Categories
Writing

Double Dipping on Carbon-Capture

Field Corn

Governor Kim Reynolds mentioned carbon-capture in her condition of the state address during a segment on renewable energy.

I am introducing new legislation that will improve access to E15 and B20 and upgrade Iowa’s fuel infrastructure to offer higher blends. And I’m proposing that we invest in carbon-capture solutions to sustain and build on our leadership position in renewable energy.

Governor Kim Reynolds Condition of the State Address, Jan. 11, 2022.

To be clear, the governor supports carbon-capture to protect Iowa’s investments in ethanol and bio-fuels. It has nothing to do with addressing the climate crisis, and everything to do with continuing to grow corn for ethanol. We are not sure if carbon-capture even works.

“The U.S. Department of Energy invested $684 million in unsuccessful carbon capture and storage demonstration projects at coal plants under the 2009 stimulus package, a U.S. Government Accountability Office audit found,” according to Karin Rives at S&P Global. “This time, the DOE has close to $1 billion from the 2021 infrastructure law earmarked for large-scale carbon capture pilot projects, as well as $2.5 billion for carbon capture demonstrations.”

If DOE spent $684 million on carbon capture and it failed to capture carbon, why would our government increase the amount to be spent? To address the climate crisis, ethanol and bio-fuels need to go out of business. Society should develop true alternative fuels that free farmer fields to grow food crops and don’t rely on release of carbon dioxide to produce ethanol.

Fool me once on carbon capture, shame on you. Fool me a second time, shame on me.

Read all of my posts on carbon-capture at this link.

Categories
Writing

Swallowing the CCS Proposition

Field Corn

Two corporations plan to install Carbon Capture and Sequestration technology to collect CO2 emissions at about 40 ethanol and fertilizer plants spread across Iowa. Next, they plan to permanently bury the resulting liquefied CO2 in deep rock formations in North Dakota and Illinois. I don’t know who is swallowing this malarkey. Almost no one is.

The CO2 pipeline is planned to cross Karmen McShane’s family land in Linn County.

“It’s heartbreaking,” McShane told Gannett’s Donnelle Eller for a story. “My dad is 77. My mom needs care. And he feels powerless (to fight the pipeline).”

There is a lot of that going around.

The pace of news articles on CCS is increasing. Eller wrote about it in Monday’s Iowa City Press Citizen and followed it with another article in Tuesday’s newspaper. Erin Jordan of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has been covering CCS as well. When the regular news coverage is frequent, we should read what paid media writers have to say. That’s what I’ll be doing to see how the process unfolds over the end of year holidays. This is my seventh post on CCS.

The Iowa oligarchy of agriculture decided to do this thing, so resistance may be futile unless more people than have become engaged. If McShane is typical, the train left the station and once ground is broken for the pipeline, there will be no stopping it.

As long as Iowa focuses on ethanol, industrial agriculture using manufactured fertilizers, and monoculture row crops and livestock, the environment will get worse. It is pretty bad already if one looks at water and air quality. Implementing CCS does not address any of this and is a distraction from needed action to address Iowa’s water and air quality.

CCS is premised on a vague statement that we must decarbonize the economy. People have written books on this, and just because two companies are spending big bucks on the project, the one-off process in Iowa does not address broader concerns about reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere as if it were an open sewer. As far as I can tell, the sole reason for the project is to protect agricultural oligarchs’ two children: corn ethanol production and fertilizer manufacturing.

To read the rest of my coverage of carbon capture and sequestration in Iowa, click here.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Categories
Environment

Conservatives Have a Climate Caucus

On walkabout, Dec. 18, 2021.

When I wrote my Federal Elected Officials about climate change on Oct. 18, Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks was first to respond a few days later (see below). I did not know there was a Conservative Climate Caucus. She is a member and lifted the third paragraph of her response to me from the caucus website.

As long as she supports the beliefs of the caucus, there will be trouble reconciling my views with hers. In the long run, that’s okay. It is a starting point and we need to get going. We needed to get going 50 years ago.

The Conservative Climate Caucus was founded by Republican Congressman John R. Curtis (UT-03) in June this year with the following statement of beliefs:

What We Believe

The climate is changing, and decades of a global industrial era that has brought prosperity to the world has also contributed to that change.

