Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman by Miriam Horn – a much needed reprise on working collaboratively to address environmental issues and still make a living

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers to do their thing.

The Kansas farmer speaks to working in concert with the land and learning and sharing best practices with other area farmers and the agro-economics people at nearby Kansas State University. Farmers want to maximize a sustainable yield on their crops, but climate change and water concerns increase the challenges to do so. He emphasizes growing what grows naturally in the area. There is a reason wheat and alfalfa are cash crops in Kansas. He notes the farm to table concept is not necessarily ideal – it would be a waste of water and land to try to grow everything everywhere. As for climate change, they work with legislators to protect the water resources, but have to stop short of using that term with their representatives. They gain collaboration by speaking to what is happening, not identifying its lead cause.

The book focuses on five professions in total, although only three are listed in the title. The other two are Shrimper and River Captain. Skipping over the fisherman and shrimper, who are each impacted by the environmental waste and degradation worsened by climate change, let me finish up with the River Captain.

The Louisiana based river man moves frieight up and down the Mississippi River. He understands the importance of experienced teams who know the river going both ways, with high, low or medium water levels. He has seen the significant dissipation of the wetlands in the Bayou which are causing huge problems to many. Engineers tried to outsmart the river and failed. In fairly dramatic fashion, the Gulf of Mexico is absorbing land due to rising sea levels and fewer buffers, So, they are working with scientists, businesses, and even the petroleum industry to slowly rebuild the Bayou.

Note, there are pros and cons to each set of solutions, so getting to the best answer requires honest input on the costs and risks to people, environment and livelihoods. And, some of the answers are counterintuitive. For example, not sending barges down the Mississippi means more truck traffic which pollutes the environment, degrades the roads and heightens risk for other drivers. With more electric trucks, this would lessen the risk, so that is a factor in risk/ benefit trade-offs. The farmer’s comment about farm to table also deserves scrutiny as farm to table also helps to lessen these trucking risks and costs. Yet, on a large scale, the point about growing stuff that is more natural to an area is profound and will lessen the impact on water resources which are dear.

It should be noted working in collaboration is how business and government work best. Yet, collaboration is hard work. For those who block the consideration of solutions, they need to be sidelined. In our toxic tribal political environment, we must remember each side does not own all the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones. Let’s follow the lead of these folks who get their hands dirty, understand what is happening and work together.

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Desalination of sea water using renewable energy marries two issues

An important article on two of the planet’s major issues called “Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund” by Aidan Lewis appeared in Reuters this week. A few paragraphs are noted below with a link to the full article at the end of the post.

“CAIRO, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Egypt plans to award deals next year to build 21 water desalination plants in the first $3 billion phase of a programme that will draw on cheap renewable energy, the CEO of the country’s sovereign fund said on Thursday.

Egypt, which recently hosted the COP27 U.N. climate talks and is trying to boost lagging investment in renewables, also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026, Ayman Soliman told the Reuters NEXT conference.

Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile for fresh water, and faces rising water scarcity for its population of 104 million. The desalination programme aims to generate 3.3 million cubic metres of water daily in the first phase, and eventually reach 8.8 million cubic metres daily at a cost of $8 billion.

So-called green or clean hydrogen is produced using electrolysers powered by renewable energy to split water from oxygen. It is seen as a potential future power source that could reduce emissions, though to date it is largely limited to experimental projects. Analysts say challenges facing its growth include high costs and energy inputs, as well as safety concerns.”

This fund is set to pump money into two needed concerns – the worsening water crisis and the needed use of renewable energy to power the effort. The global water crisis matches climate change in terms of risk to our planet and has for several years. Climate change actually makes the water crisis worse through evaporation. Duke Energy noted in a report that its projections of water evaporation from its water sources to power the Charlotte metropolitan area will be 11% worse with climate change. When water levels get to low, Duke has to cut power production or use more water from the river sources which exacerbates the water crisis.

