Categories
Kitchen Garden

Garden Cycles

Red Norland seed potatoes.

“Extreme (weather) events are becoming more numerous in every season, so Iowans should anticipate more floods, droughts and heat waves,” Iowa State Climatologist Justin Glisan recently said.

Farmers and gardeners recognize this. What I didn’t realize is a third of the major natural disasters hitting Iowa since 1980 have occurred in the last five years. Tornadoes, derechos, severe thunderstorms, heat waves and drought have become commonplace. While adaptation in small garden plots like mine is possible, the scale of the problem is much bigger than any one person’s experience or ability to cope.

The last few days have been colder that usual. By that, I mean the historical average high has been 52.5 degrees and today the forecast is ten degrees colder than that. There is expected variation year over year, so it’s not time to wig out about extreme weather just yet. All the same, by now I’d have something in the ground besides garlic planted last fall if ambient temperatures were closer to normal. Adaptation serves gardeners as there is a wide range of suitable conditions for growth.

Ten days before Good Friday, I’ll cut seed potatoes for seasoning before planting. I have a notebook of previous gardening years that serves as an indoor planting guide. It is time to start Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, according to last year. Following the agenda is the kind of activity gardeners relish. It creates a sense of understanding that helps us get by in a turbulent society.

When I was working full time, there was no time to work through seasonal climatic variation in the garden. Vegetables either made it or they didn’t. Attention to earning an income in a career blinded me to what was going on around me. We each avoid unpleasantness in order to preserve the secure bubble we create and in which we live most of our lives. This type of insularity is a main reason governments take inadequate action on climate change: people are caught up in their personal world construct. The real world is too ugly to contemplate so we avoid thinking about it and in some cases enable disaster.

Even with climate change and increased frequency of extreme weather events, garden cycles remain. We work through them each year and recognize variations. Producing a harvest is always rewarding. A garden can give us grounding in reality. It’s something sorely needed in this household and in society more broadly. At present, most are oblivious to garden cycles as Earth continues to orbit the sun, grocery stores have food on shelves, and our nest seems protected from the ravages we see on media coming into our devices.

It is easy to turn away from garden cycles, yet we shouldn’t.

Categories
Social Commentary

It is Spring

Portable greenhouse, 2022.

On walkabout, garlic poked through the mulch. It is spring.

I assembled the portable greenhouse yesterday afternoon. The extra space and light will make a difference, another step toward planting the garden.

A big batch of vegetable soup simmered on the stove most of the day. We ate it for dinner and filled five quart jars. Three of them are to take as my spouse returns to her sister’s to finish packing.

My daily routine is disrupted by spring. That’s good. Like grass greening in the lawn, it is a sign of renewal. Without it, sustainability is elusive.

Opening statements at Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee were yesterday. It was as if I wandered into a retirement home occupied by committee members. My conclusion, after listening to most of them? We need younger senators. Thankfully, in Iowa we have three suitable candidates to replace Senator Chuck Grassley during the November election.

War in Ukraine continues. The Ukrainian government refused to surrender even though most of Mariupol has been bombed to ruins. The Russian war machine will rapidly wear down, yet not before more destruction. Somehow Ukrainian farmers will get a crop in the ground this spring.

This week, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, pointed out what most should know: we are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe. The upshot is there is time to act on climate, although not for long.

Categories
Living in Society

Late Winter

Garden in Winter

Snow fell and a day later it began melting. The ground is partly snow-covered in today’s predawn darkness. With a forecast high of 30 degrees, there will be more melting in sunny areas. Eleven days remain in winter.

With President Biden’s March 8 announcement, “We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” U.S. gasoline prices increased immediately. I’m planning to round up our gas cans, take them to town, and fill them. I expect prices to continue to climb because of Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine. The country should get completely off fossil fuels, although there has been a lack of political will to do so.

Lettuce and herbs are beginning to germinate on the heating pad. As soon as the snow melts I can build the burn pile and clear the first planting plot. As the growing season begins, I’m ready.

Nonetheless, a few more days of winter remain.

Categories
Environment

Grassley on Climate Change

This response to my message to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has been sitting in a file folder waiting for me to write a response. Upon review, I don’t really have a response as the letter speaks for itself. Shorter Grassley: wind, ethanol and biodiesel are what I have been and am willing to work on going forward.

Dear Mr. Deaton:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. As your senator, it is important for me to hear from you. 

I appreciate you sharing your concerns regarding climate change with me. I have long said that I acknowledge that a changing climate is a historical and scientific fact. I also recognize that most scientists say manmade emissions contribute to climate change. In addition, it is just common sense to promote the development of clean forms of energy. In fact, throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have been a leader in promoting alternative energy sources as a way of protecting our environment and increasing our energy independence. I’ve been an outspoken advocate of various forms of renewable and alternative energy, including wind, biomass, agriculture wastes, ethanol and biodiesel. As the former Chairman and Ranking member of the Finance Committee, I’ve worked for years to enact tax policies that support the growth of these alternative resources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to develop a comprehensive energy policy and review the tax incentives for all energy sources. Our goal should be that clean energy alternatives become cost-effective, viable parts of our energy mix to power our homes and businesses for the long term.

To the extent that clean, alternative forms of energy can be made more cost effective than fossil fuels, it will be a win-win situation. In the meantime, any measure that forces a shift from low-cost energy sources to higher cost alternatives will impose hardships on hard working Americans, especially those least able to afford higher prices for home heating, food, and transportation. Higher energy costs also affect jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

I believe we have an obligation to future generations that our environment is both clean and safe. Additionally, I believe it makes economic sense to have a healthy environment. Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have authored and supported legislation that promotes  renewable   energy  sources to protect the environment, support our economy, and increase our  energy  independence. I’ve been an advocate of various forms, including wind, ethanol, and biodiesel.  

As you may know, Iowa has had much success in the production of these  renewable   energy  sources. As the number one producer of corn, ethanol, and biodiesel, our state leads the nation’s  renewable  fuels industry. This cleaner-burning, homegrown  energy  supports the economy by generating 37,000 jobs and nearly $4 billion of Iowa’s GDP. In 2020, Iowa produced 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol. In regards to environmental benefits, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to conventional gasoline.

As the “father” of the Wind  Energy  Incentives Act of 1993, I sought to give this  renewable   energy  source the ability to compete with traditional, finite sources. Today, wind  energy  supports over 9,000 Iowa jobs and provides 40 percent of our state’s electricity. Like ethanol and other advanced biofuels, wind  energy  is  renewable  and does not obligate the United States to rely on unstable foreign states. Further, the U.S. Department of Energy recently released its annual wind Markets Reports. Within this report are several notable updates about Iowa. Iowa currently leads the U.S. in wind-generated electricity. At 57 percent, Iowa has become the only state where over half of our in-state generated energy comes from wind. Lastly, the wind industry supports over 116,000 U.S. jobs.  

Going forward, I believe the most effective action Congress can take to address this issue is to advance policies that increase the availability and affordability of  renewable   energy  sources. If these  energy  sources can become more competitive, market forces will drive a natural, low-cost transition in our  energy  mix that will be a win-win for American families.  

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch. 

   Sincerely,

  Chuck Grassley
  United States Senator
Email from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley dated Nov. 10, 2021.
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.