Actually, part 4, but I left out part 1. Never mind.

You can view the whole thing here.

Obnoxious drunken, nicotine spewing blowhards make it their business to insert themselves in a stranger’s business and tell him that he shouldn’t be “minding other people’s business”.


Last night, a cyclist nearly hit a van blocking the L Street cycletrack and decided to report it to the police. That’s when he met Fred and Fran Smith, the husband-and-wife heads of a conservative think tank who started berating him for “minding other people’s business.”

Rob, who tweets as @the_baseband, captured the interaction on his helmet camera and posted it online yesterday. It not only shows the need for more public education about cycling laws in the District, but also the divisive attitude some have towards cyclists, even when they’re following the law.

Rob was turning left from 19th Street NW to L Street when he almost slammed into the back of a white van parked in the lane. He walks his bike onto the sidewalk and can be heard calling the police, when a woman approaches and asks if he’s going to report the van.

As Rob reads out the license plate of the truck over the phone, an older man in a suit walks over and the two begin screaming at him. The two are later identified asFred Smith and Fran Smith, founder and board member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes free-market economics and denies global warming.

The interaction is brief, but it says a lot about lingering attitudes towards cycling and cyclists in DC. While the driver of the van broke the law by parking in a bike lane, it happens so frequently that people like Fred Smith either assume that it’s acceptable, or that it’s not actually a bike lane.

When Rob explains that he almost hit the van, Fred yells, “The truck is not in the bike lane at all!” He walks out into the street, points to the striped buffer between the bike lane and the general traffic lanes, and says that’s the bike lane.

It’s also interesting the way that Fred and Fran immediately try to paint Rob as the aggressor for trying to report the driver, chiding him for “minding other people’s business.” Fred makes multiple assumptions about Rob, saying he “hasn’t worked a day in his life” and is “mad” at the driver for not being a cyclist.

I won’t go into whether someone who goes to a”think tank” every day actually knows about real work.



You don’t have to go far inside the headquarters of German battery storage company Younicos, or even their website for that matter, to find out what they are about. “Let the fossils rest in peace,” the logo suggests. Another sign at their technology centre east of Berlin proclaims: “You are now leaving the CO2 producing sector of the world.”

This sign is designed to mimic those which adorned the checkpoints that separated the various sectors of east and west Berlin before the wall was torn down. Younicos believe they have a technology that is equally disruptive, and can break down one of the last barriers to 100 per cent renewable energy: the need to run fossil fuel generation to control the “frequency” of the grid, and the other system services such as voltage control.

The company, based in Berlin Adlershof, on the eastern outskirts of the capital, is developing 10MW-sized battery parks, using battery systems that it says can stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.

It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes.

This is critical is Germany. The sheer scale of their solar PV installations – it has more than 35GW – means that on some days it already produces more than half the country’s electricity needs. But baseload generators have to keep running for the sake of frequency control and system stability, this has caused spot prices to plunge well below zero.

For an 80GW grid, it needs about 20GW and 25GW of “must run” balancing to maintain frequency and keep the grid stable. Younicos says 2GW of its battery parks would render this need redundant. Around 200 of it battery parks could be installed around the country at a total cost of around €3 billion.

(Of course, that is not the only impediment to 100 per cent renewables – enough solar and wind power needs to be built, and other storage is needed, battery storage to respond to variations in load on a minute by minute and hour by hour basis, and longer-term or “seasonal” storage, which can take excess production and store it – synthetic diesel, hydrogen etc.).

Read the rest of this entry »

In your heart, you’ve always known this.


Ever notice how you feel more productive while listening to a great song? It’s not just you. Researchers just discovered that a certain type of solar panel works most efficiently when exposed to the acoustic vibrations of pop music. Crank it up!

The UK research team works on zinc oxide solar panels, a cheaper, more flexible variant of traditional silicon-based solar cells. Unfortunately, zinc oxide panels are still in the experimental stages, hampered by a paltry 1.2 percent efficiency at the moment. Zinc oxide’s trick, however, is that it can form nanoscale rods that generate electricity from outside vibrations—like, say, some pumped-up jams.

Having subjected the photovoltaics to a variety of musical genres, the team found that rock and pop boosted efficiency nearly 50%, likely due to the wide range of sound frequencies involved. Even ambient noise gave a decent increase. While an industrial-scale stereo playing Top 40 hits to a field of solar panels wouldn’t be very efficient, the discovery paves the way for cells that generate extra juice from the ambient vibrations in noisy environments. Someday, perhaps black metal could generate just as much power as a ray of sunshine. [Advanced Materials via New Scientist]


Wiley Online Library first broke the story: ”Acoustic vibrations are shown to enhance the photovoltaic efficiency of a P3HT/ZnO nanorod solar cell by up to 45%, correlated to a three-fold increase in charge carrier lifetime. This is assigned to the generation of piezoelectric dipoles in the ZnO nanorods, indicating that the efficiency of solar cells may be enhanced in the presence of ambient vibrations by the use of piezoelectric materials.”

