EV Chapter 2 – one year anniversary

One year ago, I wrote EV Chapter 1 and rejoiced in the excitement on our Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S. Now one year later, I think it is a good time to dig in to some of the details. In one year, we have driven the Tesla 17,243 miles. This included mostly in town typical commuting, a few trips to the cabin, as well as a trip to Omaha last year for the Elite 8 NCAA basketball tournament and a trip to Chicago for a lacrosse tournament. We consumed 6,092 kWh of electricity which cost us $408.16, putting driving the Tesla at a cost of just under 2.37 cents per mile. To drive that same number of miles in our 2006 Prius would have cost us over $1100 in fuel and in our 2007 Highlander Hybrid it would have cost us over $2200 in fuel.

The other key differentiator for me that warrants moving to electric vehicles is the reduction in emissions. Despite some of our electricity providers (Dakota Electric) portfolio including Natural Gas and Coal, our Tesla still results in the emission of 1/3 of the CO2 that the Highlander does and about ½ of what the Prius does. The other factor to take in to account here is that the electrical grid is going to continue to get cleaner with more and more renewables coming online, based on the simple fact that they are now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. On a related note, kudos to Xcel Energy for continuing to shift to clean energy and driving towards their goal of being 100% carbon free by 2050. For a large company that supplies the majority of the electricity to 8 states, that is an awesome commitment.

In terms of maintenance costs, thus far we have not paid anything for maintenance on our Tesla in part because being a CPO it came with a bumper to bumper warranty. We have had it in a few times for minor things but our only real investments have been in winter tires with an set of rims and all weather floor mats. As a gift I received a floor jack and a torque wrench and do tire rotations / changes myself.

One year ago I stated, ‘it is still a stretch to justify purchasing most electric vehicles based on cost alone, but things are definitely trending quickly in that direction’ and that remains true and is continuing to shift very positively. For a daily commuter car that you do not need to drive across the country with, it would be easy to make and win a financial argument for buying an EV over a car with an Internal Combustion Engine. Those examples would be a Nissan Leaf and many others that are already released and pending release. Buying a Tesla, it remains a little bit more challenging to justify based on price alone but it currently remains the only EV with a robust SuperCharger network that allows you to drive the car anywhere without compromising on charging time. When thinking about your next vehicle, another thing to consider is the used EV market which continues to grow with compelling options. If you are planning on making a vehicle purchase anytime in the future and want to learn more about the options, please reach out. Being an advocate and helping evangelize EV’s is a strong passion of mine and in the picture above, that is our car on the right at a local farmers market.  It is 100% clear that EV’s are the future as they will win on their own economically.

Lastly, the other part worth mentioning is that I really like driving the car. It handles nicely and has a variety of features that make driving the car truly enjoyable. Some examples are the large touchscreen with an internet connection, streaming music and navigation, heated seats, and the ability to pre-warm or cool the car from the mobile app. The over the air updates that come to the car are impressive as well, I am not aware of other cars that gain features and functionality at no additional cost after the owner takes delivery.

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Terminating Fiction

Imagine a scenario where ice loss across the globe is continuing and accelerating, where glaciers around the world are declining, where global average air temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees F, where global average ocean temperatures have increased 1.3 degrees F, where global sea level has risen over 7 inches, where thawing permafrost in the arctic is releasing carbon dioxide and methane which is amplifying warming further, where coastal cities around the world are investing trillions of dollars to fortify sea walls and in some cases literally raise their cities elevation.

Unfortunately this is not science fiction and this is not a prediction, this is the current reality of what is happening as documented in the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) which was released by the Trump Administration on Black Friday. The NCA4 is a product of law that was unanimously passed by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush and is the United States authoritative assessment of the science of climate change. The summary of NCA4 that you can read for yourself at http://nca2018.globalchange.gov is as follows: Climate change isn’t a distant issue anymore. It’s happening today. Humans are responsible. It’s affecting every single one of us, in every part of the United States, across almost every sector. The risks to our well-being, economy and environment grow greater every day. Now is the time to act.

