Tag Archives: oil

The Most Subversive Thing You Can Do Is…

Nothing.

Wait, what?  Nothing?

Yes, that is right, do nothing.  I do not mean do nothing in a political or activist sense.  Good lord no, please make sure that your elected representatives know very clearly what you think of their behavior in office and how that is going to make you vote in 2018.  Make their lives unpleasant by actually showing up to their town hall meetings—assuming they actually schedule town halls in their districts unlike Rod Blum—and let them know how displeased you are with their proposed legislation and Donald Trump.

When I say do nothing I mean stop participating in the consumer driven shell game.  Our consumption of stuff just feeds the beast.  We can rail against the political machine in Washington D.C. as much as we want but as long as we are filling our shopping carts the wheel will keep on spinning.

Do you think Exxon Mobil really cares about protests?  Not really.  They would care however if a measurable percentage of their customers stopped buying gasoline because they were commuting by bike.  How many?  Enough to flatten their growth curve and cause investors to panic.  Looking at the current state of oil markets a drop in demand of 5-10% is enough to cause major perturbations in price.  Could you reduce your personal consumption of gasoline by 5-10%?  Heck, all of us could probably do that without thinking.  No one is saying that you need to stop driving entirely, just reduce it by 5-10%.  The upside is that it costs nothing to do less driving.

Do you think WalMart really cares about anything other than its quarter versus quarter results?  Not really.  However, given that the counties that supported Hillary Clinton account for ~64% of the nation’s GDP if those voters were to stop patronizing WalMart the results would be staggering.  Remember, the game is now about growth and if companies cannot show a path toward growth the market will punish them.  Look at coal companies.  Once these companies could no longer show a clear path to growth, never mind declines in demand, the market punished the companies by withholding capital and the coal companies began declaring bankruptcy.  It costs nothing to not shop at WalMart.

Political activists constantly harp on us to “vote with our wallets,” but it is much more effective to vote by not opening our wallets.  Just shifting our spending from one faceless corporation to another is not going to create any kind of meaningful change.  If over a short period of time there was a measurable decline in consumer demand for stuff you would see some real change.  Granted, Republicans would probably start trying to pass legislation that guaranteed WalMart a certain amount of income because they love welfare when it is for corporations.

Doing nothing when it comes to consumerism is subversive because it goes against the dominant paradigm in modern America.  Heck, when we were facing the greatest existential threat to the United States in a generation George W. Bush implored us to go out and shop.  A stirring call to action this was not, but it does represent what passes for action in the minds of modern politicians.

Step back from the cash register and do nothing.  Put that book down and check out something from your public library.  Avoid that trip to the mall and see what unused items lurk in your closet that would be better served as a donation to the Salvation Army.  Resist the urge to go out for dinner and be truly revolutionary by cooking dinner for a group of people.  Heck, that may be the most revolutionary thing you could do because nothing smacks of “commie socialism” like sharing a meal with a group of people and expecting nothing return save for good conversation.  I can read the tweets from Donald Trump already “Sad.  Dinner without tableside service so un-American.  Mar-a-Lago will always be tremendous.”

Friday Linkage 9/11/2015

Winter is coming. At least that is what my daughter thinks now that the air conditioning is off for the summer and the night time temperature is dropping into the 40s. She is constantly asking how many days it is until ski resorts in Colorado open. We might have created a monster here.

On to the links…

US Solar Capacity Now Exceeds 20 GW—Believe it. I am hoping to add my own little bit to this number before the close of the year with an approximately 5 kWh system on a west facing roof. Permits be damned.

Why Solar PV is Unstoppable – and Renewable Targets will Cost Little—Fossil fuels are looking over their shoulder at the ultimate killer app in solar. Once deployed it is cheap because the fuel is free and the lifespan is long because the technology is solid state.

The Default Move For US Oil Is Downward. Here’s Why—An interesting technical analysis of the recent drop in oil prices and why we may be looking at a new normal. I think this price drop is a temporary reprieve that gives our economy some breathing room to start making a real transition away from fossil fuels.

Kauai Utility Signs Deal with SolarCity on Energy System to Provide Power at Night—Hawaii has mad renewable energy potential, but the problem is that peak demand continues after the period of peak production crests. This pilot project aims to level out some of that disparity and pump clean power back into the grid after the sun goes down.

Colorado Invests $1.2M In Low-Income Community Solar Projects—One of the biggest and most poignant critiques of solar is that it is something reserved for people with a large degree of discretionary income. Community solar that is subsidized by some degree may be an answer to this critique.

