Tag Archives: Google

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:

US-map-1.png

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.

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Friday Linkage 2/1/2019

It is February, it is freaking cold, and nothing seems to be going right anywhere.  Oh wait, the long awaited third entry in the Bill & Ted cycle may be coming to theaters before the end of the year.  Most excellent.  It would be a not heinous way to end 2019.

Wyld Stallyns may be forced to face the music, so we can hope that other people in our world—fictional or otherwise—will have to answer for their misdeeds in 2019.

Be excellent to each other!  Party on dudes!

On to the links…

The Trump Administration has Lost More than 90 Percent of its Court Battles Over Reregulation—For all the sound and fury of the Trump administration over the past two years—has it really been that long—most of the deregulation efforts have failed to pass legal muster.

Democrats Want Answers about the Interior Department’s Decisions During the Shutdown—Wow, another scandal at the Department of the Interior.  This is my surprised face:

surprised face.gif

US Plug-In Electric Car Sales Charted: December 2018—Check out the market share:

EV market chare.png

Last year and the year before it could not crack 2% total market share.  This year total EV sales went above 3% in the latter part of the year.  When does the tipping point occur?

The Biggest Returns—Imagine if there was a way to produce a dollar of economic activity without damaging the planet.  Oh wait, we call it energy efficiency.  The greenest source of energy is the energy you never need to produce.

Texas Grid Is Now 30% Carbon-Free, Led By Wind—Big red state Texas, actually increasingly purplish, is also a big time state for renewables.

Report says Offshore Wind could Beat Onshore Wind on Cost—Imagine the Atlantic seaboard getting on board with offshore wind.  Or the Gulf of Mexico, with an already established industry of offshore specialists, deploying offshore wind rather than drilling for oil. Now, imagine that offshore wind energy is cheap.

Supermarket Cuts Emissions 53%, Offsets Rest—Grocery stores seem like such an easy target for energy efficiency.  Just imagine the average dairy section in an average American grocery store.  What do you see?  I am guessing that it has refrigerated cases open to the ambient air.  Why?  Just one example of how we can do so much better without really sacrificing our way of life.

Are Cargo Bikes the Future for Urban Deliveries?—The future?  In some places this is the present.  Bikes are the best solution for delivery of the last mile in denser environments.  Let’s see…no pollution, no noise, small footprint…yeah, pretty much awesome.

The Zero-Waste Movement is Coming for your Garbage—Zero waste is a good goal.  Here is the better goal: Buy less stuff.  Just a reminder, if a company is telling you how green their packaging is it probably means that they are trying to assuage your green guilt and encourage you to buy more.

Eco-Friendly Options for Decluttering Waste—Decluttering is a thing right now.  Blame Netflix and Marie Kondo.  It was popular when she had a book, but now that people can binge watch a show it is a cultural phenomenon.  I just hope that we are finding appropriate places for all of this stuff being tossed out of homes.

Friday Linkage 1/11/2019

The “upside” of the partial federal government shutdown is that agencies run by Trumpian golems cannot work overtime to destroy our land, water, and air.  Trust me, if given the opportunity the EPA under Wheeler would like to redefine mercury as a dietary supplement and the BLM would like to put a fracking pad in every backyard.

On to the links…

How We can Combat Climate Change—The fact that opinion pieces like this are appearing in major American newspapers and other news outlets has me hopeful that this marks the point in time when we, collectively as a species, start to really tackle climate change.

2018 Was A “Fulcrum Year” For Renewable Energy In The US—We can hope that 2018 marked the point when renewable energy became the default choice for utilities and consumers.  Everything after is just math.

The EPA Hired GOP Oppo Firm Because It Was Sick of “Fake News”—You have to love modern Republicans under Trump.  Their world view is set and anything that does not conform to that world view is “fake news.”  Is 2020 going to be another bloodbath for the Republican party?

