What Caused the Blackouts in Texas? – The New York Times

“The outages and the cold weather touched off an avalanche of failures, but there had been warnings long before last week’s storm.

After a heavy snowstorm in February 2011 caused statewide rolling blackouts and left millions of Texans in the dark, federal authorities warned the state that its power infrastructure had inadequate “winterization” protection. But 10 years later, pipelines remained inadequately insulated and heaters that might have kept instruments from freezing were never installed.

During heat waves, when demand has soared during several recent summers, the system in Texas has also strained to keep up, raising questions about lack of reserve capacity on the unregulated grid.

And aside from the weather, there have been periodic signs that the system can run into trouble delivering sufficient energy, in some cases because of equipment failures, in others because of what critics called an attempt to drive up prices, according to Mr. Hirs of the University of Houston, as well as several energy consultants.

Another potential safeguard might have been far stronger connections to the two interstate power-sharing networks, East and West, that allow states to link their electrical grids and obtain power from thousands of miles away when needed to hold down costs and offset their own shortfalls.

But Texas, reluctant to submit to the federal regulation that is part of the regional power grids, made decisions as far back as the early 20th century to become the only state in the continental United States to operate its own grid — a plan that leaves it able to borrow only from a few close neighbors.

The border city of El Paso survived the freeze much better than Dallas or Houston because it was not part of the Texas grid but connected to the much larger grid covering many Western states.” . . .

By Maeve Higgins | Joe Biden, the Irishman – The New York Times

Ms. Higgins is a contributing opinion writer who regularly writes about immigration and life in New York City.

Credit…Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In November, a BBC reporter shouted a question at President-elect Joe Biden. He responded, “The BBC? I’m Irish” before flashing a huge smile and disappearing through a doorway. The clip went viral and Ireland went wild.

President Biden’s Irishness is important to him: He likes to quote Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, and borrowed James Joyce’s words as he bid farewell to Delaware the night before his inauguration. An Irish violinist played Irish hymns at the mass before the event. Back in the old country, people are keen to claim him, too. His ancestral family are mini-celebrities there — his third cousin, a plumber named Joe Blewitt, emblazoned his work van with the words “Joe Biden for the White House, Joe Blewitt for your house.” Frankly, the whole thing is adorable. What I want to know is, how deep does it go?” . . .

It’s gratifying to see, certainly. But what my Irishness leads me to is the old Ireland, the truly dark and terrifying place that Mr. Biden’s forefathers fled from. Who is their equivalent now? And can the president see them for what they are and act accordingly?

The parallels between Ireland in the 1800s, when Mr. Biden’s forefathers left, and, say, Syria or South Sudan today are horribly apt. The Syrian people, brave and revolutionary, simply needed a fair system of government and, later, a safe place to recover and restart their lives. But Americans have looked away. The South Sudanese, reeling from brutal colonization, continue to struggle through ethnic division and civil war. Surely too in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, there are poets and musicians who dream of the rhyme of hope and history, if only we stopped to listen.

The early signs are promising. During his campaign, Mr. Biden promised to lift the cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 125,000. But so much more is needed from America — just as it was in the 19th century, when roughly one in two people born in Ireland emigrated. Patrick Blewitt, Mr. Biden’s great-great grandfather, left a famine-stricken land in 1850, becoming one of the 1.8 million Irish people to arrive in America between 1845 and 1855. His parents and siblings soon followed. Another million Irish people did not make it, staying behind to die of starvation or sickness.” . . .

Lovely piece by Maeve Higgins.  She would have us taken as many refugees as is possible without delineation. I can’t agree with her.  Biden is doing enough, to allow in 125,000 a year. Part of taking care of the planet, is reducing population growth. We need to stop illegal immigration, allow for guest workers after amending the constitutional amendment that makes their children all citizens, and work towards a generous Marshall like plan to help our neighbors to the south curb their population growth, and rebuild their economies, and in some places, their governments. Legalizing all addictive drugs, would help reduce the negative effects of the $50 Billion a year illegal drug trade, that destabilizes governments, while empowering drug gangs.

