bernie

War and economics: where is Bernie Sanders’ 12th step?

There’s much to like about Bernie Sanders, but can he really help us kick the war habit?

Occupy Democrats and US Uncut have a handy macro going around that highlights Bernie’s 11 point economic agenda. It’s big. It’s important. It’s to be lauded. And if we’re not to have Bernie, it’s to be emulated. But we’ve also seen the devastating effect war has had on our economy, to say nothing of the lives lost to our wayward military adventurism. Below you’ll find my own reasons for supporting this 11-point economic plan as well as some serious consideration of his missing 12th point. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

The Tesla Powerwall – Renewable Journal for 5/1/2015

Three ways that the Tesla Powerwall might be a big deal – load shifting, battery backup, and solar storage.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I’ve been reading about Elon Musk’s newest introduction into the world of renewable technologies – the Tesla Powerwall. Here’s the basics – for $3500 you get a 10 kWh battery for your home that mounts to your wall. There’s a 7 kWh version for $3000, and installation costs extra. And if you’ve got a home or business that consumes lots of electricity, you can mount several of these units in parallel to get even more battery storage.

At this point I see a few different ways that this could be a big deal. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-2

Walking the walk on global warming – Renewable Journal for 2/25/2015

Leasing solar panels and acquiring an electric vehicle helped clear a mental block that had kept me from writing much about industrial climate disruption for about two years.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

About two years ago I took a break from regular writing about industrial climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change). My day job was very busy and all the writing energy I usually pour into blogging was, instead, going into my work. By the time I got home at the end of the day I didn’t even want to think about writing again. I’d also become very frustrated with how little recognition my efforts seemed to get. The posts I was the most proud of seemed to be ignored almost completely while the stupid l drive-by posts on a topic of the day would get tons of hits and links. And then there was the fact that much of my topics were being duplicated by others with more time and/or money to write, so it seemed like my niche was rapidly disappearing into other climate focused blogs who were doing it better than I could. All these factors combined to make writing about climate an extremely unpleasant experience.

Recently, though, I discovered that there was something else that was clogging up my writing brain – something that I didn’t realize until the blockage had been removed. I discovered that the fact I hadn’t been really doing much personally to address industrial climate disruption had been a metaphorical ball and chain on my writing. When I started leasing my solar panels from Solar City and bought my Nissan Leaf, that particular weight was removed. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Looking forward to more electrics on the road – Renewable Journal for 2/17/2014

For more posts in this series, please click here.

In the next several years we’re going to start seeing a lot more fully electric vehicles on the roads than we do today. The price of oil isn’t going to stay low forever, and car companies will soon be producing vehicles that are more versatile than the few electrics on the road today. Ranges will increase, charging times will drop, and van, crossover, and SUV models with four-wheel drive will be designed and brought to market. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-2

Solar panels on cloudy vs. clear days – Renewable Journal for 1/4/2015

My solar panels face east and west instead of south, giving me an opportunity to see how cloudy days compare to clear days for electricity production.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

My home is a tri-level, and given how it’s oriented in my neighborhood, its multilevel roof faces due north, south, east, and west. After reviewing the rooflines and nearby trees, SolarCity’s engineers concluded that the best roofs to put the panels on were the east and west facing roofs, rather than the south facing roof. After watching how the solar panels generate electricity for several months now, I’ve noticed something interesting. My panels generate electricity more equally on days with high, hazy, light clouds as compared to days of direct sunlight. I found this fascinating, because it’s essentially the same effect as something scientists have observed with respect to plants.

Imagine for a moment you’re sitting under your favorite tree on a clear, sunny day. You look down at the ground and you see well defined shadows from all the tree’s leaves. Now, imagine you’re sitting under that same tree on a day when there are hazy, light clouds across the sky. When you look down at the ground, you don’t really see individual shadows, but rather it’s somewhat darker under the tree than it is out in the open. Years ago scientists hypothesized that plants might photosynthesize better on hazy days with diffuse light than they do under heavy cloud or even in bright sun, and after a bunch of tests, scientists found that the plants they studied did, in fact, photosynthesize better on hazy days.1, 2 Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-2

A month of solar electricity – Renewable Journal for 11/27/2014

My home’s SolarCity solar panels have been up and running for nearly a month now and while there haven’t been bumps along the way, there have been some interesting discoveries.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

On this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful that the solar panels are up and running. In fact, they’ve been up and running since October 30, nearly a month at this point. While I’m still very satisfied with my solar lease, I’ve discovered a few things about the panels in that month. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

An electric car means partial immunity to gas prices – Renewable Journal for 10/18/2014

My Nissan Leaf means that I don’t really care much what gas prices do. It’ll be a good day when most people have this same freedom.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when a story about dropping gas prices came on. The reporter interviewed a couple of people filling up at a gas station and they, quite understandably, loved that gas prices were going down. While I was thinking about the story and how falling gas prices are not the good thing that the reporter indicated they were (more on that another time), I had an “electric car moment.”

