Tag Archives: Minnesota

Friday Linkage 10/6/2017

This country is messed up in so many ways.  What has happened in the past weeks in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas are horrific reminders of the role our politicians play in responding to disasters and shaping our future.  However, we are saddled with Trump and his merry band of Republican sycophants who care for nothing more than self-adulation, guns, and tax cuts.  In reality, Trump cares only about self-adulation and Republicans really only care about tax cuts but both are willing to use the issue of gun rights to get their desired outcomes.

I do hold out hope that there is a better and more constructive future in the works as the coalition that has propped up the right wing for the past twenty years fractures under its own internal pressures and external demographic realities.

On to the links…

The McKibben Effect: A Case Study in How Radical Environmentalism Can Work—It’s not radical if the end goal is the survival of humanity as a species.  It’s only radical because the forces opposed have deduced that the easiest way to create opposition is to label something as radical in an effort to saddle it with semantic baggage.

Skiing IS Politics—The personal is political and it always has been.

New Era of Solar Power is Now Upon Us—According to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of the power installed in 2016 was solar.  The same agency predicts that solar growth will be the highest of any energy source through at least 2022.

US Renewables Grew 10% In 1st Half Of 2017—That is a damn good number for the first half of the year given that the number usually spikes in the second half due to large projects coming on line before the year’s end.

Growth of Green Energy Sector Surges in Minnesota—Clean and green energy is producing a lot of jobs in a lot of places.  No one really thinks about Minnesota being a hot spot for solar, but solar is big business now.

What’s Up in Coal Country: Alternative-Energy Jobs—This is what the future looks like.  It is not Trump’s attempt to use clowns like Rick Perry to prop up the coal industry for the benefit of a few crony capitalists.  It is about providing jobs for people in an industry that can help make the world a better place.

Courts are Waking up to the Cost of Climate Change—The guy at the top and his minions—here’s looking at you Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke—may be tools of the fossil fuel industry, but it looks like the rest of the world is realizing the true costs of these fuels need to take into account externalities.

Here are the Actual Tax Rates the Biggest Companies in America Pay—As the debate over tax reform…errr tax cuts heats up in Washington D.C. take note of what is really happening.  American companies do not pay higher taxes than their counterparts in Europe.  However, you will hear this time and again in the coming months.  It is a right wing myth.

Americans Have Soured on Junk Food. Don’t Worry, Food Companies Have a Plan.—Americans no longer mindlessly consume ever more Big Macs, Whoppers, and whatever the hell Taco Bell is making today.  Oh, we still consume the veritable shit ton of junk food but the growth has stalled.  On to the developing world the titans of garbage in a paper sack say.

Bicycle Highway in the Netherlands Built Using Recycled Toilet Paper—Leave it to the freaking Dutch to build a bike path out of recycled toilet paper.

This Entire Barley Field was Planted and Harvested without Humans—Automation in farming may happen before automation in our personal automobiles.  I do not know what the positives and negatives are of this development but robotic farming is kind of cool.

Which Is Better for the Environment: Meatless Mondays or #NoRedOctober?—Why not do both?

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Friday Linkage 9/15/2017

The aspens are turning yellow in Colorado and the tulip trees in my backyard are doing the same.  The temps may still be in the 80s during the day, but fall is almost here.  That means on of these weekend nights will be spent waxing skis and checking over the gear.  It is time to start watching Open Snow’s reports and praying for powder.

On to the links…

As Hurricanes and Wildfires Rage, US Climate Politics Enters the Realm of Farce—It is my hope that we look back on the last fifteen or so years of American politics as an embarrassing interlude before sanity regained its footing.

Why Environmentalists Can’t Afford to Wait Until 2018—Too many times I have heard that a forthcoming election was the moment when the coalition of various environmental groups finally got their act together and drove votes to the polls.  Maybe the combination of the worst president in American history, successive natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, and a joke of Congress actually means it will happen.

The World’s Future Energy System: Cleaner, More Efficient and Less Demand—Despite how messed up things seem to be there is actual hope in the air.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags—Trump loves a win even if it is for something he purports to not like and set up by a man he openly loathes.  When are we going to be done with this flaccid cantaloupe and get back to some real leadership?

New Research Shows Solar Energy May Have Been Undervalued—You have to love simulations that do not include the fastest growing slice of the energy production market.  There are a lot of roofs in my neighborhood that do not have solar PV panels on them yet that are better candidates than my roof, which produces more than 100% of my household electrical needs.

Colorado Utility says Odds it will Build a Major New Coal Plant are now ‘Remote’—The key line in this article is when the representative for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said that some of the costs for the coal plant expansion were unrecoverable.  That means the finance people in the room said that a portion of the project would be a loss no matter what.

