Work.—Twenty years later and the job is still not done.  Maybe it would be best if we just left the coal in the ground and found another way to make electricity.

Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change—If Ireland can plant 440 million trees in a little more than twenty years what could the United States achieve?  Okay, probably nothing in the short term with Republicans and Donald Trump hanging around.

The Disturbing Hypothesis for the Sudden Uptick in Chronic Kidney Disease—Climate change will come for our chocolate and coffee.  Climate change is also coming for our kidneys.

Holy Cross Energy Eyes Complete Decarbonization after Striking New Wind Energy Deal—Big utilities, small utilities, rural electric cooperatives…the list goes on and on but the trend is the same.  The tools to free our electricity production from the tyranny of fossil fuels are available and cost competitive.

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be—I remember reading about a French pilot project that combined solar canopies over high value crops like grapes.  That project showed the viability of the idea.

One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown—I see this all the time in my neighborhood where people put all kinds of random crap in the curbside recycling bins.  Styrofoam packaging?  Yep.  Resin chairs?  Yep.  Christmas light strings?  Yep.

Banning Mini Shampoos from Hotels Won’t Really Reduce Plastic or Save the Environment—We are just nibbling around the edges of our problems with promises like these.

Tyson Foods Invests in Plant-Based Shrimp Company—I do not know if plant based shrimp is any good, but I know that plant based foods are a real trend when the people at Tyson Foods are putting their money behind the trend.

Friday Linkage 8/23/2019

I came back from a week of being totally disconnected from the news media to find that Trump wanted to buy Greenland, Denmark said no, Trump huffed off like a fat little baby, and now he is claiming to be the “chosen one.”  Are we sure that we are not living in some kind of simulation where the programmers messed up the code in some way?

On to the links…

A Republican Firm Is Targeting EPA Staff Who Have Donated to Democrats—This is our world now.  Donald Trump and members of his corrupt administration can break laws with impunity while Republican thugs target career staffers of agencies they dislike.

One of the World’s Largest Banks Thinks the Writing is on the Wall for the Oil Industry—We can all hope that this is the case, but my fear is that even if the decline is irreversible it may take too long for the dinosaur business to roll over and die.  Hell, we live in a country where K-Mart and Sears are still holding on for some reason.

All the World’s Coal Power Plants in One Map—This is the map of opportunity for the energy transition.  Every circle on this map must be eliminated in the coming decade.

The Energy Transition is Underway: 10 Charts Tell the Story—The pathway is clear.  We need to figure out the methodology by which we accelerate the transition so that it is no too late for human civilization.

It’s Official: Wind Power Is Catching Up To Natural Gas—So, you can get clean power with no fuel cost variability for the same price as a power source that emits greenhouse gasses, requires drilling, and has price variability.  No wonder the smart money is betting on wind.

Old Wind Farm Has A Secret Weapon Up Its Turbine Towers—Repowering is a great opportunity.  The infrastructure is already in place.  As it details in the article you can get more total power from a fewer number of turbines while maintaining peak output capacity.  Where is the downside?

Onshore Wind In Europe Could Meet 100% Of Global Energy Needs—We are not at a point where people are trying to figure out how much of a buildout would be required to power the world 100% on renewable energy.  These are exciting times indeed.

Planting Trees Is Good. Eliminating Deforestation Is Better.—I have a radical idea: Why don’t we do both?

Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better For The Planet? Here’s The Science—The moral of the story is that the issue is complicated and you need to know your farmer.  Buying grass fed beef from a multi-national meatpacking company is just perpetuating a system that got us into this mess in the first place.

Why did Coffee Cups and Soda Cups Get so Big?—I do not go the gas station very much anymore—thank you Nissan Leaf—but on trips I am always shocked by the size of the soda cups that people walk out of the store with.  And the kids!  I see small children carrying a 32 ounce soda of their own.  Who thinks that is a good idea?

