Deconstruction of a bad study – EV fuel pricing

One of the current challenges in the field of Journalism is that there are currently 6 PR staff for every 1 Journalist, and the PR staff are much higher paid. Which means that a lot of reporting on more technical areas ends up being mostly taking an existing press release, doing an interview with the authors, and running it as a story. Especially for highly technical items (like studies / reports), the Journalists may not have the expertise to really pull them apart with a critical eye to ensure they hold water.

Such was with this Detroit Free Press Article – “Study compares electric vehicle charge costs vs. gas — and results were surprising“:

Last year, Patrick Anderson went electric: He got a Porsche Taycan EV in dark blue.

Anderson, who is CEO of East Lansing-based economic consulting firm Anderson Economic Group, loves the zippy acceleration and “exciting” features the car offers. He also gets satisfaction in knowing that driving an EV benefits the environment, he said. 

But Anderson’s joy comes with a dark side.

“They are a wonderful driving experience. But at the same time, they’re an enormous burden in time and in energy in finding chargers and getting them charged,” Anderson said. “And you’re not really saving much in terms of charging costs … you may be paying more.”

Costs to drive an EV compared with a gasoline car are detailed in a report Anderson Economic released Thursday called “Comparison: Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles.”

This seemed really odd, because it goes in the face of a lot of existing studies which show how much cheaper EVs are. Enough so that I went into the study to figure out why.

Finding the Critical Assumption

The critical table in the study is here, where it shows EV cars cost more to fuel. Often by a factor of 2 (highligted in green). But the reasons why that math comes out like that is largely because of what’s in red.

The key assumption of the study is that EVs will be charged outside the home for 70% of their electricity. And that electricity will cost 3x the residential rate. They create a single “mostly at home scenario” which still assumes that 40% of electricity comes from outside the home.

This is a pretty key assumption, that has no justification. The DOE typically assumes that more than 80% of charging happens at home. My own personal experience with 14,000 MWh of energy transfered to our 4 year old Chevy Bolt, is that at least 97% of our charging was at home. And all our charging out of home was actually at for pay L2 chargers which were the same energy price at home (largely at work and during a conference to Troy).

If you replicate this with those numbers, you find the EV costs are in line with their ICE cars. Which is still a surprising result. And that’s where it’s worth looking at all the other biases put into the study.

Lot’s of other assumptions and biases

One other thing was strange on the initial assumption. EVs are divided into Mid Cost (Bolt, Model 3), and Luxury (Porche / Model S), however only the Luxury case showed a 60% at home charge case. That seems like a really big missing case. Why?

If it had been included, it would have broken the streak of every EV scenario coming out more expensive than every ICE scenario. Which seems to be the main goal of the study. This scenario is conspicuous in it’s absence.

Let’s look at other assumptions made and what bias they bring to the table:

  • 12,000 miles per year. The national average is closer to 14,000, and in the state of Michigan, it’s closer to 15,000. As you increase the miles per year EVs cost less. 12,000 is a justifiable number, but it definitely biases towards ICE.
  • Per year state fee on EVs. These range from $0 – $200 depending on the state. $200 was chosen as the number, because that’s the Michigan number. Even though mileage wasn’t chosen for Michigan. Again biases towards ICE.
  • There is a whole set of “dead head” calculations which are used saying you have to drive around looking for chargers, and the number of times you have to go out to do this per month with an EV. Based on the listed fuel economy the number of trips is quite high. It suggests an average of 87 miles per Fast Charge added to a Bolt / Model 3 (which have 240 mile ranges) or 117 miles per Fast Charge for something like a Model S with 250 – 300 mile range. Which seems, odd. Also, even though all other numbers are averaged out to yearly numbers, for some reason the 60% at home scenario actually assumes charging only 100 miles per fast charge session.