5% of US Coal Fleet Retired Last Year—Trump can bluster.  Trump can bellow.  Trump can hold all the rallies he wants wearing hard hearts, point to signs about how he “digs” coal, and soothe the audience with his slow jam about beautiful coal.  He cannot, however, stop the inevitable decline of the use of coal as a fuel for producing electricity.

More Coal Plants Shut Down in Trump’s First Two Years than in Obama’s Entire First Term—See, Trump is better than Obama.

Colorado could Save $2.5 Billion by Rapidly Shutting Down its Coal Power Plants—That is $2.5 billion dollars.  That is before accounting for things like externalities which currently do not figure into the economics of running a coal plant.

Texas’s Wind and Sunlight Complement Each Other Exceptionally Well. That’s Huge for its Grid.—The idea here is that Texas can get over the problem of intermittent renewable energy by deploying more renewable energy that happens to be complementary.

With Vineyard Wind, the U.S. Finally Goes Big on Offshore Wind Power—Offshore wind power can bring cheap, reliable green energy to the eastern seaboard of the United States.  At 6.5 cents per kWh this project is cost competitive with coal and natural gas today.  Furthermore, without the possibility of increases in fuel prices—just wait for the next natural gas price spike—these low prices are essentially locked in.

Why Solar Panels Should Go From Rooftops to Mountaintops—Maybe the answer is to deploy more solar wherever we can?

A Major Climate Treaty to Reduce Air Conditioning Emissions Just Went Into Force—Without the U.S.—These are the kinds of efforts that the U.S. needs to be supporting.  However, Trump hears the words treaty and assumes that the U.S. is “losing.”

Why Efforts to Make Buildings Greener Fail—I am beginning to think that any building that starts out with the promise of being “green” is just a temporary charade.

Dutch Eco Initiative Halves Energy Bills in First UK Homes—Even though so-called green building fail to meet their promise so often does not mean that there is not great potential to make our existing fleet of buildings so much more efficient.  Remember, every kWh saved is one less that we have to generate with renewables.  We can get to 100% renewable energy by deploying more sources and reducing our consumption.

Is Organic Food Over?—I feel like this headline is a decade late.  Organic has been coopted by big food and there is no looking back.  This gets to why knowing who the producer of your food is so important if you want to align your values with your consumption.

Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Ski Venue Set To Be Demolished—This move was planned before the Olympics, but the waste is just amazing.  The Olympics, as an event, should be killed.

Bar Soap is Making a Glorious Comeback—Millenials can’t kill bar soap because bar soap is the killer app of getting clean.  Leave your loofahs and shower gel at the door.

Friday Linkage 4/13/2018

Paul Ryan is gone.  Okay, he is not actually gone today instead opting to “retire” in January when his term is over.  Nonetheless, who saw this coming?

He gave the standard “spend more time with my family” and “I’ve spent enough time in Washington and want to get back home” answers as to why he was choosing to leave Congress.  Does anyone doubt for a minute that he was tired of working with the chief cantaloupe?

This tweet just about perfectly sums up the end of Paul Ryan’s time in Washington D.C.:

Paul Ryan Tweet.jpg

On to the links…

The US is Winning the Climate Fight in Electricity — and Losing it Just About Everywhere Else—This chart says it all:

Emissions CO2 Chart

Transportation is killing us, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the biggest culprits is commercial air travel.  Flying is bad for the environment.  End of story.  And you free two day shipping on Amazon is also part of the problem because the cargo operators are flying jets all over the place to deliver our crap.  So, buy less stuff and fly less.

Solar Leads Record Renewables Investment—Solar now accounts for more than half of all the investment put into renewable energy.  China alone invested over $127 billion in renewable energy with more than two-thirds of that investment going to deploy 53 GW of solar.

Clean Energy Investment Down 10% To $61.1 Billion In First Quarter—Sometimes these are quarter over quarter anomalies driven by major investment timing, but if the trend continues into subsequent quarters it will be time to question what is driving the trend.

Google Hits its Incredible 100% Renewable Energy Goal—Google does not actually own the wind turbines and solar panels that make its renewable electricity, but it has bought enough renewable energy on the open market to account for its entire usage.

