Sunday, November 11, 2018

Population is a killer for Global Warming. Good news, Kinda.

The world's out of control human population growth is something that few people want to talk about loudly because it sounds so very insensitive. But the increase in world population at nearly exponential levels is non-sustainable and multiplies all issues of sustainability: exhausting natural resources, pollution, etc. Estimates are that world population will grow to between 9m and 11m by mid century and then slowly decline.
 World Population Estimates
Source: OurWorldInData

The problem with increased population is a double whammy. Not only are there more people, but the footprint of each person should raise dramatically as more people enter the middle class (or higher). Countries like China and India that have burned only 2 barrels of oil per person annually, can be expected to move up their consumption to 4 or 5 times that, more in line with the USA. People that eat lower on the food chain, rice and corn, can be expect to start eating beef and pork which takes 20 to 30 times the resources to produce. 

But, a new study, published in the Lancet, has found that fertility rates since 1950 have dropped faster and further than anyone expected. (See the BBC article by James Gallagher on this study.)

The low fertility rates in developed countries means that their populations should start shrinking (without net immigration). In 1950 women had an average of 4.7 children in their lifetimes, a rate that is now half at 2.4! Fertility rates less than about 2.1 result in a decrease in population (excluding net immigration). Many of the developed countries, like the UK with 1.7, have less than 2. Japan has 1.3. With fewer young people to work, the aging retired population becomes a bigger and bigger burden on the economy. It will take decades for the change in fertility to work through the population levels. 

Economic development has long looks at the use of population to improve the overall economy; more people could/should result in more things produces and a bigger economy. However, per capita economic development can be significantly improved by reducing the number of children. If the economy increases at 5%, but population also increases at 5%, then the per capita income remains the same. China reduced the rate of population growth, and that contributed dramatically to the improved per capita income and the rise of the middle class. I just saw stats talking about the percent of Chinese in extreme poverty at about 1950; more than 90% of the population lived in extreme poverty (currently a purchase-power-parity of $1.9 per day). By 2018, only about 1% of Chinese are in extreme poverty.  Controlling their population was a big contributor to China moving to surpass the USA in terms of economic power (GDP of more than $23T vs $19.5T for US). (Of course their single-child policies have caused many other problems and has recently been relaxed.) 

China and India represent about 35.7% of the worlds population with 1.4B and 1.34B, respectively. China has stomped on the brakes for decades; India has only tapped on the brakes. China's growth rate is only 0.39, while India's is 1.2. US is 0.71 and Japan is -0.23.

So, a big sustainability question, is first to stop the increase in population world-wide and regionally. But should sustainability initiative actually champion the reduction of world population. One way or another we need to get back to the carrying capacity of Mother Earth.  When you look at Earth over-shoot day, which has moved to August 1, it becomes graphically clear how much we are depleting the earths resources to live beyond our means. Stated differently, about 212 days into the year, we exhausted the renewable resources provided by the earth (and sun), so the resources consumed in the remaining 153 days of the year are depleting resources. In 1987, overshoot day was December 19th; in 2000, overshoot day was November 1.

This is the same as your annual salary paying all your bills until August 1 (58% of the year), and then you have to borrow money to pay for the rest of the year. Each and every year, you have to borrow more because the overshoot day keeps moving earlier in the year. Non-sustainable issues like overshoot are cumulative, and compounding. Not only do you owe the cumulative total of all the borrowing, but the interest keeps growing at an expanding rate using the magic of compounding.

We need to get our overshoots (and deficits) under control, and start to make the magic of compounding work for us, not against. Getting countries (and world) population growth under control is probably the most important factor in sustainability, and ultimately, the health and wellness of our plant. It's pretty important, as well, for those things that have become accustomed to living on this planet.! 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Wind n Sun are now cheaper/better than Coal, NatGas, etc

By now you probably knew it was happening, but you probably didn't realize how much and how fast. If you figure subsidies, Solar and Wind are a slam-dunk powerful option.
Wind prices have been dropping fast and solar has been dripping like lead... Solar prices have dropped about 86% over the last 8 years.
Check out the latest 2018 report by Lazard. Note that they also analyze renewables with storage (batteries).
The Solar incentives make the solar option for most settings (especially in Sunny Florida) crazy profitable. For example, the investment of $100 for a rather serious system (much more than a home residence would need) would have a tax credit of 30%, plus 100% depreciation in the first year. So, if you had a 20% tax rate, your investment would look like this:
$100k Investment
-30k Tax Credit
-20k Depreciation
=50k Net investment. (Thant's only 50% of the original investment.)

Payback would be less than 8 years, maybe 5.
The power company has historically increased prices by 3% (or more in Florida)... Not a problem if you are producing your own power.

Return on investment would probably be 20% or greater after 20 years.
Solar in sunny places like Florida is a pretty good investment; but with the tax benefits solar is a crazy profitable investment. Plus you are saving lots of other resources including water and carbon dioxide.
We're working on a few calculators. Solar and Renewable Energy. This is a positive investment that keeps on giving.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Criminal Injustice: Is abnormal non-sustainable?