Now imagine if you were the leader of a nation impacted by these issues and every academy of science nationwide agreed with the findings and the need for taking rapid action, as did every other nation on the planet, every major faith organization, and nearly all major businesses including the largest corporations from the fossil fuel industry. What would you do? I doubt you would be completely dismissive of the issue, cite how you are super intelligent and know better, or talk about how this is other nations problem. Unfortunately that is exactly what our current president has done. He truly is the new face of climate change denial. He and a minority of other US political leaders are busy doing one of two things when asked about this important topic; they quickly divert to another topic as though a planet that is becoming less habitable for humankind is a lower priority, or they cite old tired arguments that any fifth grader with a web browser could easily refute. These tired and invalid arguments remind me of that scene near the end of Terminator 2 where the T-1000 falls in to the pot of hot liquid and shape shifts trying to take a form that can sustain the predicament.

It is tempting to pause and ponder the motivations for a nations leader and some of the key influencers in power to reject science, but it is a waste of time. Part of what we always need to remind ourselves is that political will is driven by ordinary citizens. Pick any major legislative milestone that benefitted humanity and you will find that it was driven by the collective attitudes and persistence of the people, not by a few old corrupt, selfish, or incompetent white men.

Now imagine if there were a solution to climate change that was effective, good for people, good for the economy, revenue neutral, and had bi-partisan support. Republicans Francis Rooney (FL-17) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) along with Democrats Ted Deutch (FL-22), John Delaney (MD-06) and Charlie Crist (FL-13) have introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). This simple, elegant solution is a variation of the policy we have been working on with Citizens Climate Lobby, which we fully endorse and support. It will accelerate the energy transition the NCA4 report states is needed. It will create millions of jobs without growth in government and protect our pocket books. Additionally, the border adjustments in the policy will influence the rest of the world to follow our lead and implement similar carbon pricing mechanisms.

Legislation like EICDA is endorsed by economists from both sides of the political spectrum. It is endorsed by four oil and gas supermajors (BP, Shell, Total and ExxonMobil) and the largest solar company in the U.S. (First Solar). It’s endorsed by the largest automobile manufacturer in America (GM) and the largest electric utility in the America (Exelon). It’s endorsed by two of the largest environmental organizations (The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International) and Republican statesmen George Schultz and James Baker.

The time has come for national climate policy to be enacted. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act provides a legitimate bipartisan path forward which is critical to the sustainability of any solution. Historically, climate change has been a wedge issue dividing our political parties, and solutions like this one help showcase what climate change really is; an opportunity that can bridge us together.

As this bill is introduced and discussed further, the merchants of doubt will come out and begin to flail like the T-1000 with invalid arguments about unsettled science or negative economic impacts. Don’t fall for it, do some research yourself and then do the most important thing that you can; talk about it with everyone you know. The more accurate awareness to the solutions that exist and how they actually would help and benefit us, the better. While the EICDA will not be passed during the current lame duck session, being brought forward now continues the conversation and sets us up for a time in the future when with your help it will be passed in to law to innovate our way to a better and more prosperous future.

Lastly, a shout out to my friend, Tim Reckmeyer, who assisted by letting me re-purpose some of the factual details he got published in a recent newspaper commentary in to this blog entry.

The good news

Lately, watching or listening to the news is getting more complicated. On the one hand I want to be informed of current events but on the other hand, so much of the news is negative that it is like taking in a deep breath of anxiety. My late father in law used to refer to the 10pm newscast as the “bad news” and to a large extent he remains right. The focus is often on political divides, crime, crappy weather, and male sports. Most broadcast stations are dependent on getting viewers to tune in so that they can show their advertisers metrics to get them to buy ads, and unfortunately the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mentality remains effective at gaining viewers.

