Tag Archives: Tom Philpott

Friday Linkage 8/28/2015

I encountered one of the most disheartening sounds in the world this week. On an aborted bike ride my tire made the noise of a full on blow out. This is not the gentle hiss of a pinch flat or a small puncture, but the full throated blast of air and the realization that you are walking home. Why walking? Because the tread area on my well-worn Kenda Kwicks was torn through. Whatever I ran across was bad news.

On to the links…

Here’s What Happens When you Try to Replicate Climate Contrarian Papers—Let me spoil the punch line: you can’t replicate the results.

Shocking: Prominent Climate Denier gets Money from Big Coal—Shocking? Not so much. Christopher Horner is a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. Anything that comes out of his mouth is little more than coal stained propaganda.

The Incredible Shrinking Mineral: How It Went from King Coal to Coal Kills—If I was confident I would start playing “Taps.” Coal is not dead yet, but with continued pressure and an unfavorable market the dirty fuel may be in its final death spiral.

NYC Rooftops Could Host 11 GW of High-Yield Solar ProjectsMapdwell’s work on modelling what solar could do in eastern cities is some pretty amazing work. Think about 11 GW of solar power in America’s largest city. Now multiply that across other major cities in the U.S. like Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and so on.

California’s 40 Years Of Energy Efficiency Efforts Have Saved $90 Billion In Utility Costs—California has been a leader in trying to get people to use less electricity and it has worked. Furthermore, those efforts have trickled out—not trickle down because I do not believe in voodoo environmentalism—to the rest of the nation due to California’s sheer market heft.

Here’s Where The Rubber Hits The Road (Natural Guayule Rubber — Updated)—Apparently, rubber is a big import for the United States and we have been looking for a domestic alternative since before World War II. It also looks like guayule—a shrub that is drought and pest tolerant—could provide a significant offset to our imported rubber habit. Interesting.

New Study Finds Horse and Beaver in Grocery Store Ground Meat—As if you needed another reason to stay away from the case of ground beef at your local grocery store—pink slime anyone?—along comes the knowledge that we may actually be eating horse or beaver. Freaking beaver?

Salad Seems Really Virtuous, Right? It’s Not.—Salad, it turns out, is really just leafy green water. By the time we pick a few leaves out of that plastic clamshell most of the nutrition is gone. Never mind the fact that people end up throwing away tons of salad greens every year. Just go with the frozen peas.

Butter In Your Coffee and Other Cons: Stories From a Fitness Insider—I am really glad that people are calling bullshit on the people behind so-called Bulletproof coffee and food fads. If someone is trying to sell you something it is high time to get a move on. It’s probably bullshit.

28 Historic Photos of Yosemite to Celebrate its 125th Anniversary—Sometimes we forget to appreciate the amazing places we can visit right here in the U.S. Take a moment and appreciate the sheer awesomeness of Yosemite.

Advertisements

Friday Linkage 8/21/2015

It got unseasonably cool here in eastern Iowa this week. Like, mid-50s at night and no more than mid-70s during the day. I am sure that we will pay for this comfortable weather with a slap of hot and humid in the coming weeks, but it was a nice preview of the cool fall weather to come.

On to the links…

How The EPA Plans To Cut Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Wells—This falls into the “boring, but important” category of news. The EPA is proposing new regulations on methane emissions, which is important because methane is a very potent greenhouse gas and a lot of methane is released at gas drilling sites.

Four Powerhouse Bills to Help California get to 50 Percent Renewable Energy—In a lot of economic and policy circles the saying goes “As goes California…” because the size of California determines a lot of what happens in the rest of the country. If California could really get to 50% renewable energy it would be a major change.

World Needs 53GW Of Solar PV Installed Per Year To Address Climate Change—If that is the number, how do we get to 53 GW per year? I know that this is more of a thought exercise than anything else, but in order to beat the worst of climate change we are going to need addressable goals.