Offshore Wind Power is Cheaper than New Nuclear Power in the UK—Coal is dead.  Nuclear is non-competitive on a cost basis.  The future is clean and renewable.

DONG Energy To Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm—Hornsea Project Two 1,386 MW of offshore wind power is a lot of wind.  Like one quarter of the state of Iowa’s installed wind power in one installation.  Together with Hornsea Project One the combined wind installations represent more than 2,500 MW of clean power.

GE Renewable Energy Unveils Largest Onshore Wind Turbine—Imagine replacing existing GE 1.5MW turbines, which dominated the U.S. market for many years, one for one with 4.8MW turbines from the same company.

MIT Researchers Propose an Ancient Technology to Store Clean Energy—Thermal energy storage is an already developed and vetted technology that could help us in shifting the demand curve to match the production curve of renewables.

How Does Thermal Energy Storage Reach Scale?—It can reach scale by being mandated.  If you want to build a large building in a hot climate like southern California or Arizona you should be required to use a thermal energy storage system to help regulate the peaks and valleys of energy demand and production.  If you are a grocery store or warehouse with huge refrigerator systems you should be required to install these systems.

If Power Start-Up Drift can make it in New York, it may be Lights Out for Traditional Utilities—Utilities are one of the last great true monopolies left in the United States.  Heck, you can get out from under the thumb of the cable company now by cutting the cord but you cannot pick your power company.

Vivint Solar & ChargePoint Announce Fully Integrated Solar Residential Energy Management Solution—The future will be a place where the solar panels on your house, the battery in your garage, and your EV are all integrated into a single system to maximize performance and stabilize the larger energy grid.  Tesla is trying to get to that point with a closed system of Tesla products.  This partnership may be more effective because it can be open source to a degree.

Wyoming ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Suffers Appeals Court Blow—Ag gag laws have flown under the radar in the age of Trump but there is legal wrangling going on that will decide the fate of such restrictions on the First Amendment.  How anyone can interpret these laws as having anything other than a cooling effect on free speech is beyond me.  The other irony is the same people pushing these laws trumpet anything done by James O’Keefe.

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial—We are all just living a premium mediocre life now.

Minnesota Named the Happiest State, while Red Ones Roil in Angst—Is anyone really surprised by this?  I am just amazed that people in red states just keep electing the same people while their quality of life sucks and accept that the answer is someone else is to blame for the problem.

Health at a Planetary Scale—Getting people to even say public health is hard.  Republicans automatically think it means socialism because the word public is akin to saying Lord Voldemort.  The rest of the world generally does not know what it means and those that do are prone to wonky discussions about outcomes, policy, and efficacy.

As Bees Die-Off, Coffee Production could Plummet more than Previously Thought—Well, piss in my shoe.

Friday Linkage 4/7/2017

At what point do we look into the abyss and see nothing but Donald Trump’s searing ineptitude staring back at us?  Every time the man goes to the podium with a world leader to his right he stumbles through a word salad of “very this” and “tremendous that” without ever actually saying something of substance.

Every time he steps to the podium I am reminded of Robin Williams’ line in Dead Poets Society:

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Unfortunately laziness is now the currency of the land.

On to the links…

The Question I Get Asked the Most—Take a moment and read the entirety of Bill McKibben’s piece at Resilience.org.  Think about the meaning and do something.

Can Steve King be Defeated? History Says Probably Not—People in his district love Steve King.  He is one of the most embarrassing human beings in politics and the people in his district will reelect him in a walk in 2018.   Why?  They are also the same people who are probably standing behind Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly.

Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?—Why?  It does not fit his easy narrative and the man is lazy.  It does not matter that renewable energy employs more people than coal and that the renewable energy jobs sector is growing.  It also is a narrative that does not line the pockets of Koch Industries and other Trump lovers.

6 Charts That Show Trump Isn’t Stopping the Renewable Energy Revolution Any Time Soon—I hope the conclusion is right.  I just hope that there is enough inertia to overcome the amazing level of stupidity coming from Washington D.C. right now.

US Coal Production Hits 38 Year Low—Here is the thing.  As coal production volumes fall there is a self-perpetuating cycle of decline that follows because it is a capital intensive business.  As coal gets more expensive to mine it gets more expensive to make coal fired electricity, which leads to utilities closing down coal fired power plants.  This causes coal demand to fall further which causes the price of mining coal to increase.  So on and so forth.