Cost of Chargers

There is one good insight in that most EV chargers want to charge at home, and that does mean buying a Level 2 charger and having it installed. They estimate that cost at $1600 with professional installation. They don’t include the 30% tax credit for doing so (which comes and goes, but again that’s an ICE bias). $1600 is probably a little on the high side, I think it cost us more like $1200 all in. They also assume the lifespan of the charger is 5 years, and amortize it over that. That seems extremely low, and again is an ICE bias.

The really bonkers assumption they make though is that you have to buy a Level 1 charger. Those come as standard equipment with every EV. There is really no justification other than an ICE bias to put that in.

Cost of Fueling?

The study authors justify many of these items, as well as not including the costs for an ICE vehicle during this same 5 year window (scheduled maintenance, oil changes, breaks, transmission fluid, etc). They claim annual registration fees are fueling, as well as permanent home infrastructure like a charger.

And this is where it is really clear the point of the report was to generate a very specific result. If you squint hard, pile on some biases, and assume everyone is refueling EVs like ICE cars, you can create a scenario where one part of owning an EV is more expensive than an ICE car.

But, it will still be cheaper to own. Even in the flawed study. And once you start correcting for lots of the flaws, you end up with something that looks a lot like other analyses.

A Real Study would have been…

A real study would have been to note there are some extra costs for EVs outside of just home electricity, like home charging infrastructure, commercial fast charging costs, and state policy creating EV fees, and look at cross over points. Under what circumstances do these extra fees hurt EV adoption. What policies should be in place to less them.

For instance, the EV annual fee to replace missing gas tax only makes sense if you believe that every EV just causes the same damage to roads, with no other benefits. When every EV replacing an ICE car on the roads reduces fine particulate pollution (from both exhaust and break dust) which directly decreases health care costs for the state. There is a big case to be made that these fees should be eliminated on those grounds (or prevented from being passed in states where they don’t yet exist).

What policies ensure homes are EV ready. What policies are needed to handle the economic problems of fast charging (which mostly is about how commercial power tariffs work). These are all good questions to ask. None of them were.

And this is why when you see a study or report come out from somewhere, don’t assume it’s correct out of the gate. Always bring a critical eye, especially to reports that claim to bring results that are very different from the existing literature.

In order to play with the data more, I built a google sheet that plugs in the existing study, and adds scenarios with higher rates of at home charging, and eliminates the per year EV fee. You can make a copy and adjust some of the inputs to see how it changes things. Though remember that even this is still an incomplete picture, as it doesn’t include the maintenance costs.

My Climate Summer

Summer 2021 was different in New York than past summers. It wasn’t the relentless brutal heat that we’d experienced the last few years. The heat that finally drove my parents in Vermont to install air conditioning.

That was constant and oppressive, but not acute. You did kind of adapt to it. You learn that the Walkway Over the Hudson opens their gates at 7am, so 6:30am is the earliest bike ride you can take to see the Hudson in the morning before the heat and humidity makes the return climb on the bike just too much. It meant that if it was too humid, maybe a walk at 6am was a better option, back in by 7, then buttoned up in AC the rest of the day. It was definitely climate change, but it onset slow enough through May and June that it felt just like some new normal.

This summer was different. It was acute. The first big hit was a rainstorm in the middle of July. The rains were different this summer. There were almost no rainy days. Only rainy minutes. The bursts would come as a quarter or half inch of rain, in 20 or 30 minutes, then pass. Sometimes with a rainbow on the other side. The rainstorm in July was hard, but not that notable compared to the rest. Except, the watershed is wide. Many of our local streams are fed from tends of miles away in every direction. And the Sprout Creek had more than it could handle.

Flooding damage at Freedom Park

Our daughter was in camp at the park this July. Finally signed up for swimming lessons. And the lake was now closed. It’s still feels incredible to say “climate change cancelled my daughter’s swim lessons.” And just when that was starting to sink in, the second shot.

The Bootleg fire, and the fires raging across western Canada, brought their smoke to NY. I went out for a morning ride on the 19th, and the Sun was definitely the wrong color. It rose as a deep eerie red, both striking and horrifying at the same time. The Sun was weak on the ride. The air cooler than it should have been. It made me think of the 1816 year without summer, or what a future attempt to dim the Sun to address the deadly heat might feel like.

