Tag Archives: General Mills

Friday Linkage 3/10/2017

There will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be in Colorado enjoying all that Beaver Creek has to offer a low-rent skier like myself.

On to the links…

Iowa Sees Second Warmest February in 145 Years—Nothing to see here, right?

These Photos Show How the EPA Transformed America—Now that the fox is in charge of the hen house it is important to remember what America was like before the EPA and other agencies focused on cleaning our air and water.  No one wants to bring disco back and no one wants to bring 1960s style pollution back either.

Scientists Are Standing Up to Trump Because They’ve Always Stood Up to Bullshit—The right wing loves people to be active in politics as long as they agree with their narrow world view and, generally, assume positions that are free from a factual basis.  “But, Jesus said so in the Bible!”  Scientists and scholars are duty bound to resist this shit.

Yet Another Energy Company Bails On Canadian Tar Sands Oil — Is Koch Next?—Tar sands are too expensive to extract under the current market conditions, too dirty for most people to accept as a fuel source, and stuck in Canada.  So why exactly are people in the fossil fuel industry and the White House so hell bent on the Keystone XL pipeline?

California Just Hit an Incredible Solar Power Milestone—It was for just a moment, but California was producing some serious solar power in the middle of the day.

Colorado’s Solar Power Capacity Jumped 70 Percent in 2016—The best part for me is that even though Colorado added 70% more capacity its relative ranking compared to other states feel because it did not add enough capacity.  When you add 70% more capacity in one year and lose ground you know that something is happening that is going to be hard to stop.

Solar Now Cheapest Electricity Option On Average In 58 Emerging Economies—The new guard of electricity is here and it is based on the sun.  These countries have no incentive to build out a fossil fuel based grid because they have no capital investment tied to legacy systems.

Chinese Coal Draw-Down Gathers Pace—China is always the savior of some down-on-its-luck industry.  Guess what?  China does not want our coal anymore.

Coder Creates Ultimate Tesla Model S + Home Solar Data Visualization Tool—I cannot create the fuel for my truck at home, but I could create the fuel for a Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt at home.  The future seems to be happening right now.

America’s Television Graveyards—When the apocalypse comes in the next couple of years I imagine people will roam the shattered United States and happen upon one of these warehouses full of old CRTs.  It will be a gigantic metaphor for how we got into this mess.

General Mills Boosts Eco-Friendly Grain Kernza—What if we could replace a portion of destructive annual wheat production with perennial Kernza?  What is wide strips of Kernza were planted along streams to slow runoff and deter erosion?  Imagine the potential.

Climate Ecoforestry—Let’s look to restorative ecology to rebuild our planet’s lost resilience.

This Man is Cloning Old-Growth Redwoods and Planting them in Safe Places—Imagine efforts like this replicated on a larger, dare I say nationally mobilized scale, and imagine what we could achieve in a short period of time.  This requires no new technology or process.  It would simply require political will and capital.

You’re Using Recipes Wrong—I have this complaint with cookbooks and recipes because I feel like I am buying bespoke ingredients only to repeat effort time and time again.  Ugh.  An efficient kitchen in terms of time and money should be one of my 2017 goals.

Friday Linkage 9/4/2015

Damn, I looked up and it was September. Without cable and no more HDTV football season will not be the same. Listening to games on the radio, however, gives me the opportunity to spend some time in the shop working on a handful of projects that have languished most of the summer.

On to the links…

MidAmerican Energy Announces New Wind Farms—By the end of 2015, MidAmerican will get 42 percent of its power from wind versus 36 percent from coal. That is an impressive renewable energy footprint that is only going to get bigger with the construction of these recently announced projects.

Simple Solar From Cedar Falls Utilities — Crowdfunded Community Solar—Iowa has a long way to go with regard to climate change mitigation, but there are a lot of good things happening on the ground. Cedar Falls, famous for its public internet company, is also getting into the community solar game.

Xcel Energy Taking Heat for Slow Rollout of Solar Garden Program in Minnesota—Meanwhile, Xcel in Minnesota seems to be doing everything to kill the community solar project with a thousand cuts.