While Trump Promotes Coal, Chile and Others are Turning to Cheap Sun Power—Again, it does not fit his lazy narrative.  Plus, solar jobs don’t allow you put on cool hard hats and gesticulate:

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Wastewater: The Best Hidden Energy Source You’ve Never Heard Of—I hesitate to call this renewable energy, so why don’t we go with recovered energy.  Nonetheless, in a system where we are looking for every kilowatt hour that can be generated from non-fossil fuels this is a potential source of goodness.

What Pollutes the Urban Mississippi? Lawns, Dogs and Lots of Pavement Runoff—We may not be able to make rural communities do something about the runoff from farm fields because the rightward lurch of those areas has made progress a daunting task, but there is a lot that can be done in our urban watersheds.

Pot’s Cousin Explored as Viable Crop Option for Minnesota—Illinois is talking about legalization and Minnesota is exploring hemp.  Paying taxes and giving rural communities another crop option is the death knell of federal prohibition.

Ten Cool Facts About Hemp From the NoCo Expo—Did you have an acquaintance in college who spent hours telling you all the cool facts about hemp that “the man” would not allow to become mainstream because reasons?  That person is mainstream now.

Peak Auto? These Charts Point to Industry, U.S. Economy Concerns—We may be “over auto-ed” as a country.  The implications for the economy are fairly dramatic.

The Couple who Coaxed 300 Acres of Barren Farmland Back into Lush Forest—It’s only 300 acres, but it is also only two people.  We have the tools to make the world a better place.  Let’s get cracking.

Friday Linkage 3/31/2017

It is starting to feel like spring in Iowa, which means it has rained for several of the past few days and the temps are holding to a balmy mid-40s range.  Joy.

Despite the less than stellar weather it is time to start thinking about warmer weather projects and the list is long this year.  I cannot wait to get my hands dirty again.

On to the links…

What If They Killed The Clean Power Plan & Nobody Cared?—This is the best case scenario for the next few years.  We can only hope that the cost curve keeps bending in renewable energy’s favor and that coal continues to die a long, slow death.

Top US Coal Boss Robert Murray: Trump ‘Can’t Bring Mining Jobs Back’—Donald Trump lied, no big surprise, because coal jobs are not coming back.  No one is going to reopen old mines in Appalachia and the mines in the western U.S. are all about big machines.

Clean Energy Employs More People than Fossil Fuels in Nearly Every U.S. State—Seems like the jobs argument is pretty simple.  Granted, Exxon Mobil does not give donations to its political cronies to promote solar jobs.

Do Environmental Regulations Reduce Employment? Not Really.—Facts do not matter to the current administration and its Russian stooges, so I imagine that a fact based argument about environmental regulations would be shouted down as fake news or some such bullshit.

Alaska Warms to Solar Power as Prices Fall and Benefits Grow—This is Alaska.  Other than Wyoming fewer states are more associated with fossil fuels than Alaska.  If Alaska goes solar what’s left?

As Energy Mix Becomes Cleaner, Minnesotans Paying Less for It—So a cleaner power grid is a cheaper power grid.  Okay, who wants to argue against cheaper and cleaner?

Tesla Solar in Hawaii is a Sign of Things to Come—The future is now.

Australian Rooftop Solar Installs Are Up 43% In 2017—Australia should be covered in solar panels.  The country is more sun baked than any I can think of outside of the Middle East.

Rescuing Los Angeles—I am beginning to think the future will look a lot like this small patch of Los Angeles.  As institutions are increasingly prevented from being effective by elected leaders beholden to deceitful special interests solutions to livability will be hyper-local and inherently DIY.

Solving Global Dietary Problems is a Bigger Challenge than Climate Change—Meat is bad for the climate.  There is little logical argument against this statement.  Also, western societies eat too much meat.  Again, there is little logical argument against this statement.

Cycling in Minnesota Creates Thousands of Jobs and Cuts Health-Care Spending—Basically, cycling is awesome.

5 Packaging Materials You Didn’t Know are Difficult to Recycle—How many of these packaging materials have you or I blindly thrown in the recycling bin?

Illinois Considers Legalizing Marijuana for a Fiscal Boost—This is the end of prohibition on marijuana in the United States.  Once the first state does it for economic reasons every other non-legalized state will follow.  It’s all about the Benjamins.

U.S. Craft Brewers Up 6% in Volume, 10% in Retail Dollars—Craft beer in the U.S. continues to grow at a rapid clip. However, I am worried about the long term prospects for so many breweries.

Rapidgrass Sings The I-70 Blues—If you have ever thought your ski vacation would begin soon after seeing the mountains poke through Front Range haze on I-76 you have not experienced the I-70 blues.

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:

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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.