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Apples and Oranges
Climate Change - Energy Utilities
March 25, 2017

Xcel Energy is the 12th largest gas and electric producer in the United States by market size, with customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. They are the 8th largest U.S. energy utility polluter with 56,506,228 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions in 2014, according to the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index. That figure includes emissions they produced, not emissions that were part of energy they purchased. Xcel's CO2 emissions have been dropping since 2007, dropped further in 2015, and is expected to have reduced 30% by 2020 (with 2005 as a base year).

Xcel has a program called Windsource™, which allows business and residential customers to buy wind-generated electricity in 100 kWh (kilowatt hour) blocks or 100% of electricity for at least one year. The cost is $1 per block for residential customers.

Since I signed up for Windsource™, I can say this Hopes and Dreams website is created with wind.

I recently wondered how other U.S. energy utilities compare to Xcel Energy.

Largest U.S. Energy Industries
Gas and electric utilities - market size (in $billions, 2016)Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index  - CO2 equivalent metric tons (2014)
1   Duke Energy                 53.1
2   NextEra Energy             52.8
3   Southern Co.                 45.3
4   Dominion Energy           43.2
5   Exelon                           31.4
6   American Electric          30.8
7   PG&E                           28.2
8   PPL                              24.7
9   PSEG Public Service     22.9
10  Edison International      22.4
11  Consolidated Edison    21
12  Xcel Energy               19.8
13  WEC Energy Group     17.9
14  Eversource Energy       17.6
15  DTE Energy                 15.4
1     Duke Energy                       122,474,576
2     American Electric                121,098,420
3     Southern Co.                      108,671,229
4     NRG Energy                       100,224,829
5     Berkshire Hathaway              83,939,342
6     U.S. Government                  74,687,012
7     Dynegy                                 61,183,427
8     Xcel Energy                        56,506,228
9     FirstEnergy                           56,050,031
10   PPL Corp.                            52,174,283
11   Energy Future Holdings         51,929,011
12   Calpine Corp.                       41,692,267
13   NextEra Energy                    40,023,063
14   ExxonMobil                          38,141,796
15   DTE Energy                          35,491,147

Comparing these U.S. power utilities and other energy producers is like comparing apples to oranges. And when you bite into it, there are some really bad apples in here.

Take Duke Energy. It's not just the largest power utility conglomerate in the U.S. It's the world's largest. And Duke is the top U.S. greenhouse gas polluter with 122,474,576 metric tons annually of CO2 and CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases. Its website has little to say about the environment or climate change. More information about Duke's environmental record is available at Wikipedia. Bad apple.

NextEra Energy is #2 in market size (U.S. & worldwide) but is down at #13 on the pollution index. NextEra operates Florida Power & Light and dots the United States and Canada with 15% of all U.S. wind capacity and 9% of all U.S. solar capacity. It is the largest wind and solar supplier in the world. Some of its wind farms in southern Minnesota may supply some wind power to Xcel customers. One of the few complaints against NextEra is that it has not paid much by way of U.S. corporate taxes because it invests so much money in renewable energy and can take advantage of renewable energy tax credits. Good apple.

Southern Company burns “21st century clean coal” which is ordinary coal with a rosier name than pollution rock. Southern is #3 for pollution and size. Bad apple.

Dominion Energy is improving. Dominion was responsible for releasing 1,110,703 pounds of gastrointestinal or liver toxicant emissions, 1,440,000 pounds of musculoskeletal toxicant emissions, 1,489,763 pounds of suspected respiratory toxicant emissions, and 1,478,383 pounds of suspected skin or sense organ toxicant emissions in 2002. In 2005, Dominion was ranked 19th with an air pollution toxic score of 117,712 (pounds released x toxicity x population exposure) by the Political Economy Research Institute. In 2008, Dominion was ranked 27th, in 2010 Dominion was ranked 51st, and in 2016 Dominion no longer made the top 100 of U.S. corporations emitting airborne pollutants. For the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, Dominion was ranked 16th. Good apple?

Exelon is the largest electric utility by revenue with mostly nuclear power. It generates over 19,000 megawatts in nuclear power with full or majority ownership of 17 nuclear reactors in 10 nuclear power plants. It generates 10,000 megawatts of natural gas & oil, and about 6,000 megawatts of other energy (hydro, solar, landfill gas, & wind). Exelon has operations in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Exelon is also not on the list of Greenhouse Polluters Index. Nuclear power has a cleaner, safer potential (according to PBS Nova The Nuclear Option from last January) than today's nuclear power plants. In the greenhouse gas criteria, nuclear power is clean. Goodish apple.