Solar Power on at Large and Small Scale—Ahhh, infographics. How I have missed thee:

Solar-The-large-and-small-case-01-1

Solar Energy Means Jobs, Savings, and a Low-Cost Future—Solar is good. ‘Nuff said:

solar-in-missouri-means-jobs-savings-low-cost-future-ILSR

Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’—Hawaii is going to try and make the leap to all renewables without taking the baby step of using natural gas as a bridge fuel. I wish them the best of luck because the islands can be a laboratory for the rest of the United States.

Florida Public Service Commission OKs FPL’s Plan To Purchase & Shut Down 250 MW Coal Plant, As Means Of Getting Out Of Costly PPA—This is how you know coal is troubled. It is easier for a power company to buy and shut down a plant as a means of avoiding contractual power purchase obligations than to go ahead with the contract.

Digging into Big Coal’s Climate Connections—The great thing about bankruptcy of a public company in the U.S. is the enormous amount of information that becomes public as a result. Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy is pulling the curtain back on climate shenanigans.

Unicornomics—If you want to understand right wing thinking in the 21st century you need to understand that it is based on the belief that reality and facts are secondary to dogma. I want a unicorn farm, but that does not mean I am going to get a unicorn farm.

Farmed Fish could bring Us Cheaper Food, but is it Ethical?—Aquaculture is the future of the fish on our tables because we have trashed and overfished the oceans. There are a lot of problems with aquaculture, but we can try to work through those for a better system.

9 of 10 Seabirds Have Glow Sticks, Lighters, Toy Cars, Other Plastics in their Guts—We have trashed the planet, the animals are paying the price, and we have to figure out a way to start cleaning up after ourselves.

Climate Change Means One World’s Death and Another’s Birth—The world is going to change. It might change at a pace that is understandable on the human being’s lifespan. This is unprecedented.

The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South—This story kind of bummed me out because kudzu was the plant from a horror movie in my youth. It was the cautionary tale that every biology teacher used to illustrate the folly of trying to mess with nature.

Friday Linkage 6/26/2015

So much rain and a lot of miles. Rain and miles occupy much of my thoughts lately. To get to my seasonal mileage goal on my bike I have to time a lot of rides around when it is going to rain. When an area sees storms drop multiple inches of rain in an hour or throw hailstones the size of golf balls and larger this is a harder task than it seems at first blush. First world problems, I guess.

On to the links…

The Economic Limitations of Wind and Solar Power—Most of the time we get focused on the technical limitations of renewable energy without really thinking about the broad economic limits. This piece is a well-reasoned look at those limitations.

Europe’s Emissions Decreased Another 5% in 2014—Some of this is a function of a mild winter, which reduces the demand for natural gas and heating oil, but there is something to this trend. If only the U.S. could actually follow suit and find a way to reduce its emissions.

Texas Enjoys Record-Breaking Quarter As New Solar Capacity Soars—Texas now has ~379 MW of installed solar—adding up utility, residential, and commercial—with 2015 looking like a big year in terms of cumulative additions to this total. Remember, every solar panel is less fossil fuel that needs to be burned. It’s demand destruction lone star state style.

India Expects 52% Jump In Annual Wind Energy Capacity Addition—India is looking to have 60 GW or more of wind energy installed by 2022. Now, if we could just retire some of those old coal fired power plants.

Pakistan Solar Park Plugs In 100 MW To Grid—I probably should not follow a story on India about one on Pakistan, but it looks like these two blood rivals are in the renewables news.

Renewables will Supply Majority of Australia’s Electricity by 2040—Now that there is a study showing a roadmap of getting to majority by 2040 how does Straya accelerate that into 2030 or sooner? These are the questions we need to be asking. Stretch goals.

50% Renewable Electricity Passed By California Senate—50% is great, but why stop there?

For Automakers, Fuel Economy Targets May Be Less of a Stretch—When the new mileage targets came out a few years ago all the commentators howled that it was impossible to meet these targets without every vehicle becoming some sort of punishing econobox. Guess what? Innovation happened.

One Container Ship may Cause as Much Cancer as 50M Cars—Shipping is a dirty business because these massive container ships use bunker oil. Just think of it as the sludge that is left over when everything else of value has been extracted from oil. You are left with the shit. It’s cheap, plentiful, and really dirty. If there is a low hanging fruit, in terms of emissions and pollution reduction, it has to be switching ships off bunker oil.

