The need for worlds colliding

In 1995 there was an episode of Seinfeld called “The Pool Guy” but most likely recall it better as the Independent George episode. In the episode, Elaine becomes friends with Susan (Georges girlfriend) and this kills ‘Independent George’. Here is a good video snip. The core issue is that Georges sanctuary he has with his friends is no longer a safe place, he is able to be one version of himself (independent) with his friends and another version (relationship) with Susan and now ‘worlds are colliding’. This type of issue is common when we are not true to who we are and a recent article in the paper about the Minnesota House of Representatives got me thinking more about that.

The Minnesota House recently took a vote on the following sentence, “The legislature finds and declares that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities are a key cause of climate change.” There was no policy and no money tied to this at all, it was merely an opportunity to acknowledge a serious issue. The vote passed, but sadly 50 of the 54 Republicans voted “No”. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, these “representatives” of the people fell back to tired arguments about the ice age, the sun, the science being unsettled, and so on. Every single democrat voted yes and the way the votes fell along party lines got me thinking about the killing of independent thought. Our government and our country seem so divided currently that the default is to disagree or oppose whatever the other party is doing, or agree with whatever your party is doing, at all costs. What is really needed to let worlds collide and be true to who you are as an individual.

I have also been thinking that it might be time to break ground on a Climate Change wall of shame monument or similar. I envision some sort of memorial where future generations can visit and see the names etched in stone on a very public display and read archives inside an adjacent museum about those who continued to deny basic science in the 21st century. Regardless of if their motivations are ignorance, corruption, personal greed, mis-education, or just a basic lack of empathy towards civilization; the names below in red deserve a place on this wall memorial.

Lastly, I would like to send a thank you to the four Republicans who embraced their independent and relationship George and voted yes; Tony Jurgens (Cottage Grove), Dean Urdahl (Grove City), Nolan West (Blaine), and fellow Tesla driver Pat Garafalo (Farmington).

WorldsColliding

Advertisements

From pathology to representation

Yesterday, while speaking at the National Republican Congressional Committee dinner, the sitting US President had some interesting things to say about wind energy. As you can watch for yourself on C-SPAN or many other places, he said:

  • “if you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations: Your house just went down 75 percent in value”
  • “they say the noise causes cancer”
  • “it’s like a graveyard for birds. If you love birds, you’d never want to walk under a windmill because it’s a very sad, sad sight. It’s like a cemetery. We put a little, we put a little statue for the poor birds. It’s true. You know in California, if you shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail for five years. And yet the windmills wipe ’em all out. It’s true. They wipe ’em out. It’s terrible.”

He previously told a story about how upset a wife would be that she could not watch TV because the wind was not blowing and how susceptible wind turbines are to damage at times of war. I am uncertain which is more disturbing; the POTUS spreading falsehoods and inaccurate information about renewable energy as we cook our planet burning fossil fuels, or the people attending who hoot and applaud. One thing is becoming more and more clear, years from now when scholars and humanity reflect back on the Trump presidency, his pathological lies and false claims are likely going to be the central pillar of what people remember. There are many sites tracking and documenting all of it in an effort to challenge dishonesty, and many are closing in on 5,000 false claims to date. With attacking wind energy, it is easy to reconcile his position due to sour grapes of his lost Scottish lawsuit about the impact on offshore views at his golf course, how he is engrained with the coal lobby, how wind impacts his hair, etc. Other lies are easy to tie to his ego or ‘art of the deal’ negotiating. But many of his lies and baseless claims seem to lack a clear motivation; like why does he repeatedly say his father was born in Germany when his birth certificate clearly shows he was born in NYC? Imagine if the CEO of a company behaved in such a pathological way.

This truly is an embarrassing time for America and while the POTUS and his lies are a contributor to that, the real root cause is corruption and lobbying money in politics. Regardless of which party you align more closely to, hopefully you agree that it is time to shift to a country for and by the people as we are very far from that. Check out https://represent.us/anticorruption-act/ if you want to learn more. This bottom up effort and the wins that are happening at the local and state scale are mildly inspiring.  Hopefully some day people look back on the late 1900’s and early 2000’s and wonder why we let this happen and applaud that we made a course correction by getting the money and corruption out of politics.

Global perspective on waming, yes waming

As you may have heard, the other day the President of the United States (POTUS) tweeted the following: “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!” While few things POTUS does surprise anyone anymore, seeing someone broadly spread false rhetoric about science is worthy of a response.

Implying that it being cold in parts of the U.S. disproves global warming is like me saying because I am hungry there must be a regional food shortage. It is illogical but most accurately, it is a reflection of a self-centered view that fails to look at the big picture. That inability to look at things from a global perspective is one of the core shortcomings of the current POTUS. In response to the tweet, several have tried to educate POTUS on his level, including these kids on Jimmy Kimmel as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with this cute cartoon.

noaaglobalwamingresponse

For some real perspective, the University of Maine has the Climate Reanalyzer project which has tons of awesome data and graphics. In the image at the top of this post, it demonstrates how stepping back and looking at the full planet shows how while it is colder than normal in some areas, the majority of earth is warmer than normal.  In fact, temps in South Australia’s capital of Adelaide hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit last week, breaking an 80 year old record as one example.  I would also recommend spending less than a minute and checking this annual global temperature compare out from NASA.

I will close out with an analogy from Naomi Oreskes in Merchants of Doubt:
Imagine a gigantic banquet. Hundreds of millions of people come to eat. They eat and drink to their hearts’ content—eating food that is better and more abundant than at the finest tables in ancient Athens or Rome, or even in the palaces of medieval Europe. Then, one day, a man arrives, wearing a white dinner jacket. He says he is holding the bill. Not surprisingly, the diners are in shock. Some begin to deny that this is their bill. Others deny that there even is a bill. Still others deny that they partook of the meal. One diner suggests that the man is not really a waiter, but is only trying to get attention for himself or to raise money for his own projects. Finally, the group concludes that if they simply ignore the waiter, he will go away. This is where we stand today on the subject of global warming. For the past 150 years, industrial civilization has been dining on the energy stored in fossil fuels, and the bill has come due. Yet, we have sat around the dinner table denying that it is our bill, and doubting the credibility of the man who delivered it.

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.

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.