I realized that gas prices don’t matter to me, at least not directly. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Leaf owners – beware the gas station car wash! – Renewable Journal for 10/6/2014

Renewable-Journal-1For more posts in this series, please click here.

A couple months back, I gave my Leaf a bath in a gas station car wash. I came out of it complaining that it didn’t get all the bird poop off my pretty new car, but that happens sometimes – some car washes are just not that good. The thing that stuck with me, though, was that it was hard to get the car positioned right in the car wash, and even harder to get the car out of the wash at all. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-2

The solar panels are up, but not yet on – Renewable Journal for 10/1/2014

The SolarCity solar panels took six weeks to schedule, two days to install, and it may be another two months before they’re finally turned on.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

Six weeks ago my family got back from a vacation and my wife called SolarCity to schedule the installation of solar panels on our roof. She and I expected it to be a week or two, but were surprised to find that SolarCity is busy enough in the Denver metro area that it would be six weeks before their installers could get to our roof. We weren’t exactly thrilled – we’d been hoping to get the system operational as fast as possible to start saving up energy credits for the winter, when we’ll generate less electricity and yet consume more.

We were quite happy to see the SolarCity installers when they showed up yesterday, and over the last two days my home went from having a bare roof to having a full set of solar panels. In addition, all they upgraded the electrical box and installed all the electrical systems required to support the system. While I spent most of that time at work, it was still cool to come home today to find out that they were done and that we were now waiting on Xcel Energy – the electricity supplier for most of Colorado – to come out and install the net meter.

It was less cool to find out that it could take Xcel as much as two months to get to us. Again, we’d really like to store up some electricity credits before winter. Unfortunately, I’m no longer convinced that’ll happen. It’s not like we were banking on it or needed it financially, it just would have been even nicer financially than having a solar on the roof will be regardless.

If you look at it from Xcel’s perspective, they have no incentive to come out and hook up the solar system any sooner than they absolutely have to. Sure, they’ll want to have it hooked up before the end of the year so they can claim the system for their renewable energy requirement, but they more they can delay it without breaking the law, the more money they make from my utility bills. Still, maybe we’ll be one of the lucky ones that get hooked up faster than that.

I’m not holding my breath.

Renewable-Journal-1

How much range do you get on a single charge? – Renewable Journal for 9/27/2014

The way I drive my Nissan Leaf I get about 90 miles on a single charge, but it varies.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #2: How much range do you get out of a single charge?

Since I bought my 2014 Nissan Leaf in June I’ve got about 90 miles per charge. But as with driving most gas or diesel-fueled cars, my range can vary quite a bit depending on the way I drive and the weather outside. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Top Gear meets electric cars – Renewable Journal for 9/1/2014

I’m not a fan of Top Gear to start with, but at least Top Gear America gave electrics some respect in 2013, unlike the unrepentant snarkfest that was Top Gear BBC’s 2011 electric car episode.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

Both the original (UK) and American versions of Top Gear have spent some time with the Nissan Leaf, and neither was tremendously impressed with it. In one way that’s OK – as I’ve said before, electric isn’t for everyone right now. It’ll get there, though, as the range of relatively inexpensive electrics like the Leaf and as the price of cars with long range (like Telsa’s cars) comes down. But in another way, both series treated the electrics they drove (Leaf and Peugeot IOn on the UK version, Leaf and Fiat 500E and Ford Fusion electric for the American version) rather unfairly. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

I may never buy another internal combustion engine vehicle – Renewable Journal for 7/23/2014

Tesla expects to release their all-wheel drive, 7-passenger SUV/minivan crossover in Fall 2015. Others will follow, prices will fall, and going all-electric will soon be more viable.

00.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

A week after we bought my all electric Nissan Leaf, my wife and I also purchased a brand new Nissan Pathfinder. We needed one vehicle capable of supporting a family road trip and with all-wheel or 4-wheel drive so we could use it as our primary skiing vehicle this winter. The Leaf isn’t capable of either at this point.

