Tag Archives: Minnesota

Friday Linkage 10/16/2015

Made it out of Los Angeles. Barely. No, seriously, I thought I might get stuck forever walking the mile and a half from the car rental return to my airport hotel. Two dead ends and a convoluted route finally got me to my destination. Maybe it is true that no one actually walks in Los Angeles.

On to the links…

Dire Glimpses of What Pollution Is Doing in Bangladesh—Bangladesh is not a nation that is at the fore of the consciousness of the West. The fact is that the nation will likely be devastated by climate change and that has the potential to destabilize the entire region.

California Bans Microbeads to Protect Marine Life—California has done what should be done at the national level. Microbeads should be outlawed immediately.

Wyoming Made It Illegal To Take A Photo Of A Polluted Stream. Now They’re Being Sued For It.—This case needs to be watched because it will set the boundaries for what can be done to prevent the use of citizen science and journalism to expose the threats to our natural world.

Chile to Create One of World’s Largest Marine Parks around Easter Island—Marine parks may be one of the few good tools we have to preserve pockets of ocean health as our rapacious appetite destroys the oceans.

The World is on Target to Get 26 Percent of Energy from Renewables by 2020—This is according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Gorgeous 11MW Bioenergy Plant in Leeds will sort 214,000 Tons of Waste Each Year—In Leeds the black bins collect general household waste and it will be converted into energy at this amazing power plant. Damn, I want one of these in my town to replace the ugly coal turning into natural gas hulk that inhabits the south side of town.

Chinese Solar to Jump Fourfold by 2020, Official Tells Xinhua—Get ready for solar to feel the “China price” phenomenon full force in the coming five years.

Solar Power Bids Fall By Over 50% In 5 Years In India—Think about a 50% reduction in price in 5 years. It is a pretty wild decline in the price of solar power.

Big Victory in Minnesota Will Retire Coal, Ramp up Wind and Solar—Xcel Energy has bent to the will of its ratepayers and will retire fossil fuels in favor of renewables. The support for renewables in Minnesota is simply amazing right now.

This Startup Wants To Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones—I love this idea for drone technology. Think about reforesting huge swaths of rugged country following wildfires or beetle kills with drones instead of people. We live in the future.

Church Protests That Bike Lane Would Impede Their Free Practice of Religion—In a post-Hobby Lobby world I am anticipating that churches will object to everything on the grounds that it impedes their personal freedom to practice religion. Granted, it’s generally a load of hogwash but that is the world we live in today.

A Farmer Explains Why Fall Is the Best Time to Join a CSA—Maybe this is the fall where I make the leap and join another CSA. Maybe…

Who Is the Wet Prince of Bel Air?—What does 12 million gallons of water per year even get from a landscaping and lifestyle perspective?

Friday Linkage 9/4/2015

Damn, I looked up and it was September. Without cable and no more HDTV football season will not be the same. Listening to games on the radio, however, gives me the opportunity to spend some time in the shop working on a handful of projects that have languished most of the summer.

On to the links…

MidAmerican Energy Announces New Wind Farms—By the end of 2015, MidAmerican will get 42 percent of its power from wind versus 36 percent from coal. That is an impressive renewable energy footprint that is only going to get bigger with the construction of these recently announced projects.

Simple Solar From Cedar Falls Utilities — Crowdfunded Community Solar—Iowa has a long way to go with regard to climate change mitigation, but there are a lot of good things happening on the ground. Cedar Falls, famous for its public internet company, is also getting into the community solar game.

Xcel Energy Taking Heat for Slow Rollout of Solar Garden Program in Minnesota—Meanwhile, Xcel in Minnesota seems to be doing everything to kill the community solar project with a thousand cuts.

Solar Power on at Large and Small Scale—Ahhh, infographics. How I have missed thee:

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Solar Energy Means Jobs, Savings, and a Low-Cost Future—Solar is good. ‘Nuff said:

solar-in-missouri-means-jobs-savings-low-cost-future-ILSR

Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’—Hawaii is going to try and make the leap to all renewables without taking the baby step of using natural gas as a bridge fuel. I wish them the best of luck because the islands can be a laboratory for the rest of the United States.

