Tag Archives: renewable energy

We Have More than Enough Money to Decarbonize Our Energy System

If I ever hear another American politician say that we cannot afford the transition to clean energy I will scream.  Why you ask?

In 2012 it was estimated that consumers in the U.S spent approximately $65 billion on soda.  In that same year it was estimated that consumers in the U.S. spent approximately $11 billion on bottled water.  [1] That is to say that American consumers spent over $75 billion on unnecessary drinks and, in the case of soda, a product that is generally regarded to be detrimental to your health.  Not to mention the environmental impact of disposable, single use containers.

Okay, why is that relevant in the terms of this discussion?  In 2016, the most recent year for which full year data is available, the U.S. invested $44 billion in clean energy including both private investing and government expenditure.  [2]

Therefore, we spend more than 50% more on soda and bottled water per year than we invest in clean energy.  If we just directed the money from soda and bottled water to clean energy investment it would represent an increase of 172%.  That is a lot of solar panels and wind turbines.

Someone may argue that this scenario is impractical, but I would challenge such an argument on several fronts.  One, spending on soda and bottled water—for the most part—is totally discretionary.  No one needs a Diet Coke to survive and other than emergency situations no one needs bottled water.  It could be argued that it would be better if no one consumed bottled water given the economic and environmental impact of a product that can also be obtained from municipal water supplies.  Two, by and large individuals now have the power to redirect their discretionary spending toward renewable energy.  As long as you have the capital or alternative financing arrangements are available you can put solar panels directly on your roof.  Thus, your Diet Coke and Evian habit can be turned into clean energy.  A direct substitution, so to speak.

My point is to illuminate that when we discuss the level of investment necessary to decarbonize our energy system it needs to be placed in direct comparison to some broader economic choices.  Is the future our planet worth skipping that Dr. Pepper?

  1. http://classroom.synonym.com/how-much-do-americans-spend-on-soft-drinks-12081634.html
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/us-2015-renewable-energy-investments-2016-5
Advertisements

Friday Linkage 11/3/2017

Could Washington D.C. be a bigger shit show right now?  Just when you think that American democracy has hit a new low, Donald J. Trump and his sycophants come out with some new affront to decency.  At what point do people look around and tally up the damage done—Russia, cronyism, nepotism, money laundering, and the list goes on for sure?  Is it 2018 yet?

On to the links…

This One Quote Shows What Angry White Guys Mean when They Talk About Government Overreach—Nothing says America like making a truck belch thick plumes of diesel smoke.  Oh wait, nothing says ‘Merica quite like the practice of rolling coal.  My bad.  The sooner that politicians stop pandering to this segment of society the sooner we can move on to a more advanced phase of our development as a country.

The Trump Administration Is Teeming With Climate-Change Deniers—It is like Donald Trump sat down with his chief of staff and asked, “Can you find me the biggest sack of sorry ass climate deniers to staff my administration with because…fake news.  Sad.  Isn’t Ivanka amazing?”

Scott Pruitt Is Using the Bible as His Guide for Reorganizing EPA’s Science Boards—If you thought it could not get worse, it usually does with the Trump administration.  I always wonder why these guys manage to peel out the parts of the Bible that they like without actually having to follow all of its prescriptions like, say, not eating shrimp.  Just consider this list of things “banned” in Leviticus.

Scandals Pile up for Interior Secretary—Sam Clovis did not even get to assume his post, so maybe we can now focus on the organizational dumpster fire that is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  We’ve got campaign finance chicanery, disaster relief scandals, plane scandals, and a whole bag full of other crap.

Global Solar Market Demand Expected To Reach 100 Gigawatts In 2017—What does 100 GW mean?  It would be a 30% increase over what was installed in 2016.  This makes solar the fastest growing form of energy in the world.

US Wind Energy Pipeline Nears 30 Gigawatts—This is not 30 GW worldwide, but 30 GW just in the United States.  Suck it coal.

Trump Admin. Desperate To Keep Coal Power Plant Alive With Taxpayer Dollars—It is not and it never was about the free market.  Trump’s obsession with coal goes back to his need for adoration and coal barons are always ready to give Trump the love because he is their last hope.  The market does not love them.  The utilities do not love them.  Trump does love him some coal.

Italy To Phase Out Coal By 2025—Another one bites the dust.

Electric Buses are Coming, and They’re Going to Help Fix 4 Big Urban Problems—If I had to put my money behind the electrification of transportation in America I would start with buses and garbage trucks.  There are few vehicles I see that could benefit from the advantages of an electric drivetrains and getting black smoke billowing diesel engines out of our cities would be a good thing.

Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?—The moral of this story is that it is hard to undo damage.  Especially when that damage occurred over a thousand years ago and your country happens to be a volcanic hot zone.  It does not mean, however, that you do not try.