India’s Installed Solar Power Capacity Tops 4 GW—I am kind of a solar junkie when it comes to news stories. I love hearing/reading about new milestones.

Delhi Eyes 2 GW Rooftop Solar Power Capacity By 2022—Remember, this is rooftop solar so it is going on top of existing buildings instead of taking up ground in greenfield or brownfield sites. What is the potential across the world for such an endeavor.

India’s Wind Energy Potential Upgraded To 302 GW—The interesting thing about this number is that slightly more than half is available in what is considered waste land.

How Australia’s Electricity Demand Is Slashed By Solar PV—Simply put when solar panels are producing the most power is when there is a spike in demand. Point of use solar power generation is knocking down the peak of demand.

From Icky Bugs to Good Grub: Why More People are Eating Insects—I think that I read one or two of these stories each year that claims the boom in eating insects is a year or so away. It feels a lot like nuclear fusion. It’s a ten years away and that was true ten years ago.

In Praise of Cheap Knives—I am always reminded of a woodworker I knew who collected beautiful tools in a manicured shop, but no one could ever recall him actually building anything.

Friday Linkage 5/8/2015

I know that the people in California do not want to hear this, but eastern Iowa is a little sick of rain right now. It has stormed almost every day for the past week and the ground is the consistency of a soaked sponge. The forecast, unfortunately, calls for another week of similar showers and it means that most outdoor projects are going to get delayed another week. Ugh.

On to the links…

Why the Koch Brothers’ War against Clean Energy is Still Failing—You would think for a couple of supposedly astute business people—who got a nice helping hand by inheriting some level of wealth from their parents—the Koch brothers do not seem to get a good return on their investment in trying to fight progress. Of course, trying to fight progress is never a good idea in the long term because reactionary elements tend to die out leaving you alone as a flag bearer of outdated ideas.

MidAmerican Energy Plans $900 Million Wind Expansion in Iowa—That is almost a billion dollars and the news kind of flew under the radar. Including this investment MidAmerican Energy will have nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power in Iowa with a total investment of almost $7 billion dollars. When the projects are completed the utility may be able to serve 57 percent of its total retail load with wind.

100% Renewable Electricity Goal Passed By Hawaiian Legislature—Hawaii should be 100% renewable considering the prices ratepayers are paying, the danger of bringing in fuel on tankers, and the state’s abundant renewable resource potential. Maybe politicians have finally listened.

95% Renewable Power-Mix Cheaper Than Nuclear And Gas—In a nutshell, at current costs with a decent share of renewables deployed the cost to deploy a nearly 100% renewable grid will cost nothing more to the consumer. The clean power revolution is already at the tipping point. We just need to apply some more pressure and leverage.

The New Normal? Renewables, Efficiency, And “Too Much Electricity”—Overgen might be something we need to get used to in the future and it speaks to the need for energy storage. Widely deployed energy storage, be it in the form of EVs or wall mounted batteries, can serve to level out the disparity between generation and demand of electricity.

Refrigeration Battery is a Cool Idea for Saving Energy at the Supermarket—I remember these ice systems being the rage a few years ago and I remember seeing one in action at New Belgium Brewery’s facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, as time of day pricing becomes more prevalent these systems may start to proliferate.

Western Towns Hard-Hit by Climate Change Unite, Target Coal for Funds—There is a movement afoot at the grass roots level to adapt to the threat of climate change. National politicians will not see it because they are beholden to small number of primary voters and big ticket donors, but when reliably conservative western towns start making a ruckus they will have lost the war.

Hundreds of Lapsed Permits Found on Forest Service Land—Basically, private companies are not paying for what they are taking from the public trust. Criminals.

Bill Would Roll Back Public Lands Protections In The Name Of National Security—When will the insanity of the border protection industrial complex stop? Building more walls and radio towers and roads will not stop people trying to flee truly horrible situations in their own countries. Maybe if we put some of those resources into trying to make these countries better places there would not be such an exodus. Just saying.

Central Valley’s Growing Concern: Crops Raised with Oil Field Water—Would you like some heavy metals and other chemicals with your salad mix? Didn’t think so.

EPA Faces Struggle to Regulate Formaldehyde—Can’t we all just agree that formaldehyde is nasty stuff. People who lived in FEMA trailers know this. People who bought cheap laminate flooring from China at Lumber Liquidators know this. And kids in biology class know this.

