Tag Archives: Paris Climate Accord

Two Approaches to the Environment on the Ballot this Midterm Election

In November we will be given a choice to change the direction of the United States politically.  As is the case every two years the entirety of the U.S. House of Representatives is up for election.  Many of the House districts in the United States are drawn in such a way that partisan incumbents face little challenge to their reelection bids.

In Iowa, however, relatively fairly drawn House districts mean that we have an actually competitive race between incumbent Rod Blum, no friend of this blog, and Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer.

As an environmentalist I think comparing the candidates’ views on climate change to be instructive as it serves as a point of departure from the Trump wing of America and the rest of the country.

Rod Blum is a climate change denier.  As a member of the arch-conservative and downright wacky House Freedom Caucus Blum has not met an environmental rule or agreement that he did not want to gut like a catfish.  In 2014 he went on the record as a skeptic of climate change.  He supported Trump’s move to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  While in office he has continued to financially benefit from oil and gas stocks while moving to open up public lands to more oil and gas drilling.

The League of Conservation voters nailed it by giving Rod Blum a 2% lifetime score when it comes to national environmental issues.  Honestly, I am quite surprised he managed to drum up 2% given his voting record.  He’s basically Scott Pruitt, but from Dubuque, Iowa.

Contrast that with Abby Finkenauer, who has an entire section of her campaign website dedicated to the environment and clean energy.  Entitled “Growing our Clean Energy Economy and Protecting our Environment” it states that:

I’ll play a similar watchdog role in Congress, and will just as firmly stand up to attempts to weaken key programs and measures that fight climate change, grow our clean energy economy, and protect our environment. Ultimately it’s time we had a representative who fights for Iowa families – ensuring they can live in healthy environments supported by good jobs – rather than standing with corporate polluters and those opposed to science.

A-freaking-men!

I believe that the choice of what is right for Iowa’s 1st district and, thus, the United States is to vote for Abby Finkenauer this November.  It’s just the planet that is counting on you.

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We Have the Tools to Create Meaningful Change

For the first time in my memory, which stretches back to the now fuzzy early 1980s, I feel that we have the tools to positively combat climate change available at a personal level.  No longer are we limited to advocating for municipal recycling, agitating McDonald’s to get rid of polystyrene clamshells, or hanging our undergarments out to dry in the sun.  Hey, it was the 1980s and I wanted save the whales so I spent a lot of time writing letters to McDonald’s threatening to boycott Happy Meals forever unless they got rid of those old school burger boxes.

Let me use solar power as an example of a tool that we have available down here at a personal level.  Consider the cost per watt in dollar terms from 1977 until 2015:

Price_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg.png

In simple mathematical terms that is a decline in price per way of over 99.5%.  Whereas a solar photovoltaic system was probably only something that strange science teacher who drove an ancient Volvo actually had on his house is now something a lot more people can install.

Take my solar photovoltaic installation.  In a little more than two half days and for a cost of less than $11K I had 4.64 kWh of solar installed in a single array on a west facing garage roof.  After tax credits the total cost will come in somewhere around $6K.  For six thousand dollars I now produce all of my electricity needs from the sun.  Granted, it is a grid tie system so I use traditional utility power on occasion.

Yes, I use a lot less electricity than the average peer house but it’s not like I live in an off-grid yurt.  I have a typically large American refrigerator, I run the air conditioning when it is hot, I have a large screen television that gets turned on to watch football games, and so on.  Hell, I have an electric dryer and range.  The point is that you can use a lot less electricity and produce it all via the sun with a fairly minimal investment and without sacrificing the quality of life we have come to assume is natural in the United States.  This is not Ed Begley Jr. being eco-dramatic on Living with Ed.

Even better is that none of the technology used in a solar system is in its infancy, so the maturity of the design is well along which means the systems are reliable.  No one is going to be spending hours up on a roof trying to figure out why the panels are not producing any juice.  The solid state system just sits on top of the roof generating power from the sun without any moving parts or noise.  Day in and day out whenever the sun shines and even when it does not.  If that is not a powerful tool to combat carbon emissions and the resultant climate change I do not know what would qualify.

Going solar is just one of the many tools available to us to make a difference.  We all need to take a moment and examine our lives.  What are the activities that we engage in that have an outsize impact on our carbon emissions.  Tools exist and are available to us that can ameliorate almost any source of emissions if we are willing to make the effort.

Given the horrible state of national leadership on climate issues it is incumbent upon us as concerned individuals to make every effort and deploy every tool.  You might feel good about yourself when you sign a petition, but it has to go further than that if we are to have any hope of a sustainable and equitable future on this planet.

My goal over the next few months is to really examine what the tools are that can help me—a guy living a fairly normal suburban life with three other people in eastern Iowa—eliminate my carbon emissions.

Friday Linkage 9/22/2017

It is officially fall.  It is time to get the skis out and waxed for the upcoming season.  It is time to fully embrace “sweater weather” and pumpkin spice whatever…oh wait, it is ninety degrees in eastern Iowa today.  Damn, I guess summer is not going to release its satanic grip quite yet.

On to the links…

Key Stories for Understanding the Monuments Memo—Get ready for the great environmental legal battle when Trump actually takes these recommendations and moves forward with bad policy.  Like spoiled brats and bullies the Trump administration is acting reflexively against anything that they do not like regardless of the consequences.

These Companies Support the Paris Agreement. They Also Support Climate Deniers.—I do not care what you say publicly.  If you support climate denial in any way you are part of the problem regardless of what you do with your other corporate efforts.  It would be better to do nothing at all than to secretly support these scam artists who are obfuscating the most important challenge of our time.

Cedar Rapids says They’re Seeing More Residents Go Solar in Linn County—I did not participate in this program when I had a solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof, but it is exciting to see that there is a lot of interest out there in going solar.  Every system is like a little dagger into the black heart of coal.

US Celebrates Record 29% Drop In Utility-Scale Solar Costs — But Tariff Cloud Looms—Everyone claims to love a free market right up until the moment that it impacts their pocketbook.  Solar prices have gotten so low so fast because of globalization.

Why Wind and Solar Won’t Save Us—Reducing demand should be the primary focus, but once we have reduced demand producing clean energy to satisfy what remains is imperative.

Trump’s ‘No Friend’ of Clean Energy. Here are 3 Reasons to Invest Anyway—The investment community does not care about the politics anymore.  They see clean energy as a sound investment going forward.  Given the cost curves and public sentiment you have to wonder how long coal can hang on.

The Solar Boom In The Middle East—The Middle East is a perfect and odd place for solar to be successful.  It is sunny and there is a lot of open space, but it is also blessed with cheap fossil fuels.

Tesla Powerwall 2: An In-Depth Review—Changes in behavior are always interesting.  As someone who wants to generate all his electricity needs from the sixteen panels on the my roof I can tell you that since I have installed my solar system I think twice about using the air conditioner, which is the last remaining major discretionary electrical appliance in my home.

Regenerative Solutions for the Future of Humanity—It is not enough to preserve what we have not destroyed.  We need to regenerate what we have degraded if we are to live a fulfilling life as a species on this planet.