Americans have just begun to use the power of rooftop solar

It seems like every few weeks there’s some new measurement of how successful solar power is in the United States. In early March, industry analysts found that solar is poised for its biggest year ever, with total installations growing 119 percent by the end of 2016. This week, federal government analysts reported that in 2015, solar ranked No. 3 – behind wind and natural gas – in megawatts of new electricity-producing capacity brought online…

Which makes you wonder: Is there a limit to that growth? According to a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federal research outfit, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news: Yes, there is a ceiling for solar power in the United States. The good news: We’re not even remotely close to reaching it. In other words, solar’s potential has barely been tapped.

The report is the deepest dive on solar’s potential since NREL conducted a similar analysis in 2008. The new report’s estimate is much larger than the older report’s, mostly because of vast new troves of satellite imagery data of the country’s rooftops and computer models that are better able to calculate how much power each panel can produce. The analysis leaves behind policy and cost considerations. Instead, the only question is: How much power could we really get if we slathered every roof in America with solar panels? The answer: about 39 percent of the country’s electricity consumption, at current levels.

It’s important to note that the report looks only at rooftop panels, as opposed to utility-scale solar farms. Utility-scale solar provides about twice as much power as rooftop panels, so the full potential of solar is likely even higher than what NREL describes in this report. Even 39 percent, though, would be a revolutionary change from where we are now; despite solar’s rapid growth in the last several years…Coal, which is still the nation’s No. 1 energy source, commands about 32 percent of the market. So the future that NREL is envisioning here would basically flip our energy makeup on its head.

If Americans were to stand up on their hind legs to battle for democratic representation in our state legislatures as well as Congress and the White House – a big IF – that would be the kind of change in circumstances that could not only bring about this kind of energy change, it would accelerate the process.

Believe me. The stodgiest of political hacks would want to get on board the renewable energy train just to keep their seat.

The Daily Show did what Donald Trump asked — it found he was lying about his meat and more

Phony products

A week ago, Donald Trump won primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, and then proceeded to give perhaps the strangest victory speech in the history of American presidential races. Trump had assembled a pile of meat, wines, a pyramid of bottled water, and one magazine to make a point that he is a successful businessman.

You see, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had said that Trump was really bad at running companies and was good at running them into the ground, and mentioned things like Trump’s steak company and magazine as failures. Not content to let this go and walk away with his delegates, Trump assembled these things — the meat, the water, a magazine — onstage at a Republican primary victory speech to show that he’s good at running businesses.

You just have to go check the records, folks,” Trump said, specifically referring to Trump Wine. “In fact, the press. I’m asking you, please check.”

So the team at The Daily Show did. And they found out he was lying and telling half-truths about many of the products on stage:

“Trump Steaks” do not currently exist, and you can’t buy one for $50 (which Trump mentions in his speech). Trump Steaks were actually sold by Sharper Image, whose CEO at the time said that virtually none of the Trump Steaks sold.

“Trump Wine” is not affiliated with Donald Trump, who said he owned it without a debt or a mortgage to pay. On the Trump Winery website, it says clearly that it is not owned or affiliated with Donald Trump.

“Trump Magazine” went out of circulation in 2009 and published 10 issues. But Trump referred to a magazine called the Jewel of Palm Beach in his speech and called that his magazine. It’s the magazine that is supplied in his hotels, and he is not the publisher.

“Trump Water” is generic bottled water that “he slapped his name on.”

All that meat, that pyramid of water, the bottles of wine, and that lonely magazine that Trump brought onstage to prove that he’s a great businessman were all just bunk. And he had the audacity to ask the press to call him on his lies.

Lots of politicians lie. Trump lies all the time. Because he learned to be cunning while wasting his daddy’s money through several bankruptcies – doesn’t mean he’s smart. It doesn’t require lots of smarts to comprehend how gullible Americans can be. The history of phonies elected and re-elected – from Nixon to George W – proves that. The history of religious hustlers from radio days to palatial megachurches proves that.

The producers who put him on so-called reality TV – the cheapest serial programs in the history of the medium – proved that. And the obedient consumers of crap TV now line up for the ultimate crap politician.

Air pollution linked to preterm births, billion$ in healthcare costs

Ambient air pollution cost the United States $5.09 billion dollars in medical expenses and lost economic productivity related to preterm birth in 2010…

Of that total, $760 million was attributed to direct medical costs, according to Leonardo Trasande, MD, of NYU School of Medicine, and colleagues, writing in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Their study combined air pollution data from the…EPA with figures on preterm births from the Institute of Medicine…

This is the first study to estimate the burden of preterm birth and trace it to a particular environmental source,” he said. “Previous studies have taken small populations and found an association – what we did was look at it on a national scale and put a cost to society in terms of direct medical care of children who have preterm birth and associated medical conditions, but also loss of IQ and loss of economic productivity that can ultimately be traced to preterm birth.”

Specifically, Trasande’s team focused its research on fine particulate matter, which has been linked to preterm birth in prior studies. They found that 12% of births in the U.S. in 2010 were preterm, and estimated that 3.32% of all preterm births could be attributed to fine particulate matter…

Trasande said that while air pollution is a problem in the U.S., it is even worse in developing countries, so he would like to see these analyses repeated there.

How many years does it take for someone to get studies like these rolling. I grew up in a time and place in the United States when coal-powered industry was king. When you got up in the morning, opened your bedroom window for a breath of fresh air – and scraped the soot off the window sill so it wouldn’t blow into the room.

We knew damned well it wasn’t doing us any good. And no one in politics, in government, would speak up.