Tag Archives: methane

Beyond Beef Taco Night

If you have school aged children in any sort of activities you understand the struggle of dinner.  The solution, in my house, is taco night.  A few minutes of prep with some ground beef and a bevy of on hand ingredients mean a quick dinner before running out the door to dance or soccer practice or band…you get the idea.

However, ground beef is an ethical and environmental conundrum.  Regardless of how the animal is raised the production of ground beef results in the death of a cow.  No amount of time on pasture can change this fact.  Furthermore, most cows are raised in conditions that most people find deplorable.  Feedlots and CAFOs are horrible places.  Just driving by one on the interstate can make a person consider becoming a vegan.

America just loves ground beef.  More than half of the beef we consume in this country is in the form of ground beef.  Be it hamburgers, sloppy joes, loose meat sandwiches, chili, etc. Americans eat a lot of ground beef.  Estimates are hard to come by, but the clearest numbers I have seen put our annual consumption north of 30 billion pounds of ground beef consumed in the United States per year.  Most of that ground beef (>80%) comes from feedlot cattle.

This is the market that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are trying to disrupt with their plant based alternative “hamburgers.”  The ground beef market is not just hamburgers thought and that is where Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef product comes into play:

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It comes out of the package looking a little bit like a brick of protein:

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After a few minutes on medium-high heat the protein begins to break up into that recognizable crumble:

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A package of taco seasoning and a little bit of water gives you a pan full of taco meat.  It all worked just like cooking a pound of regular ol’ ground beef.

So, what is the verdict?

The process is the same as cooking traditional ground beef.  That is a wash.

The flavor is…close.  The texture is…close.  I do not know if it is psychological because I knew it was not actual ground beef or if it is something in the formulation.  It was just a little off in the same way that some meatless burger patties are off.  Perhaps it is the uncanny valley of fake meat.  No longer are we in the trough of the uncanny valley where the simulated product is off by enough to make it truly disturbing.  Instead we are climbing toward true meat replacements in every facet that only lack a few traits.

This has to be what is scaring traditional meat producers into strong arming state legislatures to pass laws banning the word meat or burger or whatever from faux meat products.  When someone who is conscious of the ethical and environmental impacts of meat production is given an alternative that has none of those concerns their choice is going to be easy.  If the meat alternative is close enough in taste and texture than it is a slam dunk for a larger percentage of the population.  Like Republicans holding onto an ageing base of older, rural, white Americans at the expense of a changing national demographic the meat industry is facing an existential crisis brought on by a competitor.

Beyond Beef is not cheap.  At my local coop it cost $9.99 per pound.  Compare that to a pound of grass fed, grass finished beef produced in Minnesota that costs anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 a pound from the same retailer.  Consider it the cost of being an early adopter.

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Friday Linkage 10/12/2018

There are just 25 days until the midterm elections on November 6th.  If you are not registered to vote, do so as soon as possible.  If you are unfamiliar with the rules for voting in your state, get educated as soon as possible with regard to identification requirements and what not.

It is generally hyperbole to claim that any single election is the “most important election” of our lifetime, but given the absolutely dystopian two years under President Trump and his Republican enablers one has to believe with some temerity the claim of importance.  Nonetheless, get out and vote.  There is no excuse.

On to the links…

A Major New Climate Report Slams the Door on Wishful Thinking—The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is grim as fuck.

10 Ways to Accelerate Progress Against Climate Change—The actions we need to take are not mysteries.  We just need to possess the will to actually demand and implement change.

Trump’s FERC Pick Could Tip Balance in Favor of Coal Bailout—Everyone is pretty much against this silly ass bailout plan for non-competitive coal and nuclear power plants save for Trump and a coterie of people who make money off of ageing coal and nuclear plants.  When you can’t get the result you want make sure you appoint a loyal toadie to make it happen.  It’s the Trump way.

EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler Engaged With Racist, Conspiratorial Posts On Social Media—Seriously, can Trump not find a single person to serve in his administration who is not compromised morally or ethically?  It’s like he has a deck of cards with every rogue who wants to serve in government, but was blackballed by prior administrations for sucking at life.