A few months ago I wrote letters to all of the local TV meteorologists asking them why they do not naturally work climate change in to their broadcasts. I gave some examples where they could weave it in and asked them to consider raising public consciousness on this important topic. I did not get a single reply but I already knew the answer from listening to Paul Douglas many times over the years. The station directors are not going to let the meteorologists talk about something on the air that might alienate 30% of their misinformed viewers who think climate change is a hoax or a liberal conspiracy. Some might talk about how the local news is a public service or similar but in reality, it is a popularity contest trying to gain viewer share. For the most part they all follow the same format, take the same time for commercial breaks, have similarly relatable and attractive anchors, and so on. No one is willing to take a risk as it might put them at a disadvantage. This same type of issue plagues other industries as well, one example is the rental car business. I could make 10 car rental reservations for tonight at 10 different airports and when I do not show to pick up my cars there is no penalty, no cost, no consequence to me of any kind. Rental car companies would love to take a deposit that is not refundable after 48 hours before the reservation or similar but they won’t until the majority of rental car companies do it because it would give other companies a marketing advantage. So they continue on with their current process which costs them revenue. The news is the same way, until most agree to openly discuss climate change as a regular part of their broadcast, very few will.

I find myself more drawn to late night, satire, and comedy segments lately as a means of keeping up with current events, because at least then I can have a laugh about it and not feel quite so hopeless about humanity. The other place that I have been finding incredibly positive to watch is actually right within our local news broadcast. Award winning journalist Boyd Huppert does a segment called “Land of 10,000 Stories” that I would strongly suggest you give some time even if you are not in Minnesota. His stories are often inspirational and positive, while showing a human element that is challenging to find elsewhere. I would recommend Mrs. Delicious Pay It Forward Ice Cream which convinced me that goodness is prevailing and that I would be willing to pay $20 for an ice cream bar under these circumstances. Next give a watch to this Switched at Birth story which is genuinely amazing and follow it up with a bittersweet story about Best Friends, one of whom is a WWII veteran and the other who is a preschooler. If you too need a dose of positively and optimism and want to follow and see more of these stories on Facebook, you can do so here.

The high bar

Imagine if we said that seat belts were not going to prevent all auto related deaths so we did not make them mandatory.  Imagine if we did not have drunk driving laws because some people are going to drink and drive anyway.  Imagine if we did not have any screening of bags at the airport because someone with bad intentions will eventually get something through anyway.  Imagine the same examples for texting and driving, lead paint, leaded fuel, athletic protective gear, and so on…. One of core goals we have as a society is the preservation of life and the advances in safety we have made have been towards that end.  We learn, we adapt, and we evolve.

When it comes to climate change mitigation discussions and gun violence prevention discussions; a quick argument that is frequently made against taking any action, is that it will not be 100% effective.  Why move away from fossil fuels if the sea level is going to rise anyway from all of the carbon already in the atmosphere?  Why impose any changes to gun purchasing because if a bad person wants to get a gun they will find a way?  Setting the bar to 100% is unreasonable and is an invalid position.  As humans we constantly reside in the gray and that is a perfectly acceptable place to be, things are rarely simplistic enough to be black and white. 

Imagine if transitioning to cleaner energy sources could minimize future environmental disasters or if modified gun legislation could prevent one mass school shooting, would it then be worth it?  How many lives does a change need to save to be worth it?  I do not think any reasonable person would say 100% but yet that is quickly the unreasonable standard that is set in these discussions.  I am encouraged with the 70 members (35R / 35D) of the Climate Solutions Caucus and the direction their dialog is going as their group continues to grow.  I am encouraged by some of the recent town hall style discussions taking place on how to better ensure the safety of our children at school; as I recently mentioned, having a dialogue is a critical part of the equation.  Now the next step is to determine what success looks like and agreeing that there is room for compromise in the answer.  The consequences of inaction are too great.

