Category Archives: Environment

Climate change requires “degrowth” say “experts”

Presumably the authors of this study will agree to demonstrate “degrowth” by cutting their own salaries, their departments and their university budgets. They can go first, right?

“We can still satisfy peoples’ needs, maintain employment and reduce inequality with degrowth, which is what distinguishes this pathway from recession,” Mr Keyßer says.

“However, a just, democratic and orderly degrowth transition would involve reducing the gap between the haves and have-nots, with more equitable distribution from affluent nations to nations where human needs are still unmet — something that is yet to be fully explored.”

A ‘degrowth’ society could include:

A shorter working week, resulting in reduced unemployment alongside increasing productivity and stable economic output.

Universal basic services independent of income, for necessities i.e. food, health care, transport.

Limits on maximum income and wealth, enabling a universal basic income to be increased and reducing inequality, rather than increasing inequality as is the current global trend.

Source: Climate Change Modeling of “Degrowth” Scenarios – Reduction in GDP, Energy and Material Use

This sounds a lot like Communism, where technocrats decide for you  what you will receive: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

Certainly, the authors of the study will go first: “degrowing” their own departments, universities and their own income.

California proposes to steer new homes from gas appliances

Gas appliances will still be permitted, for now.

The California Energy Commission released a draft building standards code on Thursday that would require new homes to be equipped with circuits and panels that support all-electric appliances for heating, cooking and drying clothes.

Source: California proposes to steer new homes from gas appliances

We are going to put some large demands on the electric grid – electric heating and water heating use a very large amount of electricity. So too does EV charging. Simultaneously, the Biden administration has proposed shutting down 12-13 fossil fuel power plants every month through 2035. It is not clear how that power generation capacity will be replaced – that would be building the equivalant of 3 alternative power plants every week for the next 14 years.

Environmental Robotics

Erin Kennedy, a.k.a. RobotGrrl, gives this TedXOttawa talk. Interesting approach to applying robotics and other ideas to simple environmental cleanups.

I met Erin at SF Bay Area Maker Faire in probably 2012. Like me, she’s also a serious head injury survivor(2 in her case) and I have great admiration for all that she has accomplished.

20% of EV owners end up switching back to gas powered vehicles

“Here, on the basis of results from five questionnaire surveys, we find that PEV discontinuance in California occurs at a rate of 20% for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners and 18% for battery electric vehicle owners. We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male.”

Source: New study explains why nearly 20 percent of electric car owners return to gas | TheHill

Charging seems to be a key issue. Survey also says Tesla owners are least likely to switch back to gas vehicles.

Biden proposes incentives to have large families, increase population

Giving incentives to have large families is solving which problem? This is in opposition to his “Green New Deal” goals.

President Joe Biden unveiled his next $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday focusing on universal preschool, free community college, national paid leave program and child care spending caps. …

Source: New stimulus package: Biden unveils free preschool, community college, paid leave, child tax credits

Also, saw this chart that seems in conflict with the assumption that the entire U.S. economy still requires massive debt fueled “stimulus”. Much of the economy is apparently doing okay – obviously, there are sections that are not. My Governor just closed all restaurants again, for the next 3 weeks.

Biden proposes to close 12-13 coal or gas fired power plants every month for the next 14 years

Building on and benefiting from that foundation, America’s 2030 target picks up the pace of emissions reductions in the United States, compared to historical levels, while supporting President Biden’s existing goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050

Source: FACT SHEET: President Biden Sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Union Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies | The White House

That means in 14 years, we need to shut down and replace the power from existing coal and gas fired electrical power production plants.

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. had 1,900 natural gas power plants, 241 coal fired plants in 2019, and 1076 oil fired power plants (all very small, with less than 1% of electrical production).

Ignoring small oil fired plants, this means shutting down 1,900 and 241 or 2,141 power plants over the next 14 years – or 12 to 13 power plants EVERY MONTH over the next 14 years. Conversely, this means building replacements for 12 to 13 power plants every month, using as yet mostly unknown technologies (e.g. grid sized batteries which could include battery tech, water or mass storage systems).

Simultaneously, electrical usage is likely to increase due to EV charging and prohibition on natural gas furnaces in new homes, and some jurisdictions discussing mandatory future replacement of existing gas or oil home furnaces with electric heating.

This seems to be a difficult goal to achieve.

Why I do not make predictions

It is rare for anyone to follow up on past, bold pronouncements about the future. Such pronouncements tend to be wrong.

I was old enough in 1970 to remember some of these predictions, made under the umbrella, at times, of “scientific certainty”.