Science Says Saving the Planet Could Really Be as Simple as Saving Trees—Trees are amazing and as a collective forest these organisms are even more amazing.  In these troubled climatic times, we need an effort to radically and quickly reforest degraded lands and stop the destruction of the forests that remain.

Caution Urged Over Use of ‘Carbon Unicorns’ to Limit Warming—Geoengineering is a slippery slope.  There is a segment of the populace that believes the solution to our climate change challenge lies in developing carbon sequestering technologies that will suck the carbon out of the atmosphere.

No State Has Ever Enacted a Carbon Tax. Washington Voters Might Just Do It Anyway.—The irony of the carbon tax as the “holy grail” of climate policies is that is actually one of the simplest tools to actually implement.

The End of Coal Could Be Closer Than It Looks—Coal may continue down what appears to be a fairly linear decline until it hits a cliff because at a certain point the economics become untenable.  Maybe.

One Of America’s Oldest Coal Companies Just Filed For Bankruptcy—Declaring bankruptcy is something that rich people and corporations do to keep from actually having to pay their debts, see the current President of the United States who loves bankruptcy filing almost as much as he loves divorce court.  However, it is not something that is done by healthy businesses in attractive industries.  Mining coal is anything but an attractive industry right now.

Wyoming Proposes Its Own Methane Regulations As Federal Level Sees Rules Relaxed—Curbing methane emissions from natural gas wells was a central part of the Obama-era climate change action plan that has been gutted by the great cheese puff.  You know that things might be going your way when a state like Wyoming works toward some sort of action on the issue.

Iowa Looks to Take the Next Steps on Storage—Iowa has a lot of wind energy with even more coming on line.  However, intermittency is an issue.  Enter energy storage.

Five Radical Steps We Can Take to Fight Climate Change—It’s not rocket science.  Heck, it will probably look a lot like things in European countries during war time.

Oysters On The Half Shell Are Actually Saving New York’s Eroding Harbor—It’s not all bad news all the time.  This is a great story about taking something that restaurants literally threw away and turning that waste into something beneficial.  Why can’t this program be expanded all along the Atlantic seaboard?  And the Pacific seaboard for that matter?

Friday Linkage 9/21/2018

It is just 46 days until the midterm election.  If the Keystone cops routine led by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley with regard to the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh is anything it is motivation to get another party in power as a check or balance to the Trumpian instincts of the Republican Party.

The midterms are not about impeachment.  The midterms are about rescuing a sense of common decency that is lost when people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump control all the levers of power.

On to the links…

Why Growth Can’t Be Green—I do not know if I agree with the entirety of the thesis that growth cannot be green, but I do agree that we need to rethink our entire economic paradigm.  It is leading us to ruin.

Here’s A Radical New Plan To Tax Carbon And Give Everyone In America $2,237—A carbon tax is coming.  Once the basic mechanism is in place it will be the most powerful ecological and economic tool in the recent history of the United States.

Trump’s Methane Rule Rollback Burns the Natural Gas Bridge—Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.  Natural gas wells and pipelines that leak methane might as well be coal plants shooting dirty flue gas into the sky.

U.S. Cities, States, and Businesses can Nearly Hit the Paris Climate Goals–Without Trump—Action on a state, local, and corporate level can make a difference.  Our federal government may be an obtuse retrograde comedy of errors, but we can make progress in the interim in other locales.

Renewables = 43% of New Power Capacity in USA in 1st Half of 2018—I wish it were closer to 100%, but baby steps.

Utilities have a Problem: The Public Wants 100% Renewable Energy, and Quick—You would be hard pressed to find a more hide bound and conservative industry than utility companies.  These companies make banks and insurance companies look like early stage tech startups run by nineteen year olds living on Red Bull and Taco Bell.

Australia on Track to Miss Paris Climate Targets as Emissions Hit Record Highs—Just when I think we are doing the worst in the United States, Australia seems to jump out of the corner of the room and yell, “Look at me!”  Government instability, coal industry trying to run things, etc.

Steep Emissions Reductions Targets Won’t Drive Up Power Bills, Modelling Shows—We can do right by the planet and it will not cost us an arm or a leg.  Or both.