Marrying these two crises, we have too much salt water and too little fresh water. Efforts to use the former to replace the latter may start out as more expensive, which is why it has not been used as much before, but has to be part of our equation to help our planet and people. As with other efforts, over time the process will get more cost effective.

https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/egypt-build-21-desalination-plants-phase-1-scheme-sovereign-fund-2022-12-01/

To little hype, several climate change initiatives passed in last week’s elections

In an article by Frida Garza of The Guardian called “Voters pass historic climate initiatives in ‘silent surprise’ of US midterms,” some very good news occurred while we weren’t paying too much attention.

The full article can be linked to below, but here are a few paragraphs that summarize the story:

“While the economy and abortion rights drove momentum behind the midterm election this year, voters in cities and states across the US also turned out to pass a number of climate ballot initiatives .

Among the measures passed were a historic multibillion-dollar investment into environmental improvement projects in New York state, including up to $1.5bn in funding for climate change mitigation. This election also saw a $50m green bond act pass in Rhode Island, and in Colorado, the city of Boulder approved a climate tax as well as a ballot measure that will allow the city to borrow against that tax to fund climate projects.

‘Climate voters were the silent surprise of election night,’ said Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the Environmental Voter Project. ‘We weren’t loud, and nobody saw us coming, but we showed up to vote in huge numbers.

The electoral support at the state and local levels for more climate action comes at a time when world leaders meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss the climate crisis at Cop27. Joe Biden and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, were both in attendance last week, urging leaders at home and abroad to meet the moment and take action against the climate crisis now. Because of the timing of the global summit and the US midterms, the Biden administration also had the pressure of a political shift that could mean stagnation of any further climate action after the president’s signature Inflation Reduction Act.

It is nice to see such movement, as we need a lot more of the same. With a split Congress, we will have to rely on the states and the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act which has climate change mitigation in its midst. To this independent voter, we lost twelve years with the Bush and Trump White Houses to fight climate change, years we will never get back. So, we must act now. I am encouraged by offshore wind projects that are gaining footing, to catch up to the great strides in onshore wind projects in the plains’ states and elsewhere as well as the solar energy development keeps on going strong.

Please push our lawmakers at all levels to move forward. If someone is a naysayer, move on to those who share your concern. We are already late to the party and we unfortunately still must combat a mountain of money being put in some folks pockets by the fossil fuel industry to deter the fight and keep their profit margins.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/18/climate-initiatives-passed-us-midterm-elections

Many successful people have failed – a repeat performance

I wrote the following post about three years ago. I was reading about business failure today and was reminded of this post on failures of some very public figure. It still resonates.

Recently, my wife and I watched three separate music documentaries – the eight part series on Country Music, one on Motown and one on David Bowie. What I find interesting is how many artists had to fight failure to get a chance and gain eventual success. These failures reminded me of other similar stories I have been exposed to.

Garth Brooks, one of the biggest selling artists of any genre, was turned down by every studio in Nashville. The night of the most recent “no, thank you,” Brooks performed at a small venue and that same record producer was in the audience and saw something.

David Bowie made records and even albums, but they went nowhere for years. He never lost hope. After much experimentation, he came up with the idea about a man in space. “Ground control to Major Tom…” became the lyric that peeked our interest in “A Space Oddity.”

The Beatles intrigued a young record producer named George Martin, but he recognized the band needed to practice to learn how to play. Many people don’t know that a fifth Beatle named Stu Sutcliffe was very inexperienced. So, Martin sent them to Hamburg, Germany to play seven shows six nights a week. They had to learn new material.

The Supremes led by Diana Ross were called the “no-hit Supremes” for years as they could not break through. Eventually, Berry Gordy and his writers came up with the right song, “Baby, baby. Where did our love go…”

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. Yet, Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team before making the team the following  year. As Dean Smith, Jordan’s college coach would say defending his decision to start Jordan as a freshman, “I put him on the blue practice team and they won. I put him on the white practice team and they won. It did not take a genius to realize we had a better chance to win if he played.”

Steve Jobs was successful with the Apple, but failed to develop the next generation machine. Fortunately, while the team he led was failing, another Apple team plodded along and developed the Macintosh. Jobs took it over and it made history. We should also note, Jobs was later fired from his own company, but  returned to save them and launch the hand held I-series of devices.

Hewlett-Packard failed at its first business. It was a bowling alley scorekeeping system. Yet, they created an organization that allowed the development of new products and were hugely succesful with computers and printers.