Private sector innovation, American resources, and R&D investment have resulted in lower emissions and affordable energy, placing the United States as the global leader in reducing emissions

Climate change is a global issue and China is the greatest immediate obstacle to reducing world emissions. Solutions should reduce global emissions and not just be “feel good” policies

Practical and exportable answers can be found in innovation embraced by the free market. Americans and the rest of the world want access to cheaper, reliable, and cleaner energy

With innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution

Reducing emissions is the goal, not reducing energy choices

What We Do

Educate House Republicans on climate policies and legislation consistent with conservative values

Organize co-dels and staff-dels to better understand technologies and issues related to climate

Organize Member and staff briefings on conservative climate proposals

Bring Republicans to the table to fight against radical progressive climate proposals that would hurt our economy, American workers, and national security

Introduce Republican members and staff to leaders in industry, think tanks, and more

Conservative Climate Caucus website.

When it comes to hurting our economy, American workers, and national security, engagement of the federal government to address the climate crisis is essential. As long as Iowa focuses on ethanol, industrial agriculture using manufactured fertilizers, and monoculture row crops and livestock, the environment will get worse. It is pretty bad already if one looks at water and air quality. There is not much hope for the Conservative Climate Caucus as it was introduced, yet it’s what we have. It is an open question whether Democrats are up to the challenge of retiring Miller-Meeks after her first term. She is a strong campaigner and well known in the district. We have to begin somewhere, and soon. This may be it.

Email from Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Oct. 22, 2021.
Categories
Living in Society

Another Derecho

Sun shining through clouds the afternoon of the Dec. 15, 2021 derecho.

While Wednesday’s extreme weather manifested as a blustery thunderstorm in Big Grove, meteorologists have since categorized the multi-state storm as a derecho. It was nowhere as severe as the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho. (Update: The National Weather Service said it confirmed 43 tornadoes on Dec. 15, 2021. On Jan. 7, 2022 the number was revised to 61).

The good news is with generator and fuel standing by, and gallon jugs of bottled drinking water stored downstairs, we are ready. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

I spent 30 minutes chatting with a registered Republican, small business owner, and FOX News watcher this week. Things went well. We had plenty in common. The challenge is turning points of commonality into votes for progressive ideas. When push comes to shove, abortion is the dominant wolf in the pack. It is a firewall against political persuasion because if raised, the chat stops right there. People who oppose a woman’s right to choose raise the issue early in political conversations.

I have no choice but to interact with Republicans. They are and have been a part of our community since we lived here. During election cycles when I’ve had access to the voter rolls, I looked for the Democrats and increasingly they are in a minority where I live. I’m not complaining, just saying.

On a Zoom meeting with Iowa gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear last night, I asked what we should be doing to organize between now and the June primary. The response, somewhat predictably, was we should sign up to work on her campaign. It was her event, so I’m okay with that. A challenge remains unaddressed, though.

Democrats have three U.S. Senate candidates, two for governor, an unknown Democrat for the First Congressional District, and no declared candidate for either my state senator or state representative. There is a lot of work ahead if we want to elect more Democrats.

There is a case to be made the party primary election should be eliminated in favor of selecting candidates at a convention. It sounds undemocratic yet we could pick our people soon after the February precinct caucus rather than wait until June. That would give us four additional organizing months. We need every one of those in the current environment.

Back in the ancient days when megafauna roamed Earth, during the run up to the 2020 Democratic precinct caucuses, Iowa’s system failed to produce a clear winner in the presidential race. Instead results were delayed, the winner barely won the delegate count, and a loser asked for a recanvass of selected precincts. It wasn’t much better in 2016 when Hillary Clinton bested Bernie Sanders by a few delegates. There is no perfect system yet we can do better than the Iowa caucuses.

What I do, talking to Republican neighbors, is part of the political process yet I don’t see how it dovetails into the broader, state-wide politics. Politicians should concentrate on counting votes, yet there are endless conversations in all settings going on every day. These local conversations matter more than the vote-counting of politicians. They are valid and useful if sometimes frustrating. Often people who are different in political views put their best foot forward to get along in society. That may be all we have together. Democrats have yet to define our values in a way that resonates outside our clan.

I’m glad to have survived my second derecho. Now if I can survive our politics. That would be the rainbow at the end of a storm.