The World’s First Self-Driving Semi-Truck Hits the Road—Imagine the increased efficiency of trucks that could drive at non-peak hours in a very consistent manner safely. Awesome. It would also be awesome if this technology were in consumer cars and I could just zone out during the stretch of interstate from North Platte, Nebraska until Denver. I-76 must die.

UPS to Experiment with Renewable Biogas in 400 Vehicles—Some places call it “poo” gas, but biogas derived from rotting organic material can be a drop in replacement from gas from fossil fuel sources. You can actually tap the landfill. How cool is that?

Friday Linkage 1/23/2015

I am taking a certain sick pleasure in watching the current Republican controlled Congress. The Senate recently voted, nearly unanimously, to admit that climate change was real and not a hoax. The same Senate also did not pass a resolution saying human actions were the cause of global warming. Okay, Mr. Wizard, what is the cause of climate change?

On to the links…

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says—Basically, the oceans are dying and we are to blame. It’s not too late to save the oceans, but it will take coordinated…ah, screw it. We’re too stupid and narrow minded as a species to do anything to actually save the oceans. Let’s go shopping.

S.F. Bay Bird Rescue: Mystery Goo Bedevils Experts—There is a mystery goo, it’s a technical term folks, that is coating and killing birds in the Bay Area. If we did not need more proof about the dire health of the oceans, here it is.

India’s Tiger Population Increases by almost a Third—The animal is still critically endangered and there are many threats to a continued recovery, but the effort is being expended to make this a success story. That in and of itself should be a ray of sunshine on a Friday morning.

A Brief History of the Oil Crash—As I write this post oil is trading sub-$50 per barrel. The rolling 52 week high was just over $100. This is an interesting look at the causes of the price crash.

Graph Dispels The Myth That Cheap Gas Means Cheap Energy—Oil is just one energy source and the energy source that leads to a near daily price interaction as many of us drive by gas stations advertising the price of a gallon of gas. However, the total cost of our energy is a much more varied picture.

Single-Family Residential Solar Power Investment Beats S&P 500 in Most US Cities—I am not suggesting that you stop investing in your 401K, but maybe solar on your own roof could be seen as an investment just like that condo your Uncle Benny keeps talking about in Boca Raton.

Largest-Ever Study Quantifies Value Of Rooftop Solar—People are willing to pay more for homes with solar PV systems. Did this really need to have a study to confirm?

Florida Power & Light Solar Rebate Sells Out Completely In 3 Minutes—Florida is not the friendliest state to renewables. Heck, Florida is not the friendliest state to its own residents. However, this rebate program’s quick sellout confirms a market demand for solar power in the Sunshine State.

Why It’s Taking The U.S. So Long To Make Fusion Energy Work—Fusion is the unicorn of energy technology: cheap, plentiful, pollution free…a man can dream can’t he? Too bad it always seems like it is a decade away.

Striking Photos Show Struggle Of Farmers In California Drought—Maps showing drought conditions are nice, but sometimes photos convey a lot more meaning without being technical. Our best understanding of the misery of the Dust Bowl comes not from facts and figures but from striking monochrome photos.

Experts Zero in on Pizza as Prime Target in War on Childhood Obesity—Damn, I have never been so glad that my kids are not pizza eating wild animals like a lot of other kids. Tacos and breakfast burritos are our problem.

Craft Beer Uses 4 Times As Much Barley As Corporate Brew—It turns out that Natty Light really is just watered down real beer.

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.

Friday Linkage 9/5/2014

Big changes. The reason I have been somewhat radio silent the past couple of weeks is that I have been “reordering” my life. Nothing major like getting divorced or a death in the family—too much of that in recent years for my tastes. Rather, I decided of my own volition to make some adjustments in my approach to life for happiness and health reasons. I will get to the details later.

On to the links…

22.6% Of Homes Use Solar In South Australia—Damn, imagine if sunny states in the U.S. like California, Arizona, or Colorado approached a number like this? One can always dream.

Solar Makers Set for Record 2014 Shipments on Strong Demand—Why do I foresee a near term future where every headline is about a record with regard to solar?

Propane Made with Renewable Process for the First Time—This is kind of cool. Drop in biofuels are sort of the holy grail of the industry.

Communities Going into Power Business to Cut Cost, Carbon Footprint—Local control means that the communities can decide the path forward for their power generation. If left to private power companies it would be dirty coal. All the time.

