Tag Archives: High Country News

Friday Linkage 9/29/2017

A little late and a little light on the links.  Is there anything less productive in corporate America than a training class that lasts for a day and a half?  It combines the worst productivity killing aspects of meetings with a long duration.  Why?

On to the links…

These 90s are Happening Weeks Later than Average—Climate change is real and it is here in eastern Iowa.

World’s Largest Miner BHP says 2017 is ‘Tipping Point’ for EV Boom—This is a commodities giant making this claim.  Not Tesla.  Not Nissan.  Not General Motors.

Colorado Landfills are Illegally Burying Low-Level Radioactive Waste from Oil and Gas Industry—If you doubt the need for good regulation and tight enforcement just imagine living near a landfill that accepted illegal radioactive waste.  Who wants to bet me that there will be no fines levied by the EPA for this egregious violation of law?

The Most Effective Clean Energy Policy Gets the Least Love—These mandates work because it allows for tailored solutions to a goal.  If you are in Arizona or Nevada install some solar.  If you are in Iowa build some wind turbines.

Coal. Guns. Freedom?—Somewhere along the line coal came to symbolize something among the far right wing in the United States.  It went from being a fuel for making steel or electricity into a potent political symbol.  Too bad it’s all a myth.

Congress Is Broken. Bring Back Pork.—It’s a simple idea and it might do some good to breaking down the partisan gridlock in Washington.  But what would Ted Cruz bitch about when the camera were rolling?

Elon Musk’s Solar Partnership Strategy Doesn’t Look So Crazy Anymore—Maybe Elon Musk was on to something with his idea of combining solar, batteries, electric cars, and the service all in one place.

Assumed Safety of Pesticide Use is False—Fake news!  Fake statistics!  Lies!  Where is Trump’s outrage over falsity?  Oh wait, Scott Pruitt told him to like these guys.

Sea Turtles Appear to be “Bouncing Back” from the Brink of Extinction—It’s not all bad news all the time.  People like turtles and conservation efforts seem to be working.  It feels like a breath of fresh air to be talking about something positive.

The History of Sears Predicts Nearly Everything Amazon Is Doing—What goes up, must come down.  Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.  Shall we continue?  Amazon is a high flier right now, but give it a decade or two.

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Friday Linkage 9/22/2017

It is officially fall.  It is time to get the skis out and waxed for the upcoming season.  It is time to fully embrace “sweater weather” and pumpkin spice whatever…oh wait, it is ninety degrees in eastern Iowa today.  Damn, I guess summer is not going to release its satanic grip quite yet.

On to the links…

Key Stories for Understanding the Monuments Memo—Get ready for the great environmental legal battle when Trump actually takes these recommendations and moves forward with bad policy.  Like spoiled brats and bullies the Trump administration is acting reflexively against anything that they do not like regardless of the consequences.

These Companies Support the Paris Agreement. They Also Support Climate Deniers.—I do not care what you say publicly.  If you support climate denial in any way you are part of the problem regardless of what you do with your other corporate efforts.  It would be better to do nothing at all than to secretly support these scam artists who are obfuscating the most important challenge of our time.

Cedar Rapids says They’re Seeing More Residents Go Solar in Linn County—I did not participate in this program when I had a solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof, but it is exciting to see that there is a lot of interest out there in going solar.  Every system is like a little dagger into the black heart of coal.

US Celebrates Record 29% Drop In Utility-Scale Solar Costs — But Tariff Cloud Looms—Everyone claims to love a free market right up until the moment that it impacts their pocketbook.  Solar prices have gotten so low so fast because of globalization.

Why Wind and Solar Won’t Save Us—Reducing demand should be the primary focus, but once we have reduced demand producing clean energy to satisfy what remains is imperative.

Trump’s ‘No Friend’ of Clean Energy. Here are 3 Reasons to Invest Anyway—The investment community does not care about the politics anymore.  They see clean energy as a sound investment going forward.  Given the cost curves and public sentiment you have to wonder how long coal can hang on.

The Solar Boom In The Middle East—The Middle East is a perfect and odd place for solar to be successful.  It is sunny and there is a lot of open space, but it is also blessed with cheap fossil fuels.

Tesla Powerwall 2: An In-Depth Review—Changes in behavior are always interesting.  As someone who wants to generate all his electricity needs from the sixteen panels on the my roof I can tell you that since I have installed my solar system I think twice about using the air conditioner, which is the last remaining major discretionary electrical appliance in my home.

Regenerative Solutions for the Future of Humanity—It is not enough to preserve what we have not destroyed.  We need to regenerate what we have degraded if we are to live a fulfilling life as a species on this planet.

Friday Linkage 7/28/2017

I have been a little lax on posting some things lately and I have no excuse other than work, children, life in general…you get the idea.  My hope is to have an update on my upcoming solar photovoltaic system soon and some thoughts on other ways to really embrace a lower carbon life here in middle America.