Categories
Sustainability

Innovations in the Climate Crisis – CCS

I viewed the S&P Global Market Intelligence discussion between reporter Taylor Kuykendall and Former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Nov. 8. The thirty minute video is worth viewing to hear Moniz on major technologies and technological developments that will help prevent and mitigate the effects of global warming on humans.

Dr. Moniz answered the question I posted in the YouTube chat: “Regarding CCS (carbon capture and sequestration), how important is it to leave sequestered carbon in the ground? If a market for CO2 were developed, would there be an interest in digging it back up?”

He sort of laughed at the idea of “digging it up” as something that would not be done, yet gave an answer I hadn’t expected. There may be engineering applications to use captured CO2 in order to address our goal of net zero emissions by 2050, rather than burying it in geologically stable underground rock formations. This has been a point of contention with opponents to the Summit project.

Summit Carbon Solutions, an Iowa company, has proposed construction of a pipeline to transport liquefied CO2 captured from ethanol plants and other Iowa industrial producers to North Dakota for sequestration. The Iowa Utilities Board approved public hearings in the 30 counties the proposed pipeline would cross. One of the sticking points between activists who oppose the pipeline and the company was about Summit making a written commitment to leave any sequestered carbon in the ground permanently. CEO Bruce Rastetter indicated they would not make such a commitment because markets may be found for captured CO2. Moniz’ comments yesterday indicated such markets are under study and may be developed in order to address the climate crisis.

Is carbon capture and sequestration technology a hero that will help society reach net zero emissions by 2050, or is it a villain that will violate landowner rights and cause more pollution than it prevents? Fossil fuels should be left in the ground.

The highlight of Moniz’ interview for me was that advocates against the Summit Project (or the similar Navigator CO2 Ventures project) have a lack of big picture information about addressing the climate crisis using carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The information has not been readily available.

Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa isn’t perfect. However, he is a veteran of multiple pipeline fights. In a Sept. 23 blog post he outlined his concerns about the Summit project. He claimed Summit plans to use sequestered CO2 for “fracking” instead of sequestering it in the ground. He also claimed Summit wasn’t being transparent about their intentions. Summit denies these claims. Fallon is the right person to engage in a pipeline fight, yet his blog post lacked a depth of understanding of CCS beyond his immediate concerns. Ed could use more information as could we all.

Over the coming weeks, I intend to remedy the lack of accessible information about carbon capture and sequestration. In a series of articles, I will explain what it is, evaluate whether the Summit and Navigator projects are boondoggles designed to skim taxpayer money for the richest Americans, and what plans exist for implementing CCS as a solution to the climate crisis. Hopefully, with a better understanding of the technology and its proposed applications, advocates for and against it will have a better base of information to address the climate crisis. Stay tuned.

Categories
Environment

Time for Republicans to Act on Climate

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

We witnessed climate change in Eastern Iowa. For me, it’s personal.

• The 1993 flood delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.

• We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.

• Record flooding in 2008 filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible and devastated many nearby places.

• Record drought in 2012 made life outdoors miserable. It negatively impacted crops. Corn yield in Johnson County decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.

• There was a derecho on Aug. 10, 2020. In our yard it took down one tree and damaged several others. My greenhouse lifted into the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.

I know about climate change from living it, as do most Iowans. It’s time for our Republican members of Congress to work with Democrats and take action to mitigate it.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 30, 2021.

Categories
Environment Sustainability

Climate Reality Global Training

I signed up to be a mentor for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps virtual, global training this month. There are more than 500 mentors this time. It’s a chance to meet new people who are taking climate action. The training is also a form of renewal.

I attended the Chicago training in 2013. Since then I mentored groups in Cedar Rapids, and twice virtually. It is a unique kind of work. It is based upon Vice President Al Gore’s slideshow, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore updates the slides continuously and presents it so attendees get a current and terrifying picture of the state of climate change on Earth. It is a crisis.

Sleep came slowly after viewing the first half of the presentation last night.

I wasn’t terrified by the terrifying information Mr. Gore presented. I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to Big Grove. The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana. We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood. In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places. In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and reduced corn yields significantly. On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farm house in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids. I know about climate change from living it.

