Tag Archives: Green New Deal

Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?

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Friday Linkage 3/15/2019

It’s Spring Break week…well, it will be.  This will be the last Friday Linkage until the end of the month so please try and make do without.  I promise I will be back.

On to the links…

The First Green Terawatt Was the Hardest—Consider that the first “green” terawatt of power came at the highest average cost.  The next terawatt or more will come at a price orders of magnitude lower because the highest price is today’s.  The prediction is that the next terawatt will be installed by 2023 at half the cost of the first.  So, a little more than a fourth the amount of time at half the cost.  That is change that I can believe in.

Trump’s Monument Review Was A Big Old Sham—Are we surprised that the process was really about allowing oil, gas, and uranium extraction interests get access to sealed off lands? No one else matters in this criminal administration.

Trump’s Climate Policies Face 6 Big Legal Battles this Year—Here is the thing I wonder about.  If Trump loses his bid for reelection in 2020, what happens to all of this stuff in January 2017 when a Democrat walks into the White House and reverses every executive action that the man took over four years?

Five Things a Democratic President Could Do By Declaring a National Emergency Over Climate Change—I would just love to watch Mitch McConnell clutch his pearls and cry about how decorum is gone from U.S. politics even though no one is more to blame for the degradation of politics in this country than he.

Republicans are the Real Threat to Hamburgers, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—Are Republicans really this stupid?  No matter how genuine the policy proposal, Republicans—goaded by Fox News—will turn the discussion into an argument about something that is not even germane to the discussion.  It is the ultimate “hey, look, a squirrel” kind of distraction to keep people from talking about real change.

Trump said to Again Seek Deep Cuts in Renewable Energy Funding—Trump’s 2020 budget is dead on arrival in Congress.  It is now about the negotiations between the House and Senate as to what the budget will look like.

Cost of Adding New Wind, Solar Energy Continues to Fall in Minnesota—It’s not just cheap, but it is getting cheaper to build out renewables versus continue to operate coal plants.

Harnessing the Sun in Coal Country—Naming the two solar farms Hatfield and McCoy is a little hokey, but I love the juxtaposition of old mountain top removal coal mines being transitioned to solar photovoltaic farms.

Norway’s $1tn Wealth Fund to Divest from Oil and Gas Exploration—This is a little “pot calling the kettle black” as the wealth fund is driven by profits from North Sea oil and gas.  However, it is a positive step forward.

Renewables Generated a Record 65 Percent of Germany’s Electricity Last Week—Say what you will, but that is an impressive number.

Tiny Costa Rica Has a Green New Deal, Too. It Matters for the Whole Planet.—I want to know why the United States is getting beat to the punch by a small country like Costa Rica?  Why can’t we think big when it comes to addressing the problem presented by climate change?

Coal Power Stations Disrupt Rainfall—As if we needed another reason to stop burning coal.

Scientists Capture Bacteria That Eat Pollution and Breathe Electricity—This sounds like something out of a comic book that gets repurposed by a super villain to defeat our intrepid heroes.

America’s Light Bulb Revolution—LEDs are amazing.  How anyone—looking at you Republicans—can be against using less electricity for lighting is beyond me.  Oh wait, Fox and Friends does not like LED lightbulbs because, uh, socialism?

The Backyard Mechanic Who is Taking on Tesla—Trust me, Tesla is painted in a bad light here for refusing to sell this guy repair parts but this is not different from a lot of other car companies.  You might be able to buy parts for more mainstream cars, but the prices are crazy compared to what the replacement parts actually cost.  Just spend some time with Porsche enthusiasts looking at repair parts online.

Why India is a World Leader in Waste Paper—As our trash gets sent around the world, it is important to think about the market forces that drive a country to literally buy something that we consider garbage of little to no value.

Friday Linkage 3/8/2019

Every week I think that world cannot get crazier and every week I am shocked to find that it may have actually gotten worse.