On to the links…

Vail Resorts Promises to Eliminate Emissions, Waste and Offset Forest Impact by 2030—Welcome to the party Vail Resorts.

Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist, to Be Department of Agriculture’s Top Scientist—This is what happens when you elect people who profess to hate government and expertise in general to run the government.  You get people who are unqualified for the job screwing up and then claiming afterwards, “I told you government does not work.  See?”

The Quieter Monument Battles to Watch—Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke’s assault on our national monuments is, to put it mildly, monumentally unpopular.  Remember, this is a man who can lose the popular vote  by nearly three million votes and claim with a straight face that he had the most lopsided electoral victory in history.  Nothing is beyond the pale for these people.

As Outdoor Retailer Show Packs up for Colorado, Industry Flexes Political Muscle in U.S. Land Fight—The people who love the outdoors are being heard.  The companies who make money off the people who love the outdoors are making their voices heard.  This is no small change and it represents a viable path forward to protect our access to public lands.

Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?—Europe and the U.S. are very different places, so extrapolating upon trends from on to the other is dangerous.  However, I wonder what will happen if natural gas experiences price spikes like it has in the past.  Will renewables rush to fill the void left by coal as the second choice when natural gas gets pricey?

Seven Charts Show Why the IEA Thinks Coal Investment Has Already Peaked—Coal is in all kinds of death spirals right now.  The decline in investment is a long term impediment to their being any revival in coal’s fortunes.

“Clean Coal” Is A Political Myth, Says Coal Company Owner—Robert Murray is the gift that keeps on giving.  After John Oliver went after him using public statements and other records that were readily available he just keeps on opening his mouth.  Gotta’ love a rich man with no filter…oh wait, that is the clown we have in the White House.

Peeling Back the Red Tape to Go Solar—The run around and red tape dance has been the most frustrating part of getting my solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof.  Yet, I still have more hoops to jump through once the system is actually installed.  None of it is value added and all of it costs either money or time.  Ugh.

Straus Family Creamery Powered by Cow Gas—Why don’t we have a government program to install one of these systems at every dairy farm or other large livestock operation in the United States?

This Beautiful but Toxic Weed Could Make you go Blind—Giant hogweed is no joke.  I have friends with the burn scars from the sap to prove it.

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy—I have always found it ironic that people buy books or attend seminars about minimalism.  Shouldn’t the idea be somewhat self-apparent with a little reflection?

Debunking What the Health, the Buzzy New Documentary that Wants You to be Vegan—Veganism has become the new snake oil for a lot of people.  It will not cure all that ails us and to pretend otherwise is to traffic in the same dreck that has gotten us into this mess.

Beer Sales are Down…Especially Among the Millennials—Millennials are trying to wreck everything.

A Cut Above: Two Axe-Throwing Venues Carve Out a Niche in Denver—Axe throwing venue?  Peak hipster?

Friday Linkage 7/7/2017

Altitude really kicked my rear end last week.  I normally have no trouble travelling to the high Rockies and partaking in all manner of activities with just a day or so of acclimation.  This trip I struggled mightily until the final day.

What this means is that my quest to hike a 14er is on hold until next year.  On a warm up hike near Breckenridge I barely got to 12,000 feet and felt like dirt the next day.  I hope that this is not a harbinger for my physical condition during ski season.

On to the links…

Court Rejects Temporary Block to the Methane Rule—This is the best that we can hope for right now with the current political leadership in Washington D.C.   Thankfully these hacks do not understand that there is a process in place to manage the rules making process.  Incompetence on the part of Donald Trump and his allies is our greatest source of hope right now.

Improved Representation of Solar Variability in Climate Models—The models of climate change keep getting better with more data, but the climate deniers keep yelling louder.  At what point do we put climate deniers in the same room as perpetual motion machine hucksters, flat Earth proponents, and John Birch Society members?

The Energy Secretary Is Wrong: The Grid is Ready for Renewables—The energy secretary is wrong.  Get used to saying that as long as Rick Perry is holding that position.  Do you remember when Ernest Moniz was in that position and statements were made with a deliberate foundation in good science?  Yeah, not so much anymore.

Even as Renewables Increase, Fossil Fuels Continue to Dominate U.S. Energy Mix—There is a long way to go:

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Check out the decline in coal.

Renewable Energy Generates More Than 25% Of UK Electricity In 1st Quarter—The United Kingdom has now had multiple quarters where renewables have accounted for more than 25% of electricity generation.  The future is now.

Johnson County Adding to Solar Grid—The same guys who are putting in my solar system, Moxie Solar, are contracted to build this 75.5 kWh array.  This is in addition to existing 85.8 kWh and 159.6 kWh arrays nearby.  Why aren’t all large buildings taking advantage of solar?

