Tag Archives: global warming

Friday Linkage 6/14/2019

What the actual shit?  This is the Secretary of State of the United States of America telling the public that the solution to climate change is to move to different places. Oh, and the travel time for goods shipped between continents might be slashed because of the lack of sea ice.  I am sure everyone is going to be comforted knowing that their 65” television from China is getting here a little faster as they roast in a climate hellscape.

On to the links…

Report: Global Emissions At 7-Year High—Well, fuck.

EPA’s 3 Dirty Tricks to Undermine Regulation (and Why They Probably Won’t Work)—  We live in an alternate reality now where dirty is clean, good is bad, and facts are fake.

U.S. Renewable Power Capacity Surpasses Coal For The First Time—Buried in all the grim news are some glimmers of hope.

Here’s Proof That Electric Cars Are Displacing Gasoline—Demand destruction is a bitch.  Once that demand is gone it is not coming back and fossil fuel companies are starting to come to that realization.  These are millions of gallons of gasoline demand just…poof…gone from the market:

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Australia Missing Out on Huge Cuts in Emissions through Energy Efficiency Failure—Basically, if we just were more efficient with the energy that we already produce we could make major headway toward reducing emissions.  Using less energy to begin with is the first step in a net zero emission future.

Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease.—Our modern society is just a joke.  We have become nothing more than money lungs bent on consumption of crap.

US Offshore Wind Race Heats Up, Now Connecticut In The Mix—To get to a zero net emission future offshore wind has to be part of the renewable energy portfolio.

Follow The Money: Global Investors Flee Coal Power Like A Hot Potato—Get used to the term stranded assets.  It essentially means assets that have no value because there is no buyer in the marketplace.  You may have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a coal mine only to find that its value is zero  because there is no other party willing to invest.  What the market giveth the market can taketh away.

Renewlogy Turns Low-Grade Plastic into Usable Fuels—We have a plastic waste problem on this planet.  I do not know if turning plastic waste into a liquid fuel is the right idea, but it is better than anything that we are doing right now.

ALDI Ranks First Out of 20 Retailers for Reducing Single-Use Plastic—This is kind of like winning an ugliest dog contest.  Yes, you are a winner.  However, it is for being an ugly dog.

Processed Foods are a Much Bigger Health Problem than we Thought—Maybe that hokey diet advice about not eating ingredients you cannot pronounce was not that hokey after all.  Maybe there is no reason for PopTarts to exist.

Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?—A bigger house will not make you happier.  A grill with twelve burners and a Bluetooth meat thermometer will not make you happier.  As a matter of fact most stuff will not make you any happier beyond the initial sugar rush of the initial purchase.  Get off the hedonistic treadmill.

Climate Change I Have Known—Climate change is real and its impacts on our lives are noticeable.

Your Coffee-Buying Habit Could Hamper Your Retirement—It is important to think about personal finance in terms that people can understand.  Retirement for most people is something so far away that we fail to understand just how powerful actions taken today can be in setting us up for future success.

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May Showers Dominate Solar Production and Electric Vehicle Efficiency is Stable

May was a rainy month in eastern Iowa.  How rainy?  It rained for twice the number of hours in May and three times the usual rainfall hit the ground.  Things were really wet.  Like the “ground is a sopping wet sponge” wet.  It had an impact on May’s solar production:

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Now, just over 542 kWh of clean, green solar electricity is not bad.  It is down about 80 kWh from the same month the prior year.

All in all, my household ended up about 10 kWh ahead of consumption for the month of May including home charging of the Nissan Leaf.  When you can drive all month and live in house with modern amenities all powered by the sun that is considered a win.  Sometimes I just feel like I am living in the future.

For the month I drove 937.4 miles in my Nissan Leaf at an average efficiency of 5.5 miles per kilowatt hour.  This beats my efficiency the prior month by 0.1 miles per kilowatt hour.  This saved ~1,080 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus my prior vehicle assuming that I charged using grid electricity, which in Iowa averages about 1 pound of CO2 per kWh.  As noted above, I actually ended the month ahead of my consumption so the emission savings were probably higher.