Everyone fails at something or even more than a few things. The key is what do you do next. When life knocks you down, you have to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. Or, as Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are walking through hell, the key is to keep walking.”

Views from an independent, former Republican and Democrat voter

For what they are worth, the following are the views of an old fart who can sing the lyrics with truth behind them to Paul McCartney’s song about age; “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four.” I have been a Republican for over 20 years and Democrat for less than five. Around the 2007-08 timeframe, I left the GOP to become an Independent voter.

I would add I am more conservative, especially in financial matters, and more progressive in other issues. I believe in helping people climb a ladder when needed, but we need to be able to pay for it. I am also a big believer in Teddy Roosevelt’s mantra of a Square Deal, meaning giving everyone equal opportunity and I am also a believer in Franklin Roosevelt’s Fair Deal, which helped people who were disenfranchised and broken.

Politics seems to be less about policy and more about designed, fabricated and embellished wedge issues. To be frank, the Republican party public relation spin doctors do not want their candidates to speak about real issues, unless it is blame someone that they really have little control over. Democrats embellish and even lie as well, but it is not a normal distribution being heavily tilted to the right.

Let me set aside the obvious concerns this election and speak to a few policy concerns.

-the Republican Party has no platform, as they did not vote on one in the 2020 GOP presidential convention in Charlotte. Senator Rick Scott, who is heading the Senate campaign, came up with one, but it did not reach consensus. This is a one reason Republicans will not tell you what they will do to solve the problems as they don’t know. The PR people said don’t put a stake in the ground and no one can fault you for it. So, ask them “what do you plan to do about it?”

-Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least addressing or attempting to address issues. A gun governance law was passed (although watered down to garner votes by Republicans), laws impacting infrastructure funding, climate change funding, renewable energy measures, and health care premium and drug costs stabilization were passed and subsidies were passed to help people during the pandemic, building off the ones passed under Trump’s tenure. We also returned to the Paris Climate Change Accord. While an abatement is being provided on federal student loans, I personally would have rather seen something deal with healthcare debt, which is the number one reason for personal bankruptcy.

-Outside of the pandemic help, the key thrusts of the Trump administration were to repeal and replace the ACA (which thankfully failed), give a huge tax break to the wealthy and corporations, masking that the middle class may not come out ahead with limitations on state tax deductions and place tariffs on our trading partners which upset markets causing supply chain issues which were worsened by the pandemic. We also harmed our relationships by focusing more on the transactional and we pulled out of three major accords that went on without us – the Paris Climate Change Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership to better compete with China and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

-We should be talking more about what should matter most to people – helping them feed their families, pay for healthcare and keep a roof over their heads. We must deal more with environmental issues as a steward of this country and planet – on top of climate change, we have a global water crisis, that is being exacerbated even worse by climate change and lack of decision-making. If that were not enough, we have a lead pipe issue for distributing the diminished water supply. And, we must protect all people’s rights, not just those who look or worship a certain way. Finally, we have too many in a country this successful going to bed hungry. That is a damn shame.

-What we don’t need to be talking about is contrived issues that really don’t matter a whole lot. I won’t even mention them now as that would give them more cover than they deserve. If I did not mention it above, with the exceptions below, then maybe it is not that big of an issue.

The exceptions are two. We have a debt and deficit problem in our country that has been made worse with the last two administrations. Neither party does well with this issue. Neither. The GOP likes to beat on their chest about it, but made the debt worse under the previous president. The current administration did something about, but that is after making it worse with pandemic subsidies. Obama did something about, but only because both parties put in this sequestration fall back position that made cuts if no deal was reached. No deal was reached.

We have immigration concerns, but the problem is nowhere near as bad as portrayed and was not that bad in 2016 either, even though it was played up. I would ask Republicans if you want to deal with immigration, why did Speaker John Boehner not bring to a vote a bipartisan immigration bill which passed the Senate, which had enough votes to pass the House? Why did the former president renege on his number one campaign issue when a bipartisan deal was reached to give $25 billion for his border wall for making DACA a law? The reason is PR people told the GOP not resolving immigration issues was a more winning issue than solving them – not my words, by the way, but I agree.