Florida Public Service Commission OKs FPL’s Plan To Purchase & Shut Down 250 MW Coal Plant, As Means Of Getting Out Of Costly PPA—This is how you know coal is troubled. It is easier for a power company to buy and shut down a plant as a means of avoiding contractual power purchase obligations than to go ahead with the contract.

Digging into Big Coal’s Climate Connections—The great thing about bankruptcy of a public company in the U.S. is the enormous amount of information that becomes public as a result. Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy is pulling the curtain back on climate shenanigans.

Unicornomics—If you want to understand right wing thinking in the 21st century you need to understand that it is based on the belief that reality and facts are secondary to dogma. I want a unicorn farm, but that does not mean I am going to get a unicorn farm.

Farmed Fish could bring Us Cheaper Food, but is it Ethical?—Aquaculture is the future of the fish on our tables because we have trashed and overfished the oceans. There are a lot of problems with aquaculture, but we can try to work through those for a better system.

9 of 10 Seabirds Have Glow Sticks, Lighters, Toy Cars, Other Plastics in their Guts—We have trashed the planet, the animals are paying the price, and we have to figure out a way to start cleaning up after ourselves.

Climate Change Means One World’s Death and Another’s Birth—The world is going to change. It might change at a pace that is understandable on the human being’s lifespan. This is unprecedented.

The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South—This story kind of bummed me out because kudzu was the plant from a horror movie in my youth. It was the cautionary tale that every biology teacher used to illustrate the folly of trying to mess with nature.

A Thought on the Four Firkins

I read over the weekend that the usually excellent beer store the On Tap: A farewell to Minnesota craft beer pioneer The Four Firkins Depending upon who you ask it was the entrance into the market of “bog box” liquor stores like Total Wine that did the specialty shop in or its somewhat inconvenient locations or its prices versus other shops in the area.

As someone who sent several people to the Four Firkins and spent some time near there at the American Legion across the street partaking in the particular Minnesota tradition of a meat raffle I would like to offer a differing opinion on the closure of the store.

The Four Firkins was set up to be like a high end wine shop. The staff was well educated on the product, many of them had or were pursuing a certification as a cicerone, sample of somewhat offbeat beers were available frequently, and there was always someone available to talk about beer with if you were in the mood. None of these positive attributes can overcome the subtle difference between wine and beer. The cost of failure for beer is much lower than it is for wine.

A multi-pack of beer—be it a six pack of bottles or a four pack of cans or even a single 22 ounce bottle—is going to come in at a lower price point than a higher than average end wine. If I “fail,” so to speak, and buy a beer that I do not like I am out maybe $10. Conversely, with a bottle of wine you can easily be north of $30. That’s an order of magnitude greater that is hard to overcome.

It is easy enough to go into a well-stocked liquor store, pick out a new beer to try, and not feel like you are making a deep financial commitment. That is a hard buyer behavior to overcome with service.

Friday Linkage 6/19/2015

Summer is here and it is glorious. The vegetable garden is coming into its own—I even have little heads of cauliflower peeking out—and the miles are really starting to get racked up on the bike.

On to the links…

These New Quotes From Pope Francis Could Change The Debate On Climate Change—Climate change deniers will find a reason to quibble with the pope because their pocket books demand that they keep denying reality for their masters.

33% Of Electricity Produced In EU Now Comes From Renewables—Do I even need to comment on a headline like that?

Solar Power Passes 1% Global Threshold—One percent may not seem like a lot, but its significant because it means that solar is relevant in the grand scheme.

Survey Of Big Investment Companies Shows Why We Might Be On The Verge Of A Solar Power Boom—When big money begins investing in solar things will really take off.

Why Solar Panels are an Affordable and Smart Investment—I could just say, “Because they rock!” However, the logic is a little more sound than that:

JK_Solar_Infographic

100% Renewable Electricity For Minnesota Town’s Government Facilities—Talk about a solar garden!

India Just Upped Its Solar Target Five-Fold, Will Install More Solar This Year Than Germany—As the developing world deploys solar they will begin to leapfrog countries with a deeper investment commitment to the old fuel regime.