The wildfires and volcanoes of elsewhere have always brought colorful sunsets to the North East, but this time was different. The smoke came down. Sitting on our porch eating dinner that night, I smelled a campfire. Folks in the neighborhood have them all the time. But this time I checked the air quality, and realized, to my shock that I wasn’t smelling a backyard marshmallow roast. This was old forests, 3000 miles away. Forests that were part of carbon offset payments.

The next day my wife started complaining of a headache. I looked, and the AQI was 180 outside where she’d spent the afternoon. And a new habit was formed. Check the AQI every morning when I wake up. Was it healthy enough to go ride a bike. We’ve now got our own Purple Air sensor to help map out this new risk to our region. The wildfires of far that now burn so big, so hot, that they can blanket the entire US in smoke. The world literally on fire.

When Henri formed as a storm, I watched closely. We were predicted for 4 – 6 inches of rain, which I knew would be devastating, having seen Irene and Sandy’s impacts to the region. But modeling rainfall is notoriously hard, and we only saw about 2.5 inches over 2 days. The rivers swelled, but stayed in their banks. The rivers were now high, springtime high, but not dangerous on their own.

We had a interlude. A kid’s birthday party, outside on the Hudson River. Next to the freight rail, which 5 big trains passed us while we were there. I was talking with a friend about climate change and the Hudson River. People forget it’s tidal. That the ocean pushes up it twice a day. It changes direction 4 times a day. And that sea level rise will come for it. I pointed out how exposed the MTA Hudson Line is to sea level rise. To the south it’s barely 2 feet above current high tide. 2 feet of sea level rise, which with no real climate action, will happen within 30 years. Aggressive action might give us a century. And what will this region look like when that train is gone. Pre-covid, those commuter trains were full all the time. The growth of Beacon and Poughkeepsie has been fueled by easy access to New York City. It represents a huge amount of the money flowing into the economy.

And then Ida. The meteorologists were right, Ida should not have taken us by surprise. They wrote the warning for the storm before it had a name, 5 days out. They gave the North East 48 hrs notice of catastrophic flooding possibilities. They couldn’t have done a better job. But people can only hear things that they believe are possible. Their imagination is shaped by what they saw before. When I mentioned to my wife that Weather Underground thought we were going to get 3.5 inches of rain, she said, I hope not. It can be wrong for sure. But they always thought Henri was a 2 inch event for us.

The rains came. Steady at first. And building. And when it was all said and done over 5 inches had fallen here in less than 24 hours. On top of the saturated ground. This time the rivers did not stay put. It took the whole of a sunny day after the storm for with Wappingers creek to crest, and it’s still receding. Areas remain under water, there is no where for the water to go.

Freedom Lake is gone again. This didn’t surprise us. After going 7 years between flood induced rebuilds, this time it was 7 weeks. They’ll have the whole off season to fix it. But for how long?

But the real surprise. The one we weren’t expecting. The trains are stopped.

Riding across the Walkway over the Hudson seeing a silent Poughkeepsie Train station was bizarre. The MTA is working on it, trying to find a way to repair enough for limited service on those lines. It also means Amtrak for Albany to NYC is shuttered until further notice. And there were no freight trains on the CSX rails on the West side of the river yesterday.

Labor day brings the unofficial end of summer. The temperature, humidity, and air quality have all dropped back to extremely pleasant.

But we are only half way through Hurricane season. The ground is saturated, there is no where for more water to go. And we are still in a Pandemic.

Many parts of the world have been living this kind of climate emergency for years. Disaster after disaster, no breathing space between them. We can’t rebuild from climate disasters fast enough. Our town’s park budget is broken, because of Climate Change. And this isn’t a new normal. As we continue to burn fossil fuels, this gets worse every year. This will be “one of the good years” when we look back from mid century. It’s why we have to do everything we can to transform our society away from extraction of dirty fuels, and to something far more collaborative and cleaner. This is a special time in history where the future will really be decided over the next few years. Not many people have the chance to live in a moment in history where this much change is possible. It’s a brutal responsibility, but one that if you embrace you’ll look back knowing you did what you could to really shape the future for the better.