Setting aside all of the above, as an independent, I feel my old Republican party is adrift an untethered to the truth. Michael Gerson, a conservative pundit, said the “party is in decay.” When the truth tellers are vilified and the liars aggrandized, it is does not lead to gravitas and veritas. If you tout a Big Lie, then it greases the skids to lie about more things. I believe our voters need to send a strong message to any Republican who touts the former president’s bogus election fraud story and to any Republican who has rationalized his deceitful and illicit behavior. They are perpetuating a fraud on the American people and many know they are so doing, which is even worse.

I encourage people to research how candidates stand on issues. If they support the Big Lie, then dig even deeper. And, know there is one party bent on restricting dissenting votes leveraging the Big Lie. My advice is know the rules and vote. And, remember who wants you not to as you do, as your voice does matter.

Twenty-five seconds showers

Regardless of whether elected officials want to talk about this, we have a global water crisis that has been building for some time. Here in the states, it manifests itself in three ways: more severe droughts in drier areas, evaporating and depleting water sources, and too many lead pipes still being used to provide water to cities.

And, this is before climate change has made the situation worse. I have cited before a statistic from a Duke Energy report that said climate change will cause evaporation from their water sources by 11% more than before. The folks out in the western part of the US are seeing major river sources at risk with so many competing users and states. The same is true in other parts of the world such as Cape Town, South Africa and in Chile, eg.

So, there are many things we must do combat these problems. The first one is to get elected officials to stop their discussions around exaggerated and contrived topics and to start discussing real problems. Politicians are often too late to the game as they get little credit for actually thinking ahead to avoid a problem getting worse. That is unfortunate, as that is precisely what we need them to do.

The possible solutions are many, but none may be a panacea. With climate change, our water crisis can be boiled down to one sentence – too much sea water and too little fresh water. So, one solution would be to convert sea water into potable water. It is expensive and earlier attempts do not taste as well, but that may be the best option for us. This is more evident in places like Miami and surrounding areas where the Biscayne aquifer is protected by porous limestone which will not hold back encroaching sea water. But, I have not heard either of the two senators or governor mention this.

One approach that would help a great deal is to use less water to generate power. What gets talked about so little in renewable energy is many of the approaches do not need water. Solar energy with photovoltaic panels and wind energy do not need water. Fossil fuel and nuclear energy must use water to boil into steam and turn the turbines. Granted the water gets release after its used back into the source, but a portion evaporates each time. And, fracking to retrieve natural gas takes a huge amount of water that cannot be reused.

Another partial solution is cut down on usage, hence the title of this post. The twenty-five seconds showers come from those who served in the Navy on a ship. That is how much fresh water a sailor had to bathe. So, the sailor would rinse off for five seconds. Stop the water and bathe with soap. Then, turn the water back on and rinse off for twenty seconds. 25 seconds. I know most folks shower much longer than that, but just think of the impact if everyone just halved their shower time, even more so if they decreased it to something measurable in seconds.

The above is a good metaphor for cutting usage of fresh water along many lines. We need to plant more indigenous plants that grow better in an area. There is a reason alfalfa and wheat are grown in the midwest – they grow in the wild. We could also use more rain barrels for watering or build gardens and water gathering devices on the roof of buildings. And, there plumbing approaches that reuse shower water to flush toilets, etc. Finally, some locations have had success in significantly filtering sewage water into fresh drinking water.

Then, there is that lead pipe thing. Which is its own animal. Unless we want to keep on poisoning people, we need to do something about changing the pipes. The Flint, Michigan pipe issue is not an anomaly. I read where Chicago is having issues as well, but these places are only the tip of the icebergs.

I kept this piece short with intention. It deserves greater scrutiny and discussion, but we need to discuss them rather than some of the things that we do discuss. I feel like our elected officials are a bunch of Nero’s fiddling away. But, in this case, we don’t have the water to put out the fire.

Dutch rewilding river project

‘This is what a river should look like’: Dutch rewilding project turns back the clock 500 years by Phoebe Weston of The Guardian reveals an interesting co-investment in making rivers run wild again. The reasons – man-influenced and worsened flooding and chemical run-off from farms are harmful to all concerned.

