Tag Archives: High Country News

Friday Linkage 2/17/2017

Is this what it looks like from the inside of a failed state?  The current president cannot go a day without an unforced error blowing up in his face, leaks are rampant, confidantes are completely off message, and the orange master of ceremonies cannot let the smallest slight go unnoticed.  Is it the sign of a completely unhinged personality to respond via Twitter to every perceived challenge to his authority?

On to the links…

Coal-Fired Electricity is at its Lowest since Officials Started Keeping Track—Natural gas and cheap renewables are killing coal.  No one wants to live downwind from a coal plant and the death spiral is on.

The West’s Coal Giant is Going Down—You would be hard pressed to find a more controversial symbol of the coal industrial complex than the Navajo Generating Station, a giant coal fired power plant in Arizona.  With decades of life left in its boilers, its operator is scheduling the beast for shutdown in 2019.  This is a coal plant that burns upwards of 24,000 tons of coal per day.

Wind Energy is Setting Records in the U.S. and Around the World—Wind is cheap, a lot of people work in the industry, and even Republicans are behind the sector as they realize the political suicide of condemning something so popular.  The future may not be as bright, but there is potential for hope.

New North American Wind Power Record Set In Central United States—Over 50% of the electricity served came from wind. Yes it was overnight, but it’s a start.
China Doubled Its Solar Capacity In 2016—No matter what the base, doubling the capacity of anything is a big deal.  There are a lot of problems with China—one party state, authoritarian rule, etc.—but when they decide to go for something, solar in this case, they go big.

U.S. Solar Installations Jumped 95 Percent Last Year—China is not the only one to go big on solar.  We were yuge!

Low Carbon Technologies Now Cost-Competitive With Fossil Fuels—Low carbon technologies are basically mainstream.  Right wing reactionaries can try and stop the flood, but it is over.

5 Possible Futures for the EPA under Trump—This assumes that the Trump administration is not a flaming crater of incompetence by the end of March.

The United States of Oil and Gas—There are some amazing images that show the pervasiveness of oil and gas in our lives.

To Save The Planet, Give Cows Better Pasture—Managing productive rangeland for grazing may be on the lowest hanging fruit we have for helping to mitigate the near term impacts of climate change.

Outdoor Rec Industry Defends Public Lands—Outdoor recreation is a huge—sorry yuge—economic activity that needs to be taken into account when changes to our public lands policy are proposed.  Your elected representatives need to understand the value that you place on these lands.  The companies you patronize need to be reminded of the value that you place on these lands.  The time is now.

This Heatless Habanero Packs All Of The Flavor With None Of The Burn—I am really intrigued by this idea.  Bringing the flavor of a pepper without the heat might convert some of my family members.

The Best Trick for Cutting Down on Sugar—After getting some exercise there is no better or bigger change you can make in terms of your health than cutting down or eliminating added sugar from your diet.

Friday Linkage 1/20/2017

It will be official in a little bit, but Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States.  If the recent confirmation hearings are any indication we are in for many years of incompetent officials, corrupt hangers on, and a Republican led Congress that cares more about scoring long sought after political points rather than actually helping people.

Get used to it because according to experts the spate of gerrymandering in 2010 will continue in 2020.  To actually flip control of Congress to Democrats would take an estimated Presidential election vote share of approximately 60%.  The best that we can hope for is a prevention of the most extreme Republican agenda via the filibuster and that the Trump administration is so horrible that people actually wake up.  I am not holding my breath.

On to the links…

Iowa to See Fewer ‘Nice’ Days—Freaking climate change.  Yuck it up all you want about global warming making winter milder—which sucks for people who actually like winter—but a world where Iowa is more humid in the summer is the definition of hell.

People Still Don’t Know Obamacare is Just a Nickname for the ACA—Jimmy Kimmel may be doing it on late night television, but there are a lot of voters looking around wondering when Trump is going to repeal Obamacare and what that means for their state exchange or Medicare expansion. Guess what morons?  It’s going to suck.

Lessons for Navigating the Trump Economy — Drawn from the Developing World—Get ready for corruption on a yuge scale.  Imagine if any of Hilary Clinton’s potential cabinet secretaries had been accused of making stock purchases and writing favorable legislation?  Republicans would be livid. Now that it is their guy all we hear are crickets.  What a joke.