Study Shows That Electric Cars Could Help Kill the Duck Curve—The “duck curve” is one of the most pernicious problems with respect to renewable energy production and grid demand.  When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing are not the same times that residential demand peaks.  Hence, a curve that looks like a duck.  EVs could provide an energy storage solution that could help smooth the duck.

The Chevy Bolt & The Tesla Model 3: The Solar-Powered Restoration of American Energy Independence—Are mass market EVs and cheap renewables, which are finally available to consumers in a broad based manner, representative of a turning point?  I hope so.

Here’s A Huge Reason Why We Need Electric Trucks—Check out this GIF and tell me that electric semis are not the future:

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Oil Got Trounced And Solar Soared In The First Half—Only two of the top 50 oil and gas producers had a positive return on stock in the first half of 2017.  Renewable producers did much better.  When the markets turn on you there are few places to hide.

McDonald’s Brings Foam Cups Back to Chicago Despite Shareholder Pressure—This is such a blast from the past.  I remember the push to get McDonald’s to get rid of foam clamshells as one of my formative moments in environmental awareness.  Be nice, it was the 1980s.

7 Reasons to Rant about Fireworks—After decades of banning fireworks, Iowa’s legislature led by freedom loving Republicans pushed a bill to legalize fireworks because…’Merica?  It is the worst.  The actual July 4th holiday was reminiscent of a war movie with an acrid haze hanging over our neighborhood and explosions throughout the night.  Why?

Friday Linkage 6/9/2017

Do you remember when we all woke up on November 9th wondering how bad things could get?  If you thought the first week of the Trump presidency in January was bad, it just kept getting worse.  If you thought “covfefe” was the nadir, it is going to keep getting worse.  We are witness to the single most incompetent president in the history of the United States.

On to the links…

Kansas Republicans End the State’s Failed Tax Reform Experiment—Normally I do not spend a lot of effort on taxes or tax policy.  This is important because it drives a dagger right through the heart of the Republican mantra that tax cuts pay for themselves.  It is over with and the tea party lost.  In Kansas of all places.  I expect Sam Brownback to quickly take a position within the Trump administration now that he realizes Kansas is not his personal playground of Ayn Rand fantasies.

Iowa’s Push Toward Renewable Energy not Likely to Change with Paris Climate Accord Decision—Iowa could be doing more, but the state already gets more than 35% of its electricity from the wind with plans to get north of 40% in the next two years as planned wind farms come online.  We can keep moving forward despite what the flaccid cantaloupe in Washington D.C. decides to do when he eats some beautiful chocolate cake and fires up his Twitter account.

Trump’s Answer to Paying for U.S.-Mexico Border Wall: Install Solar Panels—I thought Mexico was going to pay for it?  This is what happens when you cannot tell the difference between reality, parody, and satire.  Nothing is funny and everything is horrific.

California Plan for 100% Renewable Energy by 2045 Clears Key Hurdle—Leadership will come from states and cities.

Coal Bows to Natural Gas, as Consumption Falls to Lowest since 1984—Lowest level since 1984.  Not because of the Clean Power Plan.  Not because of Barack Obama.  Because of cheap natural gas.  Try saving coal from cheap natural gas el Trumpo.

The War On Coal Is Over—This is not coming from Treehugger or Grist.org.  This is coming from a website dedicated to following the fossil fuels markets.

India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green—Good luck exporting coal to India.

What Pittsburghers Know About the Environment That Trump Still Needs to Learn—Trump is ignorant of so many things.  When he claims to represent the people of Pittsburgh as opposed to Paris he is really saying that he is in the White House to line his pockets.  Every decision he makes needs to be seen through the lens of how it lines his or his family’s pockets with filthy lucre.

11 Ways to Build a Paris Climate Change Accord—Again, leadership will not come from above.  We need to create our own Paris climate agreement and execute on our own goals.

Colorado Blazes Low-Emissions, High-Employment Energy Pathway—Deploying clean energy means lots of jobs.  Jobs installing solar panels, maintaining wind turbines, building the infrastructure necessary to handle distributed power sources, and so on and so forth.  Why can’t people like Donald Trump and his Republican cronies see the potential?  Oh right, fossil fuel dollars flow through their veins.

Company Behind DAPL Used Paramilitary Security to Track Activists—How soon before these companies are conducting their own raids to target activists “in support” of law enforcement?  Your rights are under assault by the corporate class in a way never before in American history.  Is anyone paying attention?

Walmart’s ‘Ah Ha’ Moment on Climate Change—Walmart has zero credibility in my eyes, but when outlets like CNBC are reporting on the corporation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions something is happening.  Can’t sell cheap shit from China if everyone is too busy bailing out their homes because of climate change.