If You Care About Cleantech, You Have To Change Your Diet—There are few more impactful things you can do in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than changing your diet to one that does not feature meat or other animal products.

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies—You are what you eat.  Literally.  It does however make sense for you to exercise to be healthy.  There is nothing more liberating than following an exercise regimen to reach a goal that is not weight specific.  The scale is no longer your enemy.  It’s just another diagnostic tool.

Friday Linkage 10/27/2017

A little late with the links today, but I was distracted by eastern Iowa’s first flurries.  While most of my co-workers were cursing the sudden snap to cold weather I was dishing out my silent thanks to Ullr.  Winter is coming and those deranged bastards like myself are very excited.  It also helps that I am less than 60 days away from a break in Summit County.

On to the links…

The Key to Tackling Climate Change: Electrify Everything—It is a simple plan.  Step one: clean up electricity.  Step two: electrify everything.  The best part is that step one can be ongoing while we start step two.

Pollution Linked to 9 Million Deaths Worldwide in 2015—Here is the human cost of pollution.  This is why we are working to close down coal fired power plants and electrify our transportation.

Global Tree Cover Loss Reaches a Record High in 2016—Can we all agree that reforestation is an admirable goal?  Who can disagree with trying to regenerate the forests of this planet?

Scott Pruitt Betrays a Deep Distrust of his own Agency with New Announcement—You have to wonder about people who profess to hate government, seek positions in government, work to destroy the things government can do, and wonder why people are upset with them afterward.  When the accounting is done in a few years the Trump presidency and its administration will be considered one of the worst ever.

The Most Effective Clean Energy Policy gets the Least Love—This should be a conservative wet dream.  A state sets a percentage for renewable energy to contribute to the grid by a certain date and industry figures out the most effective way to make that happen.  In Iowa it is wind power all the way, but in Arizona it might be solar.  In Hawaii it might be an expansion of geothermal.  Local solutions, baby!  However, the Koch-addled brain on modern Republicans heard renewable and thought, “Kochs told me renewable power is bad.  Socialism.  Fake news.  Sad.”

Renewable Energy is Creating US Jobs Twice as Fast as Any Other Industry—Republicans might crow about jobs all day long, but they do not care about jobs except as a way to line the pockets of their fossil fuels interest.  Just like the forthcoming tax plan everyone who is not a millionaire or giant corporation will be content with scraps at the end of the feeding trough.

Trump Administration Scrambles to Save Largest Coal Plant in the West—There are no more conservative principles.  These coal fired power plants were priced out of the market by a number of factors with cheap natural gas being the most prominent.  However, the Trump administration needs to bring home the bacon for the coal barons so the book of political tricks is open for them to play from.

Solar Power Crushes its Own Record for Cheapest Electricity ‘Ever, Anywhere, by any Technology’—Think about this for a moment, the lowest price for solar power is now the highest price in current bids.  That is not bending a cost curve, that is blowing it up.

Hybrid Wind, Solar and Energy Storage Project Coming to Australia—The future is here and it might be in Australia.  A season of unreliable power has really forced the folks down under to consider solutions.

Still No Takers For One Of India’s Cheapest Solar Projects—I am blown away by this development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Winners and Losers of the Electric Car Race (So Far)—It is very early in this race so it is my guess that the winners in a few years will look nothing like the winners we think of today.  Heck, some of the companies at the head of the pack might not even exist in a few years.

Friday Linkage 10/20/2017

Days without being an international embarrassment: 0.

Do I even need to tell you who I am talking about?  The thing that amazes me most about the incompetent orangutan in the Oval Office is that no matter what the issue or topic of the day may be he finds a way to make it about himself and how he is better than any other man to ever hold the office.  His need for a constant stream of affirmation of his supposed excellence on any topic is a field day for arm chair psychologists and political observers.  When the final days of this putrid presidency wind down in a few years—has it really only been nine months—the historians will take decades to unravel the shit storm.

On to the links…

Interior Secretary Zinke Has A Flag Raised When He’s At HQ—Scott Pruitt has a special phone booth and a private security army while Ryan Zinke thinks that the Department of the Interior is his personal military command.  What is it with Trump and his minions having to declare dominion over everything that they survey?  The inferiority complexes are stunning.

Secretary Zinke, it’s Time to Call it Quits—I think this is really a race between Zinke and Tillerson.

Scott Pruitt’s Quest to Kill Obama’s Climate Regulations is Deeply Shady — and Legally Vulnerable—Is Scott Pruitt the shadiest person in government in a long time?  He is essentially a self-admitted shill for the fossil fuel industry who is going about his day with a plan drafted by those same interests.