Climate Giving

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cash-dollars-hands-money-271168/

This past week I was talking with my folks on the phone, and my mom asked a question: What climate organizations should she give to? She has typically been giving to various animal welfare organizations, but it’s really been occurring to her that all that work is for naught if we fail to act on climate.

In the chance anyone else is interested in the answers, here we go. Let’s give the simple list, and then why later.

501c4 Lobbying Orgs (non tax deductable): Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sunrise Movement.

501c3 Orgs: 350.org, Environmental Voter Project

Climate Journalism/Media: Drilled News, Heated, Hottake, Our Warm Regards.

501c4 orgs

Many people associate not for profit corporations with tax exempt charity status, but that’s not strictly true. To be granted tax exempt status there are a bunch of rules around it. One of it is that you can’t spend the majority of your resources on Lobbying elected officials (the official rule is something like 10%, so you’ll see lots of charities with a 20 person staff having 1 policy person, that’s fine).

The thing about climate change: it’s a really big problem. A problem that needs systems change to really solve. And that means policy. Which means you really do need to lobby for things. And a few of these orgs are all in for doing that.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an organization I’ve devoted a lot to. At the heart of the organization is a belief that the way forward on climate is by strengthening democracy, and that a big part of that is training volunteers all over the country to go into elected officials offices as citizen lobbyists, and ask for it. We’ll never outspend the professionals, but we do outnumber them. In the past 3 years I’ve now done over 20 lobby sessions, including 7 with my congressman’s office (once with him directly). I now feel incredibly empowered to sit down with my elected officials and ask them for things. In many of those meetings I’ve had break through moments realizing that we were bringing brand new information and perspectives to the table.

Supporting this org means funding the national staff, who manage education, messaging, and materials for the 195,000 volunteers in the group. I’ve met most of the national staff now, many have become friends. They work on a shoestring budget for what their impact is.

Sunrise Movement is a youth climate organization, founded in 2017, who were thrust onto the national stage through the Green New Deal plan. Sunrise is also one of the organizations most responsible for pushing the Democratic presidential field into being better on climate. They are working off a theory for change from the Civil Rights Movement.

They also only let you join the organization directly if you are under 35. This is a youth centered organization, specifically lifting the voices of millennial and gen z.

So while I can’t join, I can support them financially, which again pays for their leaders to be able to build the movement.

501c3 Orgs

350.org – The organization started by Bill McKibben named after the safe atmospheric level of CO2 we need to get to. We’re currently at 414 (pre-industrial was 280ish). Their work of late has been focused on divestment, getting organizations to divest their investments from fossil fuels. When they started this work there was a lot of skepticism that it would mean anything, because there was always more money on the table. But, a decade in, it’s starting to snowball now. The fossil fuel companies are starting to complain about lack of financing, and it’s definitely removing social license from them.

350.org was the first charity I gave to who was working on changing systems, not just relieving suffering. I’ve been donating to them for over 10 years, and it’s really great so see this work coming to fruition.

Environmental Voter Project – I first heard about this org 3 years ago, and went all in this year.

It turns out Environmentalists tend to suck at going to the ballot box. And this is one of the reasons why politicians don’t prioritize the issue, because it hasn’t won them elections. EVP exists to change this, by building lists of people where Environment and/or Climate are their top issue, but who don’t vote regularly. And then, we text them, call them, knock on their doors. Remind them an election is coming up. Remind then that voting is a norm. Ask them to say out load to us that they are going to vote.

Because it turns out if you tell someone you are going to do something out loud, you are far more likely to. EVP doesn’t tell anyone how to vote. Just works to make Environmentalists super voters. People that show up to vote for every election, from president, to school board, to dog catcher.

