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Category: Global Energy Trends

Lots to Celebrate: Black History Month 2022 is Here!

Each year in February, we celebrate the important legacy and contributions that Black Americans have made in this country, which have too often been overlooked. