Tag Archives: smog

5/4/2018 Friday Linkage

May the Fourth…you get it right?  Somewhere along the line May 4th became a Star Wars related day as if we lacked for moments when Star Wars did not saturate our cultural landscape.  Seriously, between Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes, and Star Wars the Walt Disney corporation probably controls a plurality of our cultural touchstones for anyone under the age of fifteen or over the age of forty.

On to the links…

Two Top Officials Close to Pruitt Resign in EPA ‘Exodus’—The level of corruption and stink coming from Scott Pruitt’s office is so high that I could post several entries a week just about the comings and goings of America’s top pollution enabler.  Instead, I will just lead with more evidence of the chaos of the Trump administration.

Pruitt is Facing at Least 10 Ethics Investigations as EPA Watchdog Announces New Probe—Will there ever be a more ethically compromised presidency?  People thought that it would be hard to top the likes of Warren G. Harding, but Trump’s people are really giving it a go.

The EPA Is Acting Like Big Tobacco—This is what you get when you put someone in charge of an agency that they had spent a career trying to damage.  It’s like Rick Perry in charge of the Department of Energy or Mick Mulvaney in charge of anything.

EPA Chief Pruitt Overrules Staff, Gives Wisconsin’s Walker, Foxconn Big Break on Smog—I have to imagine that this is heading for court.  The deal for the Foxconn plant is just turning out to be one of the biggest corporate giveaways and inside deals ever.  Nothing says Republican governance quite like giving away the store in return for the promise of a few crumbs.

Proof that the Clean Power Plan’s Strategy for Cutting Carbon Pollution is the Industry Standard—The Clean Power Plan is probably dead, but that does not mean the Clean Power Plan cannot live again.  It is a market based approach that lets individual states decide how best to meet targets.  It is essentially an old school Republican ideal that has somehow become a bugaboo for today’s Tea Party right wing whackos.

It’s Time to Think Seriously about Cutting off the Supply of Fossil Fuels—If we can come at this problem from both the demand and the supply side progress will be much quicker.

A Zero-Carbon Economy is Within Reach, Thanks to Strong Public Policy—It will not necessarily be easy or cheap, but it is possible and that is they key.  We have the solutions, we know how to deploy them, and there is a general acceptance of the urgency.

California Sets New Solar & Renewable Records At End Of April—The amount of energy generated is one thing, but the more critical part of this story is that the power authority is getting better at regulating the supply of renewables and the demands from consumers.  This disparity has always been the great bugaboo when it comes to renewable energy.

A Renewable Energy Future In Hawaii, Faster Than We Thought—The time has come for Hawaii to embrace renewables even more so than in the past because the cost of doing so is now cheaper than the cost of doing nothing further.   Imagine 84% renewable energy in 2030?  Talk about living aloha!

The Stunningly Lopsided Growth of Wind Power in the US, in 4 Maps—Is anyone surprised that the southeast has very little wind power?  Sure, the wind resources—excluding offshore wind—are not ideal but I have a feeling something else is going on.

Brooklyn SolarWorks can Turn Almost any Rooftop into a Sun-Powered Oasis—I like the idea of putting these over rooftop patios so that hipsters can have a shade generating solar canopy.  However, imagine this type of system being placed on the top floor of every parking garage in the United States.  Just in my mid-sized town there are acres of top floors of parking garages that could be generating amazing solar photovoltaic electricity.

Building on the Promise of Solar+EV Charging—The technology is not quite there yet, but as we deploy more and more solar along with more and more EVs there is an opportunity to combine the two into a powerhouse solution to intermittency.  An EV is really just a portable battery that sits idle a lot of the time.  Plugging that into a grid that can decide when to charge based on power availability and demand would be huge.  Yuge!

Costco Sold a Million “Bleeding” Vegan Burgers in 60 Days—I knew about the Impossible burger and the Beyond burger, but I have never heard of Don Lee Farms or their version of a “bleeding vegan” plant based burger.  Too bad it does not look like something that will be in a Costco near me.

Budweiser’s New Beer is Based on George Washington’s Hand-Written Recipe—Why did they not just call it ‘Merica and put this picture on the label:

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Friday Linkage 9/25/2015

The rides the past couple of weeks have been perfect. Just perfect. The temps are in the 70s to low 80s, the winds have not been too bad, and the crowds are gone. Especially on Saturdays when people are busy tailgating and watching college football, I have the trails and gravel all to myself. Unheard of in July.

On to the links…

Ban on Microbeads Offers Best Chance to Protect Oceans, Aquatic Species—The U.S. needs to enact a nationwide ban on plastic microbeads. Exfoliation is not worth the health of the oceans.

How Strict California Rules on Emissions led to Lower Cancer Risk—Regulation works. Plain and simple. Without emissions reductions California would still be blanketed in a horrible stew of smog and death.

Taxpayers Lose Billions to Coal Subsidies—Stories like this cannot get enough press. As taxpayers we pay billions to coal companies in order for them foul our air, dirty the water, and generally behave badly.