It does not seem like a big win in terms of efficiency.  However, there are two round trips to Iowa City that totaled almost 140 miles of driving at highway speeds.  For anyone who has driven a Nissan Leaf there is a moment of dread the first time that you get the little car up to 60 miles per hour or more and watch your efficiency drop like a stone in freefall.

The trick is to minimize interstate highway type driving in favor of more sedate state or county highway driving.  That is to say, drive 55 miles per hour as opposed to the 70 miles per hour or more on the interstate.  It takes a little longer, sure, but there is something really peaceful cruising along with the windows down and the silence of an electric vehicle drivetrain.

It also helps to have access to public charging at the midpoint of your trip.  In Iowa City there are ChargePoint facilities available in several public parking ramps.  You pay for parking (first hour is free and a $1 per hour for any additional time) and the charging is free as long as you have a ChargePoint account.  My Leaf is equipped with a standard Level 2 charging port so it can accept, at most, 3.3 kWh of electricity per hour of charge.  It is not a lot for the ninety minutes or so that my errands in Iowa City take, but it provides a margin of safety for the trip home that eases any potential range anxiety.

These trips have gotten me thinking about electric vehicles and range.  Maybe the issue is not absolute range, as in 235 miles of range when fully charged, but rather the ability to gain a lot of range in a short period of time, as in 80% battery charge in 30 minutes.  If I was able to regain more than three quarters of my vehicle’s charge in less time than it takes to make a quick trip into Costco that would change my route calculations considerably.  Also, if more public charging facilities were available at destinations that might also change behavior.

Do I spend a little more time in downtown Iowa City because I am charging my Nissan Leaf?  Probably.  Think about that from an economic development standpoint.

Friday Linkage 2/22/2019

What is it with my kids and John Tesh?  Every night when we drive home from various activities they both beg for the radio to be turned to the station that plays Tesh’s syndicated “Music and Intelligence for Your Life.”

It is so odd to hear them discuss the relative merits of whatever study or lifestyle tidbit Tesh brings up between songs.

On to the links…

Minnesota’s Climate Begins its Descent Toward an Unrecognizable Future—The future is happening now when it comes to climate change.  The impacts may not be noticeable in the short term, but the changes are happening.

Planting 1.2 Trillion Trees Could Cancel Out a Decade of CO2 Emissions—What are we waiting for?

Amazon’s $0 Corporate Income Tax Bill Last Year, Explained—This is the symptom of a failed policy.  Amazon makes billions of dollars a year and uses a loophole to pay no tax.

The Secret Ingredient for Cutting Costs and CO2 Emissions in Infrastructure—There are huge savings in terms of energy efficiency when we look at the biggest users of energy across the United States.  Cutting the energy consumption of these “low hanging fruit” could deliver massive savings for relatively low cost on a timescale that is fairly quick.

BP Energy Outlook Predicts Renewable Energy Will Be Dominant By 2040—Remember, this is an old line fossil fuel company putting out a technical analysis that says renewables are going to win.

Trump’s Intervention Fails to Save Coal-Fired Power Plant—Remember when Republicans were all about the free market because…uh, freedom?  The market has said that coal is a dead technology and that the transition is underway, but people like Trump and McConnell have coal barons to keep happy.

EU Setting its First Emissions Standards for Big Trucks to Lower C02—Cutting the emissions of heavy duty and heavy use trucks is probably the biggest bang for the invested dollar that we can get in the near term.

World’s Biggest Battery to Boost Solar in Texas—Texas, surprisingly, is driving a lot of innovation in renewable energy.  First it was a lot of wind and now it looks like solar plus storage is going to be the next big thing.  Everything is bigger in Texas.

World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Hornsea One Generates First Power—I am noticing a trend with these renewable energy stories.  Every other one seems to be about the “world’s largest” something.  Largest storage battery, largest offshore wind farm…you get the idea.

Vineyard Wind Proposes 1,200 Megawatt “Liberty Wind” Offshore Project For New York—This would be America’s largest offshore wind farm.  Okay, that would not take a lot.

Here Comes All Your California Offshore Wind Jobs—The craziest number in this article is 112 gigawatts.  This represents the state’s technical offshore resources, which is a figure higher than the state’s current electricity needs.