Illinois Blazes New Trail in Anticipation of Private Microgrids Using Utility Wires—Microgrids may be the future of energy generation and transmission.  The problem is that the utility companies own a lot of infrastructure and do not want anyone to have access to that infrastructure unless they control all of the terms.

Secession Or Not, Big Win For Rooftop Solar In South Carolina—South Carolina is in general a state known for doing some batshit crazy stuff.  Like electing Mark Sanford to public office…more than once…and after he had that whole Appalachian Trail thing happen.  WTF?  Anyway, if solar can score a win in South Carolina you know that things are good for solar.

Biggest Problem for U.S. Offshore Wind? Ports Are Too Small—This will hamper offshore wind development for decades as any port expansion project is a nightmare in terms of approval and execution.

This Coal Power Plant is Being Reopened for Blockchain Mining—Nothing can save coal except for another questionable idea: cryptocurrencies.

Washington State Bans Salmon Farms—Last August a breach in an aquaculture facility allowed Atlantic salmon to escape into the waters off of Puget Sound.  These non-native salmon could wreak havoc with the native species.  In response, the state of Washington has decided that hipsters love of grilled salmon is not enough of a priority to risk the health of an ecosystem.

Reckoning with History: The Parks have Been Fixed Before—The National Park system is one of America’s crown jewels, but the parks are in need of help.  This situation is, sadly, not unique in our history.  Make sure that your elected officials are committed to providing the support that our National Parks deserve and require.

REI Rolls Out First-of-its-Kind Sustainability Requirement that will Affect Every Brand in its Stores—If Congress won’t take action on sustainability than it falls to large companies to take action.  REI is, as usual, killing it.

What will Zinke do with the Extra $2.5 billion in his Budget?—Ryan Zinke wanted to gut the Department of the Interior.  Congress said, “Nope.”  What happens next?  Assuming the next most corrupt member of the chief cantaloupe’s cabinet, after Scott Pruitt, is even leading the agency in a few months.

IG: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal—The defense on this issue is the most Trumpian of all time, “We might have done something illegal, but we kept such bad records that no one can prove we did anything illegal.  Our incompetence is our shield.”  This is why Ryan Zinke needs to be the next Trumpkin out the door after Scott Pruitt gets his fossil fuel covered gremlin ass out of Washington D.C.

Why Scott Gottlieb is the One Trump Official Everybody Seems to Like—It just goes to show that even in a storm of gross incompetence and outright malfeasance that actual good governance can happen.  It’s not likely, but it is possible.

Guess What? The Rich Really are Different from Everyone Else — and It Ain’t Pretty—In the United States we have spent the last thirty or so years idolizing the rich as if they were somehow intrinsically better than everyone else with less money.  As our current president shows, money does not guarantee any sort of better human experience.  In fact, if the data is to be believed, it is likely that the rich, on average, are worse as human beings.  Suck it Ayn Rand.

A Sperm Whale that Washed up on a Beach in Spain had 64 pounds of Plastic and Waste in its Stomach—Yeah, that headline is pretty much as bad as it sounds.

 

The Best Way to Cut Your Emissions is to Stop Driving and Start Biking

Depending upon how you calculate the numbers transportation is now the greatest source of emissions in the United States:

Transportation Emissions

No matter the degree to which we decarbonize are electric grid the effort will be for naught if we do not begin to address the emissions that are a result of our transportation choices.  Transportation emissions come from a lot of sources—personal automobiles, delivery vehicles, mass transit, etc.  The most direct control that we have over transportation emissions is to control how much we drive personal automobiles.  If we do not drive our vehicles do not produce emissions.  It is a fairly simple calculus.

A gallon of gasoline produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when combusted. The average fuel economy for a new car is 23.4 miles per gallon.   Simple math gives you 0.85 pounds of carbon dioxide produced for each mile driven.  Considering that the U.S. is such a truck/SUV/crossover/whatever market I am going to round that up to one pound of carbon dioxide produced for every one mile driven.