Here are few salient paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the article below.

“Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, who was leading the largest river-restoration project in Europe, believes radical river restoration projects should be taken more seriously. ‘People are not used to looking at green infrastructure in the way they look at other “hard” infrastructure like roads, railways and waterways. But this [type of project] is also for the common good,’ he says...

Crisis point in the Netherlands arrived decades ago after a series of destructive floods in the 80s and 90s. Dead pigs were found stuck in trees as livestock that couldn’t be moved away fast enough drowned in high waters. Thriving fishing communities had died out and rivers had become a threat to people. Momentum to radically overhaul them started building. The planning phase for the Border Meuse began in 1990, with work starting in 2007 and due to finish in 2027.

‘Rivers should be biodiversity hotspots but all over the world they are being damaged by human activity and slurry and pesticides runoff from farms. A key part of Border Meuse has been separating nature and agriculture by buying out farms along two river catchments and returning them to a natural state. Some farmers opposed being moved, but most were struggling to farm because of the flooding and were generously compensated. Farmers have moved away from hundreds of kilometres of Dutch rivers where flood protection and ecological restoration are priorities,’ says Schepers.

The €550m project is being paid for mainly by companies wanting to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed, which has helped widen the river and lower riverbanks and so expand the floodplain. Because of the involvement of industry, Border Meuse was the only large river restoration project that wasn’t withdrawn during the 2008 financial crash. Today, it attracts two million visitors a year, bringing in about €1bn of revenue to the Meuse region.

Here in the US, past efforts to straighten rivers have been destructive to the environment, especially around the Mississippi River basin and we have been losing land at a rapid rate. The solution was to help nature get back to what it was and stop trying to influence it so much. In Steven Solomon’s book “Water” he notes the Egyptians tried to control the Nile for centuries, but nature would bite them in the fanny to show who was boss with extra silt deposits that ruined crops and the water.

Solomon’s book is even more relevant today with our global and US water crisis, which has been made even worse by climate change. Competing interests in river and other waters have led to more evaporation and pose grave concerns to people via hydration and food irrigation. If we do not address these now (and we are already late), the livelihoods of many people will be altered.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/20/dutch-rewilding-project-turns-back-the-clock-500-years-aoe

Oil companies’ internal documents confirm gaslighting the public

An article in The Guardian yesterday by Oliver Milman called “Criticism intensifies after big oil admits ‘gaslighting’ public over green aims” does not paint the fossil fuel industry in a good light. Here are a few paragraphs, but I encourage you to link the article below.

“Criticism in the US of the oil industry’s obfuscation over the climate crisis is intensifying after internal documents showed companies attempted to distance themselves from agreed climate goals, admitted ‘gaslighting’ the public over purported efforts to go green, and even wished critical activists be infested by bedbugs.

The communications were unveiled as part of a congressional hearing held in Washington DC, where an investigation into the role of fossil fuels in driving the climate crisis produced documents obtained from the oil giants ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP…

The new documents are ‘the latest evidence that oil giants keep lying about their commitments to help solve the climate crisis and should never be trusted by policymakers,’ said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity.

‘If there is one thing consistent about the oil and gas majors’ position on climate, it’s their utter inability to tell the truth,’ Wiles added.

Ro Khanna, co-chair of the committee, said the new documents are ‘explosive’ and show a ‘culture of intense disrespect’ to climate activists. The oil giants’ ‘climate pledges rely on unproven technology, accounting gimmicks and misleading language to hide the reality,’ he added. ‘Big oil executives are laughing at the people trying to protect our planet while they knowingly work to destroy it.'”

These revelations are not surprising but are alarming. It should be noted shareholders of Exxon Mobil voted to require management to inform them on the progress toward fighting climate change, the vote occurring the day before the former president pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. The proof though is in the pudding. To me it is a culture of window dressing – making it look like management is doing something but really not as much as it seems.

Yet, for those who simply cannot believe Big Oil would do this, let me remind that eight CEOs of the tobacco industry sat in a panel in front of a Congressional Committee and lied to a direct question. The lie they covered up is they all knew nicotine was addictive dating back thirty years. Let me remind that per the movie “Dark Waters,” Dupont knew that making Teflon was harmful to people, including their own workers, and hid that fact. And, after losing a data-centric arbitration case, they reneged on paying restitution to people. They then lost successive lawsuits to individuals for multiple millions of dollars before settling all the cases.