Breckenridge gets Electric Buses, Encourages Visitors not to Rent Cars—My family usually skis in Breckenridge once or twice a year and I am really excited to see electric buses on the free city network.  It is amazing that people even bother driving around town in the winter when the bus is super easy to use.

Want to Go Plastic-Free? Start with One Thing.—Everyone should just try to do one thing different today.  The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, right?

Amazon Under Fire for New Packaging that Cannot be Recycled—This is why we just need to buy less stuff and buying less from Amazon is a great place to start.

What the Heck is PakTech?—Those little plastic snap rings for your craft beer are apparently hell in the recycling system.  A group of Minneapolis area breweries have banded together to become recycling sites for these things and are offering money off of beer for people who bring them in.  This is just excellent.

Friday Linkage 8/2/2019

I say this a lot on this blog, but I have a hard time believing that it is already August.  My kids are three weeks away from going back to school, people are starting to talk about fall sports, and my mind starts to wander to thoughts of skiing.  Pretty soon the miles on the bike will start to decline and the trips to the weight room will increase.  Gotta’ get the knees ready for big days on the mountain.

On to the links…

Just 10% of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Cash ‘Could Pay for Green Transition’—When someone says that we cannot afford to transition to 100% clean energy what they are really saying is that we are choosing not to afford the transition.  There is more than enough money sloshing around in government and corporate coffers to make a renewable energy world possible.

A Wind Turbine Farm The Size Of Delaware Could Power The Entire United States—Take a look at the map and understand just how much or how little area we are talking about here:

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Now imagine we actually utilize the offshore wind resources.  Look at how much coastline there is to develop.  We can make this happen.

Low-Carbon Energy Makes Majority of UK Electricity for First Time—This is not a small island being powered by solar.  This is a large island with a post-industrial economy that got over 53% of its electricity in 2018 from low or no carbon power sources.

Coal’s Demise Quickens in Europe as Market Shift Idles Plants—If no one is lining up to buy the power then the plants will sit idle.  The market is working.

Ohio just Passed the Worst Energy Bill of the 21st Century—This is what you get with Republicans in control.  It is crony capitalism at its finest.  Private companies line their pocket with the public’s money with the consent of elected officials.

Angry about No Pay, Kentucky Miners Block Train Loaded with Coal—The coal industry does not care about the people in their employ.  These companies have never treated their employees with anything but contempt at best and deadly intent at worst.  As coal companies go bankrupt they will continue to use the legal and political system to destroy the land and line their pockets at the expense of the communities in which they operate.

Most EV Charging Infrastructure Is Wasted Due To Lack Of New Thinking—It is not that EV charging spots are not numerous enough considering that anyone with a garage or dedicated parking space probably has access to some level of charging.  It is that the charging infrastructure that exists today may not align with how we drive our EVs.

Minnesota Town Makes do Without being Connected to Power Grid—I know that a lot of us imagine living off the grid, but this is what the reality looks like.

Beyond Meat’s Competitor Impossible Foods Plans to Launch in Grocery Stores in September after getting FDA Approval—I am really looking forward to buying a sleeve of Impossible Burgers and throwing them on my own grill this fall.  What I really want to see is Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger selling sleeves of their plant based goodness at Costco.

Plant-Based Eggs Land their First Major Fast Food Deal—Slaughter houses get a bad rap because they are nasty places, but our eggs are also produced in some fairly brutal conditions.  First the plant based substitutes came for our hamburgers, now they are coming for our eggs.  I welcome the transition.

Can Chefs Learn to Love Cooking Without Fire?—Can we just stop our love affair with primal fire?  I get that something about the flame speaks to our lizard brain, but as someone who has cooked with electricity daily for the past twenty years there is no reason to rely on piping explosive gas into our homes to fuel our gastronomic adventures.

Why Republican Baby Boomers are More Likely to Share #fakenews on Facebook—I rag on Baby Boomers pretty hard, but until someone can show me how this generation has actually made the country a better place I am going to keep piling on.

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?