Balls of DNA Could Fix Geothermal Energy’s Biggest Problem—Geothermal is a great renewable energy resource because it is dependable enough to be considered “base load” like coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Unlike hydropower, the other base load renewable, large dams are not required and drought will not impact production. It looks like one of the thorniest problems may now be solved as well.

Obama Sets Up Cost Of US Solar Energy For Another Freefall—Fundamental research is being paid for that will drive down the entire system cost for solar. Remember when solar panels were only something you saw in Mother Earth News or on the lot of some burnt out hippie? Yeah, it’s mainstream now and will be more so in a few years.

Beyond Sprawl: A New Vision of The Solar Suburbs of the Future—We have a lot of development tied up in suburbs. This infrastructure is not going to go away and be replaced by dense, urban communities. How can we reform the suburb to make sense in a new era?

Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%–A reduction of this magnitude would make some serious waves.

UK To Remain Offshore Wind Giant With Forecasted 23.2 GW By 2025, GlobalData—I keep wondering when offshore wind is going to explode. Maybe that time is now.

China’s Wind Energy Capacity To Triple By 2020, Says GlobalData—For all of the bad things China does—pollution out of control, corruption, political repression—they sure are going after this whole renewable energy thing with gusto.

Your Body Immediately After Drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte—It’s that time of year when the pumpkin spice comes out and everyone wearing Ugg boots seems to have one in their hands. Here is what that concoction from satan’s belly does to your body.

I Ate a Bunch of Vegan Cheese, and It Was Actually Quite Tasty—As someone who has a child who is lactose intolerant and loves cheese all of these products are going to be on my next shopping list.

If You Never Knew You Needed It, Don’t Buy It—This is a rule we all should live by when shopping. How do you think Costco works? How many times have you ended up with something that was not on your list because it seemed so cool and useful?

Imagine a World without Waste: It’s Possible with a Circular Economy—Would this even fly in the west anymore? The minute someone would talk about these concepts in a political space the cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” would ring out.

China’s Environment is Screwed and so is its Economy

China’s economy may be a growth miracle, but the externalities associated with that growth are certainly coming home to roost.

The infamous smog, that wonderful concoction of airborne pollutants and atmospheric conditions, made well-known during the run-up to the Olympics in 2008 has not gotten better. It’s gotten worse.

Recently, the U.S. embassy in Beijing—which has become a trusted source on the quality of the air in China—reported that its air quality index measuring so-called PM2.5 particles hit 545. A number greater than 300 is considered immediately hazardous to one’s health. The visibility in the city is expected to be reduced to less than 500 meters.

What does that look like? Here you go:

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Granted, the smog gets worse in the winter as atmospheric conditions and increased heating burden mix to create this lovely toxic stew.

However, the long term trend is that China’s air is so messed up that it will inhibit long term economic security. Why? People will not want to live there.

Businesses will not be able to locate themselves in China because no one will want to work there or will demand what amounts to hazard pay in order to relocate. Don’t believe it? Coca-Cola is offering its employees a so-called “environmental hardship allowance” for expatriate employees.

Panasonic is doing the same thing.

For Republicans or anyone who believes that air quality is a luxury remember that people like to breathe clean air. The lack of clean air will impact the economic viability of companies and countries. It looks like China is going to be the laboratory for this particular experiment in free market thinking. Here is to hoping the invisible hand of the market slaps the libertarians in the house.

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.

Friday Linkage 5/2/2014

The “best” part about having minor elective surgery is that you get to spend a lot of time catching up on your DVR backlist and the books that have started reproducing in a corner by your bookshelves. I must have read for something like ten hours a day after surgery. Damn.

On to the links…

Supreme Court Backs Rule Limiting Coal Pollution—This is a big deal because it means that the executive branch, through the EPA, can issue rules that restrict the pollution from coal burning plants. I think it also sets the stage for a series of discussions about the externalities of other polluting industries.

U.S. Solar Capacity Grew 418 Percent In The Last Four Years—The drumbeat of bad news is pretty incessant, but there are some glimmers or flickers of hope. Solar PV is hot. Like Paris Hilton hot back in the day.

How Solar Energy Cuts Electric Grid Costs—Distributed electrical generation usually means that electricity is produced near where it is consumed so you do not require extensive transmission networks to move power from a single generation source to multiple consumption points. Also, you do not lose as much energy in transmission. Win-win baby!

Arizona May Impose Unusual New Tax On Customers Who Lease Solar Panels—Just when you thought the battle over residential solar PV had been won in Arizona the power plant lobby came in with an end around. Nothing like resorting to legalese and arcane property law to get what you want.

A Ghost Town, Going Green—Does the Mojave Desert attract some strange cats. There is something about the high desert air that contributes to strange flights of fancy.

Renewable Energy Policy in Europe is Faltering—What I took away from this report is that consistency is key to the development of alternative and renewable energy. You need a consistent regulatory and tax regime to ensure investment. Take that stability away and investment dries up. Very simple.

EPA says Automakers Ahead of Schedule for 54.5 MPG by 2025—The number can be misleading because CAFÉ is a number that is figured across a fleet and there are vehicles that count more, etc. However, the good news is that our fleet, in general, is getting more efficient.