We now live in an America where layers upon layers of the President’s advisers, confidants, lawyers, and administration members are actually convicted of felonies and sentenced to jail time but Republican loyalists continue to defend the administration tooth and nail.

We now live in an America where a national news network is working hand in glove with a corrupt political party to sway Americans’ opinions on issues to favor billionaires despite these policies harming the vast majority of people in this country.

We now live in an America…just fill in the blank with the latest depravity.  When does this madness stop?

On to the links…

What Democrats and Republicans Drink on Mardi Gras—If your choice of beer in 2019 is Michelob Ultra than you are everything that is wrong with this world.

Republicans Warn That Liberals Are Coming for Your Burgers—It makes for a nice sound bite to rile up your Uncle Carl watching Fox News all day, but it is not true.  Today’s Republican Party is a joke.  It is a purely reactionary body of low level hucksters selling a vision of society that appeals to a narrow band of the American public.

To Revive Rural America, We Must Fix Our Broken Food System—When politicians talk about rural America or the farm economy they are really talking about policies that favor gigantic agribusiness at the expense of both farmers and food consumers.  Once you understand that paradigm everything in the farm bill begins to make sense.

Jay Inslee just Launched a Presidential Campaign that will be All About Climate Change—It is likely that Jay Inslee will fall short of the nomination.  Heck, with this many people running right now it is likely that a lot of people will fall short.  However, this is an important addition to the political conversation and I am glad that Jay Inslee has the courage to make it his issue.

Post-Hurricane Harvey, NASA Tried to Fly a Pollution-Spotting Plane over Houston. The EPA said No—In Trump’s America pollution is good for you because it is brought to you by oil and gas companies.  Of course they have the best interests of the public in mind.  Right?

Coal Burning Plants Aren’t Just Polluting the Air—They’re Poisoning Water—Exactly what is good about coal?

Banks around the World Opt to Offload Coal—Get used to hearing about the weighted average cost of capital for coal projects.  The higher the WACC goes the less likely it is for coal projects to get funded because they cannot deliver the necessary return on investment relative to their risk profile.  Banks getting out of the coal game drives the WACC higher.

Wyoming Legislature Extends Lifeline to Coal Power—This is what the free market looks like under modern day conservative leadership.  If something is uneconomical and bad for the environment it must get supported because the paymasters running oil, gas, and coal companies need to be kept in business at the expense of anything else.

Colorado Democrats’ High-Stakes Oil and Gas Bill Is Finally Here—Oil and gas companies have run roughshod over the people of Colorado for decade.  Fracking rigs come right up to residential neighborhoods.  Houses even end up exploding.  A changing state is the canary in the coal mine for oil and gas dominance of the American West.

An Illinois Bill Leans into the Most Contentious Part of the Green New Deal—Environmental justice is also social justice.  As the environment is degraded the people who will suffer the most are the ones who had the least responsibility for the degradation.

Finland Approves 2029 Coal Ban For Energy Use—You go Finland.

This Is What Peak Car Looks Like—The financial argument is one thing.  What happens when cities decide that dedicating so much valuable space to personal automobiles is a waste?  The future is now.

Electrify Everything: Why our Thinking has to be as Flexible and Resilient as our Buildings—The key to resilience is flexibility.  What works in one place may not be the best use of resource is another place.  Solutions are tailorable to particular locations.

This Is How the Age of Plastics Began—Plastic is the trash that we have the hardest time dealing with and this is how the problem began.  If we need to decarbonize our society we must also work on ridding our products of plastic.

Recycling Is Broken—How we deal with our trash—which is really what recycling is at the end of the day—is coming for a reckoning now that we can no longer easily outsource the job to China and other developing economies.

Californians are Losing Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Recycling Deposits—As human beings we are not the most rational creatures when it comes to money despite what economists would like to tell us.  Sure, this money is spread out in small amounts across large numbers of people so the perceived loss is low.  However, this is still a lot of money left on the table.

Is This the Death Rattle of Mail-Order Meal Kits?—God I hope so.  These kits are like the worst habits of your local grocery store delivered to your doorstep.  So much plastic.

