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 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

Smarter than ants

 

After the recent hurricanes we heard Scott Pruitt and others talk about how now is not the time to be talking about climate change, how we should be focused on helping the people who need help.  After the devastating loss of life in Las Vegas many of our elected officials expressed the same sentiment related to talking about gun control.  These types of deflections and deferrals are incredibly frustrating.  With climate change enhanced storms, fires, floods, and mass shootings becoming common events; that deferral approach will never provide the time for real discussions, but perhaps that is the point.  If you kick over the sand on a sidewalk ant hill, the ants will immediately begin working to rebuild and fix their home.  They will not stop and ask themselves if there are any actions they could take that would improve the sustainability of their home nor put critical thought in to how to prevent further disruption.  As humans, we do stop and ask questions and this has led to countless advances in society that have increased our safety and lifespan.  If we had always taken the ant approach, our life expectancy would be like that of a caveman.

 

The other thing we as humans often do when domestic terrorism happens is shrug our shoulders with a sort of ‘oh well, if someone wants to do bad things they will find a way’ attitude.  This is absolutely true, but I strongly disagree with the complacency, dismissiveness, and acceptance of the statement.  Throughout history we have implemented countless new precautions and policies to help thwart and minimize the loss of life.  After the Oklahoma City bombing, federal buildings were modified so they are set back from the street, have blast resistant glass, are engineered so the floors do not collapse, and have cement flower planters or similar that prevent vehicles from getting too close.  After 9/11 there were countless security measures implemented to increase the safety of air travel.  So when it comes to gun violence, let’s try and find common ground and agree that exploring the opportunities for preventing and minimizing the loss of life is a valuable investment of time.  Once we have agreed on that, then we can move on to a more interesting dialog about what those potential solutions could be.  So whether it is fighting climate change, domestic terrorism, gun violence or anything that is a deep threat to life itself; let’s be smarter than ants.

 

Defeating excuses

As you might recall, last February I began a new program to begin to improve my overall health. After losing thirty pounds in 6 months, I have spent the last month maintaining that but not inching any closer to my end goal. I have been eating pretty appropriately but not getting in much exercise. My bike had been sitting on the garage hooks for several months and I kept finding myself too busy or distracted with other things to get it down. So, on Thursday I purposefully painted myself in to a corner and had the kids drive themselves to school despite me planning to attend my sons school soccer game 15 miles away. This left me one free option, to ride my bike. Thursday morning my brain started randomly producing excuses about why I should just stay home. These included the unusual heat and humidity, that is was too far and unsafe, that my bike should have a tune-up first, and my favorite – that I would likely get some chaffing, In and amongst those, I put air in the tires, lubricated the chain, prepared an appropriate song playlist, and began to pre-hydrate. Since Bing currently lacks an integrated bicycle mapping solution (vote for it here), I turned to Google. It showed the path I should take and estimated it should take 90 minutes on a bike to go the 15 miles. My first thought was to give myself 3 hours and if I was running ahead of schedule I could stop somewhere on the way, but as the day wore on I settled on 2 hours, sprayed some arm and hammer powder to alleviate chaffing concerns, put on my ear buds, and was on my way. For the first few miles, the excuses and doubts continued to creep in but I kept peddling and was eventually to a point where it would be less effort to keep going towards my destination rather than turn back. I arrived at the game 30 minutes early which was spot on with the Google estimate. I wonder if Google knew I was a middle aged somewhat out of shape man riding a fat tire trail bike.

Sometimes we need to push (or pedal) through our doubts and excuses and stop letting fear, uncertainty, laziness, or complacency hold us back. It has been several months since I have written a blog entry, in part because of an underlying feeling of despair. I have watched many of the decisions that our current U.S. elected and appointed officials have made related to environmental protections and have been truly saddened for future generations who will feel the impacts much greater than I will. The current status quo is unsustainable and the global scientific community has been telling us this for decades. We have been treating the sky like it is a limitless expansive sewer, where we dump 110 million tons of man made global warming pollution every day, when in reality there is a thin shell of an atmosphere less than half the distance that I biked yesterday. It is no coincidence that 16 out of the 17 hottest years ever recorded on planet Earth have occurred since 2001. I could go on and on but to simplify what you hopefully already know, the problem is complex and the solution is simple. My good friend Tim said it well, we need to fix the market bug and have taxpayers stop subsidizing the very things that we turn around and socialize the costs of.

The good news is that there is growing bi-partisan support for addressing this issue head on but we need to keep the momentum. Today there are 56 US House of Representative members (28R / 28D) in the Climate Solutions Caucus working on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, and public safety. While 56 is a good number, it is not like being past the halfway point on my bike was. We need to keep peddling and push through any discomfort, go up some hills, avoid some potholes, avoid some distracted drivers, and eventually we will have enough momentum that moving forward will be easier than turning back. You can use the previous link to look at who is in the CSC and easily ask your representative to join the caucus as well as thank the current members. Please take a few moments to nudge your representative. As we have seen, addressing climate change with partisan solutions is not sustainable because a change in leadership after an election cycle can quickly negate progress in that area. Mother Nature and Climate Change do not care about your political affiliations and neither should you when it comes to this topic. We need to embrace our representatives with a positive mindset and find common ground with them to move forward.