We at SustainZine look for things that are abnormal, things that are so inefficient and clearly irresponsible that they should be categorized as non-sustainable. We think the Criminal Justice system in the USA qualifies and non-sustainable.

Question, what is a "normal" rate of incarceration for you citizens? And if you are a way out-of-control outlier to the other developed countries, does this represent non-sustainability.
That is, if you don't put anyone in jail, are you leaving your citizens to be rampaged by mobs and vigilantes? If you have far more people in jail than any other developed country, is this non-sustainable. When does it fully represent a "broken" system of (in)justice.

Our sister site (or talks about the US criminal system of incarceration. It is clearly broken, and totally not sane: More prisoners in US than any other country: Criminal (In)Justice Scenarios.

Here is the first paragraph:

The US has the most people incarcerated of any country in the world… Even though we only have 4.3% of the world’s population, we have more inmates -- 2.2 million -- than China (1.5m) and India (0.3m), combined (36.4% of world population)! We have 23% of China’s population but 40% more incarcerated. We have almost 1% of our population (0.737%) incarcerated! We have 6 times higher incarceration rate than China, 12 times higher that Japan, and 24 times the rates in India and Nigeria. That’s right, an American has a 1,200% greater chance of being incarcerated than a Japanese citizen. We have even a 20% higher incarceration rate than Russia with 0.615% of their population in (Siberian) prisons and jails.

Tell us what you think. Is this insane? Do we need to reform? What do you think could be rationally called a "sustainable" level of incarceration?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Backup to a Better Backup Generator Solution

You may already have a backup generator for the house. In fact, you may have the backup generator with you just about everywhere you go. Plus, it might be totally quiet, for hours.
Yep, we are talking about your hybrid gas-electric vehicle. Hybrids have been selling like crazy on the farms because they can easily be used to generate 120-volt electricity to run hand tools and generally provide backup power.

Most newer vehicles offer a 120 plug, but they won’t power much. What you need is an inverter that will power whatever you want, frequently 300 to 400 watts will be sufficient for many applications. Smaller inverters can be simply plugged into a cigarette lighter, but bigger inverters should be wired directly to the battery.

A backup solution for the house is rather awkward, inconvenient and requires fuel at a time when the least fuel is available, storms and outages. Here’s the cost for a generator solution.

The generator solution costs something like this:
·         Generator $500 (or about $500 to $1,000 for an inverter that is much quieter and provides smoother power).
·         Fuel, maybe 8 to 12 gals per day. At 10 gals x $3 is $30 per day.
·         Storage of generator and fuel cans.
Traditional generators (gas or propane or diesel) provide lots of smoke, noise, and require maintenance. The generator produces electricity, even under very low loads, so much (maybe most) of the electricity (and fuel) is wasted.
Generators are best used some distance from the house so as not to asphyxiate the inhabitants.
Tip. Make sure not to allow the generator to run out of fuel, the sputtering causes the generator to surge which kills off appliances at an alarming rate.
Auto with Inverter
Hooking an inverter to the vehicle may be a very good solution for many purposes, especially lower loads in the house such as refrigerator, lights and fans. However, you will have to go start the vehicle before the battery gets too low. (Taking regular lead batteries below 50% will seriously erode their life span.)
A 1000-Watt inverter can cost between $80 and $110 (modified-sine wave), and about twice that for the higher quality output of a pure-sine wave recommended for sensitive electronics.
Your vehicle is rather quiet, and rather fuel efficient compared to a generator. Your typical vehicle will not be able to handle large loads, however. One approach is to set up a battery (or battery bank) that can be recharged via the vehicle.
Even better is to hook up to your hybrid vehicle.
Hybrid Vehicle with Inverter
The hybrid vehicle is a wonderful backup power supply, just like the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) you use for your computers and wifi. You can have continuous power as needed, when needed. Plus, the hybrid vehicle is designed to start up the motor and recharge when the collective batteries get low. Very cool.
Here’s how you do it. Hook up your power inverter directly to the 12-Volt (direct current) battery of the hybrid vehicle to produce alternating current (120 AC). Put the vehicle in the “on” mode, but with all the vehicle electronics turned off, i.e., turn the air conditioner and lights off. Now, when the batteries run low, the vehicle will automatically start to recharge all the batteries, lithium as well as the 12-volt battery.
Tip: Please make sure the vehicle is in a safely ventilated area. Do not set this arrangement up in the garage!
Add in a Battery (Bank) and a Solar Panel (or More)
So good news, you now have an inverter with your vehicle so you can use good, clean, quiet power anywhere you and your Prius happen to be. Yippee!
But how about the home or cabin when the Prius is away?
Get a battery or more, and hook up the inverter to it. This should help you get through several hours with just the refrigerator. Batteries of this type (deep cycle, for example) will cost $150 to $350 each.
Then, get a solar panel, or more, and hook them up to recharge your batteries during sunlight hours. (Costco has a 100W Coleman with 8.5 amp charge controller for $159.)
Now, I have continuous power for low load (the battery plus a 1100W inverter at $90, all for under $400). I’ll buy more batteries and/or more solar panels as and when I need them. The 1100-watt inverter does everything that I want to do in emergency or in the cabin. It does a small air conditioner (window unit or small mini-split for a short period of time; a refrigerator for several hours; LED lights and fans for days). It won’t do central air, well pump, oven, dryer, hot-water heater, microwave, or several heavy load items simultaneously. Bigger load electronics include blenders (making Hurricanes and Margaritas), blow dryer; coffee pots, electric saw, etc…
Be careful putting together your system and your battery banks. Hooking two 12V 100 amp batteries together can result in doubling of the voltage (48 Volt in series) or double the amps (200 amp hours in parallel) depending on how you hook them together. Make sure you get the right inverter to match the higher voltage if you go in series. Try to get the same batteries if you bank ‘em.
I can see you eyeing your electric golf cart, you already have your own battery bank on wheels. Unfortunately, the voltage will be 36 or 48 Volts (say 6 x 6-volt batteries hooked up in series is 36 volt). Your inverter would need to match the voltage of your cart (or carefully hook up a 12-volt inverter to 12-volt battery equivalent, which in this case is two 6-volt batteries).
In short, you may already have a great backup power supply solution. Hook up your hybrid to an inverter and you are good to go. Add in a battery (or more) and a solar panel (or more) and you have a nice, quiet, renewable power solution.
Tip. Use a volt meter. The meter is cheap. Burning out electronics can be expensive, cause fires, shock the bejeebers out of you, and generally be very inconvenient!
Tip2. When you buy your new hybrid vehicle you get “up to” $7,500 back in the form of current-year tax credits! The federal tax credits for new EV and PHEV cars (and for home solar, as well) are phasing down, so you might want to accelerate your purchasing decisions. (See ins and outs of tax credit for vehicles at Edmonds.)