Recycling is Stalling in U.S., and Big Blue Bins are One Reason—Recycling bins have just become trash bins we do not feel guilty about. It’s recycled, we say, throwing packaging and what not into one big bin. Guess what? It’s likely to become trash.

Once And Future Nut: How Genetic Engineering May Bring Back Chestnuts—Chestnuts are an acquired taste. Roasted chestnuts may be sung about every holiday season, but how many people actually know what those taste like? I remember getting a bag every year after Thanksgiving when I would take a trip into Chicago with my parents. It’s but a memory now that chestnut trees have been obliterated by blight.

General Mills to Remove Artificial Colors, Flavors from Cereals—While I applaud this move, did anyone ever really buy a box of Trix and think, “These are natural, right?”

Why did this businessman buy 53,000 acres in Florida?—Usually when you read about someone buying a bunch of land in Florida it is about subdividing that land and turning it into a retirement community. Apparently someone has a different idea about how Florida should look.

Corona Is Expanding Its Breweries to Keep up with Demand—Dear god why? How much of this stank beer can bros drink? Seriously, is there a worse beer that people think is premium and drink with such vigor? Why?

Friday Linkage 2/20/2015

This week was hard. Vanilla Ice got nabbed for burglarizing a vacant home next to a home that he and his crew were remodeling. Stay classy ,nilla!

On to the links…

If People Treated Their Homes like They Treat the Earth—Pretty much says it all:

earthhome720

Statistical Realism—At its most basic, the shale oil boom is a momentary blip in the inevitable decline of readily available and economically viable fossil fuels. The sooner we come to the realization the better off the economy and environment will be.

Is Hawaii’s Solar Power Surge Slowing Down?—Hawaii has solar panels on ~10% of roofs statewide, which compares with ~0.5% in the U.S. as a whole, but as the technology disperses and penetrates the market further conflicts have risen to the fore. HECO, the primary provider of electric power on the islands, is no friend to this site and is claiming to have reached a point of saturation. Never mind the threat to their little monopoly.

Cloudy Prospects for Rooftop Solar Growth in Florida—Unlike Hawaii, Florida is trying to not even get the ball rolling when it comes to rooftop solar. Then again this is a state where the top elected official oversaw the largest fraud in the history of Medicare.

SolarCity Leasing 200,000-Sq-Ft Former Solyndra Manufacturing Facility In Fremont—Solyndra was Benghazi before there was a Benghazi for Republicans. It’s too bad the successes of the loan program were not highlighted, only the failures but that is the cost of doing business with a political party in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. SolarCity, however, is killing it now.

1 Million Solar Homes Project Announced By President of Tanzania—The developing world holds a lot of potential for distributed renewables because the investment in a centralized infrastructure was never made. Essentially, these nations can “leapfrog” that development step.

World’s Biggest Offshore Windfarm Approved for Yorkshire Coast—The numbers are pretty staggering…enough electricity to power approximately 2 million homes…covering 430 square miles…900 jobs…potentially 2.5% of the U.K.’s electricity needs. Damn.

Biofuel from Trash could Create Green Jobs Bonanza—This is an interesting development. Close by in Marion, Iowa a Dutch company is building a sorting facility that will provide an ethanol distillery with the feedstock it requires. The feedstock is the municipal waste stream. I kind of look forward to pulling up for a gallon or two of “trashanol.”

First Purebred Bison Roam Larimer County since Civil War—The problem with a lot of existing stock of bison is that the animals have been crossbred with cattle—remember the beefalo? Thus, genetically pure hers are an important reservoir of genetic diversity for this amazing animal.

Warmer Ocean Blamed for Struggling Sea Lion Pups found at Beaches—Raise your hand if you saw this coming when you read the stories about starving sea lion pups. Yep, pretty much everyone with half a brain and an eye on the changing planetary dynamics brought about by human derived climate change.

We Lock Up Tons of Innocent People—and Charge Them for the Privilege—We have privatized a lot of penal functions, so it should come as no surprise that the prison industrial complex has tried everything within its purview to maintain revenue in the face of public opposition to a continued crisis of incarceration.