Perry Questions Value of ‘Free Market’ in Energy—The free market, like religious freedom for Republicans, is great as long as it supports your pet cause but when it causes damage to the pocketbooks of your masters it is unacceptable.  In the drive to placate the coal barons the Trump administration has pissed off just about everyone else involved in energy.  Too bad for them that the total of everyone else is a hell of a lot bigger and more important than what remains of the coal industry.

Coal Country is Finding Little Relief in Trump’s Climate Actions—It was not the government that was killing coal, it was the free market.  People and companies were voting with their dollars to support non-coal sources of energy.

4 Signs that Trump’s Furious Efforts to Save Coal are Futile—When an industry pins all of its hoped on a huckster more famous for a b-grade reality show and bankruptcies you know times are desperate.

The War on Coal is Over. Coal Lost.—All that remains is the rear guard action on the long retreat.  The question is how much additional damage will be done during the long retreat.

This is What America’s Eco City of the Future Looks Like—The future is green and powered by renewables.  Even in Texas.

Americans are willing to pay $177 a year to avoid climate change—We need to keep pounding home the message that climate change is real and that the tools are available to prevent the worst of its impacts.  All that is required is political will and a measure of sacrifice, whether that is economic or social.

The Future of Renewable Energy—What will renewable energy systems look like in a few years?  Now that we have moved beyond niche applications we need to ask ourselves these larger questions.

Electrifying Heating—I have thought about this topic somewhat lately now that I produce my own electricity on my roof.  If I added a similar size solar photovoltaic system on my southeast facing roof I would be able to heat my home with the sun via electricity.  I cannot make natural gas at home, but I can make electricity.

World’s First Floating Wind Farm now Operating in Scotland—Technology like floating wind turbines allows for less expensive construction in deeper water with less environmental impact.  Sort of like a win-win that opens up more sites for offshore wind development.  As if coal needed some more bad news.

Regreening The Earth Could Lower Carbon Levels As Much As Ending Use Of Fossil Fuels—Why don’t we do both?  What would a national program of regenerative forestry practices, improved grassland management, and general regreening do for our planet and our economy? I think it would be huge.  Not yuge, just huge.

This Is How to Substitute Lentils for Ground Beef—If everyone made a few substitutions like this on a weekly basis we would be a long way to reducing the greenhouse gas impact of our food choices.  Remember, meat is a huge source of our personal emissions.

To Uber or Not? Why Car Ownership may no Longer be a Good Deal—I am already beginning to see this with some colleagues who have children in college.  Instead of trolling the dorms for that one person with a car they just split an Uber X to go to the store or choose to have items delivered instead of doing it themselves.  I believe it is more than a simple story about replacing rides with Uber or other car sharing services, but rather replacing the utility provided by a personal automobile with a portfolio of services.

Friday Linkage 10/13/2017

Every day I think that we have reached a new low with the Trump administration.  If it is not family corruption, it is cabinet members using the taxpayer as a personal travel expense account.  If it is not crude behavior, it is stoking the fires of racial unrest.

Now it looks like Trump has set his dim sights on war with North Korea and threatening the 1st Amendment.  I know that the right wing only really loves the 2nd Amendment, but a threat to the Constitution cannot go unchallenged.  However, nothing else matters save for tax cuts for billionaires so the Republican members of Congress may grumble but they will kiss the ring of their dear leader.

On to the links…

Trump’s Plans To Demolish Clean Power Plan Revealed—Scott Pruitt has one goal in this world: make the world a better place for fossil fuel interests at the expense of everything else.  Once you understand this motivation every action makes sense.  Furthermore, Trump and his cabal are wedded to coal because they need to keep the narrative alive that Trump is saving rural jobs.

The GOP wants to repeal Obama’s Climate Plan. Like Health Care, it’s Going to be a Fiasco.—Can we all just agree that any day Trump and his cronies are in the White House has the potential to be a fiasco.  Actually trying to govern is a freaking dumpster fire.

Vintage Photos Taken by the EPA Reveal what America Looked like before Pollution was Regulated—Even Scott Pruitt’s EPA has documentation to show just how much better our country is now that pollution is regulated.  I realize that people like Trump do not like to read because it is hard, so pictures can supply the necessary knowledge.

The Two Clean Energy Bills that Could take California’s Climate Action to the Next Level—California may be burning right now, but the state is pushing ahead with aggressive climate change related legislation.  Leadership at the national level may be lacking.  States can create a critical mass to generate meaningful change.

Will Iowa Continue Adopting Wind, Solar without Federal Mandate?—This is a little closer to home.  Here is the thing, Iowa was deploying large amounts of wind before the Clean Power Plan.  The economics for that development have not changed in any measurable way that would favor a change.  Furthermore, the state already gets almost 40% of its electricity from the wind and has projects in the pipeline that will take that number north of 50% in the coming few years.  This all comes at the expense of coal because no one is retiring cheap to run wind turbines or cleaner natural gas facilities to keep an old coal boiler running.  Solar  is the icing on the cake.