Coal Mining Sector Running Out of Time, says Citigroup—I am not going to start playing the funeral dirge just yet, but when major financiers and banks are pulling out of coal and being public about the shift the winds of change are blowing.

90 Years of U.S. Fuel Economy Data Shows the Power of Incentives, Dangers of Stagnation—This is a pretty compelling chart:

UMTRI-90-years-MPG-data.png.650x0_q70_crop-smart

Why did we have such a lull in the 90s and early-2000s? Oh right, SUVs and a right wing that encouraged nothing but “drill, baby drill.” Thanks.

How Much Of California’s Drought Was Caused By Climate Change? Scientists Now Have The Answer.—California is bound to go through periodic droughts, but it looks like the current drought cycle is being exacerbated by climate change.

How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa—This is just a fascinating read. The author placed GPS chips into fake elephant tusks to track where illicit ivory made its way across the globe.

The Pork Industry is Full of this Drug You’ve Never Heard Of—Ractopamine, besides sounding like the name of a plague in a spy movie, is bad stuff. Most of the rest of the world has not deemed meat raised with this drug safe for human consumption, but in the good ol’ USA it’s what’s for dinner.

How the Midwest’s Corn Farms Are Cooking the Planet—Industrial corn production is turning out to be one of the more environmentally damaging agricultural pursuits of the modern age. Maybe it is time we start looking at a different paradigm.

The American Lawn Is Now The Largest Single ‘Crop’ In The U.S.—If corn is bad, lawns are downright insane. At least there is something that comes out of a corn field. A lawn is just a green carpet that requires more maintenance than wall-to-wall white shag carpeting.

What Happens When Your Cash Crop Goes Bust: The Fall and Rise of Zimbabwe’s Coffee Economy—A really good write up about what happened to Zimbabwe’s gourmet coffee economy following the seizing of farms by the Mugabe dictatorship.

An Artist Proves There’s Enough Sugar In Your Soda to Create a Lollipop—Would you drink a lollipop? Probably not, but you are doing the equivalent every time you drink a Coke.

Friday Linkage 5/15/2015

Where did May go? I know that I have a similar sentiment a lot of months, but May really got to the halfway mark pretty fast without me noticing. Here is to hoping that summer can be a slower and lazier season than spring has been thus far.

On to the links…

Iowa Landowner Claims he was Offered Prostitute by Oil Pipeline Rep—This story is getting a lot of play here in eastern Iowa as the debate over a proposed Bakken oil pipeline is really heating up. If anyone is surprised that an oil company would act like this does not know oil companies. Seriously, read about oil company hospitality suites in the 1980s.

Renewables = 84% of New Electricity Generation Capacity in 1st Quarter of 2015—Yes, 84% of the electrical generation capability added in the first quarter of 2015 in the United States came from renewables. For the first time utility scale solar tipped over 1% of the total U.S. generation capacity. Dig it.

Tesla’s Powerwall Home Battery is already Sold Out through 2016—If you wanted to get a Powerwall home battery you are out of luck until sometime after we choose a new president.

MIT Report: Today’s Solar Panels Fine For Tomorrow’s Needs—We have the technical tools right now to supply the world with clean and green power from the sun. Any further efficiencies will only make the economics better in the long term.

Coal Investments are Increasingly Risky, says Bank of America—The real war on coal is occurring between coal companies and the investment community, which sees the industry as an increasingly riskier place to put their money to use. This is truly the death knell because modern corporations run on debt and financing. It is the lifeblood of large scale economic activity.

Oil And Gas Wells Are Leaking Huge Amounts Of Methane, And It’s Costing Taxpayers Millions—Basically, oil and gas exploration companies are allowing a lot of methane to leak out of wells drilled on public lands. Remember that these are the same oil and gas companies that pay lower than market rates for the right to drill on public lands. What a scam.

In Wyoming, Taking A Photo Of A Polluted Stream Could Land You In Jail—Like “ag gag” laws this law is just waiting for court case to blow open the cozy relationship between lawmakers, polluters, and the chilling effect such a relationships have on free speech. Isn’t it amazing how right wingers love the second amendment, talk about freedom constantly, and are the first in line to trample any freedom that does not involve a firearm?

Is Corn Ethanol Breaking The Law?—Uh oh. Inevitably, farm state lawmakers will pass a correction to this little piece of legislation that will remove the illegality.

Buh-Bye, Corn Ethanol: Joule Makes The Same Thing From Recycled CO2—I would love to fill my truck on ethanol derived in this manner.

First Large-Scale Hemp Processing Plant begins in Colorado—One of the overlooked part of the marijuana legalization in Colorado was the concurrent legalization of industrial hemp. Hemp will not be an instant agricultural miracle, but it could become part of a broader portfolio of options for farmers.

Who Controls California’s Water?—The story is a little more complex than Chinatown makes it out to be, but the problems can be traced to policies that can be changed. Maybe.

Monsanto Bets $45 Billion on a Pesticide-Soaked Future—You can buy organic all day long, but the big companies pushing pesticides and herbicides are betting big on a future where we continue to soak our fields in their deadly chemicals. Who do you think will win?

Sri Lanka First Nation to Protect all Mangrove Forests—Mangrove forests are those great unsung ecosystems. Threatened, like swamps, because they seem like a hindrance to development but the value is not realized until the ecosystem is gone.

M&Ms Candy Maker says, “Don’t eat too many”—Sugar is the equivalent of a drug. It’s addictive and it causes health problems. Now, the pushers are telling consumers that it is a bad idea to eat too much of their own product.

The Brutal Reality of Life in China’s Most Polluted Cities—You do not need to spend $10 and see the new Mad Max movie to witness what a scarred hellscape would be like in the future because China has done all the work for you without the explosions or insane cars.

Friday Linkage 5/9/2014

Climate change is apparently here now that an official report has said so.  If you have looked out your window the past few years you knew this to be true, but now at least it is official.  What that means for climate action?  Probably nothing because, you know, Benghazi.

On to the links…

How We Became China’s Grocery Store and Wine Cellar—I always kind of wondered where all the animals raised and slaughtered in the state of Iowa went.  Now I know.

Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock—In many ways this is just a symbolic gesture that will not have a great deal of impact on either the endowment at Stanford or the coal companies in question.  However, it does not bode well that an increasing number of larger and larger institutional investors are questioning their commitment to coal companies.  Once the market turns…

The Top Ten Global Warming ‘Skeptic’ Arguments Answered—There is nothing more frustrating than trying to talk about global warming and climate change with a “skeptic” who spent the last evening watching Sean Hannity spread more misinformation about whatever the Koch’s have paid him to spew.  At least you can be better prepared for the counter arguments next time.

How Climate Change Is Making America’s Favorite Crop More Vulnerable—Well, if climate change gets much worse we might have trouble feeding ourselves let alone the more than one billion people in China.

A Coffee Crop Withers—In Central and South America a fungus is wiping out coffee crops left and right.  Rust or la roya is spreading, exacerbated by farming practices and climate change.  The good news is that the genetics of the coffee plant are relatively understudied so there might be a wild cultivar that possesses some resistance.

Beyond Honeybees: Now Wild Bees and Butterflies May Be in Trouble—You can see this in Iowa where the population of butterflies is dramatically lower in recent years due to a massive change in the landscape, primarily the systematic destruction of plants that butterflies feed on like milkweed.

This Island Is The First In The World To Be Powered Fully By Wind And Water—Islands, like my favorite Hawaiian islands, make great laboratories for renewable energy because the electrical grids are generally isolated, electricity costs are high, and the potential damage from imported fuel is catastrophic.  The smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands is going to be fully renewable soon.