What kept me up late was a newfound sense of hope. There was cause to re-engage in preventing the worst effects of the climate crisis and in mitigating its damage. I couldn’t sleep while the prospect of making a difference surged through me.

The Climate Reality Project rightly focuses on the change in society that most affects global warming: increased burning of fossil fuels. We must find alternative, renewable sources of energy, stop burning fossil fuels, and keep them the ground. We must find and adopt breakthrough technologies for electricity generation to use them to electrify transportation, buildings and industry. Agriculture must play its part by reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil. Let’s put new technologies to work releasing energy for the economy in a way that will improve our quality of life. We must stop using the sky as if it were an open sewer.

I ask myself, how can I make a difference where I live? Personal change is part of solving the climate crisis. We must reduce our personal reliance on burning fossil fuels. Collective action is needed more and that means finding and organizing like-minded people in our area who are inspired to take climate action.

A solution is not evident today. I’m hopeful over the next eight days, along with my colleagues, we’ll discover and take a path forward. I’m okay with losing a little sleep from excitement about our collective future for now.

Categories
Reviews

Book Review: The Decarbonization Imperative

It’s easy to write a post on social media that says we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions then add a hashtag like #ActOnClimate. What’s harder is knowing what greenhouse gases are at work across the economy and the steps required to reduce them. The upcoming book by Michael Lenox and Rebecca Duff is here to help.

The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050 takes “a deep dive into the challenge of climate change and the need to effectively reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.”

When the authors say “deep dive” that means the book doesn’t read like your parent’s latest mystery novel. It is packed with details and examples, along with questions about whether society can make the transition to a decarbonized economy effectively and in time to avert the worst effects of climate change. The authors remain positive about the prospects even if their narrative presents a bleak answer to both questions. The book welcomes a reader already engaged in how to combat climate change. It takes them beyond generalities.

“The challenge before the world is overwhelming, requiring a profound shift in so many large economic sectors over the course of a few decades. But try we must,” wrote Lenox and Duff. They present five sectors of the economy for review: Energy, Transportation, Industrials, Buildings and Agriculture.

Running throughout the book is the theme of electrification as a way of economic decarbonization. Energy, or electricity generation more specifically, is a key consideration. The other four sectors depend to varying extents upon the energy sector, according to the authors.

Lenox and Duff name all the carbon-free operating methods for generating electricity and point to solar as the one with the most promising capability to disrupt current patterns toward decarbonization of the economy. The narrative is familiar: solar technology is effective, it is currently inexpensive, and costs continue to decline. “Utility-scale solar is now competitive with fossil fuels,” wrote the authors.

Nuclear power is mentioned multiple times in the book as a potential solution to decarbonize electricity generation. Readers of this blog know my skepticism about building new nuclear power generating stations. Like many, I point to the failures at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). According to the nuclear regulatory commission, “Today, the Three Mile Island-2 reactor is permanently shut down and 99 percent of its fuel has been removed. The reactor coolant system is fully drained and the radioactive water decontaminated and evaporated.” The other two disasters remain ongoing.

Lenox and Duff acknowledge the high cost of current nuclear reactor technology. They also mention Bill Gates’ nuclear project. In his 2021 book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, Gates wrote, “I put several hundred million dollars into starting a company to design a next-generation nuclear plant that would generate clean electricity and very little nuclear waste.” While Lenox and Duff acknowledge new nuclear power is too expensive for economically disruptive potential by 2050, Gates’ investment is of the kind for which they advocate throughout the book. If Gates’ company resolves issues with nuclear power, as is its stated goal, it may be worth another look.

The authors emphasize no sector of the economy is without challenges in getting to decarbonization. The benefit of reading the book is its broad overview of these challenges.

There is a lot to absorb in The Decarbonization Imperative. Unless advocates are willing to do the work to understand this narrative, what’s the point? I recommend the book for its analysis by sector and for the ways each sector is connected with others. Climate advocates often focus on electricity generation and electrification of transportation yet to decarbonize the economy, all sectors must be addressed. Zero emissions will be a tough nut to crack, especially when zero means zero.

The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050 by Michael Lenox and Rebecca Duff is scheduled for release from Stanford University Press on Oct. 29, 2021. Click here to go to the book’s page at Stanford University Press.

About the authors

Michael Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the coauthor of Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability (Stanford, 2018) and The Strategist’s Toolkit (Darden, 2013).

