Tag Archives: work

Friday Linkage 4/27/2017

The weather has finally turned here in eastern Iowa and it feels like spring.  What is really important is that several days in a row of solid sunshine means my solar panels are producing mad wicked power.

On to the links…

The Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution—This is the environmental crisis that I believe we can unite disparate groups behind to create an eco-consensus.  Who can argue, in any legitimate and coherent way, that we should not strive to have oceans free from plastic pollution?

Plastic Pollution Now Being Found In Arctic Ice Sheet—Nothing is pristine anymore because we are the worst species on the planet.  We just trash everything without regard for the consequences or the future of anyone but our immediate selves.

The GOP House’s Farm Bill Would Gut a Key Conservation Program—Get ready for some of the right wing’s worst ideas to come out in the form of the gestating farm bill.  SNAP benefits?  Probably cut a lot.  Conservation?  That is communist, pinko, hippie shit according to the GOP.  Subsidies for big agriculture?  ‘Merica!

EPA Proposal would let States Relax Coal Plant Pollution Rules—This is the kind of crap you get with Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA. It also shows the importance of removing coal fired power from our grid.  Without the need to burn coal there would be no coal ash and thus no need to dispose of coal ash.

Wind, Solar Provide 98 Percent of New US Generating Capacity in January and February—Basically, no one added any new fossil fuel generation to the mix.

US Wind Energy Now Supplies More Than 30% In Four States—Four red states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—get a lot of electricity from wind power.  These are fairly “red” states in the political parlance.  I also think it is interesting that 14 states are generation 10% or more of their electricity from the wind.  Weren’t renewables supposed to be incapable of providing a substantial amount of energy?

The Gloves Are Off: $105 Million Greenbacks For US Solar Energy Industry—Trump, Scott Pruitt, and Rick Perry may hate renewable energy but even the retro-grouch luddites in control of Congress see the value in renewable energy for producing clean power, jobs, and a general boost to the economy.

Linn County Receives Gold Designation from SolSmart for Solar Energy—The part that made me laugh is that this program is run by the Department of Energy headed by Rick Perry.  Do you even think he knows that there is a program that recognizes municipalities for creating environments helpful to deploying solar energy?  My guess is not.

Cost, Schmost! Energy Dept. Touts Coal-Killing Atlantic Offshore Wind—Yes, Rick Perry’s Department of Energy has published a report promoting offshore wind as a cost effective renewable energy solution.  Are we living in bizarre world right now?

The UK Just Went 55 Hours Without Using Coal for the First Time—The United Kingdom is probably the one country most associated with coal due to the Industrial Revolution and what not.  For that country to have gone more than two days without burning coal to make electricity is a major step.

Crunch Time For Renewable Energy In Southern California—A municipality is asking for industry to present solutions to a problem that is going to be vexing a lot of other municipalities in the coming decades.  Can renewable energy be deployed in such a way to take the place of ageing and expensive fossil fuel assets?  Can renewable energy plus storage provide baseload like power for cities?

The Latest State to get Serious about Climate Change is … New Jersey?—If we retire all of our nuclear plants than renewable energy will just be deployed to replace energy that was not producing carbon emissions already.  This type of plan, in of all places New Jersey, might serve as a template as we bridge to a future energy paradigm.

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry—I say forget incentives to deploy EVs for personal automobiles.  Drop every one of those dollars into incentives for cities to deploy electric buses, garbage trucks, and other high mileage heavy duty vehicles.

Bitcoin mining is using as much power as 5,699,560 American households.—Can we just stop the cryptocurrency madness?  The model is ripe with potential for scammers as witnessed by every initial coin offering that seems to pop up daily.  The underlying value of the cryptocurrency is even more nebulous than our regular paper currency.  And the energy used to “mine” cryptocurrencies is outrageous.

Mass Timber is in for Massive Change—Wood is good.  Mass timber might be better.  Given the climate change implications of concrete—huge source of greenhouse gasses if you did not already know—mass timber construction could be the better choice for building increasingly dense communities.

Study: The Greenest States in the U.S.—How does your state rank?