How In-Town Development Produces Less Traffic Than You Might Think—Car-centric development with bog boxes and acres of parking is really a dead end. No one, save for companies like WalMart, like the format because it is soul sucking in its conformity. Maybe the old way is better.

These Affordable Bamboo Houses were Built for Just $2,500 Each—When I see articles like this it makes me mad to read reports about how international organizations failed to build housing in Haiti despite millions in donations.

Farm Implement Clears Path for More Cover Crops—This is just cool. It’s cool to see old methods be made new by inventive engineering and a can do attitude.

Elementary Kids Dig Weeklong Camp about Urban Farming, Food—Kids need to dig around in the dirt and understand how our food is grown in order to grow up to become good consumers and stewards of the land.

Here’s the Latest Evidence of How Private Prisons Are Exploiting Inmates for Profit—Guess what? When you give companies a profit motive for keeping people in jail those companies are going to find ways to keep people in jail. Private prisons are one of the shames of our time.

How Walmart’s Hiding $76 billion in Secret Subsidiaries around the World—WalMart is a shitty company that take tax money to provide low wage jobs for people to sell stuff that is mostly made in China. Here’s a look at the subsidy picture:

Walmart-tax-haven-map-for-web

Friday Linkage 6/12/2015

Miles consume my thoughts. I have set some ambitious personal targets for miles ridden on my bike this season and I have already started viewing each ride as a percentage of that goal. It’s kind of sick and awesome at the same time.

On to the links…

No More Beer, Chocolate or Coffee: How Climate Change Could Ruin Your Weekend—Ruin my weekend? This will ruin my everyday ritual. People need to understand the broad implications of climate change.

Renewables Reach Highest Share Of U.S. Energy Consumption Since 1930s—From 2001 through 2014 renewable energy—driven by wind, solar, and biofuels—grew by 5% per year compounded annually. Every step is a step forward to a fossil fuel free future.

As Arguing Against Climate Change Action Gets Harder, the Naysayers get Louder—Here is when you know something is in its death throes. When the most ardent supporters of a contrarian opinion are forced to get louder in order for their views to be heard then the tide has turned decisively against their beliefs. No one will lament the death of the climate changer deniers.

10 years post Katrina – Where have you gone, Mr. Go?—Hurricane Katrina was a natural and national disaster. The impacts were made worse by poor leadership and inept bureaucracy. In the aftermath some good has come out of the storm. The destruction of the Mississippi River delta is now viewed as a catastrophe that made the storm’s impact worse. Efforts are underway to correct some of the misdeeds of our past.

The U.S.’s Biggest Coal Company Can’t Pay To Clean Up Its Own Mines—Who do you think will get stuck with the bill? The American taxpayer. Free market my ass.

Coal: Black Moods—Do you want to know why coal is dead? As the article states the market cap for the four largest American coal companies was $22B in 2010. Today it stands at $1.2B. Chew on that decline for a moment. SolarCity alone has a market cap of over $5B.

Why Haven’t Cities Covered Their Buildings in Solar?—I wonder this every time I see large municipal buildings in sunny locales. I also have this same thought when flying over acres of distribution centers around airports that have roofs just primed for massive solar projects. Between parking lots, warehouses, and city buildings there is more than enough square footage to keep installers working steady for years.

Fueled by Growth in the Residential Segment, U.S. Installs 1.3 GW of PV in Q1 2015—Take a look at this graph for a moment:

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Now, remember that these are discrete quarter numbers, not cumulative, so each quarter adds to the prior quarters to create total installed capacity. Once installed these panels are generating clean power for the next twenty five years or so.

State-By-State Plan To Bring US To 100% Renewables By 2050—100% renewable energy seems unattainable because someone in one state does not understand how solutions from another state are not relevant, but that another technology fills the gap. It also does not help that states are hamstrung by rules written by power companies and powerful lobbying interests to keep old generating schemes in place. There is, however, a path forward.

Minnesota 1st To Require EV-Specific Electricity Rates Statewide—EV adoption will only occur faster if programs like this can be rolled out to more customers across the U.S. As second and third generation EVs become available in the market it will be the ancillary impacts of owning an EV—charging, maintenance, etc.—that will go a long way to determining success or failure.