Rebecca Duff is Senior Research Associate with the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She also serves as the managing director for Darden’s Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative.

Categories
Writing

Summer Heat and Humidity

View of the garden from the rooftop, Aug. 28, 2021.

The gutters overflowed with water in a recent rain storm. During the following heat and humidity I climbed the ladder to have a look. Sure enough both sides were plugged with leaves and maple tree seeds. It took less than a minute per side to clean them.

While up there I inspected the roof. The south peak is showing wear, as it is windward. The roof will be good for a while longer. It was the only planned ascension this year.

I go indoors when the heat index is in the 90s. Ten or more years ago it didn’t bother me to work hour after hour in heat and humidity. With a cooler of water bottles on ice, I had everything needed to work straight through. The record drought in 2012 raised my awareness. I began needing a break from the heat about every hour or I would get dizzy. Now I don’t push it. If the forecast is in the high eighties and it’s humid I find indoors work to do.

It’s not like the lawn needs mowing. While the two recent rains greened things a bit, most of the grass remains dormant. I don’t like mowing when it is in this condition. The number of yard and garden tasks is backlogging into a real project. There is no reason it can’t wait until the ambient temperature is cooler.

Perhaps the worst thing about drought-like conditions, combined with a resurgence of the coronavirus, is the isolation. I have intense desire to be with people. Like with the heat and humidity, I’m taking no chances and staying home.

There will be a fall, I’m certain. It will get cooler. I will work in the yard again. In the second year of the pandemic I yearn to do things with people. I’ll be ready when inhospitable conditions abate.

Categories
Environment

Rain Came and the NOAA Report

Sunrise before the rain.

We had good rain a couple of days this week with predictable results: garden tomatoes are swelling and cracking, the lawn is turning green, and there are more mosquitoes buzzing around the garden.

The county public health department identified a pool of mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus. They issued this press release:

Mosquito Surveillance Program Reveals West Nile Virus Risk

The Johnson County Public Health Mosquito Surveillance Program, in collaboration with testing from Iowa State University and the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab, have identified a pool of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus (WNV). Mosquito samples from a trap located in Hickory Hill Park recently tested positive, suggesting mosquitoes with the potential to carry West Nile virus are likely present in the community.

This is the first pool of mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile virus in Johnson County, since the surveillance program was re-instituted in 2017. No human cases have been reported this season. “Historically, we are near the peak season for mosquito activity and potential WNV transmission, “said James Lacina, Environmental Health Manager at Johnson County Public Health. “Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to limit the risk of transmission, along with reducing habitat, such as areas of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.”

People can take simple precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
• Use an effective, EPA-registered insect repellent.
• Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
• Limit time outside from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos outside.
• Eliminate mosquito-breeding areas by disposing of standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.

Email from Johnson County Public Health, Aug. 26, 2021

We don’t live near the park where West Nile virus was found yet I forwarded the notice to some friends who do. It is great to have a functioning public health department.

In other Thursday news, the Washington Post reported on release of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report “State of the Climate in 2020.” I haven’t read the 481-page document yet the news is not good, it is bad.

Contrary to some news stories about decreased greenhouse gas emissions during the coronavirus pandemic, an associated drop in carbon emissions was all but undetectable to scientists studying our air.

While humanity grappled with the deadliest pandemic in a century many metrics of the planet’s health showed catastrophic decline in 2020. Average global temperatures rivaled the hottest. Mysterious sources of methane sent atmospheric concentrations of the gas spiking to unprecedented highs. Sea levels were the highest on record; fires ravaged the American West; and locusts swarmed across East Africa.

Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds by Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post Aug. 26, 2021.

We live in Biblical times with plague, locusts, drought, hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels and wildfires. The planet is literally burning up. While some hope for the rapture to take us from the problems of a deteriorating environment, the rest of us have to cope with the challenges of a planet whose atmosphere traps too much warmth.

Without consistent, concerted efforts to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities, scientists warn, Earth’s condition will continue to deteriorate.

Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds by Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post Aug. 26, 2021.

Just read the two-page abstract of the report on page Siii. It is past time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No single person can make a difference. It will take all of us working toward the same goal.

It’s no consolation the planet will be fine. The people living on it will not. It’s past time to act on climate.