California just reached ~95% renewable energy!

Something remarkable happened over the weekend: California hit nearly 95% renewable energy.

I’ll say it again: 95% renewables. For all the time we spend talking about how to reach 100% clean power, it sometimes seems like a faraway proposition, whether the timeframe is California’s 2045 target or President Biden’s more aggressive 2035 goal. But on Saturday just before 2:30 p.m., one of the world’s largest economies came within a stone’s throw of getting there…

The 94.5% record may have been fleeting, but it wasn’t some isolated spike. Most of Saturday afternoon, the renewables number topped 90%, with solar and wind farms doing the bulk of the work and geothermal, biomass and hydropower facilities making smaller contributions. Add in the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant — which isn’t counted toward California’s renewables mandate — and there was enough climate-friendly power at times Saturday to account for more than 100% of the state’s electricity needs…

There are now 14 electric grid operators participating in the imbalance market, from Arizona Public Service in the Southwest to Idaho Power in the Northwest to Warren Buffett-owned Rocky Mountain Power in the Intermountain West. Several utilities joined this month, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has long zealously guarded its independence. Several more are preparing to join, as far from California as NorthWestern Energy in Montana and El Paso Electric in Texas.

By 2023, the market will cover 83% of electricity demand in the West.

That’s one of the sound, realistic, productive ways to manage climate change and turn energy production into a healthier industry for human beings. Not that conservative denialists care a rat’s ass about any of this. Truth is … we can continue on with this level of progressive change with no participation from rightwingers. They can continue to sit on their hands … while the rest of this nation moves forward.

China selling off oil it no longer needs

The pace at which China exports the fuel it doesn’t want is set to jump by more than four times in 2018, according to the nation’s biggest energy producer.

That’s a harbinger of bad news for processors in the rest of Asia — from South Korea to Japan and India — who now have to contend with higher crude prices as well as the threat of the flood dragging down refining margins. Government-issued quotas to sell oil products abroad may also expand this year in order to ease a large supply glut in the domestic market, an analyst at China National Petroleum Corp. said on Tuesday.

China’s net oil-product exports — a measure that strips out imports — may climb about 31 percent to 46.8 million metric tons this year, CNPC said in its annual report released in Beijing. Shipments rose about 7 percent in 2017.

In particular, exports of diesel — also known as gasoil — are expected to soar 47 percent to 23.8 million tons in 2018 from a year earlier, according to the CNPC report.

Yup. Countries smart enough to walk away from fossil fuels, pollution, economists and politicians with fossilized brains – end up with “problems” like selling off the excess crap they no longer need or want. One of the early results from switching to renewables like wind and solar-generated electricity.

Sting: Fake Coppers Scored $1.2 Million in Weaponry From The Department of Defense


Chris Hondros/Getty Images

❝ When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

❝ This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency—complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot—and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

❝ A GAO report issued this week says the agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb material from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which supplies state and local law enforcement with excess materiel. The rifles and bomb equipment could have been made functional with widely available parts, the report said.

They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of Ebay.”

Modern communications technology surely makes it easier to screw up. If you’re a screw-up.

California has beaucoup solar power — so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

❝ On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.

Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines…

The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity…

❝ Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?…

❝ The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power

That’s the polite way to put it.

❝ …The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.

Generally, when folks are sleeping in a strange bed it involves sex or money or both. RTFA and decide how much of each is involved.

This ship cost you and me $15 million – US Navy is selling it for $180K


Click to enlarge

Any millionaire can buy themselves a fancy yacht, but if you want a conversation piece … well, it helps if it has a story behind it, and the Lockheed Martin-built Sea Slice certainly does. Launched in 1996 by the US Navy as a military support vessel, the experimental watercraft features a unique hull design that reportedly allows it to remain as stable as a conventional ship three times its size. It cost $15 million to design and build, but you can have it now for the low, low price of just $180,000…

A regular SWATH boat has two hulls, kind of like a catamaran. Whereas a catamaran’s hulls resemble skinnier versions of a conventional single hull, however, a SWATH’s are more like cylindrical pontoons that sit completely below the surface. The struts that connect those hulls to the rest of the boat are quite narrow, thus minimizing volume at the sea’s surface, where all the wave energy is located. Because the hulls themselves sit deeper in the water, they’re not affected much by the waves.

In the case of the Sea Slice, there are four shorter teardrop-shaped hulls – two on each side, one behind the other. Apparently this modification reduces waves caused by the boat, along with hydrodynamic drag. That drag reduction allows it to travel at higher speeds for a given amount of horsepower, as compared to other SWATH boats of a similar size and displacement.