Pop music is most effective in increasing this certain kind of energy with this type of solar panel. Sound vibrations form this music most increased energy absorption. No doubt this is relevant information that will be developed in the solar field.




A friend has received this.  Really.

Slow day in Nigeria?

Washington Post:

So why don’t Internet scammers try to change up their tactics? Everyone knows about the Nigerian prince. It’s tired and cliched. Why don’t more scammers try to dupe us with the fake inheritances of a Kazakh prince instead, or with Greek bonds or fancy credit default swaps or something clever like that? Something we haven’t seen before?

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change gets real for the Chamber of Commerce. 

Tampa Bay Times:

Many older homes in flood zones have long benefited from a big subsidy that kept flood insurance rates very low. Starting next month, those homeowners will typically see annual rates jump more than 20 percent, including a fee for a new reserve fund. A late payment could cost them their subsidy immediately.

If the owner sells the home, the buyer will lose the subsidy. That could, as in one scenario, raise a premium that had been $1,400 a year to $9,500.

Travis wasn’t hopeful of a congressional reprieve in the next couple of weeks.

“Have I demoralized everyone here?” he asked.

Concern about rising flood insurance rates — triggered by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 — has been percolating for months. Now, just weeks before the law’s main provisions take effect, real estate agents and communities from Apollo Beach to Treasure Island are galvanizing, worried about falling property values, busted real estate sales and a crippling effect on the broader economy.

“This is a major change,” said Patty Latshaw of St. Petersburg-based Wright National Flood Insurance Co., the biggest writer of federal flood insurance in the country. “I’m just glad to see people are realizing what is going on and asking questions and becoming involved. Finally.”

For Cristy and Fred Assidy, reality hit too late.

After 15 years in their “starter home” in St. Petersburg’s Shore Acres, the couple was excited recently to close on a new home in Riviera Bay near Weedon Island.

Then came a shocker.

During this first year, their premium through the National Flood Insurance Program is a doable $1,700; next year it jumps to $17,000. For a house they bought for $205,000.

“This is going to devastate the real estate market here just when it’s barely making a comeback,” Cristy Assidy said. “People are going to leave the state in mass exodus.”

And not just in traditional hurricane zones…

Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Net Zero House

November 21, 2013

I posted on a new development of zero energy/net positive houses in Houston, which depended on a fuel cell concept for some of its energy production.  Obviously fuel cells are not the final answer, but not a bad option for many homeowners.

Above, net zero homes in Canada – which seems like a good test bed for the concept.  It also illustrates the reality that homes like this may still be tied to the grid, at least with current tech. Plenty of room for innovation here.
As is so often the case, California is on the cutting edge, with Governor Jerry Brown continuing to push the envelope.  Things like this tend to spread to the rest of the country. Think hot tubs.

Triple Pundit:

Starting in 2014, California is implementing a tsunami of building code revisions called Title 24. These revised building codes will move California’s residential and commercial buildings toward Zero Net Energy (ZNE). In a ZNE building, the annual energy consumption is equal to its annual production of renewable energy. Under Title 24, all new residential construction is to be ZNE by 2020 with all new commercial buildings achieving this ZNE goal by 2030.

Title 24 moves building design toward “comprehensive building solutions.” This building design approach first focuses upon reducing energy consumption through the integration of smart and energy efficient technologies. The final design step after reducing the building’s energy consumption is to install onsite renewable energy generation like solar panels.

As these new codes are being analyzed by the construction and real estate industries, there is a growing realization that Title 24 will apply to existing buildings that implement threshold-sized remodeling or repurposing construction projects. In addition, California’s Governor Jerry Brown has authorized through an executive order that state agencies shall take measures towards achieving ZNE for 50 percent of the square footage of existing state-owned buildings by 2025.

In coordination with these code revisions, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is revising the financial incentives offered through utilities to encourage energy efficiency investments by building owners. The CPUC is reducing or eliminating past financial incentives for energy efficiency investments that are now mandated by Title 24. In 2014, a new set of financial incentives are being launched that support comprehensive building solutions.


Other locations and concepts below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Having successfully crowd sourced two projects online-I can tell you it’s not easy money.

Assuming you have a following, and a compelling story, you still need a great deal of persistence and luck to make it work. The video above showcases a worthwhile new initiative to better tell the story of climate change, and its impacts on society and individuals.

Climate Scientists James Hansen and Jennifer Francis appear in the video above.

To donate, go to the Indie Go-go link below.

Extreme Whether/IndieGo-Go:

George Bartenieff & Karen Malpede, Artistic Directors

 We know we cannot save the Earth until we change the stories people tell.

So we’re marrying art and science to create a new way to talk about climate change, our most compelling play yet, Extreme Whether. And we need you to help with the wedding!

Our newest play Extreme Whether is a powerful family drama that tells the truth about climate change and moves its audience to understand its own power so that, together, we can take action to save the Earth. This may be our most important play.