Shell Submits a Plan for New Exploration of Alaskan Arctic Oil—After a disastrous initial campaign highlighted by the beaching of its massive drilling rig, Shell is back to try and drill in the artic again. Nothing has changed and this will more than likely end in ecological disaster.

Does Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Negate Climate Change? Scientists Say No—When are people, in general, and climate deniers, in specific, going to realize that it is global climate change brought about by a globally warmer climate. Some places will get wetter while others get drier. Some places will get colder while others get warmer. The dominant theme however is that the climate is going to get weird.

Seeing Discolored Lawns, California Businesses Apply Dab of Green—No matter what happens to the climate at least the invisible hand of the market has figured out a way for you to have a nice green lawn in the worst drought.

Why Coal Is (Still) Worse Than Fracking and Cow Burps—This is an interesting take on the compounds responsible for climate change. Read it and let me know what you think.

Sweden Now Recycles a Staggering 99 Percent of its Garbage—Damn. Regardless of how the Swedes got to this point, it is impressive.

Inside the Rainbow Factory Where Crayola Crayons Are Made—Factory tours are cool. Crayola Crayon factory tours are even cooler.

Friday Linkage 7/11/2014

It’s off to Colorado for a week of being out of touch, visiting some new breweries, and generally trying to recharge to ol’ batteries. Thus, I will be out of pocket and not posting for more than a week but I should have some good stuff to share come the end of the month like a rundown of some really good beers made in Minnesota that I picked up during my trip over the fourth of July and whatever I end up discovering in the Centennial State.

On to the links…

Investment In Clean Energy At Highest Point Since 2012—Just some plain ol’ good news.

The Emerging Clean Energy Edge—Carl Pope, the former director of the Sierra Club, has a succinct piece on why clean energy has reached the tipping point where it can displace traditional fossil fuels without the need for subsidies. Dig it.

Renewable Energy Provided One-Third Of Germany’s Power In The First Half Of 2014—Don’t believe it is possible to see large scale usage and integration of renewables? Witness Germany getting one third of its power from renewables for an entire half of a year. Not a day. Not a holiday. Rather, an entire half year. Pretty impressive.

‘Singlet Fission’ can Increase Solar Cell Efficiency by as much as 30 Percent—I do not understand the science behind the breakthrough, but anything that can increase the efficiency of solar PV is a good thing.

Taking Oil Industry Cue, Environmentalists Drew Emissions Blueprint—I love that people are surprised by the environmental movement taking cues from the oil and gas lobby. Really? Those companies have been wildly successful in shaping public policy for the better part of a century. It’s about damn time.

Nine Iowa Counties see Million-Gallon Crude Oil Trains—My neck of the woods is not on the list, but these rolling firebombs waiting to happen are rumbling through a good portion of the state. It feels a little too close to home.

To Improve Accuracy, BBC Tells Its Reporters To Stop Giving Air Time To Climate Deniers—Finally, a news corporation takes a stand on giving climate deniers equal time. Why do people who are outnumbered at least 99 to 1 if not 999 to 1 get anywhere close to equal time on the air? Besides Fox News, the BBC’s practice should be standard for every other news outlet. Who cares what Rush says about your bias because he is a blowhard bought and paid for by the extreme right.

This Train Could Power A Fleet Of Electric Buses—Trying to wring out every last wasted kilowatt of electricity is a surer climate change mitigation strategy than any expansion of renewables in terms of immediate return on investment. Innovative solutions like this are going to be part of the future plan.

Californians Keep Up With Joneses’ Water Use—This is depressing. California is facing epic drought and its citizens are doing little if anything to conserve water on a personal level. Who needs a freakin’ green lawn in California? No one.

Protecting Parrotfish on the Path to a Caribbean Reef Revival—Reefs are complete ecosystems, so we need to ensure the vitality of all the creatures that inhabit them. The decline of parrotfish means that algae and other organisms colonize the coral and outcompete more traditional reef inhabitants.

Interior Commits to Bison Restoration, but Offers few Specifics—The North American bison is an amazing creature and its restoration from near extinction is also equally amazing. What is needed, as the Poppers postulate in their Buffalo Commons idea, is a wide scale reintroduction into the landscape of the American west that has been long dominated by cattle.

What Type of Environmentalist are You?—This little quiz made the rounds of the internet during this week. It’s a fun little diversion.

More And More Companies Are Buying Their Way Overseas To Get Lower Taxes—Do you want to know why we have a revenue problem in the U.S.? It’s because corporations keep making more money and keep paying less in taxes. ‘Nuff said.