Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coal and Wind

Blackouts in India

Map showing India power outage
 ~ As much as 10% of the world's population is without electricity following the second massive grid outage in India this week.

Blame is being spread around among an outdated, rickety grid, a lack of generation capacity, government inefficiency and corruption, a failure to follow agreed-to consumption limits by various states, poor energy pricing that encourages wasteful consumption, and, as one routinely expects from the corporate cheer-leading quarter, supposedly strangling environmental regulations. All of these are true at least in part, but the bigger cause is a failure to plan and build a stronger commitment to renewable energy.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Climate Change Conversion

Skepticism Pursued

Richard Muller in Morocco
 ~ Richard Muller, climate change skeptic, writes:
It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.
Muller is a scientist, and thus, a skeptic. He's still a climate change skeptic, but has turned his deeply skeptical faculties to the question, and come to a definite conclusion:
Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
Four observations:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sweet Cherries

Smarter Cherries

Rainier cherry scion micrografted on sweet cherry rootstock ~ Many know that Washington State University (WSU) is a national leader in agricultural research. Not so many know that WSU researchers are working to solve immediate, practical problems for growers, for example, in sweet cherry propagation:
Imagine ordering a piece of cherry pie at a restaurant, and being told that your pie would be delivered in two or three years. On your way out the door, you’d probably tell the waiter, “That’s no way to do business!” Orchard managers, however, have to place their orders for sweet cherry trees two to three years in advance of receiving and planting them.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nightmare at Beaver Lake

Something Wicked This Way Creeps...

 ~ The Pacific Northwest's premier haunted attraction looms! It may be summer now (well, sort of) but October is just around the corner, and that means night frights in woods of Sammamish. This year will feature all new sets and scares, as always!

(Your humble blogger and amateur ham appears at about 3:25)

The Nightmare at Beaver Lake. Good grisly fun for the whole family brought to you by Scare Productions and the Rotary Club of Sammamish.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Wacky Anti-Capitalists...

...Are On To Something

 ~ Our economic problems and the solution explained by RSAnimate in 11 minutes:

So when do we start jailing the banksters for enriching themselves by defrauding everyone else?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—XCI

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Voting Fraud

Don't Congress With Texas

Houston Chronicle cartoon on the bogus problem of voter fraud
 ~ Many states have recently passed laws making it much harder for people to register and vote, ostensibly because of concerns about "voter fraud."

The real fraud, however, is using this bogus concern to disenfranchise millions of legitimate voters. These laws will do little or nothing to correct a negligible problem, but instead create a much larger and more serious one.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Are We So Dumb?

Because We Choose To Be

Cartoon | Texas schoolbook selection dogma
 ~ To be competitive, whether as nation, as a business, or as an individual, today requires relentless innovation and unflagging drive. These are core traits of the successful entrepreneur and the use of which are widely touted as key to resolving our economic woes.

There is a growing recognition that our educational system is largely failing to graduate workers who are competitive in the global economy, or even in the prevailing gig economy here at home. To succeed, we must all be entrepreneurs now, at least in mindset and approach, and be able to deftly, creatively adapt to rapidly changing economic circumstance and opportunity.

That requires an inquisitive mind and critical thinking faculties, and that's what education should instill. But look who doesn't get it—the Texas Republican Party:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Climate Change Math

Is Our Number Up?

Spaniard Lorenzo Duran's leaf art
 ~ Bill McKibben has written the definitive piece on the three key numbers that summarize our impending, self-made, and slow-motion global catastrophe. Simply:
  1. 2°C--The maximum rise in average global temperature we can sustain without cataclysmic consequences. We're already 0.8°C there, and may have another 0.8°C yet to be reflected but already baked into the global warming cake.
  2. 565 Gigatons--The limit on the amount of atmospheric CO2 we can yet emit and stay under 2°C.
  3. 2,795 Gigatons--The amount of carbon in the proven gas, oil and coal reserves of companies and countries. These reserves are what those entities intend to extract for humanity's collective burning.
The economics of the fossil fuel industry, their capitalization, and their shareholders' wealth depend on extracting and burning almost 5 times more CO2 than the absorbing ability of the Earth can sustain.

