Archive for May, 2015

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THE AWFUL TRUTH | What no one wants to talk about—Climate Instability

Dang, I wish everyone would just catch up with me.

My focus has always been to deal with the pre-existing, shared values about climate instability and how it affects the Tragedy of the Commons (the atmosphereoceans, rivers, fish stocks, the office refrigerator, energy or any other shared resource which is not formally regulated); values such as:

  • Employment
  • Security
  • Good Health

Stuff everyone wants, right? Some time ago, I reconciled that the hubris of the humanities, religion is furtive. But one doesn’t have to be religious to believe some supreme being wants us to love and care for other people, and that this entity gave this space ship we call ‘Earth’ to people to care for it and every living thing. Problem is, I don’t think (wo)man have been doing a very good job minding the shop, ship.

Sadly, the people most affected by climate instability AKA the ‘indifference’ of Mother Nature, are people who do not have resources to ADAPT. And sadly, climate scientists, politicos and policy folks fear telling the truth for risk of losing their status. This, however, is not a problem for me, the outermost outlier on the curve, the anomaly on this space ship, I have nothing to lose. The truth is, humanity is in for some SERIOUS and AWFUL SHIT!

Ten years ago, during my post-graduate studies in Utrecht, NL, we studied and modeled all this shit that will be exacerbated by climate instability  i.e. extreme heat waves, reduction in global food stocks, lost of ecosystems and biodiversity, and increasing sea levels, unrest/wars, mass migrations. Ja, I and the Dutch get it, because of their ‘painful’ history–not to mention, on a day to day basis, their livelihoods’ are potentially in peril and at the moicy of Mother Nature and rising waters. The Dutch are pretty miff’d at the USA’s slovenly, satiated lifestyles bent on hyper-consumerism. And for the past ten years, I’ve tried to tell this story, but I’m perceived as a looney. Yeah, well, you know…

I mean, let’s look at the science. If we hold the increase in average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, it will still require an unprecedented level of global mobilization and coordination for a long time; decades. However, there is no sign of this happening, and unlikely to be plausible anytime soon. It doesn’t help that the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles was down and sales of SUVs/trucks are up in the USA. Why? Why…

…because all the politicians want to hear is good news and no one wants to hear about what’s really coming down the pipe. They only want to hear that the 2 degree Celsius metric is possible, so they can keep avoiding any near-term aggressive carbon emission cuts. They just can’t deal with or comprehend this positive feedback loop of a ‘snowball’ rolling down a hill. And the only thing that can reverse this is a negative forcing feedback splat on the windshield of Panzer Tank.

I mean if anyone’s been paying attention, for decades (since the 1990s), these ‘pundit’s have been spewing, “We only have 5-10 years to invoke mitigating measures!” Anyone with common sense knows, a 9 year old child understands, 5-10 years came along a long time ago. Fleh.

I’ve been saying for over 10 years, if we are to keep the temperature below this threshold, it means carbon emissions must decrease 6%/annum, implying:

  • Humans must change the consumptive behavior and conserve
  • Humans must not violate the laws of thermodynamics

Ok, I’m breaking the bad news. My stance has always been uncomfortable to those who would give me an ear. Pretty sure they think I’m wrong or crazy or both. Yet what’s happening is we are on a 4 degree Celsius increase that will be catastrophic. Yup, slow and certain disaster is on the way, but rarely rises above the background noise. Yeah, well you know…

As I say, better to invest in PREPARE. to RESPOND. to ADAPT. to the ‘indifference’ of Mother Nature. What’s great is today, I finally heard another scientist, a climate scientist during an interview today use my PREPARE. RESPOND. ADAPT. operatives. [Hearty pat on the back! Atta-gerly, Kimgerly!]

I’m going to go see MAD MAX Fury Road on Monday. Bring on the pain!

Seriously, what is sustainable development?

Today I was knobbing around with performing some back of the envelope calculations on what would happen if all the cars in the USA were instantly converted to electric vehicles [EVs]. I also wondered if this happened, how much more electricity would be needed and how this would affect CO2 emissions. But then, after completing this calculation [summary of my conclusions are at the end of this post], I took a step back again, wondering if this infrastructure were fully realized and developed, how truly sustainable this would be…

It seems today, hardly anyone ever mentions the first step in managing the flow of electrons; energy reduction, conservation or elimination–in two words, behavioral change. It’s all about convenience. And as I brought up in a previous post, when did convenience become a human right?

