Solar jobs growing 12x faster than US economy

A couple interesting points below based on the article, which you can find here.

  1. What it takes to pop solar on rooftops takes far more workers than the big industrial stuff that would replace coal fired power plants. The efficiency at scale is real.

    Rooftop installations drove much of the growth this year. Household projects accounted for 63 percent of the industry’s jobs, with 15 percent of the workforce tackling commercial projects and 22 percent building utility-scale installations. That points to an interesting disjoint in the way the industry operates: the type of solar installation that replaces the most greenhouse gas emissions represents a smaller share of the solar workforce. The report says this is because utility-scale projects are less labor-intensive.

  2. If this sort of growth continues, then Solar jobs will be the energy sector's most dominant type of work. That can seriously change the way Congress is lobbied. to be sure, Congressional representatives of places that still extract fossil fuels will be against it, but all that means is that companies need to look at the map and choose sunny places to hire people so that they can break those representatives constituencies and thus ensure long term growth with government support. Let's not forget-- government always picks winners and losers.

  3. Going back to point #1 above-- there's a huge win-win-win for the president if he can see past the sterotypical GOP dislike of renewable energy. Power plants are usually government monopolies, which means that they receive corporate welfare. If he gave incentives to solar companies and the 50 states to ramp up on rooftop solar, it would begin the obviation of traditional power companies while ramping up the need for these workers. The third win is that opposition party Dems would have to work with him or look like they're not genuine about energy and the environment. Whether the opposition party works with him or not, he'd look like he was putting "America First" with regard to jobs and any dependence the US has to foreign energy sources.
    You save a lot of oil if you don't have to transport coal by truck or diesel locomotive.
    You also require less natural gas and oil pipelines if most electricity is coming from people's rooftops. 
    And a bonus? The idea of each homeowner generating and managing their own electricity usage falls inline with the individual responsibility and self-reliance ideals and principles of US conservative politics. 

The environment, specifically, the carbon crisis, is probably the most important issue of our time. Let's use political and scientific realities to solve it.


An Economic Hybrid Drivetrain

Billy Steele, writing for Engadget on Honda's new hybrid motor, which they built in collaboration with Daido Steel:

The new motor doesn't use heavy rare earth metals like dysprosium and terbium, instead relying on magnets from Daido Steel that cost 10 percent less and weigh 8 percent lighter than the previous components.

Hybrids are going to be an ever-important step toward auto's step to electrification, since large batteries still cost a lot and developing nations have more access to petroleum based fuels than they do steady electricity supplies. reducing dependence on Rare Earth metals goes a long way into bringing the cost of these devices down.

Steele also mentions that without the need for these metals, Honda doesn't have to negotiate with China, which holds most of the rare earth metal reserves. A positive political externality for Japan, perhaps, but an even more positive externality for the price of these metals, which should become more accessible as the price diminishes.

The Despair of Anthropogenic Climate Change

Two stories about the our destruction of the environment that caught my attention. 

While I understand that the headline of the first story; "It's almost too late to save our planet from catastrophic climate change;" is trying to do the clickbait thing, but it's problematic in that it somewhat posits that it's too late to do anything about climate change. I can't see how anyone on the fence about the issue would be willing to read it.

The second one is more encouraging. Getting old vehicles off of the streets is the sort of thing that cities and governments have to do, thought I don't know how older people on fixed incomes could afford to just abandon the functionality of a vehicle. This is the sort of thing that the US GOP uses to promote the idea that Climate Change is  hoax invented for a government takeover.

Meet the Tech Firm that's Gonna Make a KILLING Off Of Zika

Today the CDC confirmed that the Zika virus, which is carried by the A. Aegypti mosquito, is responsible for thousands of birth defects in children. On top of that, public health officials are worried about other health affects of Zika, that could hurt not only humans in-vitro, but post-natal babies and adults. 

As per usual in our technified and super-scientific age, cue the solution. That same A. Aegypti mosquito has been studied for some time due to the fact that it's responsible for transmitting both Malaria and Dengue fever. With such fatal diseases associated with it the medical, technology, and general scientific communities have given it a lot of attention. So much so that

  1. The Gates foundation has funded the mapping of the mosquito's genome
  2. UC Irvine has developed mosquitoes with strong immune systems that defeat the parasites that cause these debilitating and fatal diseases.
  3. The Center for Infection Disease Dynamics has developed a fungus that kills mosquitoes before parasites have enough time to turn the little insects into viable hosts

You can imagine the amounts of cash that those three efforts took. But there's one that'll trump them all. About two years ago, in late March of 2014, NPR's RadioLab radio-show and podcast produced an episode called "Kill 'em All." In it, they spoke with a British-based lab called Oxitec. If ever there were an evil dystopian name to call your company, there you go. Oxitec's solution to the mosquito problem stands out from the others in that it's both radical in its manipulation of the insect and jaw dropping in its effects. 

The company maintains biological farms or factories wherein they breed the doomsday mosquitoes A. Aegypti-- but their recipe for mosquito farming includes tweaking the bug just a little bit. Oxitec manipulates the DNA of A. Aegypti so that the males (which don't bite people to begin with) carry a special gene. This gene has no affect on the males, so when Oxitec releases these guys into the wild in vast numbers, the females are happy to mate with them. What happens next is the key.