McKibben argues, convincingly, that we need to start thinking of the Fossil Industry in a different way:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Impressions of an Entrepreneur

All True, Somewhat

 ~ Following the "What my friends think I do", a current Internet meme:

Entrepreneur meme | What my spouse thinks I do | What my friends think I do | What society thinks I do | What politicians think I do | What I think I do | What it feels like I do

It's all partially accurate, but rather akin to the metaphor of blind people groping an elephant. Reality rarely matches the caricature; so too here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pipeline Parable

The Ghost of Keystone XL Future

Enbridge pipeline spill in Kalamazoo River
 ~ Oil companies routinely downplay both the likelihood and the consequences of pipeline accidents and their spills that foul the environment. They want us to see the risk-reward equation as overwhelmingly one of minuscule risk, negligible impact and enormous economic and employment upside.

Should we believe them? What might be the impacts if there were when there is an accident?

Two new pipelines have been proposed to transport "non-conventional" oil, specifically that derived from Alberta's infamous tar sands: Keystone XL, running south to refineries and terminals on the Gulf of Mexico, and Northern Gateway, running west across Canada to terminals on the coast of British Columbia.

These pipelines should "scare the crap" out of us:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Food for Thought

Tasteless Behavior

 ~ For my (environmentally-aware) puzzle fans: what is shown in the picture below?

Contents of a turtle's stomach

Well, sure, it's a variegated bunch of mostly small shards of stuff. Want a hint? It's almost all plastic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—XC

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Running on Empty

Running Blind

 ~ There is no cornucopia, except in myth.

Infographic | How many years remain of dwindling resources

Some of these materials are obscure to many people, like antimony and indium, but all are essential to our economy. How do you replace copper or aluminum? As we deplete soil and run out of the phosphorous to augment its lost nutrients, how will we feed ourselves? With fossil fuels we have the potential (and eventually the necessity) of transitioning to renewable sources. When it comes to elements, however, there are no easy substitutes or renewable alternatives because, well, they're elemental. Several of these will effectively run out in our lifetimes. The time to start thinking about and implementing solutions to resource depletion and exhaustion is now, not someday.

"I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Worthy Website—IV

Let's Go Drill the Arctic!

 ~ This website has been around a while, but it has been freshened up lately because of Shell Oil's imminent plans to start exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska. A sample crowd-sourced advertisement for Shell's "Let's Go!" campaign:

Let's Go ad for Shell Oil Arctic oil development

It takes a few minutes of poking around for most to realize that this is not an official Shell Oil website, but a very clever and detailed parody. Like all good satire, it is darkly humorous and all-too-plausible.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why Pipelines?

Oiling the Political Machinery

 ~ Canada's conservative Prime Minister wants to build a pipeline from the tar sands to terminals on the Pacific coast. Why?

Cartoon | Canada's Enbridge pipeline

The numbers here in the US for Keystone XL are different, and industry proposes to send refined oil products overseas to China and elsewhere, but generally the conditions and consequences are very similar.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Climate Change Adaptation

"We'll Adapt to That"

Alfred E. Newman
 ~ Those who deny climate change and its obvious impacts use many rationalizations. As these become harder to plausibly defend, there is a growing trend away from denying the reality to denying the significance of the impacts.

Embedded in the latest Climate Crock of the Week (video embedded below) is footage of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson providing just such a blithe dismissal:
What do you want to do to adapt to [climate change]? And as human beings, as a species, that's why we're all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting...

Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around—we'll adapt to that...

It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions...

What do you want to do to adapt to that?
Yes, that's the right question to ask. So, what's the answer?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wasteful Parachutes

Science Needs Its Own Lobby

 ~ Further proof that it is all Government's fault:

Cartoon: lobbying consequences

Ever feel like Wile E. Coyote?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Solar Facts

Myths and Misinformation Must Yield

 ~ An excellent infographic that shines the positive light on solar it increasingly merits:

Solar power infographic

  • Is getting cheaper
  • Reduces electricity costs long-term
  • Generates a net surplus of energy
  • Works on cloudy days
  • Is becoming competitive with fossil fuels
As I posted earlier, solar has also been proven as an effective base-load energy source.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXIX

Time for an easy one! Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baseload Solar

It Can Be Done

Gemasolar array in Spain
 ~ Many have asserted that renewable energy generation is impractical because it is too variable and too intermittent. Not true, as installations in Spain demonstrate:
Gemasolar, which officially launched last month (May 2011), is a 19.9-MW plant with a 15-hour ‘battery’. Gemasolar’s expected production is 110,000 MWh per year—or about enough to fully power 25,000 households. Because it can store energy, this 19.9 MW generates the equivalent of a 50 MW solar power plant without storage, according to Mr. Arias.