American Electric is the 5th largest power utility by size but #2 on the Greenhouse Polluters Index. In 2012, they tried to turn back renewable energy legislation as part of a clean coal coalition (I get it, coalition). Today, their website brags: “AEP’s carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have been reduced 39 percent from 2000 levels, and we will continue to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as we transition to more natural gas and renewable resources in the future. AEP’s CO2 emissions significantly decreased between 2014 and 2015, largely due to low natural gas prices, slowing load growth, and coal unit retirements. AEP’s CO2 emissions were approximately 123 million metric tons in 2014; they were approximately 102 million metric tons in 2015. This represents a 16.5 percent decrease compared with 2014 and an approximate 39 percent reduction compared with our 2000 CO2 emissions of about 167 million metric tons.” Retiring coal units is a step in the right direction.

The fourth largest greenhouse gas polluter, NRG Energy, plans to “cut CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 from a 2014 baseline.” David Crane, NRG Energy’s chief executive, said in 2014, “The power industry is the biggest part of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has the potential to be an even bigger part of the solution.

One of the biggest impacts anyone can make upon climate change is to help encourage the power companies (and other industries) of all sizes to cut CO2 emissions as quickly as possible. Energy customers should seek programs like Xcel Energy's Windsource™ program. As a community, we can make a difference.

Music Associations: Bad Company - Bad Company & Kansas - Dust In The Wind

By the Numbers
Climate Change
March 21, 2017

Since 1751, approximately 374 billion metric tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these fossil-fuel CO2 emissions have occurred since the mid 1980s. The 2011 global fossil-fuel carbon emission estimate, 9.449 billion metric tons of carbon, represents an all-time high and a 3.4% increase over 2010 emissions. [Oak Ridge National Laboratory]

Carbon Dioxide (co2) Emissions from fossil fuels 1900-2011
Greenhouse Gas Emissions

64% = carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels, cement, & other industrial processes
10% = carbon dioxide (CO2) from deforestation
18% = methane (CH4) from livestock, landfills, fossil fuels (fracking), & deforestation
  6% = nitrous oxide (N2O) from fertilizer and manure, runoff, fossil fuel & biomass burning, & industrial processes
  2% = fluorinated gases:  hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), & hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) [Trends in Carbon Emissions, EC Joint Research]

Burning fossil fuels is the #1 cause of climate change, and of the fossil fuels, coal is the most polluting.
coal causes climate change
Blowing Smoke - Clean Coal

Burning coal produces noxious gases of nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulates and ash. It's nasty to breathe and nasty in the atmosphere. At first people wanted less particulates and ash in the air so filters were added to power plants. After people noticed the effects of acid rain, the 1990 amendment to the U.S. Clean Air Act caused coal power plants to add limestone scrubbers to catch sulfur dioxide. The U.S. EPA issued mercury limiting regulations in 2011. Incrementally coal burning at U.S. power plants became cleaner than it had been but it is still not clean. All U.S. coal burning power plants release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, except one. On January 10, 2017, a coal power plant in Houston became operational that pumps its carbon dioxide into an oil well to help pump out oil. Maybe the oil comes out fizzy, I don't know.

Coal mining is biologically and environmentally destructive.  Burning coal results in fly ash, bottom ash, and slag waste in addition to greenhouse gases.

Blowing Smoke - Sustainable Cement

The cement industry is following the lead of the coal industry to clean up its appearance. Cement industry associations talk about a sustainable cement, which defies either the laws of chemistry or economics.

Cement production causes approximately 5-8% of global man-made CO2 emissions. Half of the emissions come from removing CO2 from limestone in a kiln at 1450° C. About 40% of the cement production emissions come from burning fossil fuels to heat the kiln. Roughly 10% comes from electricity and transportation.

Blowing Smoke - the false solution of REDD

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) sounds good but when you read into it, the carbon offsets (forests are not a commodity), not defining what a forest is (plantations can be forests?!?), and the kicking out indigenous people in order to log wood and mine land is appalling. The program does the exact opposite of protecting forests and preventing climate change.

Read more: REDD Monitor, REDD Gamble, WWF Scandal in Tanzania, and Ten of the worst REDD-type projects.

world deforestation 1990-2015 (click link for details)

air passengers 1970 - 2015 (source: World Bank) 
Blowing Smoke - Plane Facts of Aviation

Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation currently represent 5% of worldwide emissions – making aviation the world’s seventh largest emitter - a number anticipated to rise exponentially in the coming decades as more and more people choose to fly to their destinations. Today, an aircraft with 300 passengers traveling from Paris to New York emits approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide, or as much as emissions from 22 cars in a year. And because the emissions happen higher up in the atmosphere, the impact on global warming is greater than emissions on the ground. Contrails of jet exhaust, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur, hydrocarbons, black carbon, nitrogen oxides, and water vapor add to aviation's impact on climate change.