The Science Behind Why Hipsters Always End Up Looking the Same—Interesting.

Friday Linkage 2/15/2019

It’s not a polar vortex in February, but for some reason I would take the cold temperatures over what we have had the past two weeks.  How does an inch or so of ice that gets topped off with nearly a foot of snow and capped with a little wintry mix?  Add in the drifting from 40 mile per hour winds and temperatures that swing thirty degrees in a twenty four hour period.  That is what February has been like so far in eastern Iowa.

Now you know why I am dreaming of spring.

On to the links…

Uniquely American’: Senate Passes Landmark Bill to Enlarge National Parks—Good things can happen.  This is an unalloyed win for advocates of public lands.  Granted, it still requires a signature from individual number 1 but I have to imagine that even he is inclined to go with the flow on this.

What’s Missing from the Green New Deal—I think that the most important thing is that we are having a conversation about the Green New Deal.  Could you imagine this happening just two years ago following Trump’s “victory” and the ascension of a completely Republican controlled Washington D.C.?  Nope.

Priorities: Where Do You Start with the Green New Deal?—If it were me, I would start with a nationwide reforestation effort focused on degraded lands.  It could be lands impacted by mining in Appalachia, beetle kill in Colorado, and wildfire in California.

Is Renewables’ Production Tax Credit Bullet Proof?—I have to imagine that in this political climate the production tax credit for renewables is going to get renewed past 2020.  Some red state Republicans support the PTC and Democrats are in favor, so the odds are favorable.

Trump Administration will try to Exempt Specialty Bulbs from Energy Efficiency Standards—Of course the Trump administration will try to roll back new energy efficiency standards.  Try is the operative word.  BTW, can we just kill the Edison bulb trend?

USDA says Filler once Known as ‘Pink Slime’ can be Labeled Ground Beef—Of course the USDA would allow pink slime to be labelled as ground beef.  It is like we live in a dystopia where the president feeds visitors to the White House fast food…oh shit, we do live in Idiocracy now.  Damn.

China is polluting California’s air—Pollution is both local and global.  The air may be horrible in China and India, but those same pollutants will impact other countries.  Even countries an ocean away.  Just because we have outsourced our pollution does not mean that we have avoided our pollution.

Coal Developers Take Note: Climate Change Killed This Coal Mine—Climate change is real and people are really starting to take notice.  If a judge uses this as a reason to stop coal development we may have finally turned a corner.

War on Plastics May Stunt Oil Demand Growth Projections—Take a look at the chart:

Plastic Pie Chart.jpg

Thirty six percent of the demand for plastic is for packaging.  Buy less stuff to save money and reduce the demand for disposable plastic.

Another Way To Power Electric Cars: “Refillable Technology”—Flow batteries and related technologies, which this particular article deals with, seem like a great way to get around the problem of quickly charging EVs.  I wonder if there is a way to get the best of both worlds.  Make an EV that you charge at home most days, but have the option of refilling with charged electrolyte when on a trip far from home.

How EV HVAC Use Impacts Range Much More Than Extreme Temps—If there is a negative article about EVs you can bet the press is going to pounce.  Here is the thing, even with reduced range an EV will handle your daily commute.  Why is this even a story anymore?  And another thing, where were the articles about traditional ICE cars not being able to start in the polar vortex?

California to Transition to 100 Percent Electric Buses by 2040—Why can’t we make this a goal for 2030?  If transitioning 12,000 busses is the equivalent of 4 million cars we should be all over this effort.

Bottle Recycling in Oregon Hits 90 Percent Record High—I live in a state with a bottle deposit law and it works.  I imagine that if we adopted a nationwide ten cents per bottle deposit law that recycling rates for cans and bottles would increase accordingly.

How Big-Box Stores Bilk Local Governments—Here is why our governments—local, state, and federal—do not have the money to implement programs people care about: businesses have manipulated the tax code with loopholes to avoid paying any tax.