EIA Report Says Coal Still King on State-by-State Basis—Despite all the progress made in reducing coal’s role in electricity generation, it is still the dominant form of electricity generation in most states.  More work to be done folks.

“Golden Sandwich” Photoelectrode Harvests 85% Of Sunlight—Wow.  Just wow.  How can we find money to deploy into making this a commercially viable product?  Imagine my smallish 4.69 kWh solar array suddenly being able to produce over 20 kWh in the same area. Talk about repowering.

This Breakthrough in a Type of Photosynthesis could Provide the World with Unlimited Energy—This reminds me of 1950s newsreels that promised nuclear energy would produce electricity that was too cheap to meter.

Bombardier Revives the Battery-Powered Train—For the short haul train routes between urban locales doesn’t using this type of train make more sense than stringing high power lines all over the place?

Tenfold Improvement in Liquid Batteries mean Electric Car Refuelling could Take Minutes—Liquid or flow batteries have been touted as an alternative to lithium ion batteries for a long time.  The energy density has always been too low to make the debate serious.  Maybe times they are a changing.

What Bison in South Dakota can Teach us about Fighting Climate Change—More effective rangelands policy could help the world sequester carbon in soils, improve water quality, and produce animal protein at the same time.  Now, the impediment would be that we would probably have to get rid of the cows and sheep on rangelands.

Frisco Leads Water Efficiency Charge, Reduces Municipal Consumption by 30 Percent—Drought will become the new normal for much of the American west.  However, our profligate use of water continues unabated.  This does mean that we have a long way to go with efficiency as a way of reducing our demand on precious water resources.

Why Fashion Brands Destroy Billions’ Worth of Their Own Merchandise Every Year—What a freaking waste.

20 Habits of Frugal People—There is an intersection of frugal people and environmentalists that is not really discussed.  Frugal people, generally, are not big consumers and environmentalists should also not be big consumers because of consumption’s ecological footprint.  The best part is that being frugal is a cheap way to be an environmentalist.

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 6/2/2017

It’s June and we are dealing with the “covfefe.”

At what point do we get to wake up from this nightmare, look at the clock, and realize that it was all just some bad pizza we had the night before?

On to the links…

What Darrell Issa was Doing on the Roof—2018 is a long way away and a lot can happen before the midterm elections, but can we finally get rid of this no talent ass clown?  He is literally looking down on his constituents after refusing to meet with them because he does not care as long as he stays rich and Koch money keeps him in office.

Frugality is Environmentalism—I wish that this point got driven home more and more.  We cannot buy our way out of our environmental problems.  We can save our way a lot closer.

Renewable Energy Generation in the US Dramatically Exceeds 2012 Predictions—This is one of the times I am glad when the experts were wrong.

India Cancels Nearly 14 Gigawatts Of Proposed Coal Plants—Have fun trying to bring back coal as a fuel for the future when most customers across the world are trying to move away from the fuel.

There’s Way Less Coal Than We Thought—Depending upon who you ask and who you trust it might be true that our estimates of economically recoverable coal were way too high.  What does this mean?  Basically, it is even more difficult for coal power to be cost competitive if the fuel is going to cost more to mine.

EPA Halts Obama-era Methane Emissions Rule for Oil and Gas Industry—What the oil and gas industry wants Scott Pruitt will deliver.

UK Breaks Solar Record; Generates 24 Percent of Power from Solar—This is not Saudi Arabia or sunny Spain.  It’s the freaking United Kingdom known for dreary weather and queuing.  With each new record for solar power we have to ask ourselves what is the true limit?

Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline—Define pretty soon.  Okay, it might not be as cheap as that Kia Soul I keep hearing ads for on the radio but the future is fairly bright.  Bright enough for shades?

15 Ways to Use Bar Soap—I am bar soap partisan.  I use bar soap in the shower and I use shampoo that comes in a bar form as well.

Cannabidiol Slashes Seizures in Kids with Rare Epilepsy—I realize it is derived from marijuana, but given the growing body of evidence—both anecdotal and scientific—why isn’t the government all over studying this?  Oh right, people like Jeff Sessions are making drug policy in the United States.