We use dramatic art to shift the paradigm away from violence toward resilience and from global warming to sustainability. “It is only when artists control their own work, as Malpede and Bartenieff do, that great socially relevant theater can be sustained,” Chris Hedges writes. Noam Chomskysays our work “is a remarkable contribution and I hope that many more people can see it.”We surround our plays with Festivals of Conscience: talks and talk-backs by major writers, activists and experts in the field.

Here’s how The New York Times described Extreme Whether in The Scan column, April 1, 2013:

A new eco-drama about climate change is set in upstate New York during the record-hot summers of 2004 and 2012 will have two readings this month.  The play pits brother against sister in a bitter debate about the future of the planet. In one corner is John Bjornson, a composite of famous climatologists. In the other is his twin sister, Jeanne, an energy spokeswoman married to a skeptical lobbyist. “The play poses this most difficult question of whether we can act in our own defense when faced with a global threat,” says the playwright, Karen Malpede.

Our goal is to raise the funds to launch a full production of Extreme Whether at Theater for the New City in New York City, this March 20 – April 13, 2014. Meanwhile, the script, the music, our “Sniffley” umbrella, and the poster are available as perks.

Washington, Illinois, 11/17/13

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

Damage surveys continue in the Midwest U.S. after a stunning and violent late-season severe weather outbreak swept through on Sunday, killing at least eight people and leaving widespread significant damage. Two violent EF-4 tornadoes and one strong EF-3 tornado hit Illinois, killing six, making Sunday Illinois’ deadliest November day for tornadoes in its history. The most widespread damage from Sunday’s outbreak occurred in the town of Washington (population 16,000), about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, where a violent EF-4 tornado destroyed or heavily damaged 250 – 500 homes and an apartment complex.
NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 85 preliminary tornado reports from Sunday, along with 455 reports of high wind gusts and 32 reports of hail. Seventeen of the wind gusts were in excess of 74 mph (hurricane strength.) The grand total of 572 severe weather reports (filtered to remove duplicates) for the day were themost of any day of 2013, surpassing the 538 total reports from June 13. The 85 preliminary tornado reports is also the highest for any day of 2013, surpassing the 62 reports from January 29.

View of the F-3 Brookport Illinois,  tornado – ironically from the wheelhouse of a coal barge on the Ohio River.

Sunday’s November tornado outbreak: how rare?
Sunday’s outbreak will probably rank as the second to fourth most prolific November tornado outbreak since 1950. But what was really remarkable about the outbreak was how far north it extended. With three confirmed tornadoes on Sunday, Michigan has increased its total number November tornadoes observed since 1950 by 50%, from six to nine. Prior to Sunday, Indiana had recorded 57 November tornadoes. That total increased by 26 on Sunday, which was the 3rd busiest day for tornadoes in Indiana history (the record: 37 tornadoes on June 2, 1990.) Seven confirmed tornadoes occurred in the 23-county region of Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana serviced by the Chicago NWS.

Read the rest of this entry »

Journal of Climate
Research on trends in western North Pacific tropical cyclone (TC) activity is limited by problems associated with different wind speed conversions used by the various meteorological agencies. This paper uses a quantile method to effectively overcome this conversion problem. Following the assumption that the intensity ranks of TCs are the same among agencies, quantiles at the same probability level in different data sources are regarded as having the same wind speed level. Tropical cyclone data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) and Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) are chosen for research and comparison. Trends are diagnosed for the upper 45% of the strongest TCs annually. The 27-yr period beginning with 1984, when the JMA began using the Dvorak (1982)technique, is determined to be the most reliable for achieving consensus among the two agencies regarding these trends. The start year is a compromise between including as many years in the data as possible, but not so many that the period includes observations that result in inconsistent trend estimates. The consensus of TC trends between the two agencies over the period is interpreted as fewer but stronger events since 1984, even with the lower power dissipation index (PDI) in the western North Pacific in recent years.

Geophysical Research Letters:
[1] The Main Development Region (MDR) for tropical cyclones (TCs) in the western North Pacific Ocean is the most active TC region in the world. Based on synergetic analyses of satellite altimetry and gravity observations, we found that the subsurface ocean conditions in the western North Pacific MDR has become even more favorable for the intensification of typhoons and supertyphoons. Compared to the early 1990s, a 10% increase in both the depth of the 26°C isotherm (D26) and Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP) has occurred in the MDR. In addition, the areas of high TCHP (≥ 110 kJ cm−2) and large D26 (≥ 110 m) have 13% and 17% increases, respectively. Because these high TCHP and large D26 regions are often associated with intensification of the most intense TCs (i.e. supertyphoons), this recent warming requires close attention and monitoring.

Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham in the Guardian:

Climate scientists are confident in three ways that climate change will make the impacts of hurricanes worse. First, global warming causes sea level rise, which amplifies storm surges and flooding associated with hurricanes. As a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Aslak Grinsted and colleagues concluded,

“we have probably crossed the threshold where Katrina magnitude hurricane surges are more likely caused by global warming than not.”

Second, as climate scientist Kevin Trenberth has noted, global warming has also increased the amount of moisture in the air, causing more rainfall and amplifying flooding during hurricanes.
Read the rest of this entry »