The necessity of dialogue

Today the front page news is once again pictures of shocked and grief stricken family members trying to cope with the loss of loved ones due to a mass shooting. It seems unlikely that anything meaningful is going to change to improve these situations. Sure, we pass referendums and watch our local school entrances get fortified, we can constantly be aware of our surroundings like Jason Bourne, and we can buy Kevlar inserts for our backpacks; but none of that may help at all. It seemed after Las Vegas that there was going to be an appetite in DC for regulating bump stocks but that fell by the wayside. Having a reasonable conversation about the first four words (a well regulated militia) of the second amendment seems to be a non-starter, the focus is always on the last 14 words (the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed). What bothers me most about this issue is how no real dialogue takes place. Imagine any other scenario resulting in thousands of senseless deaths each year with not even a conversation about options to mitigate it.

On the one side politicians are quick to decry the need for gun control and on the other side politicians are quick to say stop politicizing this. In my opinion, there is the problem. Our political system has become so fractured that having a reasonable and open dialogue about something is taboo unless it is with someone from your own political party. Sure, there are some exceptions to this but it is uncommon and those joint ventures have not secured additional support outside of a small group regardless of whether it is immigration reform, health care, or gun violence. For a brief moment this morning I wondered if the solution was simple, I wondered if the news media started treating mass shootings like they do women’s athletics or climate change if that would improve things. Is part of the appeal of the shooter knowing they will be the lead story and have their name everywhere and be talked about until the next mass shooting? I do not know, but maybe more focus on the victims and mitigations for the problem wouldn’t hurt because the reality is at the moment I could care a less about the piece of shit shooter and his troubled life.

The gridlock, inaction, and self-serving legislation seems to be at the core of many issues facing Americans today. Over the years there have been many clever pictures and calls for politicians to be like NASCAR drivers and wear their sponsors so everyone knows who bought and paid for them. I genuinely think this would help. It might not solve the fractured relationships immediately but it would give clearer insight in to what is happening behind the scenes and make open dialogues more likely. Imagine a senator wearing a large Nestle logo on their chest trying to influence the Forest Service to allow Nestle to keep pumping millions of gallons out of the San Bernardino National Forest for free despite the fact that their permit to extract water from the park expired in 1988. Imagine a politician with a big General Motors logo on his hat trying to pass legislation to not allow Tesla to sell vehicles directly to consumers in Michigan. Not only might it change the dialogue, it might change the mindset of sponsors who currently act with a certain amount of or sometimes complete anonymity. Being able to have a dialogue is the key and today, when it comes to complex issues like gun violence, climate change, health care, equality, immigration and more; the number of politicians on either side of the aisle willing to have a real discussion and have a willingness to compromise is too small.

Analytics

One of the nice things about WordPress, is that I can look at the data for my blog and see what entries people are clicking on, what countries they are from, what days of the week they visit, what search terms they use, what links they click, and more.  I can compare readership year over year and also tell if a single visitor went to more than one blog entry and such.  It is all anonymous, but interesting data to look at regardless.  Some of it does not align with what I would have expected, for instance the majority of the views I get are on Wednesdays which I found surprising since many of my posts are done on Thursdays or Fridays.  Some things make me laugh like when someone uses their browser to search for “my 2008 hummer is beeping” and they are directed to my humorous beeping bleeping hummer entry.  I am uncertain how the one person from Iceland, six in Russia, or seven from Saudi Arabia found my blog; but it is interesting to view the details from the map picture above regardless.  The most clicked on entry was in late December of 2016 and it was a satirical article, channeling my comedic desire to write for the Onion.  I think the provocative picture is really what prompted the clicks.

I sometimes think about what my audience might like to hear, but more often lately I am paralyzed with what to say.  There is so much ‘bad news’ on environmental topics in the U.S. lately that carving out a sliver of hope or positivity is difficult.  At the same time, drudging on and whining about what corrupt idiots are leading this nation is unsatisfying.  As ideas pop in to my head about topics, I add them to a list.  Below is a snip of some of those thoughts, please let me know if any of these or any other ideas are of interest to you.  Thank you!

