Tag Archives: natural gas

Friday Linkage 5/19/2017

At what point do we begin to point the finger for this entire Donald Trump mess at the people who enabled him.  Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe is partially to blame for giving Donald Trump a national platform for free in exchange for ratings in the early days of the campaign.  The entire Republican establishment is on notice for allowing this charlatan in orange to assume the Oval Office because they felt that it would be beneficial for their agenda.  Paul Ryan and the rest of his elected Republican cronies need to get in line and get behind the real investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection.

Furthermore, the American people need to demand that all of our elected representatives act as the Constitutionally mandated check to Trump’s deranged ambition.  I am sure of the fact that Donald Trump feels he has the ultimate authority regardless of law and will do anything to facilitate this delusion.

On to the links…

Under Trump, Inconvenient Data that was Previously Public is Being Sidelined—You don’t think that people like Scott Pruitt are loving this action.  This is an administration and a Republican party that is allergic to facts in general and almost violently reactive to anything that even hints at an opposing viewpoint.  It’s like your drunk Uncle Carl who yells about the “lamestream media” is in charge of the country.

Why Trump Will Make the Wrong Decision on Paris—I do not think this really needed a long explanation.  Donald Trump is an under informed reactionary decision maker who loathes anyone with more expertise or knowledge on a topic than himself thus he is prone to making bone headed decisions.  Furthermore, he surrounds himself with family and sycophants utterly dependent upon his wealth thus the toadies are always telling him how great he is doing.  Is it any wonder we are doomed?

Trump’s EPA Greenlights a Nasty Chemical. A Month Later, It Poisons a Bunch of Farmworkers.—Color me surprised, but I am not.  Chlorpyrifos is nasty stuff, but Trump’s corporate allies wanted it allowed so it was made so under the guise of…profits and screw everything else.  Only profits matter now.

The EPA Asked the Public which Rules to Scrap and Got Chewed Out—People like clean air and water.  People like it when toxins are not prevalent in their food.  People like health.  It must have been a real surprise to Trump’s denizens of death that people prefer to keep regulations that prevent profit seeking companies from polluting.

The Surprising Story of the Decline of Electricity use in American Households—It all comes down to LED lighting based on back of the envelope calculations.  Those are the same LEDs that talking heads like Sarah Palin derided as some liberal conspiracy.  Granted, most of those talking heads are nitwits who supported Trump.  And you thought those pictures of your high school fashion choices were embarrassing.

Three Reasons to Believe in China’s Renewable Energy Boom—China is all in on renewable energy because the leadership of that country believes it is critical to their staying in power.

By 2020, Every Chinese Coal Plant will be More Efficient than Every US Coal Plant—However, a coal plant still produces a lot more pollution than a solar panel.

Terawatts of Solar Power are Within our Reach—Solar power will soon reach a tipping point where it is like a large snowball going downhill picking up speed and gaining in size.  The victims of its destructive path will be old line fossil fuels and maybe your drunk Uncle Carl who hates hippies, Volkswagens, and solar panels.

New US Residential Solar Capacity Additions Drop 17% In First Quarter—So goes California…as California is responsible for almost 50% of residential solar installations the golden state has an outsize impact on the aggregate numbers for the U.S.  Other states saw smaller declines and it may be due to major installers pursuing more profitable installations over heady growth figures.

Coal and Natural Gas Are Foes, Not Natural Allies—This is the real inconvenient truth for Trump and his coal cronies.  Natural gas and coal compete directly with each other so any policy that favors both fuels—relaxed emissions targets, etc.—also favors the fuel that directly replaces coal.

Trump Coal Obsession Largely Irrelevant To Electric Utility CEOs—Those darned market forces just get in the way of a good campaign speech.

Stanford Study says Fossil-Fueled Cars will Vanish in 8 years as ‘Big Oil’ Collapses—I doubt it will happen in eight years, but I think there is a time in my lifetime when my truck will be a classic because of its fuel choice.

You May Live Longer if You Bike to Work—Let us count all of the ways that bicycles rule.

New American Study Confirms: Physically Separated Bike Lanes are Crucial for Safety—Add this to the list of things that seem obvious but that someone felt a study was needed to confirm.  As someone who rides both types of bike lanes I can assure you that the protected and/or separated bike lanes are the better option for a cyclist.