Hawaii’s Largest Utility Ordered To Help Customers Install More Rooftop Solar—Speaking of Hawaii, HECO—Oahu’s electrical utility and the state’s largest—has been a constant thorn in the side of anyone wanting to deploy residential solar.  Roadblocks are common, excuses are many, and the goal posts for approval seem to move all the time.  The Public Utilities Commission is finally getting some sack and demanding action on HECO’s part.

How Some Simple Changes To Building Codes Could Revolutionize The Electric Car Market—Building codes are not something that many people think about because it is a confusing and arcane world of legalese, but these guidelines have a major impact on how and what gets built in the U.S.

At Chernobyl, Hints of Nature’s Adaptation—Chernobyl and the surrounding area affected by the meltdown of the nuclear reactor is an amazing test site for nature’s ability to adapt to massive change.  I am not saying that this is a test tube for the future under climate change, but it is interesting to think about.

Wolf Found in Iowa—Granted, the wolf was shot and killed but this animal’s recovery is pretty amazing.

Friday Linkage 3/28/2014

Getting back to work after more than a week of vacation is hard. Total first world problem, but it is almost impossible to get back into the groove. Having a house full of sick travelers does not help either. Is there anything worse than coming home on a plane full of people hacking and wheezing knowing that you will be doing the same thing in a few days? I know, total first world problem again.
On to the links…
Solar Power Is Now Just As Cheap As Conventional Electricity In Italy And Germany—Grid parity is a big deal because it means that it costs no more to deploy renewables versus traditional fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, or nuclear—yes, I lump nuclear in with fossil fuels because fissile material is mined and fusion is a pipe dream.
Soon The Ocean Will Be Generating Power Near Seattle—Tidal power is slightly less of a pipe dream than fusion and right below large scale offshore wind in terms of primetime readiness. It seems like advocates have been telling us for decades that tidal power can be a major player, but the projects never seem to materialize or reach their potential.
Hog Wild: Factory Farms are Poisoning Iowa’s Drinking Water—The hog industry totally has the government in Iowa bought and paid for because the problems of CAFOs outweigh whatever economic gain they might provide. Ugh!
Are We Becoming China’s Factory Farm?—It looks like our agricultural industry is focused on satisfying the growing appetites of Chinese consumers rather than protecting the welfare of our own citizens. Great.
Coal Ash Ponds: How Power Companies Get a ‘Bypass’ on Regulations Against Pollution—Like manure lagoons from CAFOs, coal power plants have been able to skirt regulations for years. After several spills and contaminations I hope the tide is turning toward some form of real control.
Does Comfrey Really Improve Soil?—Confrey is one of those miracle plants of the sustainable garden world that seems to take care of many problems. A lot of organic and/or sustainable gardeners use comfrey leaves to make a fertilizer tea or use it to supercharge compost piles or improve the soil. Here is some evidence that it may actually be improving the soil. I am thinking about conducting a similar experiment myself.
Taxpayer Dollars Teach that Evolution is ‘wicked and vain’—Every time I am amazed by the ignorance of climate deniers and Republicans in general I need to remember that the same people who form the rabid base of that political ideology are the same ones still fighting for creationism. Yep, Jesus rode a dinosaur like a cowboy.
Let Food be Thy Medicine—I am glad to see that the medical community is finally waking up to the positive powers that diet can have on people’s health. It’s not rocket science, but there is often a disconnect between the doctor’s office and the kitchen when in reality there are very real linkages.
How to Make Microwave Popcorn in a Plain Paper Bag—I love popcorn, but I often find myself craving it at work which means microwave popcorn is the only answer because there is no stove and my Whirlypop stays home. With this method I could be nuking a bag of Tiny But Mighty for an afternoon snack at my desk.
Beneath Cities, a Decaying Tangle of Gas Pipes—The explosion that leveled a building in Harlem brought attention to the rat’s nest of cables and pipes that sit just below the surface of our cities. Infrastructure is amazing to me in that it works at all when you consider the complexity, operating environment, system stress, and age.
Turn a Cordless Drill into a Solar Drill—I love solar for so many reasons. I also love checking out solar projects that are easy. Check this one out.
Super-Cheap Paper Microscope Could Save Millions of Lives—This just seems amazing.