Solar Jobs Climb in Iowa—Most of the news around solar in the U.S. has been a downer lately as the Trump tariffs have bitten the industry.  However, Iowa solar jobs were up which is a good thing.

Friday Linkage 1/25/2019

The partial government shutdown is about to enter its sixth week.  It is already the longest such shutdown in the history of the United States.  It is also case study #1 of what happens when you elect people to run the government who have a professed hatred of the government providing any services whatsoever.

In some ways I feel that this shutdown is the fever dream of people like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.  Without a functioning government they can go on Fox News and tell everyone that America soldiers on.  Just wait until Sean Hannity starts a special on how the shutdown is proof positive that the federal government is unnecessary.

On to the links…

Why We Won’t Quit the Climate Fight—We will not quit in a fit of despair because to quit would be to admit defeat.  And defeat in this case is not an option.

Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?—I believe that the idea of the Green New Deal has the possibility to be a Trojan horse for so many progressive ideas.  Clean energy, modernized mass transit, smart development, etc.

New Proposal Aims To Make Legacy FDR Works Project The Flagship Of A Green New Deal—The thing about the Green New Deal that excites me the most is that we can begin to execute many of the proposed ideas without a single new government agency or program.  Heck, some of it is still in place since the last New Deal.

72% of Americans are ‘Very Worried’ about Climate Change—People are worried.  People want solutions.

Idaho’s New Governor: ‘Climate change is real’—The worm has turned on climate change.  You cannot be a reasonable, notice I said reasonable, politician in the United States and not recognize the impact of climate change.

Why There’s No Bringing Coal Back—Here is another reason why coal is not coming back: Donald Trump.  The industry hitched its wagon to the man who will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

The Trump Administration Keeps Taking Care of Big Oil—The Trump administration is making sure that Big Oil is taken care of at all times.

Zinke Leaves Unfinished Business at the Interior Department—The best that we can hope for is that in less than two years we can begin to unwind the damage done to the United States.  This sums up the course of action: “Many of the actions taken by the administration have been done through secretarial orders, internal memos and staffing decisions, many of which can be reversed on day one of a new administration.”

The Invisible Energy Bonanza: Creating Wealth Out Of Nothing—If we really wanted to we could save a proverbial buttload of baseload power just by focusing on not using so god damned much energy.  It is not rocket science.

Colorado Mandates Electric Vehicle Sales, State Dealers Association Angry—Do you know why the dealers are angry?  No service on electric vehicles.  No oil changes at regular intervals.  No fuel filters, air filters, spark plugs, timing belts, etc. to change.  No water pump to replace art 100K miles for the low, low price of $1K.  It’s pretty much rotate the tires, check the wiper blades, and send you on your way with an EV.

Of New Power Generation, How Much Is On The Roof? Quarterly Update — 2018 Q3—There are so many roofs without solar panels.  So much room to grow.

San Diego Has Vast Solar Parking Lot Potential—What locale in the U.S. does not have a lot of solar parking lot potential?  Boston, ok.  New York City, ok.  Just about everyone else.

Renewables In Britain To Overtake Fossil Fuels By 2020—Remember when renewables were only capable of providing a sliver of power generation according to the experts?  Remember when the ceiling was probably ten percent of total power generation according to the experts?

74% Of India’s New Power Capacity Addition In 2018 Was Renewables—It would be better if it were 100%, but I will take it.

US Coal Retirements In 2019 To Hit At Least 6 Gigawatts—This has to be a kick in the gonads for Trump and his coal baron cabinet.

10 Ways Beer Drinking Will Change in 2019—This is the year that I think we will see some major closures in the craft beer space.  My prediction is that one or two of the mid-tier brewers will close or consolidate this year because growth has not kept pace with expansion.

A Bit of Meat, a Lot of Veg – the Flexitarian Diet to Feed 10bn—It is not like this idea is very new.

How To Make Sure Your Recycling Gets Recycled—You would not believe the stuff I see in my neighborhood recycling bins every Thursday.  Resin chairs, check.  All manner of oversized items, check.  This is why recycling does not work in the United States.