Giant Wind Power Transmission Project Could Spark New Wind Rush In Wind Belt—The more wind power that we can deploy in the Great Plains the better.  It is clean, green power that helps economically depressed communities by bringing much needed income and property tax base.

Adding Balance to the Meat Debate—There is something to be said for balance.  What we eat is as important as how it was made.  A processed meat free “chicken” nugget may not be any better than a piece of chicken from a pasture raised bird.  There is a lot of nuance.  People hate nuance.  It forces them to think.

A Comeback for African National Parks—It’s not all bad news.  It appears that if we resource the parks and do not encroach on the boundaries with development that large animals can succeed.

An October Surprise for My Solar System

It is five days until election day.  I cannot stress how important it is that everyone who is legally eligible to vote goes to the polls to cast a vote.

October turned out to be a decent month for solar:

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Production for 2018 beat the production from the same month in 2017 by a little bit.   According to my calculations I also ended the month in positive territory (production minus consumption) to the tune of ~45 kWh.  I say it was a surprising month for production because the month started out very gray with a lot of rain.  You can see the low production numbers for several days, but the sun came out at the back half of the month to bring in more than 316 kWh of clean, green electricity.

An unexpected car repair—nothing says welcome home quite like coming back from vacation and having your car not start—got my wife and I thinking about a new car.  Naturally, as someone who has a solar array on top of their house an electric vehicle of some sort is part of the consideration set.  The hard part, beyond the financial commitment of a new car which is something significant to consider after having zero car payments for the past five years, is comparable vehicles.  Is a Chevy Bolt, or Volt for that matter, really comparable to a Tesla Model 3?  Where does the Nissan Leaf fit into the equation?

In the end the part that got me the most excited about this discussion was how much solar photovoltaic capacity I would need to add to my roof to generate enough electricity to account for our annual driving of a single vehicle.  In an average year we drive less than 10,000 miles for either of the vehicles in our garage.  Some years it is quite less if we do not take any extended road trips, which are one of our indulgences.

How does 10,000 miles equate into electricity?  Based on a cursory search of various message boards for EV owners I am going to use a figure of 3.5 miles per kilowatt hour of electricity.  Therefore, a system would need to produce ~2,850 kWh per year to account for 10,000 miles of driving.  Based on the actuals from my current solar photovoltaic array I figure that I would need to add 9 or 10 290 watt panels, which are equivalent to what is on my roof today.  At a cost of $2.5 per watt installed I would be looking at $7250 before state and federal incentives.

Does anyone realize how scary that idea must be for oil companies?  With just 10 panels on a west facing roof in Iowa I can account for 100% of my annual miles driven at a cost of little more than seven thousand dollars.  No gas stations, no wars in the Middle East, no refineries…yeah, that is truly scary for oil companies.  The revolution will be powered by the sun!

Friday Linkage 10/19/2018

It is eighteen days until election day.  I will start every post for next eighteen days with the same message.

If you care about the outdoors, whether it is just to appreciate nature or to recreate, you need to read this guide to the midterm election put together by the Outdoor Industry Association.  Let me skip to the punch line: most, if not all, Republicans are bad for the land.

I understand that it is hyperbole, to some extent, in claiming that this is the most important election in history.  However, I do believe that this may be the most important election in my lifetime.  At least until 2020.

On to the links…

8 Things You Need to Know About the IPCC 1.5˚C Report—The IPCC’s report is not getting the attention it deserves because the United States is run by an orange monster who fills our heads with childish insults and ridiculous lies that a fourth grader using Google can debunk.

Can Consumer Choices Ward Off the Worst Effects of Climate Change? An Expert Explains.—We are told that our choices do not matter, but that is bunk.  Some choices matter more than others.  It is okay to get down in the dumps a little bit about climate change.  However, it is not all right to do nothing.

What Tiny Bhutan can Teach the World about Being Carbon Negative—I want to see a movement where people start saying, “Be like Bhutan.”

The Best Way to Reduce Your Personal Carbon Emissions: Don’t be Rich—Well, that is some advice.