The Truth About Meal-Kit Freezer Packs—Can someone finally kill the whole meal kit idea?  The kits are not less expensive than buying stuff locally unless you compare one scallion to a bunch.  The kits are an environmental disaster with all the packaging and transportation costs.  Now we discover the freezer packs are little plastic bags of death.  Just learn to use a knife, shop at the grocery store, and really cook.

“Pink Slime” or Lean Finely Textured Beef? Food Defamation Trial Set to Begin—This has all the hallmarks of the McLibel case from long ago when a trial brought out all sorts of evidence that condemned the defendants but destroyed the credibility of McDonald’s relative to its food quality.  My whole defense would be, “The product coming out of the machine is pink, right?  The product coming out of the machine resembles a gelatinous blob, right?  Thus pink slime your honor.  Defense rests.”

Being Healthy Isn’t a Contest, So Stop Trying to Win It—If you are vegetarian, you need to vegan.  If you are working out, you need to be doing HIIT.  If you aren’t into yoga and juice cleanses you are just not doing enough.  Stop people.

Friday Linkage 5/12/2017

Is this how it ends?  With a complicit Congress, an ineffective opposition party, and an egomaniac in the White House do we end up miles down the road to tyranny in just a few years?  Or does America pull its collective head out of its ass and do something about the ridiculous state of affairs?

Considering how well things went during the prelude to the Civil War I do not have the highest hopes for a peaceful decade.  Maybe Dwayne Johnson really will be our next president.  Or Michelle Obama.

On to the links…

EPA Dismisses 5 Scientists from Key Review Panel—Let me guess what the industry panel members are going to recommend…regulation bad…oil and gas good…EPA bad…emissions are good for you…money is even better…and so on.  Your government is owned by fossil fuels and Russians.

Here’s How Easy It Is to Get Trump Officials to Click on a Fake Link in Email—I imagined that it would be as easy as saying “Click here to support Bill O’Reilly against all those evil women.”

Watch Anderson Cooper Roll His Eyes at Kellyanne Conway As She Tries to Defend Trump—And the Oscar goes to Anderson Cooper:

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A New Book Ranks the Top 100 Solutions to Climate Change. The Results are Surprising.—Maybe the solutions are within our grasp.  Drawdown is on my reading list at the library.  I just happen to be about ten people back in the queue.

Remorseless Coal Baron Gets Out Of Prison, Has Twitter Meltdown Over Mine Disaster—Do you notice a trend with Donald Trump and other narcissists like Don Blankenship?  In their mind’s eye he or she is never wrong.  Even when convicted in a court of law and sent to prison he is going back to the well that he did nothing wrong.

With a Letter a Day, West Virginian Tried to Remind Coal Executive of his Role in 29 Deaths—Don Blankenship was complicit in the conditions that directly led to the death of 29 people.  He does not care nor did he ever care about actual human beings in his employ as long as the coal kept coming out of the mountains and the profits kept flowing to bank accounts.

California’s Drought May Be Over, But Its Water Troubles Aren’t—Judging long term climatic conditions based on a single season is a bad idea.  Climate scientists, hydrologists, and anyone with half a brain has always said that but as California “exits” the recent drought it needs saying even more.

California Set an Ambitious Goal for Fighting Global Warming. Now Comes the Hard Part—The goals are ambitious.  We have to hope that California can be the model for the rest of the states because there will be no guidance from the capital.

Could Trump Dismantle the American West?—Why don’t we just come out and say that Donald Trump is bad for America?  Who stands to benefit from anything that has happened in Washington D.C. recently?  Jared Kushner maybe.

The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Just Shut Down a Diesel Plant—It’s not a huge victory, but every dirty power generation source that we can shut down is a victory.  In the age of Trump and Pruitt I will take what I can get.

Iceland’s “Thor” Volcano Power Plant can Generate 10X More Energy than Oil or Gas Wells—Geothermal is the odd cousin who comes to your wedding who turns out to be a pretty cool guy that makes the weekend all the more fun.  This geothermal plant is the rock star cousin who owns the weekend.

Germany Breaks A Solar Record — Gets 85% Of Electricity From Renewables—These headlines are a little misleading, but generating this much renewable energy for this large an economy is a big deal.

Arrogance of Space—People ask me why I think bikes are such a great way to get around.  If I had to pick one photo to illustrate many of the reasons it would be this:

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Imagine what our infrastructure costs would look like if we were managing a world of cyclists instead of a world of single occupancy automobiles.  Believe it!

Dan Barber on the Future of Food—Dan Barber can get a little preachy, but so can Michael Pollan and Anthony Bourdain but I still listen to what they have to say about food.  Dan Barber is no different.  His thoughts on food matter because he is an influencer of chefs and what not the world over.

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.