In addition to financial support, I helped organize and run phone banking hours this fall, and activating a lot of CCL volunteers to help make calls. This organization is really running on a shoe string budget, and all money goes into buying the data sets and supporting their very small national staff.

Journalism / Media

One of the dramatic changes that happened on the climate landscape this past couple of years is a whole lot of really talented people (mostly women) ventured out of safer media landscapes and decided there was a lot of climate journalism not being told because of the publishing companies didn’t see value in it. Maybe that’s because of how much ad revenue they get from fossil fuels? Maybe other reasons.

But, these folks changed the narrative, and also showed the appetite for it all.

Drilled – I personally found my way in here via Amy Westervelt’s incredible Drilled podcast (now in season 5). It tells the story of the huge disinformation campaign that’s been waged by the fossil fuel industry for decades to block climate action. This is required listening for anyone wanted to make change in the space. It’s infuriating at times, but sets up the real stakes going forward. Once she made an option to support the effort, I was all in.

Heated – Just of a year ago Emily Atkins quit her job and started a climate news letter full time for people that were angry about climate change. It was great. The first couple of months she did it for free, but was always up front that she would make it subscription based so she could pay the rent. I’m pretty sure I signed up day one that she did. Her voice is amazing, and she’s asking hard questions of powerful people. Her complaints about Twitter’s ad policy around climate denial changed policy there. The list of powerful folks that consider Heated required reading is only growing.

Hot Take – Amy Westervelt teamed up with Mary Annaise Heglar to make a podcast (and now news letter) that discussed the best of climate writing. Not just journalism, but all kinds of writing. It’s great stuff, and the two of them riffing off each other is always incredible. Again, once they had an option to financially support them, I was all in.

Our Warm Regards – This has been a years long project by Jacquelyn Gill and Ramesh Laungani. Jacquelyn is one of my favorite climate voices on twitter. This podcast centers some of the science of climate change, but in often unexpected ways. The recent episode on the Tempestries project (making scarves that show the temperatures changes of time), was really remarkable. This year they setup a patreon to help pay for interns to help with the show. Again, I was all in.

Why so many?

We don’t yet know what will be the winning solution on climate. Will it be insider policy work? Will it be outside pressure? Will it be social license change? Will it be changing the electorate? Will it require all of the above and more?

I’m privileged to be working in an industry where we’re paid quite well. So I feel like I can support a bunch of these efforts both with money and time. I also feel like the journalism side doesn’t get enough attention. Climate journalism is critical to connect these impacts with our day to day lives, and exposing some of the history around industry disinformation to block action.

If you are looking for one answer – Citizens’ Climate Lobby remains the organization I give the most to, and where I think some of the bigest outcomes are likely to be. Especially given that the Senate is going to be somewhere between 52-48 R/D, to 50-50. How we collectively partnered with EVP this fall and activated a huge number of volunteers and leaders to do that work was amazing.

ALL WE CAN SAVE

2hrs and 50 minutes. When I looked at my phone yesterday, that’s how much time it said I had left in the audio book of All We Can Save, a remarkable collection of essays and poetry on the climate crisis and solutions. This is just a bit longer than a 30 mile bike ride to New Paltz and back on the rail trail. Having been working since 6am, I decided a long afternoon bike ride was both needed and deserved. I popped on my aftershocks head phones, and off I went.

A bonus of the audio book is that all the poetry is read by the two editors, Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr Katharine Wilkinson, while all the essays are read by a collection of equally impressive woman like Jane Fonda, Julia Luis Dreyfuss, America Ferrera, and many more.

This book is remarkable. The wide range of voices, all with important but different insights. It’s not a single voice with an overriding thesis that keeps trying to convince you of something, it’s a rich chorus of personal experiences. 40 essays and 20 poems, orchestrated in an incredible tempo. There are so many layers in this book, that it will require rereading and relistening, and discussing and absorbing for years to come. And I cherish that idea of coming back to this book time and time again.

It’s hard to pick favorite pieces, but a few stand out in this first reading. (Many of the pieces were published in other forms prior to this book, so I’ll link to earlier versions where I can.)