Denver’s Bike-Friendly Plans Seem To Be Panning Out—People actually like biking to work and play.  It’s a proven fact.

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 9/12/2014

Oh man, did the weather ever turn into fall this week. Night time temperatures dipped to near 40 degrees on Thursday night and we are in for more of the same come the weekend. After a mild summer I am hoping that this is not a harbinger of a harsh winter to come on the heels of last year’s sucker punch of a snow season.

On to the links…

America’s First Cellulosic Biofuel Plant To Use Corn Waste Is Open In Iowa—Is ethanol made from non-food feedstock a viable part of our energy future?   I do not know if anyone has a definitive answer because no large scale plants have come one line to test the commercial feasibility of the process. The opening of a plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa is a first step.

The U.S. Added More New Capacity For Solar Than For Natural Gas In The First Half Of 2014—Remember, each solar panel represents demand destruction. Or, another nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry. That’s what I see when someone installs solar…little coal coffins.

Bad News for Obama: Fracking May Be Worse Than Burning Coal—Natural gas, the supplies of which have swelled because of fracking, may not be the clean-ish bridge fuel that we were hoping for just a few years ago. Never mind the groundwater contamination and lifestyle destruction from the actual fracking because the release of other gasses may be worse. Great.

America’s Coal-Fired Divide—People may think it is a rifle that someone will pull from their cold, dead hands but the truth is more likely to be coal.

Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had—Energy efficiency is not sexy. It does not make the news. It does not sell books or speeches. It is putting a sweater on during the winter, which is a buzzkill. Sorry Jimmy Carter. But, it is very effective because it is immediate and cheap.

Abandoned California Oil And Gas Field Will Soon Be A Solar Farm—Think about the solar potential of brown field developments. No one wants to live on top of a landfill, so why not put some solar down?

California Encourages West-facing Solar Panels—Not only does putting solar panels on the west facing roof maximize peak use energy, it also opens up a lot more potential roofs for residential solar PV.

5 Egregious Eco Crimes Committed by the Koch Brothers—These guys are the gifts that keep on giving. Never mind the eco crimes for a minute. Consider just how much money they have spent to promote their pet causes and the return on that spending. Ouch. Keep the ATM for whacko candidates coming guys.

David Keeps Winning: 10 Recent Victories That Will Give You Hope for the Planet—Does any victory matter is we win a bunch of battles but lose the war to climate change?

China’s Battle Plans in War on Air Pollution under Scrutiny—Is anything the Chinese government says believable? Blue sky days with impenetrable smog is the more likely scenario. Nothing to see here, move along.

Hustle and Flow: Here’s Who Really Controls California’s Water—Marc Reisner nailed California and the West’s water politics in his book Cadillac Desert and the truth remains to this day. Water is power and money in the arid American west.

Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing—Can we stop the myth making around Ronald Reagan? He raised taxes. Fact. The number of people employed by the government grew under his administration. Fact. He dealt with terrorists and dictators. Fact.

General Mills to buy Annie’s Naturals for $820 million—Big organic just swallowed another player, but considering the size of the acquisition I have to wonder if Annie’s Naturals was really already part of big organic. Hmmm….

Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner—The mythology of the family dinner is strong. It’s not about the dinner, but about the time a family can spend together without distraction. The dinner table is just an agreed upon place and time for the interaction to occur.

How to Become a Food Bank Gardener—There has got to be a way to harness people’s love of growing food and people’s need for healthy, fresh food.

Sorry, Raw Sugar Is No Better for You Than Refined—I remember people pouring packet after packet of Sugar in the Raw into their coffee during graduate school. It was acceptable on some level because it was not white sugar. Too bad it’s all just sugar to our guts.

You Must Read—The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World

Fracking is either America’s economic savior or one step further along the staircase to ecological doom. In truth, it may be both things at the same time or neither depending upon who you ask and when you ask the question.

9781451692280There is no doubt, however, that fracking—the process by which hydraulic pressure is used to create numerous small fractures dispersing from a bore hole—is controversial. What Russell Gold attempts to do in The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World is clarify some of the misconceptions about the industry in general and put a face to a dynamic that seems to dominate the headlines.