Do we all need to rethink the way the design/plan for (emergency) backup power? Let us know what you think? 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Our Sister site, IPZine, just published an article about Sustainable Ag and the Monsanto Dilemma.

Where Intellectual Property (IP) and Sustainability Meet (GMO and Monsanto)

Monsanto is an IP Giant. Or was. Patented both the herbicide (RoundUP) and GMO crops designed to ignore it. But, Monsanto has been less than honest with us. Glyphosate, and Monsanto's fate, in jeopardy. #IPZine #GMO #NonGMO #glyphosate

RoundUp is a cocktail that contains glyphosate and several "inactive" ingredients. But, don't take the research on glyphosate to guarantee an exact comparison with RoundUp which contains surfactant(s) among other agents to help the herbicide stick and penetrate. In addition, RoundUp seems to build up over time, especially with increased usage (because of increased week tolerance).
Combine that with genetically modified crops, and you have a trifecta of experimentation on the world's food supply.
Monsanto takes both sides of the bet, making money on the RoundUp side and on the genetically modified crop side. Even though the patents on seeds and on roundup are expiring, Monsanto has been using all means at its disposal to maintain monopoly power (on the US ag markets).
Plus, there's RoundUp Ready 2 Yield(r), the next generation.
Enjoy the read at IPZine and think about how comfortable you are with our US food supply?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Corn that fertilizes itself with Nitrogen Fixing bacteria.

This is a cool article in Science by Ed Young about a giant corn varietal in Sierra Mixe Mexico that grows in very poor soil, but actually fertilizes itself. There's a bacteria that grows around the roots that absorbs nitrogen from the air and provides it to the corn. The team of researchers led by Alan Bennett from UC Davis referred to this a "Nitrogen Fixing" which works just like roots absorbing nitrogen from the soil.
In this case, the soil is very poor quality, so the corn actually gathers nitrogen from the air (78% nitrogen for dry air).
One major disadvantage of this corn is that it takes 8 months to mature.
The benefits are many. In a linear world of farming, row crops are raise on big farms and the crop shipped off to marked (cities), which deplete the soil. So fertilizers are needed to replenish the soil to grow the next crop. The fertilizers (mainly phosphate and nitrogen) end up running off into the water ways and result in massive ecological damage such as algae blooms and red tide.
Because fertilizers are expensive to buy, and expensive to apply, farmers continue to do a better job with fertilizers. (Other factors like urbanization, turf grass and golf course are taking over lead positions in pollution generation.)   However, linear systems in farming are non-sustainable, broken systems, compared to Regenerative Farming approaches that use non-til and corp rotations to restore the quality of the soil.
To commercialize this "nitrogen fixing" cereal crop requires some improvements, new varietals (sexual reproduction) or genetically engineered (GMO crops). The intellectual Property (IP) of such crops will be important. Profits and the capitalist system at work, availability to the people and countries that need it, and the property rights protections that make IP work are just a few important ingredients in the dissemination of new technology -- in this case, new crops.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Attributes of Successful Sustainable Leaders