Did It Ever Occur to You That Maybe You’re Falling in Love? is an irreverent take on “the problem”. It hit really close to home, and I laughed out loud during parts. Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s reading of it was spot on.

Heaven or High Water – Sarah Miller goes “undercover” in Miami pretending to be a Silicon Valley Wife looking for a place in this city under siege. And she keeps asking the realitors about climate change, and how it’s impacting them.

Reciprocity – Janine Benyus tells of her experience in forestry and ecology, and how a dominant narrative of individualism shaped forestry science for 5 decades. This prevented us from understanding what was actually happening beneath the soil, and the ways that trees exchange nutrients, and are healthier in a collective with diverse species.

A Field Guide for Transformation – Dr Leah Stokes lays out her journey, from recycling in 5th grade, to coming to really understand the energy system. How our influence, and collective action, works in widening circles, and how we must not demand perfection or purity in ourselves before tackling larger systems change.

This is just a flavor of the many incredible pieces in here, and only scratches the surface. I can’t recommend this book enough. Go get yourself a copy, and dive in. You won’t regret it.

SIMULATIONS AND LEARNING

From 1992 to 1994, a division called Maxis Business Simulations was responsible for making serious professional simulations that looked and played like Maxis games. After Maxis cut the division loose, the company continued to operate independently, taking the simulation game genre in their own direction. Their games found their way into in corporate training rooms and even went as far as the White House.

When SimCity got serious: the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery | The Obscuritory

After the success of SimCity, Maxis started making other simulation “games” targeted at industry. It included a refinery game, as well as one to help inform the health care policy debate in the early Clinton white house.

This reminds me a lot of why En-Roads is such an effective tool for doing climate simulations, there is real time feedback, and it feels like a game. But as you move sliders around you can see how complex systems interact, sometimes in surprising ways.

I think the story also gives a really important cautionary tale on tools for policy. SimHealth was built to inform the health care debate. Many approximations and things were left out of the game to make it playable, and then it was largely targeted at policy insiders. Whereas the value was probably more in raising broad understanding for the complexity and interactions of different policy approaches.

30 years later, I still think about C, R, I as the basis for zoning (even though that’s completely inaccurate in a real world), because of years of SimCity play. It makes me wonder how cool it might be to have a SimCity 2050 that starts with a modern prebuilt city (or state), and your job is to rebuild it to net-zero by 2050. What a cool game that would be.

Verifying Folklore

A little while back, the internet was abuzz with the inspirational story of Mary Anning, a pioneering 19th-century paleontologist from Lyme Regis in England. Some of my favorite blogs and magazines got in on the act: Atlas Obscura, QI (Quite Interesting), Dangerous Women, Cracked, and Forbes, to name just a few, published versions of the Mary Anning story. Anning was a woman from a working-class family; her father, a cabinetmaker, was mentioned by Jane Austen in 1804. Despite her lack of formal education, Anning was involved in the discovery of several categories of ancient animals, including the ichthyosaur, the plesiosaur, and the pterosaur. She also figured out that some of the rocks she was finding and breaking open were fossilized feces, becoming one of the discoverers of the coprolite! Because she was a woman, and working class, and a religious minority to boot, she was not always recognized for her achievements, and many of her discoveries were published by Anglican male scientists. [1]

Normally, I’d love the way this story spread. It has everything: pioneer women scientists, Regency and Victorian England, beachcombing, fossils…it’s like Pride and Prejudice at the beach, with feminism, dinosaurs, and poop jokes. What’s not to like?

To be honest, there was one problem: the hook on which most of these blogs hung their story was the assertion that Mary Anning was the inspiration for the tongue twister “she sells seashells on the seashore.” Most of them even included the tongue-twister connection in the title of the blog post. But none of them provided any evidence for their claim.

She Sells Seashells and Mary Anning: Metafolklore with a Twist

Having a young daughter also made me want to believe this, and then today googling I came across this Library of Congress piece from a couple of years ago that dives into verifying it.