Friday Linkage 1/24/2014

What kind of world do we live in where a notorious ass hat like Glenn Beck actually postulates that his rhetoric may have had a role in creating the divisive environment we operate in today?  Really?  Next thing you know Pat Robertson will apologize for being a nasty old man.  Probably not.

On to the links…

U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly—Isn’t this the sort of logic that our parents tried to beat into our heads as children?  If you just do a little bit early on and continue with that effort things will be easier later.  What do we do?  Procrastinate.

India Almost Doubled Its Solar Power in 2013 With Big Plans For More—Renewables are a big hit in the developing world because there is no longstanding infrastructure to compete with.  It’s the same reason why wireless technology took off in the developing world so fast compared with the developed world.

Kenya to Get 50% of Electricity from Solar by 2016—Damn, I am impressed by this.

U.S. Offshore Wind Farm, Made in Europe—I think this is less a story about the backers of Cape Wind going with a European company and more about the lack of a coherent U.S. policy hindering domestic companies from making necessary investments to be competitive.  I do not know if offshore wind has a long term future, but it cannot hurt to try and nurture the industry.  Hell, the government is still trying to get “clean coal” off the ground.

China Exports Pollution to U.S., Study Finds—Now for the bad news.  It looks like the pollution that makes China a hellhole is coming over the Pacific to make the air in the U.S. worse.  Ass clowns.

Chicken From China? Why You Should Be Worried—I worry about anything that comes from a country with no safeguards when it comes to food safety.  You can show me the laws that are notionally enforcing food safety, but when no one actually follows those rules and no one enforces the laws until it becomes a scandal you can guarantee that I want to know if my chicken comes from China.  This is why food labelling is critically important.

Humans Become Unwilling Test Subjects in West Virginia Chemical Spill—The spill in West Virginia has once again highlighted the gaping holes in our regulatory regime.  We are the test subjects for American business.  The sooner we realize that fact the better off that everyone will be.

Seventy Years Is Enough: It’s Time to Put the Draize Test Out of Its Misery—Have we not moved beyond a state of affairs where it is considered acceptable to mistreat animals for no scientific reason?

Drugs, Death, Neglect: Behind the Scenes at Animal Planet—I don’t really understand these “wildlife” shows.  I was never a fan of Steve Irwin and the current crop of hillbilly wildlife encounters seems a little wrong.  Apparently, it’s all a big sham and Animal Planet should really change their name to Animal Torture.

Americans are Fitter, yet Fatter.  Why?—It appears that Americans work out a lot and are concerned about their overall health, yet we continue to see obesity rates rise.  It could be definitional, in that people getting “sufficient exercise” according to guidelines are not actually getting enough, or it could be that no matter how much we exercise our diet will hold us back.

The Standard American Diet in 3 Simple Charts—Do you want to know why we are fat?  Our diet sucks.

Portland Apartment Development Busts Bike Parking Record—This is great and all, but until I see a multi-level parking structure dedicated to bicycles like I saw outside of the main train station in Amsterdam I am going to remain somewhat unimpressed.

Driver Unaware of Cyclist Stuck in Windshield—Maybe more bicycling is not a good thing.  How does a person not realize that he struck a cyclist and that said cyclist is currently stuck in his windshield?

Meet the Beer Brewing Monks of Massachusetts—Trappist monks have been legendary brewers of beer for centuries, but that tradition is something that mainly stays in Europe.  Now, a group of monks in Massachusetts is bringing the tradition stateside.