Great article on Sustainable Leaders: The 8 Attributes of Successful Sustainable Leaders by Bob Langert over at
In our experience and prior research, communications is key to success for the sustainability professional. Yes, communications is a tool, but the first skills needed are communications: both internal, external and collaborative. Marketing internally is simply rallying the troupes, and demonstrating the case, including the value proposition. Externally, it is some combination of public relations, promotion, marketing and sales in order to demonstrate the value to customers business partners and the public.
Getting the government to work with, not against, sustainability is often very tricky since there are often many players with very short term interests that run against sustainability (real estate developers, coal and oil, for example).
So let's gauge the 8 attributes (although I don't think they were in any particular order) by Langert toward the level of communications involved:
  • Courage. Courage to speak up for what is the right thing to do.
  • Conviction. 
  • Cleverness. 
  • Contrariness. 
  • Collaboration. This is the one factor that fully requires communications at all levels. Plus it is one of the main attributes of traditional leadership: collaborative vs. authoritative. 
  • Cheerfulness. Funny, but true.
  • Charisma. A traditional leadership approach/style that has been demonstrated to work in getting people to follow a leader.
  • Humility. Being humble does require a special kind of communications. 
We are all in the world of sustainability together. The trick is to get people to think long(er) term and then back up to best decisions for everyone in the present. Although you can't argue with Langert's list of 7 Cs and and H, you have to admit that it doesn't really capture the full nature of a successful leader in the world of sustainability.
It does give those of us who are trying to be successful in sustainability efforts, something to think about.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Internet will be underwater sooner than you might think

Found this on the Weather Channel, where it discusses a study that discusses the impacts on rising oceans on... The Internet.
It makes sense. Population centers are, what, 80% within a few miles of oceans. All the phone and Inet cables would run along roads through population areas...
Business Insider discusses so called Sunny Day Flooding from high tied and kind tide.
As the sea levels rise there will be more flooding. Flooding will start to hit lots of underground cables (including Internet cables) that are water resistant, but not waterproof.

With all the analysis of Global Warming, most of the scenarios assume that we take some action to avoid the worst cases. Also, there had been expectations for 20-30 years that we would start to run out (or at least low) on the fossil fuels, and thereby increase costs from shortages would result in "conservation" efforts. But Fracking and horizontal drilling has changed all that. Ten years ago, noone, not even the oil baron Boone Pickens, could expect that the world would reach 100m barrels of oil per day. It was not conceivable. But we have made it. Happily burning away, even with generally more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But the Business as Usual (BAU) models that were considered the absolute worst case in climate models, seems to be where we find ourselves. The general thinking was that we probably had about another 50 years before big problems from global warming come home to roost. Well, this study figures otherwise. Within 10-15 years these problems, and the associated plethora of costs, should start showing up with a vengeance.

The water issues will be massive and devastating. Salt water intrusion will become really expensive. Imagine entire cities moving from lots of fresh water and fresh water wells, to no fresh water. Desalinization is obviously possible, but requires lots of energy, plus massive amounts of plant and infrastructure.

And, we have not even begun to talk about the devastating impacts of hurricanes when the sea levels are a couple more feet above "normal".

No pretty pictures on the waterfront here!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Babcock Ranch aims to be first solar-powered town in US | USA News | Al Jazeera

Babcock Ranch aims to be first solar-powered town in US | USA News | Al Jazeera:

This is in partnership with FPL (Nextera) for the power. The powerplant is already up and running that will support an almost 200,000 home community.  FPL has extended the solar to include 10 megawatts of battery, thus allowing the solar power plant to offer more flexibility to the power grid and on-demand peaking power.

The 440 acres for the power plant (now with about 350,000 PV panels) were donated to FPL at the Babcock Ranch. The whole town is 100% electric with electric trolley and charging stations. They even have SolarTrees(tm) for you to charge your phone or laptop in the park and demonstrate how solar works.

This city is west of LaBelle on the way toward Ft Meyers. Very sustainable. Now has several developers building and each home has the "option" to have solar installed.

Here's another take with a human touch from FoxNews. Talking about the first people to move into the "city" and the first baby to be born in Babcock Ranch.

This is a very cool example of how a city can be built from the ground up as sustainable -- zero carbon footprint, as it pertains to electricity. There is the obvious question, however, of urban sprawl to suburbia, that has had suburban sprawl.

In a city, with lots and lots of impermeable surfaces (roofs and parking lots), it would be very possible to retrofit the sustainability solutions.

Way to go FPL. Within five years (2023), FPL plans to produce more from solar than from coal+NatGas combined. Additionally, FPL's sister company FPL Energy is the largest wind producer in the US, and 2nd largest in the world. !:-)  ... NextEra is the publicly ~$75B market cap holding company (NEE).