  • Does one really need more light bulbs or more day lighting?
  • Does one really need the latest clothes dryer or a new piece of rope?

I would hope that those that aspire to go off the grid, first find ways to reduce dependence on electrical items, which can greatly reduce electrical needs, thus making going off grid that much easier. Once one minimizes one’s needs and usage, then a cost-effective system can be designed. Alas, so much of the marketing these days decouples conservation from energy efficiency, making perceptions that energy efficiency is a panacea–it is NOT! Ja, miff’d!

I think part of the problem is, a lot of people from a currency background keep delving into engineering and touting energy independence. Problem is, they don’t understand one of the biggest challenges with deploying an off-grid scenario is seasonal and dependent on geographical predisposition. This is especially HUGE in areas that experience winter, especially in the USA. And so, I would encourage all to look at this idea of electric vehicles, going off grid offerings from a bigger picture perspective, before getting overly excited. The problem we have is green fashionistas who don’t understand the thermodynamics make overly optimistic statements like this about green(er) energy solutions. At best, greener solutions can help ups avoid limits for a little while longer. Not to mention, these green fashionista fail to look at all externalities and the fact that a great deal of renewable energy systems technologies have been and still are predicated on oil–seriously, how do these massive wind turbine generators reach their intended locations? Think about it.

Then there is the matter of what is truly sustainable. Greener solutions are just pushing us from CONG (coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas) to other resources that are also likely to be problems in the longer term. In the matter of all this hype around electric vehicle [EV] batteries, depletion of high quality ores, metals, minerals like lithium, will only leave us with lower quality ores, metals, minerals later on in the future. Batteries that use these rare minerals are likely not very scalable, due to quantity limits and low recycling rates.

Aside: I think using batteries in tandem with renewable energy systems technologies is ‘sacrilegious’. I mean they are toxic, not recyclable, difficult to repurpose. What gives?

And so I say, this is all just a bunch of nuanced, well-intended sustainable development scenarios. When batteries exist that don’t get hammered with time and depth of discharge (DOD), when inverters can simultaneously juggle local production, the grid and a lot more batteries in EVs or other storage devices, then perhaps, real demand relief for the grid can start to happening. It’s going to be a long while for all this, folks, and I’m not expecting it to happen MASSIVELY in my lifetime. Better to PREPARE. to RESPOND. to ADAPT. to what’s coming down the pipe, be it financial or due to the ‘indifference’ of Mother Nature. Fleh.

Oh yeah, about my conclusions…

After looking at the USA energy consumption of gasoline, electricity consumption in 2012-2014, battery longevity, and the cost of switching to all EVs, EVs are not a good way to reduce CO2 emissions give today’s power mix. As a matter of fact, presently, this is pretty darn expensive. But hell, we can invest now or invest HELLA more later, ja?

And so, what I have been saying for over a year now is helping the ‘smoke stack’ industry reduce it’s CO2 emissions is just as good as any wind farm, solar farm or energy efficiency policy/directive. The only way that a massive EV roll-out makes sense is if it is accompanied by a MASSIVE roll-out of renewable energy systems technologies. And based on today’s generation markets, I’d say it’s going to take decades. And so, to me, this all remains to be seen if indeed, this intent to empower citizenry with energy independence by going off the grid will eventually stand as being sustainably developed. And so…

…this all just reaffirms my enquiry on a previous post, A thought about ethanol… if 6% less CO2 will be emitted from EVs, why not just make today’s current auto fleet more fuel efficient to reduce CO2 emissions in the interim future?


Is convenience a human right?

I have been wondering for many a month now, should human rights also protect those things classified under “conveniences and luxuries”? Some people in the world have only what is necessary to survive, while others have luxury and convenience. Is this situation just? Is it a human rights violation?


S.E.E.C. Home | Tiny Houses

Right. I spent the last of my savings to attend graduate school overseas in 2005-2010–never fathoming I’d ever have this much difficulty getting work.  At the time, MSc/Graduate programs in renewable energy engineering and sustainable development were remiss in the USA.  Only to find on my return in 2010, my skills were ahead of the curve, due to lack of adequate energy policy being in place–this is still the case today, and relegating me to the margins. It has become abundantly clear, I am on my own.