Trump’s Tax Trumpery—Get ready for the tax cut idol to make its appearance and for Republicans to prostrate themselves before its purity.  However, as this article lays out, tax cuts do not produce widespread economic growth because the benefits are concentrated on a few individuals.  You know, like the 8 people who have assets worth as much as half of the world’s population.

China Halts Over 100 Coal Power Projects—China is trying to kick its dirty coal habit.  It will be hard.  It will probably be expensive.  It might just be the last hope we have for the climate.

The Year Coal Collapsed: 2016 was a Turning Point for Britain’s Electricity—Few countries are as tied historically to the industrial revolution and the concurrent rise of coal power as the United Kingdom.  That same United Kingdom now gets less than 10% of its electricity from coal.  It can be done.

World Needs to Invest $25 trillion in New Oil Capacity over Next 25 years—That number is crazy.  Why not invest $1 trillion per year in renewables?  Oh right, this is coming from the guy running Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company.

The Sleeping Giant Stirs: Russia Revs Up Renewable Tech—I suppose with the incoming administration that Russia is our new bae.  At least the news is not all bad in Putin-land.

When Will the Chevrolet Bolt Glide Into Your State? Find Out Here—Do you want a Chevy Bolt?  Get ready to wait unless you live in a state that did not vote for Donald Trump:

Chevrolet-Bolt-2017-distribution-plan-610x373.jpg

Go Ahead, Wander Your Way—I spend a lot of time outdoors and there is a lot of judgment by people enjoying the outdoors.  Does it really matter why you are getting outside if you are still getting outside? I say that it does not.

The Hermit Who Inadvertently Shaped Climate-Change Science—I wonder if true eccentrics are gone from our lives forever in a world where everything is documented on Facebook or Instagram.  Long live the freaks.

Friday Linkage 10/2/2015

The Tesla Model X came out this week and I want one. But, at a starting price of $80K I might be better off looking at used Nissan Leafs costing under $10K. When will the Model 3 come out?

Note, there will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be spending the week in Los Angeles evaluating suppliers for my job.

On to the links…

Coal Mine Starts Continue To Decline—This is the second step on the journey to the death of coal. If fewer mines are opening than fewer mines will be operating further eroding the ability of the fuel to be effectively and efficiently pulled from the ground. Let’s kick coal while it is down.

Is Cargill Backsliding on its Promise to End Deforestation?—Few large corporations are as hard to pin down on issues than Cargill. As a privately-held firm it is not beholden to the same reporting rules that allow shareholders to extract information from publicly-held firms. Perhaps public pressure can take some of the slack and get Cargill to be a good corporate citizen. I am not holding my breath.

Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood Is Wasted Annually, New Study Shows—Food waste is the single biggest environmental issue that we have control of in our own homes and through our consumption patterns. Every piece of food that we throw away is a wasted opportunity to reduce our impact on the world.

Batteries May Curb Sales by Power Companies, Moody’s Says—If the large scale deployment of energy storage technology is truly able to reduce peak demand power companies may lose a major source of profit. Power becomes very expensive and profitable for power companies when it comes at peak times.

Solar Hit ~7% Of Spain’s Electricity This Summer—Damn, 7% from solar is impressive any way you slice it.

Brazil Doubles Its Solar PV Target To 7 GW By 2024—What is the target in the good ol’ U.S.A.? Right, we do not have a national target for solar.

North Carolina Passes 1 GW Of Installed Solar—That seems like a lot of solar for one state that is not known as a particularly sunny locale.

Fracking has a Big Water Footprint, but That’s Not the Whole Story—The extraction of fossil fuels is a story about water. Without a lot of water it would not be possible.

Electric Buses Could Lead to Significant Savings Even for Smaller Cities—Why the government is not pushing electric buses and garbage trucks I will never understand. These vehicles seem like perfect candidates for conversion.

Saving Electricity—Spend a few minutes going through the various categories to see where you could be saving a lot of watts. Since I cannot get solar panels in the near term—thanks homeowner’s insurance—I am going to try and reduce my rolling twelve month usage below 300 kWh.

