Blowing in the Wind

Wind Never Felt Better

Well, we knew it was only a matter of time.  Energy experts predicted it would happen and it now has on a grand scale.  Market players are claiming their products were made with renewable energy.

Watch the Super Bowl ad from Budweiser.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think this is all good … at least to a point.  But, it rarely tells the whole story and we should want to hear that whole story.

I bought a Tesla and I love it.  It came with a temporary license plate claiming it was zero emissions … which it is not.  It may be zero local emissions, but depending upon when I charge it the emissions may be increasing from coal plants for all I know.

And, the real question is have we truly decreased emissions in the entire production string from raw materials to and through the ultimate disposal of our products.  Plastics are now a real hot button for environmentalists and they should be for us as well.

The answer is blowing in the wind, but that is the problem.  We are still not sure what all this really means.  Has anyone really calculated what it costs to ramp fossil fuel capacity up and down to accommodate the wind?  No, because ramping is not in the hourly market, it is in the balancing market and prices there tend to be contractual not based upon kWh.  Hmmm.

Again, I am not lobbying against wind, or solar for that matter.  I am encouraged that retailers now see their energy use as an element of their brand strategy.  Personally I would rather they also included the transportation of their raw materials and distribution into their environmental footprint.  In the case of Budweiser, perhaps they should include the environmental footprint of the Clydesdales as well.

They are also adding to what is blowing in the wind.

Humility and Curiosity

Just when you think some things are fully known, someone moves the cheese.  In this case, it is Mother Earth who seems to be on a tear to relocate the magnetic North Pole from Canada to Siberia.  Compared to tectonic plate movements of a few inches a year, this is NASCAR… and speeding up.

You can google magnetic north pole movement and have yourself a very good time reading essentially the same story published by just about everyone who wants to grab our attention… except of course the evening news since they can’t blame this on Trump or climate change… at least not yet.

Thank goodness we have satellite navigation.  This would be extremely dangerous for those ancient mariners who relied upon compass headings.

My point this week is on a deeper level.  There is something fundamentally wrong in our current thinking that we must have answers to questions.  We do this in our churches, synagogues, and mosques, and we do this in our politics.  We imply we know answers to questions that are, at least in large part, unknowable.

Please think about the subtlety here.  As soon as we even think we know something, we stop being curious about what could also be true or a deeper or higher level of truth.  We pounce on incomplete discovery and declare it to be more than it is… just that… a discovery… a shred of the truth or deeper meaning.  It is almost NEVER the WHOLE truth.

When we do this we fail the test I would like to suggest we carry for everything this year: humility and curiosity.   We should hunger for learning and be mindful of our powers in this world.  Any time mother nature wants to wipe us out, she can do that in a heartbeat.

Now That’s a Fact!!

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

An article in USA Today struck me as extremely relevant to our journey toward a sustainable and efficient world.  I don’t think there is a single professional I know that would disagree with that goal … the only disagreement would be how we pay for it.

Getting anything changed requires the art of negotiation and navigation of complex politics.  That requires winning the votes to get things done.  And, if any recent voting comes to mind, I am sure you will agree with me that perceptions are seldom based upon solid facts.  One of my recent blogs pointed out that even the assumption that the world is round has its critics.

So, this article on how people think of life’s issues seems relevant.

How can it be that a world dominated by the internet and with information as freely available as it is that we can be this misinformed?  Could it be that we have a world view and filter what we see and hear to support that point of view?

Critical thinking seems to get a bad rap when it points out how silly things we hold dear really are once you really look at them.  Some of my religious progressive friends like to taunt others with the seasonal assumption that a star literally stopped in its progression in the heavens to point to the birth of Jesus.

Sorry if I offended any of you … remember, I couched that as a progressive friend of mine.  That would seem safe, right?  What if I told you that I believed the story of a star or even a planet if you prefer stopped in its path?

See the pattern?  Our son’s favorite play is Wicked.  My favorite part of this is the soliloquy by the Wizard in the song Wonderful where he states: “Where I come from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history. A man’s called a traitor or liberator. A rich man’s a thief or philanthropist.  Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist.  There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don’t exist.”

Memory Hacks

Photo Courtesy AJC

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that there are three things that become really challenging in our lives as we get older.  The first is that we lose our memory.  I can’t remember the other two.

The internet seems awash in things to make our lives simple.  Using everyday household items in ways we never thought about.  They are called “Hacks” because someone unlocked a now obvious secret to life through creative uses of things.  Some are downright dangerous and could qualify for the Darwin Awards.

When I moved to the South about 35 years ago I was told about all the ways food was served at Waffle House and taken to one as a part of my indoctrination.  I have blogged about the wonderful employee culture at these places.

It is amazing all the ways people order their breakfast.  How can the cook remember all the specifics?  They have an official hack posted in the restaurant and the short order cooks memorize it.  They need to. I have seen the cheat sheet on the wall near the grill.   Here is a picture of it someone took.

I love these breakfast places compared to regular sit down restaurants.  There is something incredibly social about being right in the midst and across from all the action.  So, one morning I got there very late and decided to order lunch: a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on plain white bread … not toasted.

The waitress took my order and blurted: One BLTNT … and I thought … hmmm … clever shorthand.

Unfortunately, the tomato was so fresh and juicy it leaked through the bottom slice of bread so when I got it I could not get it off the plate.  I chirped:  SOB and she looked at me … and then I explained:  Soggy On the Bottom.

In her heavy southern accent and with her shoulders thrown back in utter disgust she says: Well S .. H .. I .. T!

I looked at her quizzingly … so she explains: “Should Have had It Toasted!”



That Invisible Hand

Almost everyone attending college takes an economics course and hears at least one lecture on the “law of supply and demand” in which the phrase the invisible hand will be ascribed to a legend in the field: Adam Smith as expressed in the Wealth of Nations.  The energy industry has a long history of a love-hate relationship to this invisible hand.  We invented demand response to limit the price spikes when demand exceeded supply and we came up with incentive rates to increase demand when supplies were in excess of that.

I am wondering what Adam Smith might say if he were brought up to date about the state of affairs in the American energy situation now that solar has both stopped the growth of energy use while also destroyed the load factor in ways few imagined.  Our brilliant engineers and accountants crafted all sorts of cost allocation and cost recovery mechanisms based upon the past … and they are not up to the challenges of the near term and the future.

But, while the electric utilities are still just now preparing to think this through with their legislators, regulators, and communities the petroleum industry seems to be taking the gloves off.  Here was an article/advertisement/opinion piece from the USA Today.  

It seems another Politics makes strange bedfellows. This saying is adapted from a line in the play The Tempest , by William Shakespeare: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

Misery … yep … that’s it.