Gemasolar’s battery consists of two tanks of molten salt thermal energy storage that allows the solar plant to generate on-demand electricity: during the evening, during cloud cover or rain, or even days or weeks later.
Gemasolar, and similar renewable energy generation installations is part of the solution that allows us to create a renewable energy future. It is possible with wind too.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Climate Change Evidence

The Future is Now

Climate change hoax charge gets ridiculous amounts of attention
 ~ Recent years have seen increasing numbers of what we used to call freak weather events. This year has seen even more.
Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.
This is what global warming looks like, and we will likely see more of these kinds of things in the months and years ahead.
Since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Renewable Energy Future

80% By 2050

Renewable energy technologies
 ~ A new study by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) shows that the future of electrical energy could be composed primarily from renewable technologies. Is it really possible?

It's not the first such study. Several others have come to similar conclusions. The NREL study adds further rigor and detail to the argument and makes a straightforward statement:
Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Arctic Offshore Drilling

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 ~ We need detailed scrutiny before, not after disasters.

It's true (perhaps) that oil rigs don't "generally" cause (larger) spills, but oil spills are routine. The spilling of oil is a "systemic" problem:
“Do we have a single company, BP, that blundered with fatal consequences, or a more pervasive problem of a complacent industry?” [BP spill] commission co-chairman William Reilly, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement. “Given the documented failings of both Transocean and Halliburton, both of which serve the offshore industry in virtually every ocean, I reluctantly conclude we have a system-wide problem.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

Timing Scrutiny

Fukushima Lessons

Fukushima nuclear disaster
 ~ Why are extensive hearings and deep scrutiny only practiced after a disaster?

An inquiry into Japan's worst nuclear accident reveals deeper problems:
[The] nuclear crisis was a preventable disaster resulting from “collusion” among the government, regulators and the plant operator, an expert panel said on Thursday, wrapping up an inquiry into the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Worthy Website—III

The Dark Money Universe

 ~ Citizens United has unleashed a supernova of cash into our political system, much of which remains utterly anonymous. Mother Jones has created a page showing what they call the final frontier of unlimited political money:

The Dark Money Universe

I'm seeing red. Click on the picture for the full interactive experience.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXXVIII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Chemistry of Dysfunction

A Distillation

 ~ Retorts are usually involved:

Chemistry cartoon of fear, ignorance and hate

What did Yoda say? "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

And suffering makes one afraid. The circle is complete.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Compare and Contrast—II

The Nuance of Billboard Messaging

 ~ I don't think of billboards as nuanced, but frankly I don't understand the fine points of what makes content acceptable to their owners.

This was refused:

While this, and others of similarly revolting ilk, were displayed:

Sure, the Heartland ones were taken down after an outcry, but doubtless more people saw them than learned of their retraction, or the reasons for it.

The media chooses the message. We must careful in choosing the media.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye

A Dog's Life

Chaps is the best dog ~ Chaps, our dear dog, died yesterday.

So keen is our grief that it is hard to describe, and almost unbearably sad to write. A good friend and fellow entrepreneur, in speaking of the passing of a loved one, has always prayed: "May his memory be eternal." Those are wise and heartfelt words, and there is no doubt his memory will be such in the recall of my family and all who knew him. And also in my mind, and in my heart.

Chaps had great character. Unfailingly friendly, he barked little, but would always respond to the question: "Do you love me?" with a woofy yes. He was the Big Dog, the Hound "El Grande", and engendered his own superlatives: he was houndelicious and hounderrific (a hound terrific). When he was happy, he showed it not just by smiling and wagging his tail, but also by sneezing. And sneezing. he's the only dog I've ever known who sneezed when he was happy.