‘Thirsty’ Concrete Absorbs 880 Gallons of Water a Minute to Minimize Urban Floods—Why is this stuff not replacing hard concrete and asphalt in southern climes affected by heavy seasonal rains?

Friday Linkage 8/7/2015

There will be no linkage next week since I will be spending most of the week in Boulder, Colorado for work. Finally, work sends me some place that I actually like going.

On to the links…

The 19 Types of Beer Snobs—Which type of beer snob do you think you are?

This Kind Of Electricity Provider Is Already Integrating Renewables—As someone who lives in a state where rural electric cooperatives are alive and well this does not come as news. The key piece of information is that these cooperatives are beholden to the rate payers not investors.

Interior Launches National Conversation on Federal Coal—Coal mining companies need to pay their fair share for coal extracted from federally owned lands. If that puts the coal out of domain of economic feasibility then so be it. Maybe coal is in its death throes.

U.S. Coal Company Alpha Natural Resources Files For Bankruptcy—If you want proof that coal is in trouble look no further than once high flying Alpha Natural Resources. Since 211 the company has closed 80 mines, laid off 6,500 employees, and cut capital spending by 55%. These measures were still not enough to stave off bankruptcy.

This Insanely Detailed Map Shows every Power Plant in the United States—This map is an amazing piece of work:

power-sources-united-states

Map: Stacking up the States under the Clean Power Plan—The Clean Power Plan is a great thing. It really sets the stage for a clean energy transformation in the United States, but it lets the states decide the best path. How is your state looking?

The $13 Billion Bottled Water Industry vs. the National Park Service… and American Hikers, Campers, Hunters, and Nature-Lovers—There is a fundamental disconnect between people enjoying the natural awesomeness of our national parks and buying single use beverages.

The Disturbing Things that Happen to Your Body when You Drink Coca-Cola—I remember a time in the late-80s when parents would tell their children that soda had the same chemistry as battery acid. It was total bunk, but it looks like the stuff might really be bad for you. It’s just not battery acid.

Diets Are a Lot Like Religion—When you stop and listen to people talk about diets it really does sound like religion or a cult. I am going with cult. Complete with Kool-Aid.

Friday Linkage 5/8/2015

I know that the people in California do not want to hear this, but eastern Iowa is a little sick of rain right now. It has stormed almost every day for the past week and the ground is the consistency of a soaked sponge. The forecast, unfortunately, calls for another week of similar showers and it means that most outdoor projects are going to get delayed another week. Ugh.

On to the links…

Why the Koch Brothers’ War against Clean Energy is Still Failing—You would think for a couple of supposedly astute business people—who got a nice helping hand by inheriting some level of wealth from their parents—the Koch brothers do not seem to get a good return on their investment in trying to fight progress. Of course, trying to fight progress is never a good idea in the long term because reactionary elements tend to die out leaving you alone as a flag bearer of outdated ideas.

MidAmerican Energy Plans $900 Million Wind Expansion in Iowa—That is almost a billion dollars and the news kind of flew under the radar. Including this investment MidAmerican Energy will have nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power in Iowa with a total investment of almost $7 billion dollars. When the projects are completed the utility may be able to serve 57 percent of its total retail load with wind.

100% Renewable Electricity Goal Passed By Hawaiian Legislature—Hawaii should be 100% renewable considering the prices ratepayers are paying, the danger of bringing in fuel on tankers, and the state’s abundant renewable resource potential. Maybe politicians have finally listened.

95% Renewable Power-Mix Cheaper Than Nuclear And Gas—In a nutshell, at current costs with a decent share of renewables deployed the cost to deploy a nearly 100% renewable grid will cost nothing more to the consumer. The clean power revolution is already at the tipping point. We just need to apply some more pressure and leverage.

The New Normal? Renewables, Efficiency, And “Too Much Electricity”—Overgen might be something we need to get used to in the future and it speaks to the need for energy storage. Widely deployed energy storage, be it in the form of EVs or wall mounted batteries, can serve to level out the disparity between generation and demand of electricity.

Refrigeration Battery is a Cool Idea for Saving Energy at the Supermarket—I remember these ice systems being the rage a few years ago and I remember seeing one in action at New Belgium Brewery’s facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, as time of day pricing becomes more prevalent these systems may start to proliferate.