FPL does have some nuclear, with plans and approval for expansion. The Turkey Point plant has been problematic and has its own set of issues. Leaks in the cooling canals, and no real plan for ways to store nuclear waste, has the Sierra Club (a group that should generally be friendly to nuclear) up in arms.  They also don't like some of the sweet-heart deals for FPL that have been approved (rubber-stamped) by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). The sneaky and deceptive amendment on the Florida ballet last year -- a move designed to kill solar -- by the southern power companies (in which FPL donated $8m) is still fresh in the minds of Floridians.

Nuclear in general has issues in the future energy mix. Nuclear is wonderful for base load, but not great as a peaking power source. If/when we move seriously and definitively toward solar in Florida, there should be high renewable energy at various times throughout the day, and none during rain or at night, so nuclear continues to be less effective. See how California is planning the retirement of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and looking for other forms of peaking power as more and more power comes from renewables. Nuclear plants seem to have no plan, of any kind, as to what to do with nuclear wast; the only plan seems to be to hold on-site forever.

At some point the power monopolies need to deal with the reality that every home and every business can and will generate part or all of their electricity. This means that the future of the grid is connecting power creators with power consumers using a smart grid and dynamic pricing. Part of the day I may be a net producer, part of the night I may be a net consumer. One analogy of this type of Smart Grid is to think of it like the Internet. Sometimes I'm uploading content, sometimes I'm downloading. The Internet directs from where power is produced, to where it is needed. The Smart Grid power company will be more like the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of old by providing power as needed, where needed. The internet of things (IoT), but with power, is essentially what we're talking about. Maybe the Energy of Everything (EoE)?:-)

Power companies need a new business model (currently the model is based on ROE with the PSC assuring prices that justify a good return on investment). Producing and selling more and more electricity to make more and more money is a broken model. Building bigger and grander centralized power plants is horribly inefficient; about 60% of energy is lost in the production (steam) and distribution.

We are really glad to see FPL's effort into solar. Florida, and NextEra, could do more. Time for the power monopolies to make the change before they get overrun. The power model is changing... Trying to block this massive change is a little like stacking rocks in front of a glacier ...

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Solar Fit 052618 by flaglerbroadcasting Elmer Hall with Bill Gallagher EE & Telework

Solar Fit 052618 by flaglerbroadcasting | Free Listening on SoundCloud:


Give a listen to my May 26th appearance on the Solar-Fit radio show with host Bill Gallagher, “Solar Fit Renewable Energy Show” on channel 106.3 FM WNZF News Radio. (Elmer Hall on 05/26/18). You can also find the show, and past shows, archived at Solar-Fit:

It is a fun and informative show. I talked about our collective missed opportunities in energy efficiencies (EE) in buildings and telecommuting (Sustainable Remote Work centers). I like the idea of Negawatt, the Watt of electricity that is never used, so it is never produced. A similar idea is the Negagallon of gas, the gallon of gas never used because you avoided driving (like telecommuting).

There are surprisingly huge savings from both building efficiencies (Negawatts) and teleworking (Negagallons).  These are both win-win-win ideas that Bob Hinkelman – a partner and coauthor (2017, 2018) – and I have worked on and have amazing potential.
  • EE in buildings. Our estimates are that the savings from energy efficiency in buildings
    could save about $300B in the US each year with the “change in your pocket” (things like programable thermostats, LEDs, smart meters, caulk and duct tape), i.e., stuff that has a payback immediately or within one year. (See Alliance to Save Energy for great tips.) For new construction, a greener building can have 80% lower operating costs and be healthier, while costing within 10% of more traditional construction costs.
    EE TIP. Do an energy audit – usually provided by your local power company (frequently for free) – to evaluate current usage and best places
    to start conserving energy.
    EE TIP2. First take your energy use down through energy efficiency, thereby reducing dramatically the energy requirements when evaluating the next steps toward a zero-carbon footprint like solar, wind and geothermal.
  • Remote Work Center for telework. At Strategic Business Planning Company, we have done a lot of work related to the concept of telecommuting and providing workers the easy ability to work from home or from a work-center that is very close to home. Based on Lister and Harnish
    numbers from 2010, we estimate the total savings from just 10% of the commuters who drive along to teleworking would result in about $357B in savings per year (113M x 10% = 11.3M * $31,600 = $357B).  In 3 years, that would be more than $1.1T in savings. Or, with 30% of the drive-alones switching to telecommuting, that would be $1.1T in savings each, and every, year. That is a perpetuity of savings. (At 5% interest, a perpetuity of $1.1T represents $21.4T net
    present value terms ­– more than the entire annual US Gross Domestic Product in 2018.)
    Telework  TIP. Selectively pilot teleworking from home and log the time, distance, and productivity.
In both building EE and telework, it is important to monitor and measure result. It is especially important to monitor the many benefits of the Negawatt and the Negagallon that don’t immediately show up in dollar savings. Allocating the financial savings is a nice way to fully enjoy the direct savings as well.
  • Smart Savings and disposable Income. Savings of energy, say $100, is worth much more than the equivalent of income. An individual would need 30% to 50% more in salary (say $130 in gross income or $150 dollars for the employer) to equate to the same amount of disposable income. For a business with 10% net income, it would require about $1,000 increase in sales to equate to $100 increase in disposable cash. This is a perpetuity of savings (or a commitment to the increased sales indefinitely).
    $TIP. Log the results and put the savings into a separate account or fund. The $100 per month that would have gone to utilities could, for example, be automatically posted to an IRA account, potentially amplifying it by your tax rate. Or, use the savings to help pay for a Solar PV system.
    $TIP2. The 30% Federal Tax credit for energy efficiency for individuals makes the investment in new energy efficient appliances and renewable energy very attractive, usually with a 3- to 9-year payback (and life-time present value is often double your investment).
The remote work center concept we have been working on, we call E3 because of the win-win-win savings to the employer, employee and environment. Many companies already have a telecommuting option for employees who can work from home, but most companies don’t appreciate all the benefits. Many managers still have the mindset that they want to see your smiling face at work at 8am, no matter how many hours in traffic it takes for you to get there. About 50% to 60% of the current
commuters should be able to telework once a week or more. This utilizes current technology and does not require any government “help”.