It turns out, it’s probably not true. But the entire process of attempting to verify it is amazing all on it’s own. Great read about what rigorous testing of assumptions looks like, and all the other far more interesting things you will find out along the way.

moving on from HVOPEN

18 years ago I had this idea. Linux was on the rise, and wouldn’t it be cool if we had a local Linux user group? How would you even do something like that? It took 18 months, a couple of false starts, driving to a meeting in a snow storm (because I was an idiot), but eventually, in March of 2003, mhvlug.org was created. That first meeting I wasn’t even there when it started, as I was loading off of an airplane and got there late.

When you do anything for nearly 2 decades, there are good times, and bad times. I remember sitting in a bar with my friend Ben one of those times I was close to walking away. But that asking for help, got a lot more folks involved, and breathed new life into it. It took use through a new generation of leaders, and even a whole new rebrand into HV Open.

Outside of family and work, I have only so much energy to put into organizing things. Right now, in this moment in history, it’s all going to one place: our local Citizens Climate Lobby Chapter. This is a group I found out about through a friend from college. It’s a volunteer driven organization working to build the political will for a livable future. It starts with getting congress to put a price on carbon pollution, and return that money as a monthly dividend for all adults. It’s been an incredible growth experience in learning what it means to be an engaged citizen in the 21st century. Addressing climate change is a lot less overwhelming when you are acting on it, engaging local media, meeting with local leaders, and sitting down with your member of congress and bringing your concerns to the table.

But that takes time and energy, there is always more to do. And it meant I was really shortchanging HV Open. It was time to pass the torch for good. So I’m doing that.

June was the last meeting I ran. There is now a leadership team with Joe and Matt at the helm that will be fleshing out what’s next. As with any legacy transition, expect a few bumps along the way. I’ll still be at most of the meetings, but I get to just come and listen now, and not have making it all work be my responsibility. It’s a little bit amazing.

Thanks to everyone that helped make HV Open the organization it is today. Things don’t just survive 16 years on their own. I’m really proud of what I helped build, and excited to see how this thing evolves with new voices and new leadership.

Why US Emissions Rose in 2018

The news isn’t good for 2018. US CO2 emissions are estimated to be up 3.4% from last year, from a new Rhodium report. The details of that report are really interesting.

Emissions per sector

Unpacking those in order, we’re doing a good job at electrifying everything, however where we get that electricity from isn’t keeping up with demand. In the past the building of new Natural Gas power generation basically was at the expense of Coal power. But, now we’re at the point where the bulk of new demand is being served by Natural Gas, as we can’t build zero carbon sources nearly fast enough to keep up with new demand (not even to mention retiring old sites). A carbon price would be really effective at changing this equation.

Transport is really interesting, because buried in the report is this really interesting graph:

Figure
Are we at peak car?

Even with all the growth, gas demand was down. This further supports the theory that we’re at peak car that’s been floated in a few other places. Transportation sector emissions are still growing though because shipping (via trucks) and air transport are still on a growth path.

Buildings were another area where things were problematic, and a big part of it was the polar vortex last winter. We had just converted over to geothermal, and the fleets of oil trucks running all over last winter were notable. The buildings sector really needs more performance standards/building codes, and pushes for enhanced insulation and heat pump conversions. Our conversion from fuel oil to geothermal last year took 7 metric tons of CO2 off the board, which was the single biggest change we could make as a family.

Industry was the last huge add. I do wonder if they will have deeper numbers on what actually was going on here. What gets in this bucket is not always what you’d expect:

What is industry anyway?

Close to 20% of it is petroleum refining, which means that a lot of this could be attributed to increased US exports of fossil fuels, and the push this administration has made there. It is one of those areas where we get a 2 for 1 if we reduce fossil fuel demand other places. A carbon price would help here quite a bit, and help more generally in the rest of the industrial sector as it would let each part of it figure out how to do what they are doing in a more carbon efficient way.

While the report is not good news, it’s at least helpful to see what actually was driving it to figure out what kinds of policies would help.