At Chipotle, How Many Calories Do People Really Eat?—Watching people dive into burritos loaded with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole almost makes me want to scream because they have no idea how many calories are in the food. Just because it is prepared in front of you from well sourced ingredients does not mean that it is necessarily a good idea to pile on the toppings.

General Mills Cutting Sugar in Yoplait Original by 25 percent—The more I read and the more I think about nutrition—Sweet Poison by David Gillespie helped as well—the more I come to the conclusion that added sugar is the primary culprit in our national waistline problem. Yogurt is a great example of this. Just look at the ingredients and see how much added sugar is in this “healthy” food.

The Unnatural: How Mark Dayton Bested Scott Walker—and Became the Most Successful Governor in the Country—Nobody ever really talks about Minnesota as a laboratory for politics on a national level. It’s viewed with the same curiosity that other nations view Nordic countries. There must be something to all that cold weather and clean living.

A Room-by-Room Guide To Ousting The (Energy) Vampires Lurking In Your Home—There is a stunning amount of energy that gets consumed by appliances just standing at the ready. Take the time to cut down on these vampire loads and the planet will thank you.

Friday Linkage 9/12/2014

Oh man, did the weather ever turn into fall this week. Night time temperatures dipped to near 40 degrees on Thursday night and we are in for more of the same come the weekend. After a mild summer I am hoping that this is not a harbinger of a harsh winter to come on the heels of last year’s sucker punch of a snow season.

On to the links…

America’s First Cellulosic Biofuel Plant To Use Corn Waste Is Open In Iowa—Is ethanol made from non-food feedstock a viable part of our energy future?   I do not know if anyone has a definitive answer because no large scale plants have come one line to test the commercial feasibility of the process. The opening of a plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa is a first step.

The U.S. Added More New Capacity For Solar Than For Natural Gas In The First Half Of 2014—Remember, each solar panel represents demand destruction. Or, another nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry. That’s what I see when someone installs solar…little coal coffins.

Bad News for Obama: Fracking May Be Worse Than Burning Coal—Natural gas, the supplies of which have swelled because of fracking, may not be the clean-ish bridge fuel that we were hoping for just a few years ago. Never mind the groundwater contamination and lifestyle destruction from the actual fracking because the release of other gasses may be worse. Great.

America’s Coal-Fired Divide—People may think it is a rifle that someone will pull from their cold, dead hands but the truth is more likely to be coal.

Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had—Energy efficiency is not sexy. It does not make the news. It does not sell books or speeches. It is putting a sweater on during the winter, which is a buzzkill. Sorry Jimmy Carter. But, it is very effective because it is immediate and cheap.

Abandoned California Oil And Gas Field Will Soon Be A Solar Farm—Think about the solar potential of brown field developments. No one wants to live on top of a landfill, so why not put some solar down?

California Encourages West-facing Solar Panels—Not only does putting solar panels on the west facing roof maximize peak use energy, it also opens up a lot more potential roofs for residential solar PV.

5 Egregious Eco Crimes Committed by the Koch Brothers—These guys are the gifts that keep on giving. Never mind the eco crimes for a minute. Consider just how much money they have spent to promote their pet causes and the return on that spending. Ouch. Keep the ATM for whacko candidates coming guys.

David Keeps Winning: 10 Recent Victories That Will Give You Hope for the Planet—Does any victory matter is we win a bunch of battles but lose the war to climate change?

China’s Battle Plans in War on Air Pollution under Scrutiny—Is anything the Chinese government says believable? Blue sky days with impenetrable smog is the more likely scenario. Nothing to see here, move along.

Hustle and Flow: Here’s Who Really Controls California’s Water—Marc Reisner nailed California and the West’s water politics in his book Cadillac Desert and the truth remains to this day. Water is power and money in the arid American west.

Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing—Can we stop the myth making around Ronald Reagan? He raised taxes. Fact. The number of people employed by the government grew under his administration. Fact. He dealt with terrorists and dictators. Fact.

General Mills to buy Annie’s Naturals for $820 million—Big organic just swallowed another player, but considering the size of the acquisition I have to wonder if Annie’s Naturals was really already part of big organic. Hmmm….

Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner—The mythology of the family dinner is strong. It’s not about the dinner, but about the time a family can spend together without distraction. The dinner table is just an agreed upon place and time for the interaction to occur.

How to Become a Food Bank Gardener—There has got to be a way to harness people’s love of growing food and people’s need for healthy, fresh food.

Sorry, Raw Sugar Is No Better for You Than Refined—I remember people pouring packet after packet of Sugar in the Raw into their coffee during graduate school. It was acceptable on some level because it was not white sugar. Too bad it’s all just sugar to our guts.

Friday Linkage 1/10/2014

You can call it a polar vortex.  You can call it some frigid ass Canadian air barreling across the Dakotas to freeze my rear end off.  But, there is not another way to slice the weather at the beginning of the week.  It was cold.

I was in the state of Minnesota 17 years earlier when cold cancelled schools statewide—but not classes at the University of Minnesota for which I am still bitter—and this time it felt colder.  Maybe that has something to do with shuffling two children in and out of the car in the cold.  Everything seems to take longer and feel worse when you are struggling with buckling a squirming two year old.

On to the links…

Silver Lining? Cold Snap Cripples Emerald Ash Borer Threat—This little invasive species is a real bad actor.  So, enduring a little cold that might kill a whole lot or larvae is a fair trade in my book.  Granted, the level of emerald ash borer death is determined by how cold it really got and for how long so Minnesota might come out pretty good while Iowa only gets a year reprieve.  Damn.

Soda-Can Furnaces Powered by Solar Energy Heat Denver Neighborhood—With a few soda cans and some simple materials a person can build an effective heater for the winter season.  For approximately $30?  Why aren’t we trying to develop a better model, using some more durable materials, for about $100?  Make it a challenge and get some smart people crack-a-lackin’.

A Symbol of the Range Returns Home—Bighorn sheep are again dotting the landscape.  Considering the success of wolves, mountain lions, and other species in returning to numbers in the wild I have a little hope that we have not irrevocably destroyed our natural heritage.

Number of Gray Whales seen Migrating South Doubles from a Year Ago—Whether it’s an increase in population or a change in migratory patterns, more gray whales are being spotted off the coast of California than in a long time.  Good for whale watchers I guess.

Can America’s Grasslands Be Saved?—The native grasslands that once covered a great portion of the U.S have been subject to the largest eco-cide in the history of our country.  Plowed under, built upon, drilled under, strip mined…you name it and the grasslands have endured it without a fraction of the protest that would have been shouted if these landscapes were dotted with redwoods.  It’s a shame.

Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States—For years watchers of the American west have wondered when the over reliance on the Colorado River would force western states to realize the razor thin thread upon which their viability hung.  Well, the payment is coming due.

Wind Power was Spain’s Top Source of Electricity in 2013—I am not suggesting that we copy much from Spain, but the development of wind power is pretty amazing.  Nationwide wind power provides over 21% of the electricity in Spain.  Damn.  Of course, I live in Iowa where we are nearing 30% of our electricity from wind so maybe I am not so jealous.

Australia has 2 Million Small-Scale Renewable Systems—Small scale renewables on Australian homes produce enough power to provide for the equivalent of Perth, Hobart, Darwin, and Canberra combined.  That is something I am jealous of because I feel that distributed generation is the future.  Despite what ALEC tries to do in the halls of Congress.

Renewable Energy to Thrive in 2014, Despite ALEC’s Aggressive Tactics—Like the Kochs, ALEC shows up everywhere there is something even remotely planet positive.  Oh, they are always in opposition to those planet positive developments.  Too bad that there influence seems to be waning at the precise time when they have become even more strident in pursuit of their right wing jihad.

Freighter Carrying Oil Derails, Burns In New Brunswick—Here is what an oil soaked future looks like…it’s not pretty.  What happens when a solar rooftop fails?  That’s right, nothing.  It just sits there like a discarded mirror.  What happens when a shipment of oil fails?  That’s right, it’s apocalyptic.

Honduras and the Dirty War Fueled by the West’s Drive for “Clean” Energy—  Palm oil, used in shelf stable foods and as a feedstock for biofuel, is going to turn out to be a bigger environmental boondoggle than ethanol derived from corn.  Mark my words.