The 105-ft long, 55-ft wide, 180-ton watercraft features two 3,480 hp diesel engines, two 180-kW Caterpillar diesel electric generators, and (if its specs are still the same as they were when it was first built) a top speed of 30 knots. There’s no word on how many people it can accommodate, although judging by the photos, there are at least six bunks. It also has a full galley, shower-equipped bathroom, plus a washer and dryer.

Anyone vetting prospective buyers to see if they’re fronting for Mexican drug cartels – or worse?

Net-zero energy test home ends first year with leftover energy

Braving a harsh winter with snow-covered solar panels, a net-zero energy home in Washington DC has come up trumps in a year-long study of its energy harvesting capabilities. Located on campus at the National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers used computer simulation to replicate the energy consumption of a family of four. At the end of its first 12 months, there was a large enough surplus to power an electric car for 1,440 miles.

The 2,700 ft sq two-story construction was developed to look like a regular home, but function as a laboratory for clean energy research. Much like the Honda Smart Home, NIST’s effort combines stable ground temperatures with geothermal systems to minimize heating and cooling loads throughout the building. Another factor in overall energy efficiency is a doubling of insulation levels, sealed by special sheeting that reportedly heals itself when pierced.

“The most important difference between this home and a Maryland code-compliant home is the improvement in the thermal envelope – the insulation and air barrier,” says NIST mechanical engineer Mark Davis…

The energy surplus and the home’s claim to net-zero living was compounded by a stretch of severe weather. For 38 days through winter, the 32 photovoltaic panels were largely covered in snow and ice, hampering their ability to harvest energy from the sun. But over the 12 month period, the home generated 13,577 kWh of energy. This surpassed the virtual family’s energy usage by 491 kWh, an excess that could in theory be directed toward an electric vehicle or back into the grid…

Despite boasting the aesthetics of a typical suburban house, adoption of the technologies used will largely come down to cost. NIST estimates that fitting out a similar-sized house with all the bells and whistles of its test home would cost around US$162,700. On the upside, it puts savings in electricity costs at $4,373 for the year.

Further research will center on how the measurements of the home can improve its energy efficiency and addressing the difference in up-front costs and long term savings. NIST is hopeful its findings will lead to improved energy efficiency standards as a resource for builders, regulators and home buyers.

A couple of comments.

First, the design is two or three times the size of sensible requirements. Make your decisions based on need instead of cultural McMansions and a family of four could be quite comfortable in 1200 square feet instead of 2700. My wife and I and a dog live in 1400 sq.ft. and use about 900 sq.ft. including a study/home office. We have a spare bedroom we refloored a couple years ago and haven’t yet gotten round to moving anything into that room!

Second, custom home building adds a premium of as much as 30% to cost. Building comparable homes as part of a subdivision, growing economic advantages of scale will reduce the cost of building homes like this. Working this out from scratch probably increased cost from projected by 10-15% just on change orders. 🙂

Why Social Security is not going broke

Which federal program took in more than it spent last year, added $95 billion to its surplus and lifted 20 million Americans of all ages out of poverty?

Why, Social Security, of course, which ended 2011 with a $2.7 trillion surplus.

That surplus is almost twice the $1.4 trillion collected in personal and corporate income taxes last year. And it is projected to go on growing until 2021, the year the youngest Baby Boomers turn 67 and qualify for full old-age benefits.

So why all the talk about Social Security “going broke?”…The reason is that the people who want to kill Social Security have for years worked hard to persuade the young that the Social Security taxes they pay to support today’s gray hairs will do nothing for them when their own hair turns gray.

That narrative has become the conventional wisdom because it is easily reduced to a headline or sound bite. The facts, which require more nuance and detail, show that, with a few fixes, Social Security can be safe for as long as we want…

Now let’s look at how that $2.7 trillion Social Security surplus arose. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan sponsored an increase in Social Security taxes, changing the program from pay-as-you-go to collecting much more taxes than it paid in benefits. The idea was to have the Boomers prepay part of their old age benefits. The extra tax was supposed to pay off the federal debt and then be invested in federal bonds. Instead, Reagan ran huge deficits, violating his 1980 promise to balance the federal budget within three years of taking office…

Continue reading

Time for a Pentagon yard sale?

Some say that the United States is incurring too much debt, more than $1 trillion in the past fiscal year. Others say that the worst recession since World War II is no time to cut spending or raise taxes. They’re both right.