A few weeks ago my wife pointed out something that I hadn’t really thought about, but have since thought about a lot. Given how long we tend to keep our cars (10 years or so) and the pace of both development and deployment of all-electric vehicles, the Pathfinder may well be the last internal combustion engine vehicle we ever buy.
Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Gas stations with an electric car – Renewable Journal for 7/20/2014

Why would an electric vehicle need to visit a gas station?

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I park my car outside at work, and as a result my Nissan Leaf is covered with dust, splatted bugs, and bird poop. And when I bought the car, the salesperson pointed out that bird poop can eat through the clearcoat finish if it’s left on for too long. So I need to give my car a bath sooner rather than later.

I generally don’t wash it by hand, however. Sometimes the kids will “wash” the cars, spending more time spraying each other with the hose and washing perfectly good soapy water down the driveway than actually scrubbing the bug carcasses off the windshield and grill. But historically, when I really wanted a properly cleaned car, I’d buy a car wash when I was filling up my tank.

And therein lies the problem – I have no reason to go to a gas station, and thus no opportunity to buy a car wash with my fillup. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive? – Renewable Journal for 7/14/2014

Electric motors provide instant torque. So yes, the Leaf is one hell of a lot of fun to drive.

leaf-dash-display-610.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #1: Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive?

Hell yes. In fact, it’s by far the zippiest car I’ve ever owned. Able to go 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, it is more than capable of getting out of its own way merging into traffic, unlike some cars I’ve driven and/or owned in the past.

Having a car that could accelerate into traffic was important for me. At this point there’s so much road construction on my commute every day that I wanted to be able to put my foot down and fit into traffic going at 55+ MPH even when contending with a short merge lane. I had to do that this morning, in fact, since I got stuck behind two big trucks and needed to get out and around them and then up to highway speed quickly.
Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

Talking about my electric car – Renewable Journal for 7/11/2014

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was eating lunch with some coworkers recently when the topic of cars came up. As someone who has recently purchased a new car, I mentioned that I had bought an all electric Nissan Leaf, and that kicked off a 10-15 minute discussion of the particulars of charging, the economics of it, pollution, how quiet it is, why I bought it over a Volt or some other electric, expectations for bad weather driving, the confusion between a 100% electric vs. a hybrid, and so on. Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

Why I chose the Leaf over the Jetta TDI – Renewable Journal for 7/4/2014

Tax credits and rebates, low cost of operation, and reduced air pollution all made the Leaf the better choice for my family.

[MotorTrend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

I know I’m going to get asked why I spent over 30k (before all the crazy tax rebates) on a car that only goes 80 miles. My father especially will ask at some point, and he’s already called it a “toy” car.

He’s not entirely wrong, either. I’m in my 40s now, and it’s actually quite a bit of fun to drive around in a car that can go from 0 to 60 in just a tad over 6 seconds. I’ve never had a car that has this kind of acceleration. Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

Electric vehicles are everywhere! – Renewable Journal for 6/28/2014

Tesla Model S [from Motor Trend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

Actually, they really aren’t everywhere. The fact that I’m seeing electrics all over the place now is actually a simple psychological phenomenon related to familiarity. I own an electric car, and so I’m more in tune with what other electric cars look like, and so simply happen to notice them more.

I did drive by a nice red one on my way home from the dealership, however – the two twenty-something women in it were laughing and pointing at mine as I zipped by them. Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

Two weeks of owning an electric car – Renewable Journal for 6/21/2014

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Today I had what can only be described as an “electric car moment.” I was driving back home from my kung fu lesson and passed by a gas station that’s under construction. As I passed it, I thought was “hey, that’s getting close. I’ll be able to get gas there… wait a second….”

No. No, I won’t need to get gas at that station. Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

The Nissan Leaf and SolarCity – Renewable Journal for 6/8/2014

On June 7, one Colorado family took a leap into unfamiliar waters with both solar panels and a Nissan Leaf.

NissanLeafBAFor more posts in this series, please click here.

Yesterday morning, my wife and I bought a new Nissan Leaf. And yesterday afternoon, after careful review of the terms, we signed a solar power lease contract with SolarCity.

Talk about diving into renewable energy head first. What the hell are we – I – doing? Continue reading

America gets divorced: what about custody of the energy and the nukes?

Part three in a series.

First look at this map:

Now this one, which indicates the location of US military installations: Continue reading