The Future of Construction Techniques—How we build things, both in terms of the methods and materials used, have a major impact on the embedded energy of a building and the total energy costs over the lifetime of the building. The future of building is coming:

Infographic-future-of-construction-2

The Amazing Truth about Costco’s Organic Food—Costco is the nation’s largest retailer of organic food. Not Whole Foods. Not WalMart. People may complain that it is dirty capitalism sullying the organic name, but we are talking about billions of dollars of sales going to a sector that was niche not much more than a decade ago.

Friday Linkage 6/5/2015

The week just flies when you get a bike ride in for six straight days. I could get used to this life if the weather would just continue to be pleasant. Fat chance of that happening as the summer humidity is already starting to build here in Eastern Iowa.

On to the links…

Solon Farm Converts 25 Acres into Largest Hopyard in Iowa—I cannot wait to enjoy some of these local hops in a tall glass of Big Grover Brewery beer.

Research Downplaying Impending Global Warming is Overturned—If all this is looking a lot like what happened to tobacco companies in the 1990s it should because a lot of the same players are involved on the side of industry. They just shifted issues and are still getting paid to spread disinformation and lies.

The Beginning Of Wildfire Season Means More Bad News For Drought-Stricken West—No one knows how big or bad this wildfire season will be, but considering how dry California is right now there is the potential that it could be huge.

The Texas Floods Are So Big They Ended the State’s Drought—I doubt that the solution will be long lived, but it is amazing how much rain the storms in Texas brought to bear.

Disturbing Infographic Shows How Plastic is Clogging our Oceans—Hint, it’s a lot:

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New Report Suggests U.S. Can Meet Its Climate Goals Without Congressional Action—We have the tools to address the worst aspects of climate change and it does not require a functioning legislative branch of government. Imagine that.

Regulators Give Green Light to Largest Minnesota Solar Energy Project—$250 million spread over 21 sites is a lot of solar in a state more associated with hot dish and passive aggressive behavior than harvesting the sun. Is Minnesota the United States’ Germany when it comes to solar PV?

Insane Solar Jobs Boom About To Get $32 Million More Insane—Here is when things start to snowball. As jobs become realized and the sector becomes attractive to investment the ancillary jobs in R&D, program management, etc. will start to flourish. There may be hope for us yet.

Coal Industry Received More Than $73 Billion In Last 8 Years—War on coal my ass. The world spends billions every year propping up this dirty fuel.

How Renewable Energy in South Africa is Quietly Stealing a March on Coal—Coal is dead. Developing countries are trying to get out from under the long term entrapment of coal fired power and renewables are the go to source because they are not dependent on the old paradigm.

Meat Giant Hormel To Gobble Up Slightly Smaller Meat Giant Applegate Farms—“Big organic” just got even bigger as the purveyor of everyone’s favorite canned meat product is buying the maker of those ubiquitous chicken sausages that come out during grilling season.

We’re Eating Less Meat—Yet Factory Farms Are Still Growing—It’s like the Lorax. These operations just keep on biggering and biggering. Everyone needs a thneed.

It’s Raining Nitrogen In A Colorado Park. Farmers Can Help Make It Stop—Between nitrates in the water and nitrogen in the air modern farming is a very dirty business. Unsurprisingly, modern management and practices can reduce the impact significantly.

Invasive Carp Caught Farther Upstream on St. Croix River—This is a big deal for the water ecosystems of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region because these invasive species decimate local populations of fish.

The Real Sharing Economy Doesn’t Require Apps, Just Kindness—The “sharing economy” is a buzzy term for something that people in closer knit communities have been practicing since the dawn of time. When you know your neighbors it’s a lot easier to ask someone to borrow a tool you might use once a year. Trust me, I own a pickup and I am everyone’s friend about once a year.

Friday Linkage 5/1/2015

It’s hard to believe it’s May already. April disappeared in too much work and too little home life. I am committing to turning that around this month with a half dozen projects I want to tackle. First up is the transformation of a forlorn flower bed into a seasonal vegetable garden. Oh yeah!

On to the links…

New Study Shows Climate Change Is Already Hurting Coffee Growth—Here is something to take the buzz out of your morning coffee. Shade grown methods may help, but I have a feeling we are going to have to get used to the bitterness of robusta beans sooner rather than later.