Western Towns Hard-Hit by Climate Change Unite, Target Coal for Funds—There is a movement afoot at the grass roots level to adapt to the threat of climate change. National politicians will not see it because they are beholden to small number of primary voters and big ticket donors, but when reliably conservative western towns start making a ruckus they will have lost the war.

Hundreds of Lapsed Permits Found on Forest Service Land—Basically, private companies are not paying for what they are taking from the public trust. Criminals.

Bill Would Roll Back Public Lands Protections In The Name Of National Security—When will the insanity of the border protection industrial complex stop? Building more walls and radio towers and roads will not stop people trying to flee truly horrible situations in their own countries. Maybe if we put some of those resources into trying to make these countries better places there would not be such an exodus. Just saying.

Central Valley’s Growing Concern: Crops Raised with Oil Field Water—Would you like some heavy metals and other chemicals with your salad mix? Didn’t think so.

EPA Faces Struggle to Regulate Formaldehyde—Can’t we all just agree that formaldehyde is nasty stuff. People who lived in FEMA trailers know this. People who bought cheap laminate flooring from China at Lumber Liquidators know this. And kids in biology class know this.

The World’s First Self-Driving Semi-Truck Hits the Road—Imagine the increased efficiency of trucks that could drive at non-peak hours in a very consistent manner safely. Awesome. It would also be awesome if this technology were in consumer cars and I could just zone out during the stretch of interstate from North Platte, Nebraska until Denver. I-76 must die.

UPS to Experiment with Renewable Biogas in 400 Vehicles—Some places call it “poo” gas, but biogas derived from rotting organic material can be a drop in replacement from gas from fossil fuel sources. You can actually tap the landfill. How cool is that?

Friday Linkage 4/24/2015

Earth Day came and went. I hardly even noticed save for some really shameless corporate greenwashing and lame ass ads about “going green.” Not using plastic t-shirt bags and single use bottles is great, but there are much larger problems that we fail to start a conversation about and these are the problems that threaten our very survival.

On to the links…

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Was Five Years Ago Today. Here’s What We Still Don’t Know.—On April 20th of 2010 the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and began spewing oil. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The scariest part is that we have little to no idea about the long term impacts of all that oil in the gulf. Heck, we wonder where some of it even went.

Idaho’s Panther Creek Comes Back from the Dead—We have the ability to bring restoration to the landscapes that we have destroyed. It may not be pristine, but it can be better.

Interior Considers Hike in Oil and Gas Royalty Rates—It is critical to remember that we lease lands to oil and gas companies out of the public trust for low rates. Not only do these companies enjoy generous subsidies and are not required to compensate anyone for the externalities associated with fossil fuels, our government allows them to do it for a rate far below what the market would bear.

Conservatives Upset At Pope’s ‘Green Agenda’—The Catholic Church may be behind the times on a lot of issues, but it is amazing to see the transformation of tone under Pope Francis. The conservatives of the world who used the Catholic Church as a common ally in all things retrograde are flipping a gasket that the pope would talk about things like poverty and equity.

Emissions, Economic Growth Parting Ways—The lockstep rise in emissions and economic growth was one of those economic laws you just figured on. When emissions went down it was usually because the economy was in a recession. The reverse being true when emissions went up. Data suggests that this linkage may be broken.

How Solar Got Cheap—A lot of factors went into making this dramatic drop in costs happen. Take fifteen minutes and listen.

SolarCity Gets Help From Credit Suisse To Finance Over $1 Billion In Commercial Solar + Storage Projects—Solar plus storage is going to be the next big development in distributed renewables. Mark my words. Or better yet, mark Elon Musk’s words.

Tesla’s New Battery Could Solve One of Solar Power’s Biggest Problems—Everyone is anticipating that on April 30th Tesla will announce the development of a battery meant to store power generated at a home. It might be a game changer.

China’s Risen Energy Lands 1.2 GW Solar Power Deal In Inner Mongolia—Even Inner Mongolia is getting on the solar PV bandwagon.

Ghana Off-Grid Households To Benefit From 100,000 Solar PV Systems—In the developing world solar and other distributed renewables have the chance to leapfrog the centralized power grid paradigm of western economies.

