Tag Archives: fossil fuels

Friday Linkage 4/3/2020

We are al alumni of Zoom University it seems at this point.

Seriously, why do some trolls feel the need to “zoombomb” the meetings were are conducting online?

That’s right, because even in the middle of a national crisis racist trolls are going to do the things that racist trolls will do.

Stay safe out there.

On to the links…

If The Virus Can Decimate Global Economies So Can Climate Change—All of the bad impacts of coronavirus are strikingly similar to the bad impacts of climate change except we cannot create a vaccine or therapeutic treatments for climate change.

Coyotes are Being Seen on the Empty Streets of San Francisco—It did not take long for the animals to decide to start taking over.

Oceans Can be Restored to Former Glory within 30 Years, Say Scientists—If the past few weeks have shown us anything it is that one of the most powerful things we can do as a species is to get out of the way of nature.  It will find a way to heal and rebalance.

Wildlife Charity Plans to Buy UK Land to Give it Back to Nature—Take this idea and spread it across the globe.  Pockets of rewilded nature everywhere.  Start to link those pockets and stitch them together with existing “wilderness.”  That sounds like a plan.

The EPA Appears to be Using Coronavirus to Make Huge Concessions to Polluters—Remember, Republicans used to be all about “law and order.”  Now, this usually means locking up people who cannot fight back with lawyers and lobbyists.  So, in the current world if you are a big company or a white collar criminal the laws do not actually apply to you.  Let the crime spree begin.

Federal Judge Tosses Dakota Access Pipeline Permits, Orders Full Environmental Review—I am almost certain that the Trump administration will try and ignore this ruling because they truly are the best administration that money can buy when it come to fossil fuels.

The Closure of Colorado Coal-Fired Powerplants is Freeing up Water for Thirsty Cities—The dirty little secret of fossil fuels is just how much water it takes to produce and use fossil fuels.  Now your calculus of closing down a power plant could include the financial benefit of selling water rights to a municipality.  Solar power never looked so good in Colorado.

Last Coal-Fired Generating Plants Closing In UK & New York—The end is near for coal in the UK and New York.

The Inevitable Collapse Of Global Oil Production—Global oil demand is expected to crash by more than 20% in April/May.  Can we find a way through where none of that production comes back online?

Fossil Fuel Industry Looks to Profit With Plastics—The oil and gas industry are finding it increasingly hard to make money selling fossil fuels for transportation and energy.  The key to their long term profitability and, thus, survivability is to pivot into making more plastic and chemicals.  If there was ever a reason to go plastic free this is it.

Solar Fuel: Yep, It’s A Genuine Artificial Leaf—The scary thing for oil and gas companies looking to make plastics and chemicals is that there are renewable ways to do the exact same thing.  Feedstock is feedstock whether it comes from a well in the ground or the sunshine hitting the Earth.

Scientists Find Bug that Feasts on Toxic Plastic—Imagine bio-reactors filled with this bacterium munching away on our generations worth of waste plastic.

Report Reveals ‘Massive Plastic Pollution Footprint’ of Drinks Firms—How about we just stop buying beverages in disposable plastic containers?

GCL Plans To Invest $2.5 Billion In World’s Largest Solar Panel Factory—60 gigawatts of annual solar panel production is monstrous.  Like half of the world’s annual demand monstrous.  If you ware a fossil fuel player, watch out.

This Company Wants to Turn Your Windows into Solar Panels—I have seen these kinds of announcements before and nothing ever seems to come of it.  Maybe this time is different.

Revealed: Monsanto Predicted Crop System Would Damage US Farms—The companies that produce these chemicals knew that their products would cause harm and they did not care because they stood to make billions of dollars.  If you think politicians care about farmers ask them to stop taking money from companies like Bayer.

Designing an End to a Toxic American Obsession: The Lawn—Let 2020 be the year that we kill the American lawn as we know it.  No more bags of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides spread indiscriminately in the pursuit of an unnatural monoculture.

For Skiers, There’s a Contaminant Underfoot—The pursuit of the gnar does not mean that we have to pollute the food web of alpine environments.  One time base coats are an option.  So are more environmentally ski wax products like mountainFLOW eco-wax.

The Secret to Curbing Farm Emissions is Buried in the Stone Age—It seems like every solution that is proposed to help alleviate carbon emissions is about rediscovering a gentler way of conducting the business of being human.

Is Fake Meat Getting too Much like the Real Thing?—This is kind of the point. No one wants to go back to the dark days of veggie burgers that tasted like stale quinoa and dry black beans.

First Step in a Path Toward Deeper Decarbonization

Once you have purchased an electric vehicle—in my case a used 2015 Nissan Leaf—and installed solar panels—in my case a total of 24 panels for a nameplate capacity of ~7.5 kWh—you are left with a question: how do I further decarbonize my household?

If you live in a single family home in the United States there are a surprising number of places where fossil fuels are being used on a daily basis.  Most home owners do not really consider these sources of carbon emissions.

Consider the lawn.  Anyone with an inkling of environmental conscience understands that the turf grass monoculture that dominates our landscape is essentially a hellscape of inappropriate plants, harmful chemicals, and energy intensive maintenance.

In my household we have abandoned the chemicals and I am ripping out sections of turf grass as often as I can in order for it to be replaced with perennials suited for my region.  However, I am left with some amount of turf grass and social expectation that this grass be mowed on a semi-regular basis.

Trust me, I have pushed the bounds of both social expectations and legal ramifications over the years by allowing parts of my lawn to go weeks without seeing the spinning blade of a lawn mower.

Nonetheless, I am bound to some degree to maintain a well-manicured lawn.  As a good suburban homeowner I spent the last nine years mowing my lawn with a traditional gas powered push mower.  I dutifully filled it up with a small amount of ethanol free gasoline every few weeks and spent about an hour clipping my grass down to the maximum height setting.

Thankfully, a series of mechanical mishaps aligned with my desire to rid myself of this pollution spewing beast.  How much pollution does a mower release, you ask?  It depends upon the source and methodology, but according the EPA lawn mowing accounts for up to 5% of the United State’s total air pollution.  Not to mention the millions of gallons of gasoline that are spilled filling mowers.   Add in the oil required for four stroke engines and you have a lot of fossil fuels being consumed to keep our lawns high and tight.

Now, I could have rolled old school with a reel mower as someone will surely point out.  I would also ask that person if they have ever mowed more than a few hundred square feet with one of these contraptions.  Seriously, another eco-minded neighbor bought one and every household with an interest tried it once.  Reel mowers are the Zima of lawn care.  You try it once and never think about it again.

Strolling the aisles of my local Home Depot—an activity one is likely to engage in when waiting for your child to complete soccer practice—I noticed a clearance sticker on a Ryobi cordless electric mower.  Now was the time to jump on the electric lawn mowing bandwagon.

For less than the cost online of a regular push mower—battery electric or ice—I took home a battery electric self-propelled mower.  The 40V mower came with a single 5-amp hour battery.  If I believe the online reviews this battery should provide about 45 minutes to 1 hour of cutting depending upon usage.  We shall see.

Additionally, I purchased an extra battery online.  The cool thing about the 40V Ryobi tool line is that with such a large installed base there is a healthy aftermarket in third party batteries.  I was able to get a compatible battery rated at 6-amp hours for less than $80.  With two batteries I should have more than enough capacity to complete mowing my lawn.  Again, we shall see.

For the first time in forever I am looking forward to the beginning of lawn care season if only to see how the electric revolution applies.  The march toward a deeper level of decarbonization carries on.

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:

Electricity Usage House September.png

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.