The Company That Sells One In Five Chickens In The U.S. Will Stop Using Antibiotics—If you care about antibiotic resistant bacteria then you should care about this announcement. Public pressure and good sense, not government policy, is changing behavior. It probably helps that traditional fast food chains, which buy a lot of value added processed chicken, are hurting because of concerns just like this and need to bow to market pressure as well.

The Senate’s Top Climate Denier Redefines Chutzpah—James Inhofe has to be the biggest piece of scum in the Senate right now, which is a bold statement for a body that counts among its members Ted Cruz. However, Inhofe—a noted climate denier—has decided to use the threat of climate change to promote his agenda of nuclear power. Nothing like hypocrisy to make the world go round.

U.S. Maps Pinpoint Earthquakes Linked to Quest for Oil and Gas—Climate change may be hard for people to grasp—what do you mean it might get colder when the planet warms?—but manmade earthquakes should be easy to understand. We are literally changing the geological stability of the ground beneath our feet.

North America’s Oil And Gas Industry Has Taken Over 7 Million Acres Of Land Since 2000—Haven’t we given enough to oil and gas companies? Considering that these companies are some of the most profitable in the history of capitalism and these same companies tend to be subsidized through a variety of mechanisms maybe it is time to say stop.

Experiment in Irvine takes Crops’ Water Use to New Lows—As California comes to terms with what may be a new, very dry normal the ability of farmers to use less and less water to grow valuable crops will be essential.

California’s Irrigation Varies by Crop—Why is California even bothering growing corn and alfalfa with scarce water:

california-crops-water-sources1

How Does Solar “Take Cars off the Road”?—The symbolism of “cars off the road” is easy to understand but it obscured the fact of how much energy our buildings use. Plus, only bicycles take vehicles “off the road.”

First U.S. Offshore Wind Project Breaks Ground— The project is small, but it represents a lot of potential. Imagine putting clean power generation just off the coast from millions of people in the densely populated northeastern United States?

Global Solar Demand To Grow 30% To 57 GW—I do not know where the tipping point is for when solar will be so rapidly deployed that it will fundamentally alter our relationship with utilities and the power grid, but it has to be coming soon.

Xcel Energy wants Size Limits on its Minnesota Community Solar Gardens—Xcel Energy under estimated the demand and the ability of enterprising companies to figure a way around its rules. Now it wants to put the genie back in the bottle. Given how beholden Minnesota lawmakers are to this particular power company I am inclined to believe that it will happen.

China Could Get 85 Percent Of Its Electricity From Renewables By 2050—If there is one country that needs to set an aggressive renewables target it is China. The insatiable demand for electric power has been fed by coal which has fouled the air to such a degree as to be criminal.

Dubai Confirms 800 MW Expansion For Iconic Solar Power Project—It’s a great time to be a solar advocate when only projects in the hundreds of megawatt range get your blood pumping. Too bad this is to support unsustainable development in Dubai.

Countries that Lead the Switch to Clean Energy will Reap the Financial Rewards—Those countries that make the commitment early will be poised to lead a new phase of economic growth and prosperity, while the countries that slavishly hold on to the outdated model will be forced to adapt late and at a higher cost.

The Top Imported Good in Each State, in One Map—Fixr puts together some interesting maps. This one shows the top import into each state in terms of value:

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What Did Recycling Look Like In 280 BC?—This is a little tongue in cheek, but it makes you think about just how much our modern world has changed:

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Hungry Pelicans Credited with Gobbling Thousands of Goldfish Infesting Boulder Lake—Generally, the removal of invasive species requires some serious human intervention. This time Mother Nature provided a very clean solution. Hungry pelicans hovered up thousands of rapidly multiplying goldfish in a veritable invasive species buffet.

An Alternative-Medicine Believer’s Journey Back to Science—Any time you disagree with someone on scientific or technical grounds and the response is death threats you know you have struck a nerve and probably found the truth. Various alternative medicine communities—be it the anti-vaccine crowd or the anti-gluten fanatics or whatever graces the couch of Dr. Oz this week—have a problem with people seeking actual scientific truth because it will probably impact their pocketbook.