  • The false dilemma, the economy or the environment
  • Whataboutism
  • The truth about water
  • Fracklahoma
  • Waste
  • Main Stream Media
  • Regrets
  • An interview with a climate change skeptic
  • Glacierless National Park
  • We all live downstream – NIMBY
  • Educating habits

Dropping the A

Make America Great Again (MAGA) is a catchy phrase and one that if simply looking at the words seems like something everyone would want to support.  Like most things, the issue comes when you start looking at the specifics.  The word “Again” gives the impression of reverting to a previous time and opens itself up for numerous arguments about what timeline we are hoping to move back to and creates a natural issue of negating progress we as a country have made.  No matter the time in history that anyone would say is when America was best, there were large fundamental problems then which are improved now.  Was America great when women could not vote, when we had leaded gasoline and leaded paint, when no water and air protections existed, or when slavery existed?  No, it is better now in those and many other regards because of progress and innovation.  MAGA has its nostalgic merits, but when the conversation deepens most sane people would concede that the slogan should lose the A.  If our POTUS and his administration were to focus on just ‘Make America Great’, things would be a lot simpler and we could be moving forward to make more progress as opposed to moving backwards.

There are several ways that the “Again” is being implemented and reverting us, as opposed to moving us forward and helping us transform and modernize.  The Brooking Institute, Columbia, Harvard, and many others all track new, repealed, and modified rules and policies and I have leveraged some of their data to create a list of environmental changes and updates you might not even be aware of because we are too busy worrying about the countless scandals or offensive tweets of the day.