How Much Energy is Used to Heat, Cool, and Light our Homes in Different U.S. Climate Regions?—Where we live goes a long way in determining our energy usage patterns.  However, I would argue that this analysis is incomplete without looking at transportation emissions by climate region. Someone in New York City may use more energy to heat and cool their residence than someone in Orlando but that Floridian sure as hell uses a lot more energy for transportation.

Even Trump is Beginning to Realize that He can’t Save Coal—Coal is dead.  Trump, in some ways, hastened its demise because political opponents have no need to even attempt to cater to a craven interest group that will utilize all the political chicanery of nationalism to achieve its financial goals.

White House Shuns Energy Secretary’s Coal & Nuclear Bailout—The plan was shit, but that did not stop Rick Perry from trying to accomplish the goals of his buddies in the coal industry with the nuclear boys along for the ride.  When even Donald Trump’s administration realizes that something is a bad idea you know it was really bottom feeding.

Hawai’i Looks To Add 260 Megawatts Of Solar & 1+ Gigawatt-Hour Of Storage—If there is one U.S. state that can go completely renewable in the short term it is probably Hawaii.  The state’s residents pay a lot for electricity and it is disconnected from any larger electrical grids as each island is basically its own mini-grid.

Sony Brings its 100 Percent Renewable Energy Goal Forward a Decade—The federal government and many states may be absent from going after ambitious goals, but large private companies that are bigger energy users than some small countries are making a commitment to renewable energy.

40% Of China’s Coal Plants Are Losing Money, Reports Carbon Tracker—Is China the great economic bubble of our time?  I am beginning to wonder if the entire economy is being run like a giant Ponzi scheme that everyone is afraid to question because the impact of collapse would be so damaging to the world economy.

Global Warming to Leave us Crying in our Costlier Beer—Global warming has come for chocolate and coffee.  Now it is coming for our beer.

Beyond Meat’s Veggie Burger Produces 90% Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Cow-Based Burgers—You can question the health benefits of an ersatz beef patty.  You can even question whether the effort to mimic animal protein is worth the effort when high protein, meat free dishes can be ultra-appetizing without resorting to culinary trickery.  You cannot deny that on a emissions versus emissions basis there is no question replacing a beef patty with a veggie patty is a winner.

New Study Suggests it’s Time to Replace Modern, Grassy Lawns—If there is one change I wish every homeowner, regardless of climate, would do it is taking out as much of their home’s lawn as possible.  Yes, it is hard work to initially remove lawn and replace it with something more planet friendly but think about the benefits.  No more mowing.  ‘Nuff said.

You Must Read—The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution

Are you a parent, about to become a parent, or even thinking about having a child in the near future?  Good.  Be prepared to be scared shitless on a daily, if not more frequent basis, as only being a person responsible for the existence of another human being can make you.

9781608684816.jpgSaying that “you must read” Mary DeMocker’s The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution is a little misleading.  This is not a book you read cover to cover and take back to the library.  DeMocker admits as much:

Or you might adopt the fortune cookie method—keep the book nearby and, whenever you have a few minutes, crack it open and see what you get.  Most chapters are short enough to fit into the average bathroom breaks parents with young children allow themselves. [xxvi]

This is not a book with a powerful narrative streak built through successive chapters that concludes with a powerful final passage.  We know what the powerful narrative is before we even pick up the book because we are worried that our actions today will create a planet that is unlivable in the future.  The very fate of humanity rests in our hands.

The book is laid out into 100 chapters or fortune cookie moments if you will under broad headings like “Raise Empowered Kids” and “Build a Fossil-Free Future.”  I would quibble it should be a fossil fuel free future because I still want to see fossils at the Field Museum, but I digress.

What were the pieces that I liked best:

  1. Get Clear on Why There is Hope—There is hope. We often forget to message this fact when we are discussing the state of the world with regards to climate change, Donald Trump, Nebraska Cornhusker football…you know, things that seem so dauntingly horrible that nothing will matter. Well, our kids pick up on that vibe and it is our duty to make sure that we convey hope.

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  1. Plant Trees!—Trees are amazing. You will find no bigger advocate of trees as a solution to a lot of problems than me. Planting a tree with your kids is one of those teaching moments that keeps on teaching well after the planting.  Through the seasons and as the tree grows your child will be amazed, as they should be, by what the tree they helped plant does.