In all cases of efficiency, we want to measure and record the savings. With consolidated reporting, the savings can be reported to the individual company, while aggregated statistics would be provided by city, region and state. Both the estimates of costs savings for reduced travel and CO2 (CO2 equivalent) savings will be gathered. The carbon savings could, potentially, be sold as carbon
credits (like in California) or utilized by the company for its own internal costing structure in Corporate Social Responsibility reporting.

The total costs of commuting are 25 to 30 times more than the costs associated with gas. The lost hours, the stress, the likelihood of getting into accidents, etc., make the complete costs more like $35,000 to $40,000 for a single telecommuter. In 2010, based on significant available research, Kate Lister and Tom Harnish (2010) estimated that the cost savings to the employer were about $21,400 for a full-time telecommuter. The big costs are recruiting, hiring and training a replacement worker when the current employee quits because of the commute, or gets disabled from an accident because of the additional hours per week in traffic. Lister estimated only about $8,000 for the employee, including gas; but we believe it is much more – probably $10,000 to $15,000 – because we focus
on drive-alone commuters (and include costs that are reasonable, but not included in the 2010 Lister study). The environmental savings are less than $2,000 per telecommuter by Lister, but we estimate that number could be much higher, like $5,000 to $10,000, when considering the big externality costs.

All things considered, the savings from a full-time-equivalent teleworker could be $40,000 to $50,000 per year. The savings to the employer, employee and environment are massive.

Individually, we are missing big opportunities every day. Put those savings together for everyone, and it makes a world of difference.

See – well, listen, actually – to my Solar-Fit Renewable Energy radio show: Elmer Hall on 05/26/18. What do you think?
You will find other great episodes on Solar-Fit Renewable Energy Radio!:-)
Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2018). Perpetual Innovation™: A guide to strategic planning, patent commercialization and enduring competitive advantage, Version 4.0. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press. ISBN: 978-1-387-31010-4 Retrieved from:
Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2017). Perpetual Innovation™: Patent primer 4.0:
Patents, the great equalizer of our time! An overview of intellectual property
for inventors and entrepreneurs.
  Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press.  ISBN:
978-1-387-07026-8 Retrieved from: [Amazon v4.0e  ASIN: B074JJCDHG Retrieved from:
Lister, K. & Harnish, T. (2010, May). Workshifting benefits: The bottom line. Retrieved from

Specific Radio Show of Elmer Hall:
The radio show archives:

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller, plus Glyphosate fate

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades | Business | The Guardian:

There is lots of mounting evidence against Roundup, and/or the use of genetically modified crops. The research seems to be evenly split between the research paid for by Monsanto ( directly or indirectly ) and the more independent research that points to issues.

The evidence is pretty clear, however, of the negative impact of prolonged glyphosate use on the soil.

Want to know more about Glyphosate on the soil, go to the Soil Association  ( They summarized available research related to the impact of glyphosate on soil health as of mid 2016. They found mixed results but strong evidence to support serious concerns about glyphosate and its impact on these specific areas of soil health:
1) leaching into the water, especially with prolonged glyphosate exposure
2) impact on soil micro-organisms, especially when regular use of herbicide(s)
3) impact on fungi (that live near plant roots that provide nutrients as well as protect against drought and disease
4) severity and occurrence of crop diseases
5) impact on earthworms.

For example, two studies found no impact of glyphosate on earthworms, 4 studies did (related to reproduction, movement or activity of different species of earthworms).

Although the World Health Organization has a report that suggests that glyphosate can "probably" cause cancer, other international organizations have not gone so far. See the article in Wikipedia on glyphosate.

Note that glyphosate was first patented in 1950 as a chelator. "Stauffer Chemical patented the agent as a chemical chelator in 1964 as it binds and removes minerals such as calciummagnesiummanganesecopper, and zinc." (View patent here.)