60 Minutes Hit Job On Clean Energy Ignores The Facts—Is 60 Minutes even credible anymore?  When I was a kid it was the news program of record on the weekend.  If something was on 60 Minutes it was the national conversation.  Now it seems like a junkyard of journalism and hackery.

Big Beef—This is an excellent look into the various ways that the beef industry has woven itself into our political system to guarantee certain privileges for their product.  It’s just a shame that their product is probably bad for our health, bad for the environment, and just plain gross when produced in industrial settings.  Good use of our tax dollars, though.

General Mills cuts GMOs from Cheerios—Anytime a food giant like General Mills makes a move like this it is a big deal whether in reality or perception.

GMO-Free Cheerios Are an Empty Gesture—Remember, there are two sides to every argument.

Thinking About Big Food

Do we ever stop and think about how big the food companies in the United States have become?

For example, ConAgra—the maker of Peter Pan peanut butter, Slim Jims, Banquet frozen dinners, PAM, among many other brands—had sales totaling approximately $13.3 billion.

An argument made about big food is that these companies spend a lot of money on research and development.  I would counter that the research and development being done is how to make crappy food last monger on the shelves or how to make Slim Jims out of even more questionable meat.  I digress.  In 2012, ConAgra spent $86 million on research and development.  In isolation that number sounds like a lot, but remember that this is a company with over $13 billion in annual sales.

How do you know that a company is not truly research and development driven?  Look at the amount spent on research and development versus the amount spent on advertising and promotion.  In 2012, ConAgra spent $365 million on advertising and promotion.  For those of you keeping score at home, that is more than four times the amount spent on research and development.

Never mind that in 2012 ConAgra divested its fresh vegetable operations.  Fresh vegetables just do not make the world go round.

I pick on ConAgra because a peer of mine in business school had an internship with the packaged food giant.  One of the projects for the interns was to figure out a solution to a particular problem.  The problem that summer was what to do with the ends of Slim Jims leftover from the production process.  Apparently, Slim Jims are made into long sticks and cut to length for various packaging options.  Leftover are a series of random sized ends and nibs.  Can you imagine being asked to come up with a product for Slim Jim ends and nibs?  It makes me shudder.

What’s for dinner tonight?  The new Banquet Slim Jim casserole!  Delicious.

What about Dole?  Here is a company that actually produces and distributes fresh, minimally processed foods.  In 2011 Dole had sales of approximately $7.2 billion.  So, there is money in fresh fruit and vegetables.  What does that equate to in real terms?  According to Dole, the company sold 154 million boxes of bananas in 2011.  Wow!

A company with that much money on the line depending on agriculture would be bound to spend heavily on research and development.  In the 2011 annual report the verbiage sounded right:

Our research and development programs concentrate on sustaining the productivity of our agricultural lands, food safety, nutrition science, product quality, value-added product development, and packaging design. Agricultural research is directed toward sustaining and improving product yields and product quality by examining and improving agricultural practices in all phases of production (such as development of specifically adapted plant varieties, land preparation, fertilization, cultural practices, pest and disease control, post-harvesting, handling, packing and shipping procedures), and includes on-site technical services and the implementation and monitoring of recommended agricultural practices. Research efforts are also directed towards integrated pest management and biological pest control. We develop specialized machinery for various phases of agricultural production and packaging that reduce labor costs, increase efficiency and improve product quality. We conduct agricultural research at field facilities primarily in California, Hawaii, Latin America and Asia. Our research at the Dole Nutrition Research Lab in Kannapolis, North Carolina, investigates both basic science as well as the next frontier in phytochemical research. We also sponsor research related to environmental improvements and the protection of worker and community health. The aggregate amounts we spent on research and development in each of the last three years have not been material in any of such years.

Sounds like an ag school’s prospectus to future students.  Yet, on page 65 of the annual report the company states that “research and development costs were not material for the years ended December 31, 2011, January 1, 2011, and January 2, 2010.”

However, marketing and advertising costs in 2011 were apparently material totaling over $100 million.  You have to advertise those pineapples!

No matter what the verbiage says, these companies are in the business of selling us packaged and processed food.