One of aviation's answers to carbon emissions is to suggest pilots might take routes to decrease the greenhouse effects of air travel. Or purposefully create contrails.

airplane contrails at sunset

Music Associations: The Hollies - The Air That I Breathe & Anna Nalick - Breathe

Hopes and Dreams

Beware the Ides of March
Climate Change
March 15, 2017

First, 2014 was globally the warmest year on record.
Then, 2015 beat 2014, becoming the warmest year on record.
And then, 2016 beat 2015 which had beat 2014, becoming the warmest year on record.

Climate Change - hottest years on record

This has got to stop.

Global Warming world

Music Association: Little River Band - (Time for a) Cool Change

Pffft Winter...
March 2, 2017

Last fall, the fine people at the Farmers Almanac said the first part of winter would be colder than usual. What actually happened was rain on Christmas day.

We really didn't have a winter in any Minnesota sense. A high temperature of 60° in February is not winter.

And this was the winter Chicago had no snow. After 150 years of snowy winters in Chicago, they get none of the falling frost.

It is way past time for climate change solutions.

Springs here

Music Association: Kool & the Gang - Too Hot

Mixed Nut Theory
February 20, 2017

Universal truths can be applied to many situations for better understandings.

One universal truth is the mixed nut theory, in which the biggest nuts end up on the top. Brazil nuts shake out to be on top of pecans, cashews, and peanuts. Simple idea, tons of applications.

It helps explain dictatorships and big business, some aspects of liquifaction during earthquakes, breakfast cereal, and many other things large and small.

Open a box of corn flakes and the biggest flakes end up on top.

Music Association: The Cars - Shake It Up
Twin Cities Calendar: April 22 - Science March (local & national)

Science March protest sign number 20 - Mixed Nuts Theory

Hopes and Dreams

Libraries Are For Everyone
February 18, 2017

Some posters have been appearing in U.S. libraries emphasizing that “Libraries Are For Everyone.” Here are some of the posters:

Libraries Are For Everyone

Music Association: Til Tuesday - Voices Carry
Libraries Resist resource list

Hopes and Dreams

Love Takes A Trip
February 14, 2017

Love is not a destination. Love is a journey. It is wonderment and joy, hope and sometimes pain.

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.” - Dread Pirate Roberts (Princess Bride)

love is amazing
Love is an exchange. It takes giving; it takes work on both sides. It's tough... and rewarding, but there are no trophies (wives or husbands). Anniversaries are hardly a measure of love. Sacrifice can be a measure of love. But true love is immeasurable.

It's a series of small steps, a gazillion small steps, and looking back you'll be amazed at how far you've come.

Music Association: The Supremes - You Can't Hurry Love

Love in the Twin Cities

Hopes and Dreams

Art Review
Virgil Partch
February 7, 2017

Who The Hell Writes Your Stuff - Virgil Partch
Page 22 from It's Hot In Here (1945, out-of-print) by Collier's magazine cartoonist Virgil Partch.

The core problem of nuclear power is spelling.

If you fix the core, it might be stabilized, but not if the computer spells stabilized as if Liz has been stabbed: S-T-A-B-L-I-Z-E-D.

Last night's episode of Supergirl ended with a nuclear power core stablized [sp] in big screen-filling letters.

Who operates spellcheck for Supergirl?
Property Master - Matthew Wilson
Art Director - Peter Bodnarus
VFX Supervisor - Armen V. Kevorkian
Visual Effects - Encore VFX

Supergirl - core stablized

Music Association: Eric Clapton - The Core

Art Review
Virgil Partch
February 6, 2017

No, That Isn't It Yet by Virgil Partch
Page 53 from It's Hot In Here (1945, out-of-print) by Collier's magazine cartoonist Virgil Partch.

Art and writing are the perseverence of quality over rough work.

Creative endeavors take time. Life itself is a do over. Virgil Partch understood.

Music Associations: Climax - Couldn't Get It Right & John Lennon - Starting Over

Art Review
Virgil Partch
February 1, 2017

Is it bad, Doctor - Virgil Partch
Page 17 from It's Hot In Here (1945, out-of-print) by Collier's magazine cartoonist Virgil Partch.

Virgil Partch drew funny looking people. He drew large heads. Readers must have been curious about who these big headed people were because the editors at Collier's pressured Partch to create ongoing characters. Partch's ongoing character was named Big-Head George.