Regarding Syria and the middle east, we can return to strengthening our allies, if there are any left, after Trump betrayed them, and let the Turks, the Russians, and the  Bashar al-Assad regime slaughter them. 

7 Tips for Operating Your Mini-Split Heat Pump in the Summer

“If you own a mini-split heat pump system, you probably already know about the benefits of efficient heating and cooling, zone temperature control, and quiet operation. Mini-splits require little maintenance and are easy to operate. To get the most out of your mini-split heat pump system, check out these seven tips to maximize it’s efficiency, lower energy costs, and enhance your comfort during the summer months.

 

Choose your comfort level.
Don’t get hung up on the number. When choosing the temperature setting on the remote for your mini-splits, you may discover you need to set it higher or lower than you would expect. Part of this is due to the fact that the temperature is measured at the level of the indoor air handler unit, which is typically 7-8 feet off the ground. Find a setting your most comfortable with and stick with that.

 

Let your system run continuously.
Set it and forget it. A mini-split system uses less energy and keeps temperatures most consistent when it runs continuously, as in, 24/7. You also don’t need to turn the units on and off or adjust temperature settings when you’re away like you might with a central heating and cooling system controlled with a thermostat.”

Source: 7 Tips for Operating Your Mini-Split Heat Pump in the Summer

David Attenborough Still Has Hope for Our Future – The New York Times

LONDON — Take away the state-of-the-art drones and the gyro-stabilized 4K cameras from the BBC’s latest blue-chip natural history series, “A Perfect Planet.” Strip out the luscious score and the stunning close-ups of nature at its most intimate.

What you are left with are the same clipped tones and breathy, awe-struck commentary that entertained and educated the viewers of grainy black-and-white nature programs in the 1950s.

It is hard to find anything in modern television that has endured since the middle of the last century. Yet there is the British naturalist Sir David Attenborough and his reassuring, occasionally chiding, voice-of-God narration, virtually undimmed by age, still lending gravitas and luster to sequences of lesser flamingos in Tanzania, land iguanas on the Galápagos Islands and flamboyant cuttlefish off the coasts of Indonesia.

Repeatedly voted both the most trusted and popular person in his home country, Attenborough may be the most traveled human in history. (For his landmark 1979 series “Life on Earth” alone, he traveled 1.5 million miles.) “If the world is, indeed, to be saved,” writes the environmental journalist and activist Simon Barnes, “then Attenborough will have had more to do with its salvation than anyone else who ever lived.”

TV executives have been planning his retirement for more than 30 years, but at 94, Attenborough is still at the top of his food chain and being asked to front some of the most lavish and expensive productions to hit our screens.

Credit…Tui De Roy/Silverback Films

His latest, which debuts on Jan. 4 in the United States on the streaming service Discovery+, was filmed in 31 countries over four years (and six volcanic eruptions). Across five episodes, it will examine the forces of nature that shape all life: volcanoes, sunlight, weather, oceans and the newest: humans.”

Who Gets to Breathe Clean Air in New Delhi? – The New York Times

x

x

“Around 7 in the morning, Monu, 13, lifts his mosquito netting and crawls out of bed onto a dirt floor. Outside, his mother cooks breakfast over an open fire.

A few miles across New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital, 11-year-old Aamya finally gives in to her mom’s coaxing. She climbs out of bed and treads down the hall, past an air purifier that shows the pollution levels in glowing numbers.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | based on my NYT Comment:
Wonderful, horrible story, thank you to all who made this piece with its product of offering some painful clarity. My favorite class at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle, was on Organization Development taught by Cecil Bell. The basic premise of Organization Development is that most people are natural problem solvers. If you get the right people together and give them good data, they will normally want to think and work to solve the problems that they now can see. This kind of excellent data gathering could lead to many good works. While Family planning might  appear to go to the top of the list. if you read the many most recommended comments, you see that the main problems in India are too many wood burning stoves, fossil fuel burning vehicles, and farmers burning their waste, rather than adopting cleaner methods of sustainable farming. There is way too much dirty energy being used. It is time for India to step up and become famous for something other than maintaining its status as one of the most corrupt governments and business economies in the world.

Opinion | Our Oceans, Our Future – By Fabien Cousteau – The New York Times

Mr. Cousteau is an ocean explorer.

Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This is an article from Turning Points, a special section that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.

Turning Point: The spread of Covid-19 in 2020 led to dramatic reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions, with one study finding that emissions fell by roughly 1.5 billion metric tons during the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019 — the largest half-year decline in recorded history.

” “No ocean, no life.” Being a Cousteau, this message was practically written into my DNA. And it’s one I’ve tried to share with the world through my many years of work as an environmental advocate.

Unfortunately, given the dire state of our oceans today, it’s clear that the message hasn’t gotten through to most people.

As we reflect on 2020 — one of the most socially and scientifically difficult years in recent memory — and look for ways to move forward, it’s crucial that we understand this simple fact: Without a healthy ocean we will not have a healthy future.

Many of us have experienced the magic and beauty of the ocean. Yet its vital connection to our daily lives — the ways in which it supplies the oxygen we breathe and nourishes the crops we eat — remains far less understood.

I’ve had the challenge — and the privilege — of spending 31 continuous days living in an underwater habitat, which has given me a unique perspective on the intrinsic value of the ocean as our primary life support system. The truth, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, is that our planet would more appropriately be called Ocean, not Earth. Without our water, Earth would be just one of billions of lifeless rocks floating in the inky-black void of space.

How can we change our perspective on the ocean as it relates to our planet? We can start by heeding the lessons of 2020. While the coronavirus has caused great suffering and tragedy, it has also shed light on some of the invisible structures that underpin our daily lives, from racial injustice to the extreme disparities in wealth that burden our communities. While these realities have always been plain to some, it took the seismic shifts created by the pandemic for many of us to wake up to them.

The pandemic has also served to remind us of the beauty of nature. As Covid-19 spread across the globe in the spring, prompting nation upon nation to impose strict lockdown measures, the natural world briefly reasserted itself: Cloudy Venetian canals grew clearer. The smog dissipated over the Hollywood Hills. Cars vanished from the roads, leading to a significant, though temporary, drop in carbon dioxide emissions. These developments were encouraging, suggesting that dramatic change was possible, and that there was hope for a greener future after all.

Yet, as the pandemic has continued, it has also caused the use of disposable plastics to skyrocket. Grocery bags and latex gloves fill our trash bins. Discarded face masks flow down the drains of our city streets and into our waterways, potentially harming sea life. Whether we realize it or not, discarded plastics are choking the life out of our ecosystem.”

Excellent, sad, and disturbing. Thank you, Excellent comments also.  Here is one I especially liked:

David Roy,  Fort Collins, Colorado   4h ago

The conceit of humanity is two-fold: We have created a global system of commerce and economics that we believe we have to depend on for our survival, and we enforce that global system of commerce with the institutions of politics, grounded in law. At our essence, humans are neither economic or political beings. Like every species we share this planet with, we are biological beings first. Our wealth is accumulated from what we take from the earth. The extraction of that bounty is the bio-diversity of life. We are destroying what humanity itself needs just to simply survive. The politics that are in play, the rules and the laws governing commerce, puts wealth ahead of bio-diversity in the courts of law across the planet. Simply saying that humans are more valuable than the values of the state puts individuals in harms way, and in jail. As soon as humanity adjusts to reality, and accepts that we are no more and no less than all of the other forms of life we share this planet with, than we will begin to find and create solutions to the problems that are vexing us. Climate change will obliterate our civilization, and we take only intellectual baby steps at doing our best to mitigate it. Over-population devours what is left of once was our bounty, too many mouths feeding at too little of a degraded planet. This condition makes the unthinkable more real, the use of nuclear weapons to protect a nation(s) from the scarcity we are all inflicting on our planet. Live simply.