It amazes me that leadership of these (and other) organizations are so protective of their brand, they avoid doing the right thing. They would rather hide it and hope their secret is never discovered. In the end, they are more harmful to their brand than coming out and admitting the truth. Compare what these companies did to what Johnson and Johnson did when someone was poisoning Tylenol capsules in the grocery stores. They admitted their own failure and acted quickly to make protective seals, setting off a larger trend in industry.

Gaslighting is not a flattering word. When we see these feel good commercials on TV put forth by the oil companies, we need to take them with a large grain of salt. They may just what it seems – window dressing.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/17/oil-companies-exxonmobil-chevron-shell-bp-climate-crisis

A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes very significant renewable energy funding is a huge step forward. Even Republican legislators who were told not to vote for it, are silently celebrating the needed investment in their states that will be forthcoming.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post which sheds progress at the same time the former president was pulling the US away from the adult table on fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has gotten us back to that table and helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Please note the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused some hiccups to the progress with Russia punishing its critics with fossil-fuel restrictions, but the progress continues.

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“Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.”

Sonic Highways – a terrific Foo Fighters Journey across America (an encore)

The following is an encore post of an earlier one I wrote in 2015. Since that time, the Foo Fighters have released an album called “Sonic Highways.” It is a hard rock album, but the songs have purpose, especially if you have seen the documentary series.

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For those who subscribe to HBO, there is a terrific series about American music called “Sonic Highways.” In essence, Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters are traveling to various cities across America that have innovative music scenes. In essence, the Foo Fighters are tracing our musical roots. Thus far, I have seen episodes in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Austin and each have been wonderful and unique. Each show culminates in the Foo Fighters recording a song in a memorable venue such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans, in Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago or the original television studio for Austin City Limits. I highly recommend you check the series out.

In each of the five shows, they talk with performers who made it big in these locations as well as regionally, nationally and/ or globally. They speak of key influencers early on in the music scene there. So, it is both historical and current. For example, a key reason Seattle has been a big venue for new music is bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco did not like traveling up the coast several hours for only a few gigs. As a consequence, Seattle started its own music scene which culminated with Nirvana’s success but could trace its roots back to much earlier times.

In Chicago, they spoke at length with Buddy Guy about his career and work with his good friend Muddy Waters. They also spent a lot of time with Rick Nielson, the uniquely fabulous guitarist of Cheap Trick, who tied blues with punk rock and tremendous theater. Nielson actually joined the Foo Fighters on the recording at the end of the show, based on Guy’s quotes called “Something from Nothing.” Albini produced the Nirvana second album where he met Grohl when he was Nirvana’s drummer.

Austin is a melting pot of music from blues to country to rock to all of the above blended together. Musicians from Willie Nelson to Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Gary Clark, Jr. to Billy Gibbons to Roky Erickson have graced the city and stages there. Plus some of the more colorful band names like “Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” “Moving Sidewalks” and “The Fabulous Thunderbirds”  were spawned there.

Austin City Limits exposed the Austin music scene even further and has been going strong for 40 years. Grohl was amazed the old theater and stage where ACL was filmed and recorded was still in tact and they performed the song for the show there. Grohl was amazed the grand piano that was used for the show was still there behind the seats covered with a tarp. This piano had been played by Fats Domino and many others and there it sat unused.

Like Austin, New Orleans is an amalgamation of different types of music and is where Jazz really got its roots and took off. One of the reasons for the blending of jazz, blues, zydeco, etc. is the eclectic mix of people who were allowed to commingle before it was acceptable in other places. While the venues are many, the Foo Fighters chose to perform at Preservation Hall, which is a tiny and old venue with one of the best house bands around. If you go, you will stand (in line and while listening), but it is worth it. I took my teen boys there as it is the only venue where they don’t serve alcohol.

I look forward to seeing more of these shows. I think they are still filming, but have already recorded versions in Washington, Nashville and New York and maybe other places. Please do yourself a favor and check it out.