Sloop At the Factory

Having lived in the Hudson Valley for over 20 years, I now get to be one of those folks that says things like: “have you been to that new icecream place? It’s across from where that dumpling place used to be, that was a bbq place before it. You know the one in the old bank building.” Businesses and places leave a fossil record, and after 20 years you become aware of the fossil layers beneath the current facade.

But, there are times when the new facade plays so much tribute to the old, and the old was so familiar, that it’s notable in it’s own right. As with Sloop at the Factory, where we were last night.

Sloop Factory Entrance

Sloop is one of the older craft breweries in the area, I remember them with bottles at farmers markets close to 20 years ago. I had heard recently that they had opened a new brewing facility at an old IBM plant, but the way it was described to me at first it didn’t sink in where it was. Which is the old IBM East Fishkill 330C building. The building that was on the other side of the cafeteria from 330D where I first worked when I moved to the Hudson Valley.

The old IBM site is really a great place for a brewery. It’s got all kinds of infrastructure, as this used to be chip manufacturing. 20 years ago they put in a new water pipeline from City of Poughkeepsie to have high quality water for their lithography lines (tolerances for chip manufacturing are much stricter than drinking water standards). And it’s nice to see something using that space instead of it sitting empty.

Drinking water tap
I really have no idea what kind of monitor station this once was, but now it’s the water tap.

But where I truly applaud the Sloop folks is how much they embraced the bones they are built upon. They converted an old monitoring station to their water tap. They have plaques of various IBM invention accomplishments out along the walls. The whole place pays homage to an era that’s past, as they expand into the future. With over 60 breweries in the Hudson River Valley, it feels really appropriate to have one now in an old IBM site, spanning the industries between the generations.

Cozy up to the bar, or pick a table. There are stacks of board games and arcade cabinets around.

Sloop’s always had some great beer. But with all the space available to them in this place they also put in a kitchen (with a kids menu), and have a ton of low, high, and picnic tables through out it. There are stacks of board games, including an old copy of candy land that we played last night. As a parent of a 4 year old I really appreciate this new brewery ethos of being kid friendly (Kings Court is doing this right as well). I like good beer, and being able to bring the whole family along makes for a fun evening.

We’ll definitely be back. And I look forward to taking old friends that used to work in those buildings back as well to get a glimpse of the past and the future all at once.

Book Review: The Sixth Extinction

Over the holidays I finally got around to reading/listening to The Sixth Extinction. It was quite good, but the language was at a density level where I found listening to the audio book to be a lot easier than reading on my kindle. Fortunately for me, both copies were in our library, so after my ebook lend expired I switched to e-audiobook lend to finish it off.

The book uses the lens of a number of extinct or endangered species to look at humanity’s impact on the world. And each species provides an opportunity to dig into a different part of science or the history of science around them.

The chapter on the Mastadon was fascinating. I never realized that the Mastadon, first discovered not that far from here in the Hudson Valley, was the trigger for the idea of species extinction. Unlike the Mamouth, whose teeth can be confused for that of an elephant’s, the Mastadon has cone shaped teeth that can’t be. It was odd enough that Thomas Jefferson believed these beasts were roaming the west, and were part of the reason he sent survey teams out. Eventually it would trigger the idea that species could go extinct, and start the process of reconstructing our past. But it’s super cool this happened in our back yard.

I learned was that Ocean Acidification was kind of accidentally discovered to be a thing after picking through the remains of the failed Biosphere 2 project. It turns out their biosphere wasn’t so good, so CO2 levels got up north of 1000 ppm, which drove the pH of the water quite acidic.

I discovered that I had a closer relationship to bat white-node syndrome than I realized, as Al Hicks was one of the state ecologists that first found it in NY. I met Al last year through at the regional Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference, as he’s also the Albany chapter lead.

And I really liked some of the visuals around the idea of a “new pangea”. It’s interesting to think about how global trade has effectively eliminated all the island barriers that we once had.

Definitely a recommended read. Going to be digesting some of it for a while.