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  1. Be the 3.5 Percent—Apparently, non-violent movements become successful when approximately 3.5 percent of the population or more is involved. All right, let’s get 3.5 percent signed up.

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  1. Let Kids Play with Knives—I would like to amend this to also say let kids play with saws and shovels and hammers and what not. We have created a generation or two of children that have little experience with actually making things from bare components as opposed to pre-selected bits with tidy instructions. See what they can do with some potatoes and onions or a few scrap pieces of wood in the garage.

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  1. Tame Your Tongue—This one is the hardest for me because in a time when crass political language dominates the only method of communication that seems to break through is to out nasty the nasty. However, we are better served not behaving in such a way and it is my hope that I can follow this advice.

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I could have picked a lot more of the one hundred fortune cookie moments, but you get the idea.  You will pick the book up and key in on different moments.   That is the purpose of the book.

Friday Linkage 9/7/2018

It is September and there about two months until the midterm elections.  Washington D.C. is crazy, even by its own messed up standards, as Trump is increasingly isolated and alone in the White House.  Anonymous op-eds, tell all books, and the constant drumbeat of scandal have made the past year and a half seem like an eternity.  Heck, Trump has even managed to alienate some of his staunchest supporters by going down the old “dumb southerner” route.  Way to go Donny Two Scoops.

It sounds trite, but the only hope for a path forward is to vote for candidates who will actually hold this administration accountable for its misdeeds.

On to the links…

A ‘Jaw-Dropping’ 15 Million Super-Environmentalists Don’t Vote in the Midterms—I do not know what a “super environmentalist” is, but I know that if there are really 15 million people out there eligible to vote yet do not cast ballots in November we deserve everything Republicans can do to us.

We Could Shift to Sustainability and Save $26 trillion. Why are Aren’t We Doing It?—Maybe because we live in a world where the “most power man on the face of the Earth” is a running joke of a human being.  Seriously, how can we have a substantive discussion about a transition to a sustainable global economy when the President of the United States spends more time on Twitter than reading briefing books?

An Old Anti-Irish Law Is at the Heart of Trump’s Plan to Reshape Legal Immigration—This is just the old racist handbook employed by politicians in the United States and across the globe for the past two hundred years.

Trump’s EPA Reconsidering Power Plant Rule Preventing 11,000 Premature Deaths Per Year—Here is what you get with the modern Republican party: more pollution and more death.  As long as the policy favors a rich interest like coal mining or oil drilling Republicans will favor the policy despite its impact on actual people.

The Giant Coal Plant Converting to Green Energy—We can debate just how “green” biomass burning is relative to other renewable energy sources, but is has to better than coal.  Why can’t we start a program of reforesting denuded landscapes with trees for biomass and convert coal power plants to burn the biomass in the U.S.  Is there not a large amount of acreage in Appalachia that has been devastated by mountaintop removal mining that could be part of this plan?

You’ve Heard of Outsourced Jobs, but Outsourced Pollution? It’s Real, and Tough to Tally Up—Imagine if a country claimed that it had reached a 10% emissions target.  Everyone applauds.  However, imagine if that country reached that goal by ceasing production of cement and buying it from a foreign provider.  The total emissions are unchanged, but one country’s scorecard looks a lot better.

Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing)—When I was in business school I sat in on a presentation by someone from LEGO.  The presenter was discussing quality control and production consistency.  The crazy thing was that he said bricks made today needed to be made to the same tolerances as bricks made thirty years or more earlier because customers expected them to be compatible.  Imagine another product having that same kind of concern and being designed for children.

Is California Becoming Unlivable?—California has always been a place of climactic extremes and natural disasters.  Maybe it was never meant to be such a large state in terms of population and economic activity.

Five, just Five, Solutions to Roll Back Greenhouse Gas Emissions.—It does not seem so hard:

  • Radical Efficiency! (Reduce demand!)
  • Radical Sufficiency! (Appropriate technology!)
  • Radical Simplicity! (Keep it dumb!)
  • Electrify Everything!
  • Decarbonize Construction!

Top 10 Secrets about Stress and Health—It is no secret that stress is detrimental to your health.