Happily, there is a third way to slow the growth of debt without curtailing federal economic stimulus: sell assets…

There’s the Tennessee Valley Authority, for example: Created during the Depression to help develop the impoverished Southeast, TVA today owns and operates 29 hydroelectric dams and six nuclear reactors, along with coal plants, wind farms and other power sources. In fiscal year 2009, the authority reported operating revenues of $11.3 billion and operating expenses of $9.3 billion…

And there are assets easier to quantify

— More than a quarter trillion in gold.

— A quarter trillion in TARP assets.

— $35 billion of oil in the strategic petroleum reserve…

No longer stricken by malaria, no longer impoverished, the people in the TVA region can afford to pay the full cost of their power just as much as Con Edison ratepayers…

No one likes Wall Street these days. But it’s time to get some investment bankers on the phone and ask them how to get the best possible price for what the United States has to sell.

Frum is a conservative ideologue. He’s in favor of privatization at any cost. But, he does have a point about TVA.

And the Pentagon could have a helluva yard sale. We have a bad habit of passing along military hardware that’s four minutes over the sell-by date to our buddies. We not only do it for free. We throw in free training and supplies for a decade or so.

Sometimes long enough to see it fired back at us.

Let’s sell off some of that crap to the guys who are supposed to be on our side.

U.S. pullout from Iraq kicks off world-class garage sale


“I’ll give you 5 bucks for the hat, Joe”

The detritus of occupation comes in all shapes and sizes.

In Iraq, it’s M-16 ammunition clips, rifle bipods and body armor at Baghdad’s Haraj market. Or Playboy DVDs, Irish Spring soap and military-issue MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) at a store in Karrada district, scavenged from the trash or more often skimmed off supplies at U.S. bases by industrious local contractors.

For traders in U.S. cast-offs, now is the last hurrah.

The remaining 85,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq are pulling out over the next 18 months, and the Pentagon is getting rid of the fixtures and fittings of the bases they live in, some of it at auction, some bound for the black market.

Among the items hitting the streets are air-conditioners and refrigerators from 500 bases the U.S. operated at the height of its presence in 2007, when some 170,000 soldiers were trying to keep Iraq from tearing itself apart. The size of the U.S. force in Iraq meant many of the bases were like cities, with PX shops as big as Wal-Marts, and Burger King and Krispy Kreme stores…

Such are the spoils of modern war, while stocks last

In Iraq, the United States isn’t sticking around. Or so we are told.

Combat operations end in August and troop numbers drop to 50,000 by September 1, before a full withdrawal by the end of 2011. Much of their hardware goes to U.S. forces in Afghanistan or is repatriated. Some equipment goes to the Iraqi government.

More than 370 bases have been handed over, and the military says it is “transitioning” to Iraq 62,000 excess items, including vehicles and office furniture.

RTFA.

None of this should surprise you – including the official lies. Maybe there will be a few enterprising hustlers who will pack up some of the leftover, ship ’em back to the United States to sell to the fools who willingly paid for this crap with tax dollars a hundred times over.

Breast milk cheese on the menu?

Take four cups of breast milk, add rennet, salt and yoghurt – yes, four cups of breast milk, according to a recipe created by New York chef and restaurateur Daniel Angerer, who posted his formula for maple caramelized pumpkin encrusted cheese on his blog, and offered “whoever wants to try it is welcome to try it as long as supply lasts”.

Angerer runs the Manhattan restaurant Klee, and the breast milk is supplied by his wife and restaurant co-owner Lori Mason after the couple found they had an excess supply in their freezer intended for their baby daughter Arabella. Angerer explained on his blog:

“My spouse is feeding our baby with breast milk. We are fortunate to have plenty of pumped mommy’s milk on hand and we even freeze a good amount of it – my spouse actually thinks of donating some to an infant milk bank which could help little babies in Haiti and such but for the meantime (the milk bank requires check-ups which takes a little while) our small freezer ran out of space. To throw it out would be like wasting gold…”

Angerer told the Toronto Star that customers at his restaurant have been asking to try the cheese and he has prepared some amuse-bouche – canapé of breast-milk cheese with figs and Hungarian pepper – but that he has no plans to sell it: “That weirds me out,” he said.

Of the two batches he’s made so far, the first tasted salty-sweet and the second was slightly spicy. “It depends on what my wife has eaten. That directs the flavour,” he told the Star…

City authorities have told the restaurant to keep its breast milk cheese away from customers. “The restaurant knows that cheese made from breast milk is not for public consumption, whether sold or given away,” a spokeswoman for the city’s department of health said.

No comment.

RTFA – the recipe is included.