Partch bodies were less important, legs were an after-thought. Feet and shoes looked like ice skates.

His cartoons were like balcony views of people. It's as if we're looking down into a special little world.

A print advertising trick from the mid-20th century was to tilt the product -- like a cereal box -- as if it's seconds away from sliding into the viewer's lap. Partch's people were on the verge of falling off the page.

I think of the cartoon world as being either pre-Partch or post-Partch. In the post-Partch world, Charles Schultz drew Charlie Brown, with a big head, small body, and uncomplicated shoes. The Schultz-drawn viewer's angle of Peanuts characters was from the side, at the character's level, not above like Partch's work.

And don't get me started about Fred Flintstone.

Music Association: Paul Simon - Call Me Al  “Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.”

Hopes and Dreams

State of the State
Governor Mark Dayton
January 23, 2017

Governor Mark Dayton collapsed while giving the State of the State address before the joint convention of the House of Representatives and Senate at the Minnesota Capitol at 7:46pm this evening.

The Governor had stumbled while arriving and shaking hands at the dais at about 7:07pm. He tried to joke that he shouldn't have missed the run-through earlier today. His speech started with discussing the changes in the past decade and from when he was a boy playing ice hockey in Minneapolis. The soon-to-be-70 year old Governor talked about education for at least 20 minutes. He talked about water and roads and was just about seven minutes into talking about health issues when he reached for his water. He drank, set the water down, and tried to pick up where he left off, but he collapsed and was caught by those nearby. He was eased to the floor. The joint convention was adjourned and the House was adjourned.

Governor Dayton got up a few minutes later, waved to the legislators, and was escorted out of the House chamber.

Music Association: The Beatles - If I Fell

Hopes and Dreams

Food Review
January 23, 2017

Dear Sunkist,

When I recently purchased a bag of oranges, I did not read the label to make certain of the ingredients. I picked up the unimaginatively-named, orange-colored fruit balls. Oranges.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and opened up what I thought were oranges. Inside they looked like grapefruit, smelled like grapefruit, and tasted like grapefruit.

I dove for the bag to see what kind of Alternative Facts it would throw out: “Cara Cara Oranges. Ingredients: Cara Cara Oranges.”

These are not oranges. They're grapefruitranges or grapranges or something.

Some marketing-type wrote a Wikipedia page for Cara Cara Oranges which says “the flavor is more complex than most navel varieties and has been described as evoking notes of cherry, rose petal, orange, and blackberry.” That's a complicated way of saying grapefruit. Rose petals?!? The taste did not evoke rose petals or cherries or blackberries. There was a hint of orange under the grapefruit flavor with the same lycopene-based color as Star Ruby grapefruit.

Cara Cara Oranges should probably be tested for furanocoumarins, the compounds found in grapefruit that interfere with some medications.

And the bags should not say oranges and should not be printed in orange.

Sunkist shouldn't sell something to the people that's orange on the outside, sour on the inside, full of false advertising, and potentially dangerous.

Thank you for your time on this seemingly mundane issue.

Music Association: Naked Eyes - Promises, Promises

Hopes and Dreams

Thanks, Obama
January 14, 2017

Thanks, Obama

I haven't always agreed with President Obama's politics, but I have never questioned his decency. He raised the bar.

Music Association: Dido - Thank You
President Obama's gun confiscation final tally.

Hopes and Dreams

See Car See
January 11, 2017

When I was writing Hopes and Dreams: Stuck on AutoDrive, I had to imagine what a self-driving car would see. Hopefully the self-driving car would see a road and not the inside of a lake or the downside of a cliff. My question was, what would the self-driving car see on the road and need to identify?


The answer can never be everything. You don't drive and pay attention to everything, despite what billboard advertisers might think.

Robert Pirsig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
All the time we are aware of millions of things around us -- these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road -- aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.

And from A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle:
I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.  Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.  He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.  Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.  It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

In November, someone posted a self-driving car's view of a road, identifying features relevant to driving.

how a self-driving car views the road

Someone posted a question, very relevant today in Minnesota, how would a self-driving car behave in a snowstorm or on fresh pavement with no markings?

Someone named Natural Justice replied:
In either case the cars are specifically designed to accelerate and brake randomly while twitching the wheel sporadically in either direction. This sufficiently emulates how most people near me drive in those conditions.

Having written a novel about inventing a self-driving car (and more), it was great to see what one self-driving car sees.
Music Association: The Cars - Drive

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Hopes and Dreams: Stuck on AutoDrive is a novel that's about inventing the self-driving car. It has:



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