In Florida Tomato Fields, a Penny Buys Progress—I have profiled a book that featured the workers in Immokalee, Florida—Barry Estabrook’s excellent Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit—and it looks like campaigns to improve the conditions in the tomato fields might actually bear fruit. Pun totally intended.

Is There a Sustainable Future for America’s Most Popular Seafood?—We eat a lot of freakin’ shrimp in the U.S. Like tons and tons of the stuff. We actually eat 600,000 tons annually, so we eat like hundreds of thousands of tons. Is our appetite for these little guys ever going to be sustainable?

The Coffee Industry Is Worse Than Ever For The Environment—This makes me feel like garbage. While I do not eat much meat or seafood, I drink a lot of coffee. If you drink non-shade grown coffee you are part of the problem. Coffee grown in direct sunlight is no different than endless fields of corn or destructive palm oil plantations.

Taco Bell Reveals Its Mystery Beef Ingredients—Taco Bell has finally answered the question about what was in the other 12% of its meat filling, but I do not think that has really answered the question well. Why does there need to be 12% of other stuff in something called meat? When I make taco filling at home for a quick dinner it consists of ground meat and a few tablespoons of spices.

Why You Should be Eating More Wild Pigs Right Now—Feral pigs are a big problem. Texas gets the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the problem because that state has been overrun, but these beasts have caused problems in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I would love to dine on some feral pig bacon.

A Partnership to Help the Tallest Residents in Yosemite Park—We do not fund our national park system to an adequate degree. Every election cycle politicians for national office will talk about doing more, but it always dies on the vine. I am glad to see a private-public partnership that is trying to help the situation.

Friday Linkage 5/3/2013

It’s May.  My friends in Minneapolis and Colorado Springs are digging out from snow storms.  I am dealing with temperatures that have dropped almost forty degrees in the span of twenty four hours.  I love spring.

On to the links…

Heavy Use of Herbicide Roundup Could be Linked to Disease—Herbicides that contain glyphosate, like Roundup, are beginning to be shown to have links to a number of diseases in humans.  Really?  It took this long for people to figure out that the stuff was probably bad news for our health?

You Are a Chemical Guinea Pig for Big Business—It is ridiculous the lengths that our corporate owned government will go to protect the interests of big chemical companies over the health and wellness of its citizenry.  People may vote for politicians, but their bread is buttered by big business.

A Hike with Sally Jewell—Think about this for a moment as you watch this video: the Secretary of the Interior used to be the boss at REI.  Can you imagine saying anything like that when George W. Bush was president?  Just saying.

New Report Details How National Parks Are Threatened By Oil And Gas Drilling—Well, if there was ever an issue for the new Secretary of the Interior to take the lead on this would be it.  It’s shameful how oil and gas interests are allowed to despoil any and all land in the name of cheap energy as if that is the sole driving purpose of our time on this planet.  Ugh!

Cost of Solar Heading for Parity with Coal and Gas—What happens when it is cheaper to install solar than it is to deploy coal or natural gas power generation options?  We will find out soon:

cost-of-solar-power-graph-1980-2012_jpg_644x0_q100_crop-smart

70 Percent Of New Global Power Capacity Added Through 2030 Will be Renewable—Basically, every time someone revisits a study on renewable energy the outlook is brighter.  It’s like the baseline needs to be redrawn every year because of fundamental changes to the assumptions in the model.  No wonder government policy seems so slow to respond.

In Two-Way Charging, Electric Cars Begin to Earn Money From the Grid—This sounds like one of those concepts from the mid-2000s when discussion about the “smart grid” were all the rage and then the buzz just died out when reality intruded.  However, actually starting to deploy these type of technologies is a step forward.  Electric vehicles can be much more than a clean transportation option.

A New Solar Dish Delivers Low-Cost Electricity Along With Fresh Water—I love seeing inventions like this that solve multiple problems efficiently.  Access to electricity and fresh water is a problem for millions and millions of people, if not billions.  A deployable solution to both of those problems is a silver bullet in some ways.

Why Your Supermarket Only Sells 5 Kinds of Apples—Go to the grocery store sometime and look at the apple selection.  It blows.  Now, it has gotten better here in eastern Iowa recently with the widespread availability of Honeycrisp, SweetTango, Zestar, and some other University of Minnesota varieties.  In other parts of the country, not so much.

When One Man’s Game Is Also a Marauding Pest—Feral pigs are bad news.  As an invasive species it does not appear that there is any natural limit on this particular nasty animal’s range.  Most of the attention has been spent on feral pigs in Texas, but I know of dairy farmers in Wisconsin who deal with the damage all the time.  On the bright side, feral pig can be tasty when slow roasted or smoked.

How Trees Play Role in Smog Production—My love of trees is well known.  The folks at Peck’s in Cedar Rapids just wait every spring to show me what new trees might be perfect for my yard—I am thinking some semi-dwarf apple trees this year—and my wife wonders if we will be living in a mini-forest when all the trees in the yard mature.  Is there anything about trees that is not great?