It wasn't until 1970s that Monsanto came out with its patented herbicide under the brand name RoundUp.

Note that a chelator can be used to deliver certain minerals as a fertilizer to the soil in ways that would not otherwise be readily absorbable to plants. But in the case of glyphosate, it ties up critical minerals (calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc), depriving the plant (weed) to the point of killing it.

Glyphosate is a registered pesticide (EPA) since 1970s. The most recent draft of the risk assessment by the EPA is here. The draft is open for discussion, so those people/organizations who think that glyphosate is more of a health (and nutrition) risk than Monsanto would want us to believe have an  opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

RoundUp is applied to the entire field, both the genetically modified crop (corn or soy) and the weeds within. The weeds die, the crop does not. But you have to wonder about the health and nutritional value of the crop?

It is unlikely that Monsanto has been fully truthful and completely forward on the health impacts of phosphate. It seems even more unlikely that Monsanto has been totally forthright on the nutritional values of organics vs. industrial farming with GMO crops that are heavily doused with glyphosate.

If Monsanto has been untruthful, these court cases could go against the company. If the company has been covering up damning evidence, it could become really, really ugly for the company.

No matter what happens, the merger of Monsanto with Bayer is eminent. (Bayer's $66B buyout offer is from September of 2016, but still facing regulator approval.) Monsanto has enough negative image issues, that the name should be discontinues within a year or so. It will be interesting to see how much liability from RoundUp, Bayer will bear!???

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

California Becomes First State to Mandate Solar on New Homes - Bloomberg

California Becomes First State to Mandate Solar on New Homes - Bloomberg:

California is 1/3 of the US economy and probably 1/3 of the US housing market. So, when California voted today to have mandatory solar on most new construction houses, this blows the top off of the non-solar rooftop.

Headlines read that the CA house will now cost about an additional $10,000 to build with the energy efficiency and solar roof mandates. This Bloomberg article says that the savings will be about twice the increase in building costs.

True, it costs more to build, but the operating costs are dramatically less.

This is related to new houses, so the decision is easier than for an existing house.

However, that decision should be really simple as well for a house with good sun exposure. There are tax credits and ways to finance that will allow the homeowner to pay for the solar system out of the savings in power, until the whole solar system is paid off in 15-20 years and then it is a perpetuity of savings!...

So, a $40,000 system in Florida is $28,000 after a 30% federal tax credit. The payment on the loan would be equal to, or less than the payments for electricity, on average. And, after you pay off the system in, say, 15 years, you have about $250 worth of net savings per month for a long, long time. That's $3,000 per year in year 15; as a perpetuity, at 5% interest, the net present value is about $29,000 positive.

Wait a minute. That is more, net present value-wise, then the entire out-of-pocket cost of the system if you had paid cash up front (less the tax credit). But you may not have paid any cash up front for it and paid all loan/lease payments from the savings on the electric bill!

So, if the same math applies for a $300,000 home in California (cause everything's far more expensive in California), which is now increased to $310,000. The additionally $10k can be separately financed; probably, with terms of nothing down and loan payments that are less than the electric bill. That is, from day one, the cash flows from operations are as good or better than paying full electric bills.

Once you pay off the PV loan, you now have free electricity, for a long time.

Plus, it is good for the environment and reduces CO2 emissions, and significantly reduces the reliance on centralized energy production form your favorite power utility.

The net present value of the cash flows may be $10-$20,000 positive.

A couple important factors: Power companies have traditionally increased costs by more than the level of inflation (inflation at about 2% and rising). Inflation and interest rates should rise significantly with full employment. PV technology reduces very slightly over time (0.5% per year).

The private PV power system protects against the rising costs of power.
So, the headlines might more accurately read:

New CA Solar Mandate will increase home costs by about $10,000 but offset by about twice from the reduced of operating costs. 

Another win, win, win of sustainability.

This should not be a hard decision to make, in any sunny state. The mandate should not be necessary. Consumers should be making this decision as a smart decision, not just a green decision.
Being Green, and making Green too.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Time to DrawDown and Look at All the Sky, not just Half