  • The social cost of carbon is an estimate of the monetized damages caused by a one-ton increase in greenhouse gas emissions in a given year. On March 28, 2017, POTUS issued an executive order which states that, when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations, agencies should instead follow earlier guidance from September 2003.
  • In July 2015, the Department of the Interior (DoI) proposed the Stream Protection Rule, which required that land within 100 feet of a stream could not be disturbed by surface mining activities, including the dumping of mining waste.  Two days before that law was to take effect (1/19/2017), several coal producing states filed a lawsuit and shortly after resolution went through the house, senate, and was signed by POTUS nullifying the rule.
  • Among all industries regulated under the Clean Water Act, steam electric power plants contribute the greatest amount of toxic pollutants discharged to surface waters. The power plant water pollution rule establishes limits on the amount of toxic metals and other harmful pollutants that steam electric power plants are allowed to discharge into surface water. The rule was finalized in 2015 but new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA would reconsider the rule and has delayed its implementation so they can revisit the impacts to industry.  Compliance dates for some of the more stringent portions of the rule dealing with flue-gas desulfurization wastewater and bottom ash transport waste, which both come from the burning of coal have been postponed.  The EPA is now being sued by several organizations regarding its lack of environmental protections.
  • A rule to improve the competency of certified pesticide applicators of restricted use pesticides was halted from going in to effect via executive order and the implementation delayed by Scott Pruitt as it did not promote agriculture and rural prosperity.
  • Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards require vehicle manufacturers to achieve an average fuel efficiency over their fleet, or else pay a penalty. The rule was delayed indefinitely, pending reconsideration.
  • In February 2017, POTUS issued an executive order directing the Interior Secretary to review the oil and gas fracking rule, which requires disclosure of certain information by fracking companies to ensure adequate environmental protection. The Department of the Interior then proposed to rescind the rule, noting that it imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other unjustified costs on the oil and gas industry.
  • In March 2017, POTUS issued an executive order to reduce regulatory burdens related to energy production. In response to the order the DoI rescinded the oil, gas, and coal lease valuation rule, which sought to increase royalties paid to the federal government by companies extracting resources on public lands.
  • In June 2017 the EPA published a notice of its intent to extend their deadline for ensuring a portion of the Clean Air Act was being followed.  The specific rule is in regards to national ambient air quality standards for ozone and the EPA is supposed to identify areas of the country not meeting those standards in order to protect of public health.  In August of 2017, sixteen states filed lawsuits contesting the delay. In response, the EPA withdrew the extension.
  • The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act established a set of performance measures for state departments of transportation (DoTs) to use in assessing the performance of interstate highways in regard to, among other things, environmental sustainability. The greenhouse gas emissions measure requires state DoTs to establish targets and report on progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions using this measure. In July 2017, several environmental groups sued the DoT for illegally suspending the greenhouse gas emissions measure, and in response, the DoT reinstated them.  A few days later, the DoT officially proposed to repeal the greenhouse gas measures.
  • Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature that has a strong odor and is found in certain resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products, including plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen that can cause cancer if inhaled. In September 2017, the EPA extended the compliance date for the formaldehyde emissions standards to December 2018.  The rule reduces exposure to formaldehyde during manufacture of certain wood products.
  • A rule requiring resource extraction issuers to disclose information about payments made to governments for the purposes of commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals was nullified in February 2017 by POTUS.  Advocates of the rule claimed that it prevented companies from bribing foreign governments and engaging in other forms of corruption. Detractors argued that the rule placed an excessive burden on companies.
  • A rule addressing mercury waste discharged from dental offices into publicly owned wastewater treatment plants was rescinded by the EPA in January 2017.  In February 2017, the National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit, claiming the EPA could not rescind the rule absent a notice and comment period. In response to the suit, the EPA reinstated the rule in June 2017.
  • A rule to improve safety at facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals was put in place in response to an April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in Texas.  In March 2017, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced he would delay the rule.  In July 2017, eleven states sued the EPA for delaying the rule.
  • The “Methane Rule” regulated the gas released into the atmosphere during oil and natural gas production through venting (the controlled release of gases into the atmosphere), flaring (the controlled burning of natural gas), and equipment leaks. In January 2017 House of Representatives passed a resolution to nullify the rule but it was then defeated in the Senate.  In March of 2017, POTUS signed an executive order and the department of Interior indefinitely suspending the requirements.
  • In August 2015, the EPA proposed new source performance standards (NSPS) for methane and volatile organic compounds to include several emission sources not covered by the current NSPS. These included fracking wells, which were required to use a process called “green completion” to recover natural gas during flowback. Oil and gas industry firms petitioned EPA and Scott Pruitt proposed extending the implementation of the standards for two more years.  Several environmental groups immediately sued and won and the updated NSPS standards are in place.
  • The goal of the Clean Power Plan (which was finalized in October of 2015) was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, which is responsible for approximately 30 percent of America’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In March 2017, POTUS issued an executive order directing the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan and the EPA has since proposed rescinding the plan.

The summary of the above detail is that if you want the EPA to enforce and protect your air, water, and land; you are likely going to have to sue them to get them to do so.  The second takeaway is that moving forward and progressing to a cleaner standard of living is up to us.  We cannot rely on our (U.S.) elected and appointed officials to do the right thing for humanity, they have prioritized profits over people and believe any environmental ‘ burdens’ on the most profitable industry in the world should be removed.    There has been a long existing myth that the only way to improve the environment is to negatively impact the economy and that is simply not true.  There are countless solutions, studies, and historic examples that say otherwise.  Having to decide if you want a sustainable planet or a strong economy is a false dilemma.

It is incredibly frustrating to see every other nation in the world moving forward while in the U.S. our leadership continues to promote, protect, and subsidize a dying industry with a finite amount of product that we know is doing us harm.  It is embarrassing to be represented by leaders who are so foolish and short sighted.  So, let’s remove the A.  Let’s Make America Great by transforming while economically flourishing.  The alternative is to fall behind and watch every other nation kick our asses on clean energy as their disdain for the U.S. grows.