Hemp in Food for Horses and Chickens? Maybe.—Did you have a guy in the dorms in college who told everyone that hemp was a miracle plant?  It could be used for fuel, food, medicine, and so on.  Maybe that guy was on to something.

How Adults are Ruining Sports for Kids—Can we just change the title to how adults are ruining kids?

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest—What have we lost in our efforts to always have perfect Snow White-esque apples on every shelf?  Taste for one considering how bad most supermarket apples actually taste.  Yes, I am looking at you red delicious.

Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?—I do not know if that is the right question.  Maybe we need to ask ourselves when human power should be the preferred energy source.

An Anthropocene wildness grows in Rome—Is this the future?  What will the world look like as the climate warms, humans retreat, and nature takes back the spaces?

Friday Linkage 12/23/2016

This is it for 2016.  I would like to wish this year a gigantic f*ck you as it seemed like a real downer and I hold out hope that something in 2017 may redeem my faith in the United States.  Granted, this year was the moment when I saw the Chicago Cubs win the World Series which was something my father and grandfather never got to see.  Damn.

I sincerely hope that everyone enjoys the holiday season with their families.  Turn off the television, put down the phones, and spend a few minutes with the ones you love in pure analog bliss.

On to the links…

Skiing Is Not Important—Why don’t we lead off with a little philosophy.  It is totally true.  Skiing is not important in the “will I survive through the night” kind of way, but everyone should do it.  Or no one should do it.  I loved the following part of the article:

Mountain air, the smell of hot wax, the sound of cables on lift towers, laughing with friends, laughing at friends, testing your limits or just cruising and not testing anything at all, caring more about weather than you ever thought possible, sacrificing comfort, security, and relationships just to furrow fields of snowfall for no practical reason whatsoever.

Pretty much sums up the dream.

Winter Park Express Ski Train Adds Another Car to Meet Demand from Denver Union Station—You mean to say that people actually like and use mass transit when it goes to places people actually want to go?  Wow.

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere—I hope the carbon bubble becomes a thing in 2017.  Like investors fleeing coal, the same thing could happen to other fossil fuels if demand falls just enough to begin initiating the death spiral.  In a world that demands constant growth from investments this is a most powerful market force.

There is No Reason to Ever Build Another Coal Plant in the United States—Granted, there are a lot of coal plants in operation now.  Those plants, however, will get more expensive to fuel as coal demand drops and harder to maintain as the industrial base surrounding them erodes.

Coal’s Big US Stronghold is Losing Steam, Even as Trump Aims for a Revival—I cannot wait to see if Trump spends what little political capital he has—losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and entering office with the lowest favorability ratings in history do not make for a mandate—trying to revive coal as he promised on the campaign trail.  Now, he is a charlatan and a liar so he was probably just doing that to rile up people.

Solar is Top Source of New Capacity on the US Grid in 2016—This is demand destruction in process. Each solar panel or solar thermal facility represents another kilowatt of electricity that does not require a single gram of coal.

World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind—Solar, with no moving parts and silent panels sucking up the sun, is actually cheaper than wind in some places.  Think about that for a minute.

All the State Energy Legislation from 2016, in One Place—Over the coming years the states and, to a lesser degree, cities are going to be where the action takes place on renewable energy.

Make Your Life Less Oily in 2017—Since the federal government is in the hands of fossil fuel crony capitalists, we have to take the initiative to reduce our use of fossil fuels.  This article serves as a nice starting point to figure out where the low hanging fruit might be.  Suggestion: get out your bicycle and pedal.

On Isle Royale, Park Service Intervenes to Save Nature—I am fairly conflicted about this intervention.  After reading The New Wild I wonder if our conception of nature has an ecosystem in harmony is relevant anymore.

Newly discovered soil microbes may have helped eat methane after Porter Ranch natural gas leak—The gas leak near Porter Ranch in southern California was a freaking ecological disaster of some truly epic proportions.  However, it looks like nature may have found a way to ameliorate some of the damage.  Nature always finds a way.

USDA says Use-By Labels aren’t Really Needed on Foods—Now I do not feel so guilty about using hot sauce that was past its “expiration” date.