First, fracking as a concept is not new. The technology to “frack” a well has existed almost as long as oil and gas men, make no mistake that this is a male dominated industry, have been drilling holes in the ground to extract dino juice. The actual mechanisms have changed dramatically, replacing explosives with high pressure water and sand.

Second, the concerns are legitimate. To get at most shale gas the bore hole needs to pass through the strata of rock that many aquifers reside. To ensure that this underground water is not contaminated by escaping gas the well needs to be “cemented.” If you remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster and a score of other incidents where wells have failed miserably you will understand that this process if riddled with potential errors. In the race to pull gas out of the ground as fast as possible or get wells drilled before lease terms lapsed, frackers have regularly failed to follow the industry’s best practices and regulators have not held their feet to the fire in order to drive better behavior. While some people were getting rich and our homes were cheaper to heat a lot of holes got put into the ground that will impact our environment for generations to come.

Third, the change wrought by the expansion of natural gas supplies in the United States is somewhat uncharted territory. The U.S. was supposed to both consume more natural gas and produce less as the twenty-first century progressed, yet the opposite happened. Efficiency and production shifts away from natural gas flat lined domestic demand while domestic production soared. Between shale gas and unconventional oil the U.S. is producing more fossil fuels than it has in many decades, which is dramatically reshaping the economy in ways that may not be sustainable.

Lastly, the story of fracking is one about personalities. No single person dominates the story in The Boom more than Aubrey McClendon, the deposed founder of Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Chesapeake was one of the single biggest proponents of fracking and natural gas from the outset of the boom. Its fortunes were made and lost on the backs on the price of natural gas and the markets, which may or may not have been manipulated by people close to McClendon.

Toward the end of the book there is an interesting side bar about the odd marriage of McClendon and Carl Pope, who at the time of the story was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Perhaps in exchange for promoting natural gas as a bridge fuel to wean the world off of coal McClendon became one of the Sierra Club’s largest donors. Talk about an odd couple. When Michael Brune took over as executive director the decision was made to cut ties with McClendon at great cost to the Sierra Club’s coffers.

Gold’s book is a breezy, not overly technical, account of how an obscure process to extend the life of oil and gas wells turned out to fundamentally alter the conversation about energy in America. Given how dependent our lifestyle and economy is on hydrocarbons sucked from the ground there can be few stories more central to the history of modern America.

Thinking about Solar Potential

Iowa is a national leader in terms of wind power.  As it stands now, the state gets about one-quarter of its electricity from the wind.  Many projects, including a recently announced $1.9B project by MidAmerican Energy, will keep pushing that percentage higher.

But what if wind power was not the sole solution?

Well, what is the problem we are trying to solve?  The elimination of fossil fuels to generate electricity is my goal and I think that Iowa has the potential to get there.

In a prior post I wrote about the level of windpower investment required to eliminate fossil fuels from the power equation.  Depending upon how you add up the numbers with regard to projects in the pipeline Iowa is almost 75% of the way there.

Assuming that these projects do not all happen for various reasons, what are the other options?  Disregarding hydropower, which is a solution for some locales but not a state like Iowa, the solution, in terms of renewables, must be solar.

“Solar cannot work in Iowa!” the naysayer says.  Really?

Germany is a leader in the deployment of solar photovoltaic technology.  That country is never thought of as being sun drenched like its southern EU compatriots Spain or Greece.  Do not even think of comparing Germany’s solar radiation with North Africa’s.  So, solar works in places that are not thought of as ideal.  Got it.

In 2012, Germany is estimated to have produced 28,000 GWh of solar electricity.  Iowa is about 41% the physical size of Germany, so if Iowa deployed solar in proportion to geographic size the generation potential would equal 11,480 GWh of solar electricity on an annual basis.  What does that number mean?

In 2010, Iowa produced about 57,508 GWh of electricity.  Assuming the numbers for the last full year are similar, the state would have produced about 43,131 GWh of electricity using fossil fuel or other non-renewables.  This assumes that 25% of the state’s electricity generation came in the form of wind power.   At the deployment figure stated above, 11,480 GWh, solar could easily account for approximately 27% of the state’s electricity generation.

A side benefit to deploying solar is that it tends to be at a production peak that is counter cyclical to wind power’s production peak, which levels out the demands on the grid.