Do not drive a mile, save a pound.  It is a direct, one-for-one relationship in my mind and it makes for a fairly simple accounting of progress.

The average American drivers puts 13,474 miles per year in behind the wheel or, according to my simple math, creates 13,474 pounds of carbon dioxide via combustion to drive.  That is a lot of carbon dioxide.  To put it into comparison, the solar array on my home that went active last August is calculated to have saved approximately 3,350 pounds of carbon dioxide in just over seven months.  If the average driver reduced miles driven by approximately 25% the savings would be roughly the same.  This is why we have to address our addiction to fossil fuels in the transportation sector in order to have any significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change.

My goal for the next nine months is to drive less than 2,500 miles in total.  Why 2,500 miles?  It’s the length of time, in miles, until my next oil change.  Why nine months?  It’s the length of time, in months, before my next trip to Colorado. Everything seemed to line up in such a way to make this an easy target to measure and understand.  This would also put me on pace to drive approximately 5,000 miles per year including regular trips to Colorado.

A goal of 5,000 miles per year or less would mean a reduction of almost 63% versus the average American driver and a similar reduction in carbon emissions.  Now imagine a world where the United States reduced its emissions from transportation by 63%.  Wow.

It is not just a story about emissions.  Personal automobiles are expensive.  Most people do not realize the full costs of driving in a way that is easily quantified.  You could spend a lot of time calculating the actual cost per mile of driving for your particular situation or you could just let the IRS do the leg work.  For 2017 the IRS has set the “mileage rate” at 53.5 cents per mile.

In my particular case nine months of driving will cost $1338.  However, every trip to work that I replace with a bicycle trip will save me $6.  Greenhouse gas emissions are hard to imagine.  Six dollars in my pocket every time I decide to commute to work on the dirt wagon is concrete.  Somewhere along the way I am going to translate these savings into a Chris King headset for my bike.

I anticipate a degree of failure, but I feel that I will make little progress toward an ambitious goal unless I make some sort of public proclamation.

We Have the Tools to Create Meaningful Change

For the first time in my memory, which stretches back to the now fuzzy early 1980s, I feel that we have the tools to positively combat climate change available at a personal level.  No longer are we limited to advocating for municipal recycling, agitating McDonald’s to get rid of polystyrene clamshells, or hanging our undergarments out to dry in the sun.  Hey, it was the 1980s and I wanted save the whales so I spent a lot of time writing letters to McDonald’s threatening to boycott Happy Meals forever unless they got rid of those old school burger boxes.

Let me use solar power as an example of a tool that we have available down here at a personal level.  Consider the cost per watt in dollar terms from 1977 until 2015:

Price_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg.png

In simple mathematical terms that is a decline in price per way of over 99.5%.  Whereas a solar photovoltaic system was probably only something that strange science teacher who drove an ancient Volvo actually had on his house is now something a lot more people can install.

Take my solar photovoltaic installation.  In a little more than two half days and for a cost of less than $11K I had 4.64 kWh of solar installed in a single array on a west facing garage roof.  After tax credits the total cost will come in somewhere around $6K.  For six thousand dollars I now produce all of my electricity needs from the sun.  Granted, it is a grid tie system so I use traditional utility power on occasion.

Yes, I use a lot less electricity than the average peer house but it’s not like I live in an off-grid yurt.  I have a typically large American refrigerator, I run the air conditioning when it is hot, I have a large screen television that gets turned on to watch football games, and so on.  Hell, I have an electric dryer and range.  The point is that you can use a lot less electricity and produce it all via the sun with a fairly minimal investment and without sacrificing the quality of life we have come to assume is natural in the United States.  This is not Ed Begley Jr. being eco-dramatic on Living with Ed.

Even better is that none of the technology used in a solar system is in its infancy, so the maturity of the design is well along which means the systems are reliable.  No one is going to be spending hours up on a roof trying to figure out why the panels are not producing any juice.  The solid state system just sits on top of the roof generating power from the sun without any moving parts or noise.  Day in and day out whenever the sun shines and even when it does not.  If that is not a powerful tool to combat carbon emissions and the resultant climate change I do not know what would qualify.