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The Best Way to Cut Your Emissions is to Stop Driving and Start Biking

Depending upon how you calculate the numbers transportation is now the greatest source of emissions in the United States:

Transportation Emissions

No matter the degree to which we decarbonize are electric grid the effort will be for naught if we do not begin to address the emissions that are a result of our transportation choices.  Transportation emissions come from a lot of sources—personal automobiles, delivery vehicles, mass transit, etc.  The most direct control that we have over transportation emissions is to control how much we drive personal automobiles.  If we do not drive our vehicles do not produce emissions.  It is a fairly simple calculus.

A gallon of gasoline produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when combusted. The average fuel economy for a new car is 23.4 miles per gallon.   Simple math gives you 0.85 pounds of carbon dioxide produced for each mile driven.  Considering that the U.S. is such a truck/SUV/crossover/whatever market I am going to round that up to one pound of carbon dioxide produced for every one mile driven.

Do not drive a mile, save a pound.  It is a direct, one-for-one relationship in my mind and it makes for a fairly simple accounting of progress.

The average American drivers puts 13,474 miles per year in behind the wheel or, according to my simple math, creates 13,474 pounds of carbon dioxide via combustion to drive.  That is a lot of carbon dioxide.  To put it into comparison, the solar array on my home that went active last August is calculated to have saved approximately 3,350 pounds of carbon dioxide in just over seven months.  If the average driver reduced miles driven by approximately 25% the savings would be roughly the same.  This is why we have to address our addiction to fossil fuels in the transportation sector in order to have any significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change.

My goal for the next nine months is to drive less than 2,500 miles in total.  Why 2,500 miles?  It’s the length of time, in miles, until my next oil change.  Why nine months?  It’s the length of time, in months, before my next trip to Colorado. Everything seemed to line up in such a way to make this an easy target to measure and understand.  This would also put me on pace to drive approximately 5,000 miles per year including regular trips to Colorado.

A goal of 5,000 miles per year or less would mean a reduction of almost 63% versus the average American driver and a similar reduction in carbon emissions.  Now imagine a world where the United States reduced its emissions from transportation by 63%.  Wow.

It is not just a story about emissions.  Personal automobiles are expensive.  Most people do not realize the full costs of driving in a way that is easily quantified.  You could spend a lot of time calculating the actual cost per mile of driving for your particular situation or you could just let the IRS do the leg work.  For 2017 the IRS has set the “mileage rate” at 53.5 cents per mile.

In my particular case nine months of driving will cost $1338.  However, every trip to work that I replace with a bicycle trip will save me $6.  Greenhouse gas emissions are hard to imagine.  Six dollars in my pocket every time I decide to commute to work on the dirt wagon is concrete.  Somewhere along the way I am going to translate these savings into a Chris King headset for my bike.

I anticipate a degree of failure, but I feel that I will make little progress toward an ambitious goal unless I make some sort of public proclamation.

Turning the Lights off at Work

It is my opinion that I have cut down my household electricity consumption to a fairly good range.  For a family of four living in an above average sized home using 360 to 390 kWh per month on a twelve month rolling average feels like a success.  Furthermore, I am offsetting more than 100% of that electricity consumption via the solar photovoltaic system on my roof.

Although my children generally groan when I tell them to head back downstairs to turn off lights when they are done playing with LEGOS or practicing piano they understand what is behind the request.  Heck, my son has turned into a little eco-warrior albeit in his own way.  For some reason he is focused on people who smoke.  His frequent refrain when we pass someone smoking is, “Why do people smoke?  It’s not good for them, it is expensive, and the smoke is bad for the environment.”  If only we all could follow the logic of a six year old.

However, much of my days is not spent at home but at work.  It is a fairly standard office setting.  A lot of cubicles, a smattering of offices, and a handful of conference rooms.  It is the type of office environment that would not be out of place in a half hour sitcom or the movie Office Space.  Fortunately my days are not interrupted by Lundberg.

Surprisingly in a recent renovation of the office space some automatic lighting controls were installed that switch lighting on and off based on movement.  This prevents offices and common areas from being lit up all night long when none is occupying the space.  I say surprisingly because the company I work for is not well known for its forward leaning facilities plan.