This list was made in 2009 – and now we are at 50 years later.

IHTM – Earth Day predictions of 1970.

Source: IHTM – Earth Day predictions of 1970. The reason you shouldn’t believe Earth Day predictions of 2009.

Efficiency in Agriculture

Many think the quaint and tranquil working the land by hand is the future of agriculture. Uh, no, its ont.

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

….

in a modern industrialized society, most people will live in cities and suburbs and will not work in agriculture. As a result, most food will need to be produced by large farms, with little labor, far away from the people who will consume it.

Many sustainable agriculture advocates tout the recent growth of organic agriculture as proof that an alternative food system is possible. But growing market share vastly overstates how much food is actually produced organically. In reality, organic production accounts for little more than 1 percent of total U.S. agricultural land use. Meanwhile, only a bit more than 5 percent of food sales come from organic producers, mostly because organic sales are overwhelmingly concentrated in high-value sectors of the market, namely produce and dairy, and fetch a premium from well-heeled consumers.

Source: U.S. Industrialized Agriculture Is Better for the Environment—and the People, Too

People are disconnected to how food is produced, and are oblivious that their local well stocked produce section of their local supermarket depends on a large network of food production and delivery.

You can’t actually “eat plenty of fresh produce each day” and “buy local” at the same time – in much of the country – without a large and diverse agricultural system. People in California, where the growing season is about 10 months long, are oblivious that in much of the northern parts of the U.S., the growing season is 3 to 5 months long!

When I was in college (1970s), a group of students were discussing a related topic and it turned out most everyone in the group had at least one grandparent (sometimes parents) who grew up on farms, ranches, or if not, had lived on large plots of land where they grew or raised much of their own food. At some point in the 20th century, people became disconnected from how food was produced.

One couple discovered their Big City friends had no idea where food came from – which led to their creating the True Food TV Youtube channel that explains it all. Worth checking it out if wondering where and how your food comes from.

Irrational Covid Fears – The New York Times

It’s a classic example of human irrationality about risk. We often underestimate large, chronic dangers, like car crashes or chemical pollution, and fixate on tiny but salient risks, like plane crashes or shark attacks.

One way for a risk to become salient is for it to be new. That’s a core idea behind Calabresi’s fable. He asks students to consider whether they would accept the cost of vehicle travel if it did not already exist. That they say no underscores the very different ways we treat new risks and enduring ones.

Source: Irrational Covid Fears – The New York Times

Years ago, John Stossel proposed a similar scenario to an audience. He was aware of a new energy system that could heat homes at cheaper cost and reduce green house gases too. But it came with a risk: they estimated about 450 people would die per year due to issues with the technology in the home setting.

Would you approve use of this system?

Almost all of the audience said no – but then when audience member asked, “Is this by chance natural gas?” Which it was. It illustrates how we take some risks for granted – but new risks not so much.

Federal government might de facto ban sale of most new gas powered cars as soon as 2026

The government is considering setting miles per gallon requirements so high that few gas vehicles could achieve those goals – and this could come as soon as 2026, just 5 years out.

While Regan did not mention any specific numbers, he did not rule out emissions limits that would force the phasing out of fossil-fuel vehicles. To achieve that, the number would probably be in the range of 60-70 miles per gallon combined, according to EPA methodology, which is what appears on new cars’ Monroney stickers. Today’s gas-powered cars struggle to crack 40 mpg combined, and hybrids have trouble getting more than 60 mpg combined. The least-efficient electric vehicle, on the other hand, the Porsche Taycan, gets the equivalent of 69 mpg.

Source: Biden admin could set emissions limits so high gas cars can’t meet them | Ars Technica

That would require a massive re-alignment of manufacturing and service sectors in a short period of time, and a phase out perhaps of many gas service stations.

Related: Yesterday I calculated the total electrical production of my solar PV system versus the power we use. As of the end of March, during the preceding 12 months, we produced almost 1.4 MWH of power we did not use. Since we are now in a sunnier part of the year, by the end of April, I suspect our excess power may be as much as 1.8 MWH.

Because we are intertied to the utility grid, that excess power production gets used elsewhere. Our power utility gifts the “Free power” (free to them) to charity. Our 12-month “production” counter is reset by the utility on May 1 and we then started banking power for the coming 12 months.

Our PV system is considered small – most homes, including the neighbor across the street, have PV systems 1.5 to 2x larger than ours. We are just very efficient with electricity consumption. The 1.8 MWH of excess power means we could charge an EV from the sun for our routine local driving (we do not own an EV at this time).