Going solar is just one of the many tools available to us to make a difference.  We all need to take a moment and examine our lives.  What are the activities that we engage in that have an outsize impact on our carbon emissions.  Tools exist and are available to us that can ameliorate almost any source of emissions if we are willing to make the effort.

Given the horrible state of national leadership on climate issues it is incumbent upon us as concerned individuals to make every effort and deploy every tool.  You might feel good about yourself when you sign a petition, but it has to go further than that if we are to have any hope of a sustainable and equitable future on this planet.

My goal over the next few months is to really examine what the tools are that can help me—a guy living a fairly normal suburban life with three other people in eastern Iowa—eliminate my carbon emissions.

Friday Linkage 3/24/2017

I find it interesting or, rather, frightening that poll after poll indicates a super majority—as in greater than 60%–of Americans believe climate change is real and driven by human activities.  However, we manage to have an elected government at state and federal levels that fails to do anything other than obfuscate the issue with right wing rhetoric and outright lies.

Now, I understand that this is a dynamic driven by gerrymandering which has led to elected officials that care only for satisfying the core interests of a very skewed base.  It just seems like there should be enough reasonable people to sway the pendulum toward reasonable action.  Granted, we also saw this same electorate put Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office.

On to the links…

A Trump Budget Would Hurt Americans’ Access To Our Public Lands—Trump and his cronies, Russian or otherwise, like access to land as long as no one who is not a member of the club can access the land.  In practice this means that the rich get access and the rest get screwed.  It’s the oligarchs’ way.

The Crazy Theory About Smog That’s Gaining Ground in the White House—When you spend all your time denying science I guess it was going to come to a point when you started to deny common sense as well.  We are so doomed.

CO2 Emissions Flat For Third Straight Year, Still Decoupled From Economic Growth—When economists say economic growth is decouple from emissions growth they are really trying to say that the relationship is less positively correlated.  It used to be something that marched in lockstep, but as the world has cleaned up power generation the relationship has frayed.  This trend destroys the argument that a transition to clean energy will destroy economic growth.

UK Carbon Emissions Fell 6% in 2016 after Record Drop in Coal Use—It may be very difficult over the next few years to achieve broad based success on environmental initiatives, but retiring coal plants can be something that could be achieved given all the impediments faced by coal.  Just retiring these dirty power plants and replacing them with natural gas is a short term win.

Coal in ‘Freefall’ as New Power Plants Dive by Two-Thirds—The export dream of American coal is dying because no one is going to want the coal.

Google’s Project Sunroof Claims 80% Of US Roofs Analyzed Are Suitable For Solar Panels—Let’s get cracking on installing solar panels.  A world where hundreds of thousands of people are employed installing solar panels on 80% of our nation’s roofs is a vision that I think most Americans can get behind.

NASA Finds Biofuels Make Air Travel 70 Percent Greener—I believe that we should try and electrify surface transportation as soon as possible reserving biofuels for applications where energy dense liquid fuels are essential like aviation.

Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell with Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency—This is boring but important.  Advances in solar cell technology are leading us to a point where we are bumping up against the theoretical limit of efficiency.

Huge Plastic Waste Footprint Revealed—We use and throw away too much god damned plastic.  Simple.  Use less of the stuff.

Chesapeake Bay’s Booming Oyster Industry Is Alarmed By Trump’s EPA Budget Cuts—Oysters and the attendant reefs are a big part of the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.  After decades of work these systems are being put back into balance and there are now jobs associated with working the bay.  Too bad Scott Pruitt will lead the charge to destroy the progress.

Small-Scale Farming Could Restore America’s Rural Towns—Small scale agriculture is almost by definition labor intensive, so a return to a patchwork of smaller, diversified farms would lead to a growth in demand for people to work the land.  Why would giant corporations be against that?  Oh wait…

Churchyards are Our Forgotten Nature Reserves—Small, forgotten plots of land are a surprising source of biodiversity.