Friendly Policies Keep US Oil and Coal Afloat Far More than We Thought—What is Scott Pruitt’s answer to the question of oil and gas subsidies?  He has come out vociferously against the small amount of subsidies for wind and solar, but he is silent on the taxpayer money going to prop up his friends in oil, gas, and coal.  We already knew who lined his pockets, but these questions need to be asked loudly, often, and on the record.

This Coal Baron has Trump’s Ear. What he says is Utter Nonsense.—This is Robert Murray.  He likes coal because coal made him rich.  He likes Trump because Trump likes his money, so Trump likes coal.  Too bad everything that comes out of his mouth is just garbage.

Rooftop Solar & Storage – Cheaper Than Subsidizing Old Coal—Facts will not get in the way of people like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry pushing a dirty fuels agenda.  This is the administration built on falsity and outright lies that answers facts with “We will agree to disagree.”  The future is now and we need to keep pushing.

Solar Competitors Band Together to Help Bring Electricity to Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico—The federal government will not help Puerto Rico in a sensible way because the sitting president does not like people who happen to be brown, don’t play golf, and don’t want to join his shitty club in Florida.  Socially conscious private industry is rising to the occasion to provide solutions in the wake of a dearth of actual leadership in Washington D.C.

Rooftop Solar Provides 48% Of South Australia Power, Pushing Grid Demand To Record Low—This graph is full of amazing insights:

RenewEconomy-8.jpg

We are just beginning to realize the potential of distributed renewables.

Australia Adds 97 MW Rooftop Solar In September, Set For Record 1 GW In 2017—Those will not be the last charts of that type you see from Australia either.

Let’s Take A Moment To Remember How Shitty Electric Cars Once Were—The most amazing thing, in my opinion, about the current electric vehicles on the market is that they are true vehicles.  These are not souped up golf carts or hacked conversions.  These are vehicles that can easily replace all but the longest road trips.

GM’s SURUS Fuel-Cell Truck Platform Could be a Disaster-Relief Hero—In general, I find fuel cell concepts to be half-baked.  However, this idea has real merit for a number of reasons.  The most pressing of which is made clear in places like Puerto Rico or New York after Superstorm Sandy.  People need electricity and liquid fuel runs out quickly.  Imagine a fleet of these disembarking from a Joint High Speed Vessel to a damaged seaside location.

The Empty Countryside—This story may be about rural England, but it could easily have been used to describe northwest Iowa or southeastern Colorado.  It is a long term demographic and development trend that I see no chance of abating in the near future.

Why Forest Kindergartens are the Best Schools for Our Young Kids—Maybe it is not just the forest, but the opportunity to freely apply lessons to an environment of your own choosing.

McDonald’s is Now Selling a “McVegan”—It is meatless and dairy free.  It is only available in Finland for some reason.

The Chicken Experiment That Shook the World—If there is going to be a global health crisis we are completely unprepared to deal with it will be antibiotic resistance.  It is amazing to think that so many of our problems can be traced back to a single experiment in the 1940s.  That is history for you.

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?

Friday Linkage 9/8/2017

Labor Day week and the links are a little light.  Maybe I spent too much time reading about DACA, Hurricane Irma, and the forthcoming Iowa vs. Iowa State football game to really get my head into other news stories.

On to the links…

This EPA Statement Reads Like Something You’d Find in Breitbart—In a few years when the Trump Administration is little more than a steaming pile of bad memories the lasting damage will be unwound slowly and shit like this will just make us cringe in collective disbelief.  It is amazing that a group of politicians who accuse everyone outside their circle of being “fake news” is probably the largest source of bullshit every spewed from the West Wing.

Potential Carbon Capture Game Changer Nears Completion—Natural gas as a source of electricity is here to stay for a while, so if we could find a way to effectively and economically capture the carbon released as a result of combustion it could be a pathway to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion in Solar, Battery Investment—This happened in Florida, which is a state as hostile to a good idea as any that exists.  Heck, it’s a state that has elected Rick Scott to be its governor more than once.

How Tennessee’s Taken the Politics Out of Renewable Energy—Make it about choosing economically efficient solutions that provide renewable energy and even red states like Tennessee can get behind the green revolution.

Huge Tunisian Solar Park Hopes to Provide Saharan Power to Europe—The numbers are staggering.  4.5GW of solar is a monster number.  However, the dreams of tapping the Sahara Desert to power Europe always seem to be just a little out of reach.

After its Dams Came Down, a River is Reborn—The Elwha River will be a test case for dam removal going forward and it looks like an amazing success story.  Nature will find a way.