In the US, we often characterize women hitting the Glass Ceiling where men are in the highest positions of companies – executives and board rooms. Interestingly, men don’t see much of a glass ceiling, maybe because they are usually upstairs and not looking down. Old white men may be complicit and complacent in women knocking at the other side of the glass, but world-wide the imperative to give women respect and opportunity is critical, with profound implications for the world population and sustainable economic development. It’s a human and a humanity issue for everyone everywhere.
Let’s talk about Drawdown and Half the Sky (Wikipedia contributors, 2018). Both are bestselling books and global initiatives.
Everyone should be familiar with each of these.
Half the Sky is a bestselling book by Kristof and WuDunn (2009), a movie, and an activist movement. See Half the Sky movement:
Women are not allowed to do many things in many countries. The limitations on women in many cases mean that only half of the human resources in a country/area are utilized. It's a lot like seeing only half of the sky!
Women are often not encouraged to go to school. In many cultures girls are expected to drop out of school very early, say age 11 to 13, so they can get married and/or work. (Or worse, funneled into sex slavery.) Encouraging women to stay in school longer solve many problems simultaneously. At an older age, with education, they are better able to do family planning and more productive work. This is key to population control. Educating women is key to reaching a global population of 9B or less, instead of 11B or more.
In terms of economic development, a better use of women resources is a critical asset to the work economy. In fact, women are absolutely critical to sustainability efforts: lower population, higher GDP, higher per capita GDP, and reduced environmental impacts on the planet.
There's an effort call DrawDown ( that looks for the best initiatives, using the current technology that will make the biggest difference in CO2 emissions and global warming. Groups use the best, peer-reviewed, information available to analyze each initiative. Initiatives are evaluated on the emissions savings as well as the actual cost saving on a world-wide bases. When taken together, two women's initiatives, ranked #6 and #7, would move up to #1 position. The two categories are: educating women and family planning.
Note that the three women/girl initiatives are ranked 6, 7 and 62; however, combined, they represent arguably the best single initative to address in terms of impact on global warming reduction. And, oh, by the way, they will contribute massively to world GDP and assist dramatically with cost savings compared to business as usual.
The book Drawdown and the web site are edited by Paul Hawken (2017).
The first table shows the summary by sector the top 80 Drawdown initiatives. These initiatives are all things that we should do, no matter how aggressively you think our action toward Global Warming might be. It would be simply irresponsible not to address these issues. Note that an initiative related to utilities is ranked 77 but has 3 parts; therefore, there the top 80 lists is actually 82 items (see the Top 80 list below).
We need to be more proactively regarding women and girl’s rights; or, we could continue to see only half the sky.
(Including Net Costs to Implement and Projected Savings)
Summary by Sectors of the top 80 Initiatives
CO2e GT Reduction
Net Costs (US$B)
Savings (US$B)
Buildings and Cities
Electricity Generation
Land Use
Women and Girls
Source: Paul Hawken (Ed.), 2017, retrieved from
* Note. Energy Storage and Grid are ranked 77, but represent 3 options, so 82 entries are in this list.
See the top 80 table below.
Kristof, N., & WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Hawken, P. (2017). Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan every proposed to reverse global warming. (P. Hawken, Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, April 9). Half the Sky. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:55, April 10, 2018, from
(Including Net Costs to Implement and Projected Savings)
Total CO2e (GT)
Net Costs
Refrigerant Management
Wind Turbines (Onshore)
Electricity Generation
Reduced Food Waste
Plant-Rich Diet
Tropical Forests
Land Use
Educating Girls
Women and Girls
Family Planning
Women and Girls
Solar Farms
Electricity Generation
Rooftop Solar
Electricity Generation
Regenerative Agriculture
Temperate Forests
Land Use
Land Use
Tropical Staple Trees
Land Use
Conservation Agriculture
Tree Intercropping
Electricity Generation
Managed Grazing
Electricity Generation
Clean Cookstoves
Wind Turbines (Offshore)
Electricity Generation
Farmland Restoration
Improved Rice Cultivation
Concentrated Solar
Electricity Generation
Electric Vehicles
District Heating
Buildings and Cities
Multistrata Agroforestry
Wave and Tidal
Electricity Generation
Methane Digesters (Large)
Electricity Generation
Buildings and Cities
LED Lighting (Household)
Buildings and Cities
Electricity Generation
Land Use
Alternative Cement
Mass Transit
Forest Protection
Land Use
Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management
Land Use
Solar Water
Electricity Generation
Heat Pumps
Buildings and Cities
LED Lighting (Commercial)
Buildings and Cities
Building Automation
Buildings and Cities
Water Saving - Home
In-Stream Hydro
Electricity Generation
Electricity Generation
Perennial Biomass
Land Use
Coastal Wetlands
Land Use
System of Rice Intensification
Walkable Cities
Buildings and Cities
Household Recycling
Industrial Recycling
Smart Thermostats
Buildings and Cities
Landfill Methane
Buildings and Cities
Bike Infrastructure
Buildings and Cities
Smart Glass
Buildings and Cities
Women Smallholders
Women and Girls
Methane Digesters (Small)
Electricity Generation
Nutrient Management
High-speed Rail
Farmland Irrigation
Electricity Generation
Electric Bikes
Recycled Paper
Water Distribution
Buildings and Cities
Green Roofs
Buildings and Cities
Micro Wind
Electricity Generation
Energy Storage (Distributed)*
Electricity Generation
Energy Storage (Utilities)*
Electricity Generation
Grid Flexibility*
Electricity Generation
Electricity Generation
Net Zero Buildings
Buildings and Cities
Buildings and Cities
Sum of top initiatives
Source: Paul Hawken (Ed.), 2017, retrieved from
* Note. Energy Storage and Grid are ranked 77, but represent 3 options, so 82 entries are in this list.