Something is Missing from the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is the shiny new thing in the 116th Congress.  This an unalloyed good thing.  We need to be talking about the big ideas that can move this country forward instead of always arguing about small ball politics.

However, I fear that something is missing from every discussion about the contents of the Green New Deal.  Trees.  Rather, forests.  Forests?  You know, those mass groupings of trees.

What about forests?

Forests are the unsung hero of our fight against climate change.  Decidedly analog, forests do not get any of the hype afforded to electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, or even god damned nuclear fusion.  Why?  It is probably because people’s eyes glaze over when someone talks about forests and stereotypes of treehugging hippies run through their minds.

However, before we can deploy enough renewable energy or replace enough automobiles with EVs forests can help us combat the coming climate apocalypse.  Trees absorb carbon dioxide and capture it in their wood fibers.  Trees help to slow down the rainfall preventing erosion, top soil runoff, and even filter rainwater as it falls from the sky through the canopy to the ground.  Trees help to cool the surrounding area.  Trees provide habitat for animals.  Unless you are the most Trumpian right wing reactionary there is no denying the enviable service record of trees.

The key is not to just save the forests that we currently have, but to recover the forests that we have lost.  I propose a nationwide effort to recover as many acres of forest covered land as possible.  There are literally tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of acres of land that were once covered with forests that could become verdant again.

In the region known as Appalachia it is estimated that more than 1.5 million acres of mountain top land has been reduced to bare earth and rubble by coal mining over the last fifty years.  Reforestation of these degraded lands is an opportunity to provide much needed jobs in the region, improve the environment, and build a legacy for future generations.  All by planting some trees.

In 2018 California saw almost 1.9 million acres burned in wildfires.  Reforestation of these lands is an opportunity to reduce the ecological impact of wildfires in that state and ameliorate some of the secondary impacts like mudslides in subsequent years.

In Colorado, as a result of the invasive mountain pine beetle, one in 14 trees in the state is dead and almost three quarters of the state’s lodgepole pine stands are impacted.  In the end the infestation and resulting tree die off may leave an area the size of Rhode Island deforested.  Reforestation is an opportunity to reverse some of this damage and restore Colorado’s forests to their majestic beauty.

These are just a few examples, but I could have chosen examples in the Pacific Northwest or northern Minnesota or Arizona.  Almost every state in the United States could benefit from reforestation.

Here is the best part.  Reforestation does not require any new technology or industries to be created.  Reforestation does not require any new government agencies to be created.  We possess the knowledge, organizations, and infrastructure to implement a nationwide reforestation plan.  We just lack the money.

Ahhhh, money.  How much money exactly?  Who knows?  How much land do you want to cover in trees?  Piedmont Land and Timber, a timber management company in Georgia, publishes a very concise breakdown of the costs to reforest an acre:

  • Herbicide application: $125/acre
  • Controlled burn: $60/acre
  • Planting @ 500 seedlings per acre: $74/acre
  • Landowner cost: $45/acre

The total to plant an acre of trees, albeit for timber production, is ~$300 according to a private company.  The largest part of that expense is the application of herbicides which could be eliminated in many cases where the goal is not to develop a stand for logging at a later date.  Regardless, I will use $300 per acre as a baseline for cost.

Let’s use the lands degraded by coal mining in Appalachia as a model.  So, we are working with ~1.5 million acres over several years.  Total cost, assuming $300 per acre, would be $450 million.  Over five years the annual cost would be $90 million.  That is about the cost of a single F-35A fighter plane per year.  Imagine what restoring 1.5 million acres of land would look like from an environmental standpoint.

The money is large when it is looked at in isolation, but it is paltry when compared with so many things in Washington D.C.  Just consider our current president’s pet border wall.  Each mile is estimated to cost $25 million dollars.  We could trade four miles of border wall per year for a restoration of Appalachian forests.  I am willing to make that trade.

Will anyone in Washington D.C. speak for the trees?