300 MW Of Solar Connected To UK Grid In March By Schneider Electric—Remember for a moment that these are numbers coming from one company in one country that is not known for its great solar resources. It would have not been too long ago that the announcement of 300MW of solar capacity would have been cheered. Now it is barely noticed.

We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership—All companies that sell you products want to make it a rental economy because that guarantees a stream of revenue. If they can prevent you from customizing or repairing your items than you do not really own them. You are just renting them from The Man.

Inside the Hellscape Where Our Computers Go to Die—The western world’s e-waste is out of sight and out of mind. However, someone ends up dealing with the waste and trying to make a living from whatever value can be extracted despite the huge environmental and health cost.

Friday Linkage 4/17/2015

Hillary is in. Marco is in. I am sure that we are going to here from Chris Christie and a host of Republican also rans…Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum really do not have a lot on the calendar about now do they?

The crazy thing is that the national media cares more about this story than any single person in Iowa save for the self-important campaign operatives who act like gatekeepers to the caucuses. Ahhh, the summer before a caucus in Iowa is a beautiful time.

On to the links…

Ocean Acidification Triggered Devastating Extinction—Here is a simple concept: If the oceans die, we probably die. Save the oceans and you have a good chance of saving the human race plus a good chunk of this planet’s biodiversity. Otherwise it is game freakin’ over.

Overfishing in U.S. Waters Hits All-Time Low—We can make policy that helps the oceans. It’s just too bad no one seems to focus on some of the limited success that we have had in modulating our piss poor behavior.

Permafrost’s Ticking “Carbon Bomb” may Never Truly Detonate—A slow leak is better than an explosion, so to speak, but this is still a major problem when considering how to combat global climate change.

Forest Service Sticks up for Coal Mining on Roadless Lands—Why? Why would an agency of the federal government actually encourage coal companies to destroy wilderness in the pursuit of a fossil fuel that is in its long cycle death throes? Oh wait, it’s the Forest Service. This should be their logo:

selling_the_forest_for_the_trees

Are You Ready for Corn-Powered Hydrogen Fuel Cells?—Hydrogen powered transportation was a bait-and-switch from the Bush administration almost as good as Iraq having WMDs. If hydrogen, which is really just an energy storage mechanism, can be produced in a way that is not energy intensive it is a good solution.

Striking Chart Shows Why Solar Power will Take Over the World—This chart reminds me of those I used to see in the late-1990s showing processor power and cost. It was a way to explain the previously unimaginable proliferation of computer controlled objects. Guess what, solar is coming like a freight train of awesome:

solar-price-installation-chart.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale

U.S. Predicted To Be Net Energy Exporter In Next Decade; First Time Since 1950s—Maybe we should not drill, baby drill and keep some of that energy in the ground for the time being.

In The Midst Of Toxic Oil Spill, Vancouver Announces It Will Go 100 Percent Renewable—This is not some small city in the sun belt of the U.S., but a major Canadian metropolis in a the somewhat overcast Pacific Northwest. Granted, it’s over the next 20 years but if it happens it will be a big deal.

100% Renewable Electricity By 2050 Possible In France—If it’s possible by 2050, why not get it done sooner? What are the obstacles and how do we overcome them?

Investment In Australian Renewable Energy Industry Plummets 90%–Here is why we cannot get to 100% renewables sooner. Policy makers screw up, insert uncertainty into the planning process, and slow down progress. What a joke.

Dubai Will Invest $3 Billion To Boost Solar Power Project Capacity To 3 GW—Sometimes all it takes is some oil money to get the job done.

4 Ways to Invest in the Low-Carbon Economy—Our personal investment choices are rarely something we think about as a tool against climate change but our 401ks and IRAs may have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be focused on positive investments for the planet.

How Refrigeration Determined What We Eat and Where We Live—Trust me, millions of people would not move to the Sun Belt if there was no ice cream or ice cold air conditioning.

How to Successfully Grow an Herb Garden—It’s that time of year when everyone has grand garden plans, including myself. Maybe a little herb garden is all we really need:

The-Herb-Growers-Cheat-Sheet-infographic1