Pongo The Baby Orangutan Had A Great First Year Of Life—Now for a little lightness.  Pongo, an orangutan at the Zoo Atlanta, is one year old.  He is a cute little dude.  I absolutely love the picture of his yawn:

o-BONGO-YAWN-570

Friday Linkage 11/8/2013

I cannot believe that Initiative 522 failed to gain approval in Washington.  If passed, Initiative 522 would have required foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such.  It would have been the first such state to require the labeling.  Interestingly, almost all of the money funneled into the campaign on both sides of the issue came from out of state.  Hmmm…

On to the links…

The Stunning Collapse Of Infrastructure Spending In One Chart—I think the chart speaks for itself:

infrachart-11113

I think that everyone needs to send this to their members of Congress and ask, “Why?”  I am going to start sending the message every day.

The Climate Impact Of Canada’s Tar Sands Is Growing—Here is why opposing the Keystone XL pipeline is so important.  It’s not just about the singular issue of the pipeline.  Rather, it’s about opposing the dirty oil from the tar sands more generally.  That stuff is just nasty.

Methane: A Key to Dealing With Carbon Pollution?—Methane is a bad actor.  No one can deny the fact.  Regulating methane may be an indirect way to regulate carbon emissions because the two are wedded in some ways.

5 Reasons Solar Is Already Beating Fossil Fuels—I would only need one…it’s awesome.

In Heated Arizona Solar Battle, Top Regulators Tied To ALEC—Like the Koch Brothers, if you read about someone fighting solar or wind power usually ALEC shows up.  These clowns do not like anything that might be cleaner than coal or less damaging than fracking.  Clown shoes.

Johnson County’s Field of Beams—Sometimes we think of solar energy as something that happens in Arizona or Colorado, but it is happening on a pretty large scale right here in Eastern Iowa.

Poland Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy—No matter how much clean energy that western countries deploy, it must be remembered that unless countries that still deploy inordinate amounts of coal are brought along the effort is somewhat for naught.  I am not advocating for doing nothing, but we need to deploy the technology in all places to displace dirty fuels.

Oil Company Predicts Gas Powered Cars will be Nearly Gone by 2070—By 2070?  Given the trend in miles driven and the ownership demographics I would guess that that the bulk of gas powered cars might be gone before that date.  Granted, the long tail of eliminating the platform will take longer.

Texas Oyster Reef Restoration Project Begins in Gulf of Mexico—I am increasingly fascinated by oyster reefs, especially the artificial variety put in place to help restore ecosystems damaged by a variety of factors.  This seems like something that we should be deploying on a larger scale to help heal the scars of our coastal waterways.

3-D Printed Reef Brings Back Sea Life in Persian Gulf—This is a sweet application of 3-D printing to create complex objects for reef restoration.  Again, why are we not deploying this kind of technology on a massive scale?

These Fish are Eating the Plastic You Throw in the Ocean—Humans suck.  We truly suck.  Our plastic pollution epidemic is truly horrible in so many ways that it is hard to find the appropriate adjective to accurately describe our stupidity.

Obama’s 5 Biggest Sellouts to the Meat Industry—The meat industry is not less a many tentacled beast now than what it was like in the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  It’s just a lot less visible to people now because the production of meat is such a rural affair.

Why Are Pig Farmers Still Using Growth Promoting Drugs?—It appears that improved hygienic practices—e.g. better farming and livestock management—have reduced or eliminated the need for prophylactic antibiotic treatment of hogs.  Yet, many farmers still dose their animals.  Why?

It Turns Out Kopi Luwak is Not Just Weird, it’s Cruel—Before anyone thinks about having a cup of Kopi luwak—yep, the cat poop coffee—consider how cruel the process actually is.  This is not some farmer collecting random beans in the morning sun.  It’s an industrial animal cruelty operation.  On top of the fact that it is just gross.

Why Does Cooking at Home Fight Hunger?—I have long thought that if everyone dedicated themselves to cooking a couple more meals per week at home—not just reheating, but actually cooking—that a lot of problems would solve themselves.  So many things that I hold dear come together in the kitchen in a visible and powerful way.

This is What the Earth will Look Like if All the Ice Melts—Get ready for some nice coastal property in Arkansas.  Ugh.