It’s total “pie in the sky” territory, I realize, but it’s fun to run the numbers and see how close we could be to a time when we no longer burn fossil fuels to watch Whale Wars.

Friday Linkage 2/1/2013

It’s February.  Wow.  Hard to believe and then…not so hard considering I have spent the past two weeks watching the sports section of anything I read turned into a non-stop parade of useless articles about the impending Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl signifies one thing to me—pitchers and catchers are about to report.  Say what you will about baseball, but it is that first taste of the warm weather to come when spring training starts in Arizona and Florida.

On to the links…

Coastal Snobbery, ‘The Masses,’ And Respecting The Lowest Common Denominator—Thank god someone actually put pen to paper and wrote about this perception.  It’s as if everyone who lives in an enclave on the east or west coast feels that everyone living more than an hour’s drive from salt water is some sort of backwards rube.  Granted, Buckwild is doing nothing to help that perception.

In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change—Taxes have become the new “thing that shall remain nameless” in any discussion about public policy unless the focus is on tax cuts.  It is too bad because targeted taxes on energy could really change behavior and raise a lot of money to fund the fight against climate change.  Wonder what Grover Norquist thinks?

New ERCOT Report Shows Texas Wind And Solar Are Highly Competitive With Natural Gas—The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is not known as a bastion of trippy hippie thinking, so when it comes out with an assessment that wind and solar are competitive…no wait, highly competitive with natural gas people need to pay attention.

Fake Protesters Offered $20 To Stand At Anti-Wind Energy Rally—Like the incident in 2012 where pro-coal groups paid people $50 to attend hearings, the fossil fuel complex and its cronies cannot drum up actual grassroots support.  So, they pay people.

How Volkswagen Turns Tennessee Sunshine Into Passats—I find the picture of all those solar photovoltaic panels amazing.  I also find it a bit disheartening because there are so many places we could be deploying solar photovoltaic panels that are not open fields—e.g. the roofs of big box stores, warehouses, schools, etc.  At least it is something.

A Solar Powered Shed for India’s Food—Food waste is a huge problem all across the world—developed and developing—but in the developing world the main problems are keeping food from spoiling before it can reach consumers.  Refrigeration and distribution headaches are two of the primary concerns.  Here is a simple solution to take care of the refrigeration component.

How Electricity, Water And Food Could Be Produced In Desert Areas With Minimal Ecological Footprint—There is something to these combined facilities that really speaks to me.  When I was a kid I used to love reading stories about the ideas for moon bases or terraforming.  I do not know how viable this project would be in the “real world” but it is fun to think about for a few moments.

Officials Back Deep Cuts in Atlantic Cod Harvest to Save Industry—The collapse of the cod fisheries in the Atlantic has to stand as one of the great environmental catastrophes of the Twentieth Century.  As other species of wildlife have returned to some level of abundance, the cod has been a stubborn fish.

Bacon, and How it Came to Be—Maybe it’s where I come from—eastern Iowa—but butchers never really went away.  In town I can easily think of a half dozen meat markets where a real, honest to goodness butcher is behind the counter.  Nonetheless, it is good to see a focus returning to the people who actually prepare the foods we cook.  Even if this did seem a little bit like elitist foodie tourism.

Alex Bogusky talks about Boulder, SmartWool, bikes and being American—  When I was in b-school, Alex Bogusky was one of the few ad people that I actually found interesting to read about or listen to.  This opinion continues with this piece.  BTW, I love the “random” conversations that the Denver Post has in this feature.  It’s great.

It’s Heating Season

It’s finally heating season in Iowa.  For most everyone I know this means wondering just how much natural gas that your furnace is consuming.  In prior years this was a big deal because the price of natural gas seemed like it was on a trajectory to equal platinum in cost.  Expansion of domestic supplies through the use of fracking has almost made the price of natural gas trivial.

Nonetheless, there is a very large environmental impact to heating your home in the winter.  The EPA has put together a nice infographic laying out the costs of home heating:

Heating_infographicIt’s why I keep my home an average of 64 degrees or cooler in the winter.  Heck, what is better than sleeping with the covers pulled up tight when the temperatures drop outside and the house is kept at a nice 56 degrees?