However, those I have sought out for assistance to offer solutions to fix my and others housing and employment consternation don’t seem genuinely concerned to fix this matter. Sadly, Oakland, CA is on a trajectory to become another Detroit, MI and Baltimore, MD.

Currently there are ~6,200+ homeless or ~83,000 under-housed/or who can easily become under-housed people in Oakland, CA. Reference: East Oakland Community Project  There is a solution to homelessness–Tiny Houses, a movement I have been following for just over five years now. A few weeks ago, I put this presentation together for a Thin Film Solar Hackathon I entered, I call S.E.E.C. Home.

Aside: I don’t feel like fashioning well-composed paragraphs, so I hope you can indulge my litany of bulleted offerings that follow.

Tiny houses are:

  • Recognized under the auspice of an RV home
  • Affordable. Scalable. Have a lower environmental and natural resources footprint
  • A Tumbleweed House costs: 
    • ~$66K built [top end]
    • ~$29K DIY materials
    • $502/mo for house payment
    • 15 year loan $575/mo
    • A lot faster to build (7-10 weeks) than a high-density, high-rise structure
    • keep down costs using repurposed materials, further reducing the waste stream to landfill
    • Use RESTs (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal) to provide for cleaner electricity production and complementing water resource management
    • Reduce reliance on municipal services
    • Promote employment
    • Combat blight, making a community more livable
    • Support and improve the quality of life of the demographic that is challenged, in decline and making an exodus due to unaffordable rents, but who will now have longer commutes adding to GHG emissions
    • Make Oakland truly greener, progressive, world-class leader
    • and if complemented with urban agriculture, has many benefits.
  • Rent/month in Oakland is ~2-4 times more than rent for a Tiny House! Reference
  • COST OF NOT DOING THIS in Oakland 
    • Oakland 55.70 square miles [2010]
    • Persons/square mile [2010] – 7004
    • Persons/square mile below poverty level – 1,495
    • 1,436 persons x $66,000 = $98,670,000 ~=$98.7 mil
  • Cost to the city to manage plight, blight. Difficult to know for Oakland, CA proper, but what follows are some statistics from other cities:
    • In 2005, Salt Lake City, UT – providing the homeless homes for individuals composed only 14% percent of the state’s total homeless population, and consuming the majority of agencies’ scarce resources. Reference.
    • City spent $20 million a year on this program
    • In UT, a homeless person relying on shelters and soup kitchens:
      • cost the community $19,200
      • whereas, expenses of permanent housing and case management run just $7,800
      • increase the price of law enforcement and medical expenses, which is astounding
      • EXAMPLE ONE: One chronically homeless individual in Salt Lake City racked up:
        •  $563,000 in emergency room charges in 2010
        •  another had hospital bills that almost topped $1 million over three years
      • it’s half the cost of that person receiving services in a shelter if they are placed in housing
      • it’s not only giving them security, but
      • more people can be assisted, helped.
      • EXAMPLE TWO: In 2004, SF estimated that each chronically homeless person costs taxpayers:
        • $61,000 a year,
        • $16,000 it costs to put one person into supportive housing
    • The common denominators to make this work are:
      • creating better housing
      • making sure there’s enough counseling
      • getting all parties to cooperate
      • Reference

Oakland, CA has an opportunity to solve its housing crisis AND promote pilot a model that could work for many urban communities. This is an everyday brilliance for disaster resilience schema, an affordable, agile, adaptable, resilient solution to:

  • homelessness
  • improving Oakland’s status to implement sustainable, greener, cleaner quality of life offerings that will reduce stress on municipal services


  • if coupled with urban agriculture, can also provide opportunities to increase the tax base

However, Oakland needs a high-tech champion to step up on this. But I heard yesterday from an Oakland City Council employee, private developers are no longer interested in coming to Oakland now, because:

  • it now costs the same to do business in Oakland as it does in SF, CA.
  • Google is no longer interested in taking over the Sears building on 20th and Broadway, mainly because of the #uprisings.
  • Aside: Clorox is also leaving Oakland, as are other companies.

Said another way, the tax base is leaving. And so, Oakland, CA is on a trajectory to become another Detroit, MI and/or (my beloved) Baltimore, Murderland.

The city can pay/invest now, or pay HELLA more later. If there was ever a schema to adhere to PREPARE. RESPOND. ADAPT. it’s this. But is anyone listening?

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

Content © 2009-2017 by Kimberly King