Baby mosquitoes born of the Oxitec males are hindered by the gene. The gene hinders all of the males' offspring so that they don't survive until maturity-- effectively killing off the population of mosquitoes in the area by wiping out an entire generation.

Oddly enough this is tactic - wiping out a generation-- is what scares so many people about Zika.

So what are the consequences of this Dr. Frankenstein-type of science? There's not much debate about it actually. NPR reported earlier this year that both Rutgers and Penn State entomology professors were fine taking out the bug. 

"If we took out Aedes aegypti, that would be something," [Andrew Reade of Penn State] adds. "Nothing good comes from them, just that people get really sick."

[Rutgers entomology professor Dina Fonseca] feels similarly. "I'm not worried about eradicating an invasive mosquito. It's an urban species that specializes on feeding on people," she says. "The result of removing them is health to humans and more people."

Still, one man's trash is another man's treasure. It's clear that the same qualities that make mosquitoes like A. Aegypti so abhorrent to mankind actually do jungles and rain forests like the Amazon an important service by making sure people don't regularly settle there, which would significantly add to the problem of global deforestation. By being at once annoying, painful and in the case of Zika, Dengue and Malaria, dangerous pests, mosquitoes help the Amazon, which has been called "The Lungs of the Earth," due to its role in generating the oxygen most life on the planet, from being easily reduced to ashes for the sake of condos, corporate head quarters or resorts. If the Amazon goes, we may all go soon thereafter. 

That said, it's pretty clear that solutions like the one Oxitec and other firms like it have proposed is a clear winner for human-populated areas that don't have much reason to appreciate mosquitoes like the Southern US, Europe, and some of the smaller Caribbean islands. 

It might be time to think about buying some stock in Oxitec, or its parent company, Intrexon Corporation**, which picked up the mosquito start up for a cool $160 million in the summer of 2015.


**These biotech guys are great at choosing horrifying and ominously cold names for their companies.

What Global Warming?

"A joint investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project and the Los Angeles Times earlier detailed how one company, Exxon, made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to publicly emphasize doubt and uncertainty regarding climate change science even as its internal research embraced the growing scientific consensus."

The skeptic in me wonders if the left hand knew what the right hand was doing. The people who run PR and design ads for Exxon are not the same as the people who do research for drilling mechanisms. In fact CMO and COO may not have all communicated about this. 

But then again-- What steps did the engineers who came across this ad, and saw its folly, take to have it amended? Or if not amended, make sure that it, or a future related ad/PR campaign didn't continue or happen again? And more important, did ad messaging leadership solicit the opinion of Exxon's internal engineers and then ignore it? Or did they get their information from outside help? It's tough to coordinate info in big organizations and Exxon is one of the biggest. 

Either way, it's painful to learn. 

The (Unofficial) Tesla Commercial

"Tesla 'Not a Dream'" is an independently created commercial, using the words of inventor Nikola Tesla to extol the virtues of Tesla Motors's vehicles and their presumed ability to lead the US to a future that's free of the pollution and destruction of fossil fuels. It's visuals are a little extreme, but I'm sure that those passionate about the problem and/or the car will find the video moving.

It's worth noting that Tesla Motors doesn't advertise very much. The fact that fans are willing to create content like this for them is impressive to say the least.

And for any geeks out there it's like 1984, all over again

So what does Tesla Motors CEO think of the video? He digs it.


Mercedes Aanounces Performance Plug-in Hybrid SUV


"The GLE550e has the first plug-in hybrid powertrain ever offered in a Mercedes-Benz SUV. Its 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine and electric motor together produce 436 horsepower. Using only electric power, Mercedes says the GLE550e can travel up to 18.6 miles and reach a speed of 81 mph."

Wow. In other words, plug it in for the commute or grocery shopping and never waste time at the gas station unless you need to go far.
Mercedes is doing exactly what I thought Lexus would do in the mid-sized hybrid crossover space two years ago. With their new XC90, Volvo and Merc are beginning to lead.  

I wonder if this the Tesla e-motor hardware they've been discussing? Or something else entirely?

Oil companies pledge support for Paris climate deal

the U.S. oil giant Exxon is mysteriously missing. 

"In a statement Friday, the CEOs of BP, Shell, Saudi Aramco, Total, Repsol, Statoil, Eni, Petroelos Mexicanos, Reliance Industries and BG Group said they recognize greenhouse gas emissions trends are inconsistent with the ambition to keep warming below a level many consider dangerous."

This could be the beginning of some traction in what's clearly one of the scourges of humanity's future.  

Respected Scientists See Possible Signs of Alien Structures in Deep Space

 "Scientists — at least, the ones who like to theorize about these things — have long said that an advanced alien civilization would be marked by its ability to harness the energy from its sun (rather than scrabbling over its planet’s resources like us puny earthlings). They envision something like a Dyson Sphere, a hypothetical megastructure first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson that would orbit or even encompass a star, capturing its power and putting it to use."


It's admittedly a looooooong shot; but the fact that respected scientists are hypothesisizing about advanced extraterrestrial life is surprising and interesting.  

I have a feeling the cause is some as-yet units covered natural phenomenon, which may actually turn out to be *even more* interesting.