The conference rooms do not have these features.  Lights are still controlled by wall mounted switches and projectors for presentations have indeterminate timers.  No matter how many LEDs I switch off in my own home, it cannot compare to switching off the conference room lights at the end of the day before going home.  Heck, I turn off the lights in the three conference rooms I pass on my way to get hot water for tea whenever these rooms are unoccupied.

The computer projectors, though, drive me insane.  When these things are blazing away it is like leaving a 300W incandescent bulb burning.  Ever seen a 300W incandescent bulb?  It’s freaking bright and hot.  A couple of taps on a remote is all it takes to turn these machines off yet most meetings adjourn with the projectors being left on regardless of a meeting taking place in the same room or not.

I now find myself turning into the light and projector police at work.  What about you?  Do you turn the lights off at work?

Friday Linkage 4/21/2017

Jason Chaffetz chooses not to run in 2018.  John Ossoff almost pulled it off in deep red Georgia.  Damn. Things might actually be looking up.

Oh wait, Trump is talking tough about North Korea.  Mike Pence is talking tough about North Korea.  Is it time for the tail to wag the dog and our lunatic politicians to wrap themselves in the flag before starting a war.  Worked for W.  Too bad it did not work out for the country.

On to the links…

The United States of Work—Read this entire article before commenting or dashing off a response email.  Think about its implications.  Our private employers have become a de facto parallel state to the federal government.

7 Reasons Why Today’s Left Should be Optimistic—I have hope because when you actually ask people if they support things like single payer healthcare, social security, worker protections, etc. the support is overwhelming.  We just need to translate that support into votes.  Ahh, the easy stuff.

6 Ways Trump’s Administration Could Literally Make America More Toxic—Our vigilance is required more than ever.  Plus, we have the opportunity to hit members of Congress with the reality that they have supported an administration that has made the air and water we depend on for life more toxic.  Defend that in front of the people.

6 Times Trump’s EPA Head did Exactly what Industry Told Him To—Scott Pruitt is the fossil fuel industry’s meat puppet.  He does what they want and that has allowed him to rise to his current position.  He is not an original thinker or a policy professional.  He is a shill for fossil fuels.

The 3 Stages of a Country Embracing Renewable Energy—I’ve got a number thing going on this week.  It’s a little bit too much like Harvard writing, but the idea is important.  What the world will look like as countries enter into the third stage of renewable energy development will be critical to our future on this planet.

Climate’s New Best Friend—Get used to the term “stranded assets.”  Basically, oil companies made plans to develop fossil fuel sources when prices were high.  Now that oil is under $60 a barrel these projects are no longer cost competitive.  Hence, stranded assets.

Europe’s Coal Power Is Going up in Smoke – Fast—The death spiral is real in Europe.

Ice Energy & NRG Announce World’s Largest Ice Bear Energy Storage Deployment—Shifting peak electricity demand is a huge component of making our grid greener as the prime hours of solar production are just short of the peak demand from residential users.  Plus, the wind blows hard at night when no one is using electricity.  This is a low tech, established solution to shift demand to other times of the day.

Walmart Secures 40 MWh of Energy Storage for Southern California Stores—Big box stores are a prime location for energy storage.  Why?  Land, lots of land, parking lots, and a need to make sure that the freezers stay cold so they do not lose thousands of dollars’ worth of frozen pizzas in a power outage.  Helping to balance the demand load is a nice little side benefit.

Here’s What Our Food Might Look Like in a Climate Change-Induced Dystopia—Top Chef Hunger Games this is not.

Tokyo’s Skyline Set to See 45 New Skyscrapers by 2020 Olympics—When people tell me that we cannot quickly add buildings to our urban landscape for housing I wonder what they would say about Tokyo?

One Key Way Soggy California Could Save Water for the Next Dry Spell—California may be out of the worst of its recent drought, but the state is essentially on a roller coaster of moisture and has been for thousands of years.  Preparing the landscape for the next cycle is critical.

Why Shopping Should be a Last Resort—We should all have a copy of this taped to the door of our refrigerators at home:

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