Reply10 Recommended

GM to Curb Economic Ties With Trump: Live Business Updates – GM Quits Trump lawsuit against CA

“Over the past four years, General Motors has emerged as one of President Trump’s favorite corporate targets. He attacked the company repeatedly for closing a plant in Ohio and lashed out at it even when the automaker offered to make ventilators this spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Mr. Trump ridiculed the company’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, one of the few women to lead a large U.S. corporation. “Always a mess with Mary B,” he wrote on Twitter in March.

The company and Ms. Barra have not responded to the presidential wrath, but on Monday G.M. broke ranks with the White House on the one major issue where they were aligned. The automaker said it would no longer back the Trump administration in a fight with California over clean-air standards.

California has sought tougher standards on tailpipe emissions to battle climate change. The Trump administration loosened Obama-era standards and revoked the authority of California and other states to set their own rules, which led to a lawsuit from several states. G.M., Toyota Motor and Fiat Chrysler intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the administration. A few other automakers, including Ford Motor, BMW and Volkswagen, sided with California.

G.M.’s support for the Trump administration surprised many auto experts given the president’s repeated attacks on the company and Ms. Barra. It also seemed to be an odd position for G.M. to take because the automaker has outlined ambitious plans to add nearly two dozen electric models to its lineup.

In a letter to the leaders of some of the nation’s largest environmental groups on Monday, Ms. Barra indicated G.M. was now backing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his plan to cut emissions and support the use of electric vehicles.”

Opinion | When Will Electricity Companies Finally Quit Natural Gas? – By Justin Gillis and Michael O’Boyle – The New York Times

By Justin Gillis and 

Mr. Gillis is a contributing opinion writer. Mr. O’Boyle is director of electricity policy for the research firm Energy Innovation.

Credit…Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

“As Americans suffer through immense wildfires, rising coastal flooding and an epic hurricane season, the nation’s corporations want you to believe they are coming to grips with the climate crisis.

Among the companies pledging bold emissions cuts are those that generate America’s electricity, which emit more than a quarter of the nation’s global-warming pollution. Yet, that same industry is about to make a strategic error that could render meeting its own goals far more expensive, if not impossible.

As they shut down costly and dirty coal-burning power plants, the electrical companies are planning to build 235 gas-fired power stations across the country, according to our analysis of figures compiled from commercial databases by the Sierra Club. The companies claim these are needed to replace the coal plants, and to balance fluctuations in electricity generation from rising levels of wind and solar power. This investment in new gas plants would exceed $100 billion.

If the plants are built, along with the pipelines to support them, they are likely to run for 30 or 40 years — long past the point that emissions from the electrical grid need to approach zero if we are to have a reasonable climate future.”

California Is Trying to Jump-Start the Hydrogen Economy – The New York Times

“IRVINE, Calif. — Since President George W. Bush fueled a minivan with hydrogen 15 years ago, the promise of cars and trucks powered by the fuel has come up mostly empty.

That hydrogen pump, in Washington, closed long ago. But in California, the beginnings of a hydrogen economy may finally be dawning after many fits and starts.

Dozens of hydrogen buses are lumbering down city streets, while more and larger fueling stations are appearing from San Diego to San Francisco, financed by the state and federal governments. With the costs of producing and shipping hydrogen coming down, California is setting ambitious goals to phase out vehicles that run on fossil fuels in favor of batteries and hydrogen. Large auto and energy companies like Toyota Motor and Royal Dutch Shell have committed to supplying more cars and fueling stations.

“In past cycles, there was always something missing,” said Matthew Blieske, Shell’s global hydrogen product manager. “There was a policy missing, or the technology wasn’t quite ready, or people were not so serious about decarbonization. We don’t see those barriers anymore.” “