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Dicamba Drift and the Monsanto Merger

March 15, 2018 -
A lesson in evolution: When farmers spray weed killer on their fields, there will always be a small number of weeds that survive. They have a natural resistance to the weed killer in their genetic makeup. Those are the weeds that go to seed that year, their children producing a crop of herbicide-resistant weeds the following year. By the next year, the farmer's fields are producing more and more herbicide-resistant weeds. What's a farmer to do? For those unwise enough to remain on the chemical treadmill, there's only one solution. Buy a stronger weed killer - to which a small number of weeds will, inevitably, be resistant.

This is precisely what happened to farmers that use Monsanto's weed-killer, RoundUp.  Monsanto's low-cost, highly ineffective solution to RoundUp-resistant weeds was to sell these farmers Dicamba, an old chemical weed killer with a tendency to drift. When pesticides travel on the wind, or drift, they damage crops and human health…
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A Carbon-Free Grid

March 3, 2018 - Scientists at the University Of California, Irvine; the California Institute of Technology; and the Carnegie Institution of Science recently published an article stating that the United States could meet 80 percent of its electricity needs with solar and wind power. To sweeten the deal, the price of solar and wind have been dropping rapidly. The remaining 20 percent could be provided by alternate sources of energy such as hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. These sources currently meet 8.5 percent of electrical demand, and can be expanded. The remaining deficit would be met by managing demand.

The larger grid required for transmission of solar and wind power would have to be continental in scale, or 12 hours' worth of the energy would have to be stored in new facilities. This degree of expansion would require hundreds of billions of dollars in investment. Storing the electricity with today's cheapest batteries would cost a trillion dollars, although the price …

The SunShot Initiative

In 2007, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. was 1.1 gigawatts (GW). As of 2017, that amount has increased to 47.1 GW. Enough to power 9.1 million average American homes. If you're thinking "we've still got a long way to go," you'd be right. On the other hand, increasing installed power by 4300% deserves some attention.  How'd we do it?

The Department of Energy played an important role. In 2011, they initiated a program called The SunShot Initiative. They set targets for the years 2020 and 2030, by which times generating solar power would have become more affordable. More affordable on a utility scale, more affordable on a commercial scale, and more affordable on a residential scale. Thus far, they've succeeded in hitting the 2020 goal for utility-scale generation. Needless to mention, they reached that goal three years early. The goals, it should be mentioned, don't take subsidies into account. It's the technology, in the case of util…

The Future Has Arrived

September 4, 2017 - Wildfires are burning throughout the Pacific Northwest. Hurricane Harvey has decimated the greater Houston area and parts of Louisiana. Hurricane Irma glowers out in the Atlantic. In other words, forecasts made decades ago are proving accurate. Four hundred parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was regarded as a tipping point, the point at which climate change would take on a life of its own. If no one ever drove their car another block, if farmers never used another ounce of chemical fertilizer, if not so much as one more acre of land was cleared with fire, climate change would continue on its way, wreaking havoc.

We passed four hundred ppm this year. I'm not sure where we stand right now; we were supposed to be at around 410 by spring. I'm not advocating giving up. Of course not. We must still - and at this point, will, whether we want to or not - consciously lower our standard of living, and stop enjoying the conveniences for which we are…

Book Review: Irrevocable Acts

July 30, 2017 - Before I begin, let me mention that Jonnie Hyde is a member of the writing group I belong to, here in Vancouver, Wa. I took a stab at writing a novel about climate change awhile back; it wasn't very good, and subsequently went nowhere. Irrevocable Acts, on the other hand, is deserving of attention.

The beginning of Hyde's book is, perhaps, its only weak point: it's a bit confusing. All becomes clear as the book unfolds, and the characters are interesting, so there's no question of remaining involved. The characters hold your focus because they live their lives differently from most, yet the Sanders are a family, with three generations living under one roof: Anna, Kate, and Gracie. That family begins to unravel when the matriarch, Anna, decides she must embark, finally, on the life she was meant to live.

Anna, Danny Shepard, and Mac Caffrey have been friends most of their lives. Products of Berkeley at a time when the name Berkeley was believed to mean o…

We Are Still In

June 13, 2017 - Trump's announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Accord on Climate Change has produced a remarkable backlash: hundreds of cities, states, universities and colleges, and businesses in the United States have declared their collective intention to reach the country's 2025 emissions goals, with or without federal leadership. America stepped up to the plate when Trump stated that he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," to which Pittsburgh's mayor responded "we [Pittsburgh] will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and future."

Bill Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh, is a member of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, the creation of Sierra Club, to which Michael Bloomberg is a major contributor. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and a billionaire philanthropist, is also the United Nations Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.
In a letter written by Bloomberg to…

Monsanto and the EPA

April 2, 2017 - The following was sent to me by Credo by email today. Please read and take action: Stunning new documents unsealed by a federal judge suggest that Monsanto worked directly with  federal regulators to hide the health risks of and manipulate the science behind its best-selling herbicide, RoundUp. The documents reveal that Monsanto pressured Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to not publicly release information on the cancer risks of glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, ghost- wrote research for the EPA and worked with a senior official at the agency to quash a federal review of the chemical. These documents suggest an unprecedented level of collusion between the EPA and Monsanto  to cover up evidence that RoundUp is a likely carcinogen. The Office of Inspector General of the  EPA, an independent office tasked with investigating fraud and abuse in the agency, must immediately launch an investigation to hold Monsanto and all EPA employees involved accounta…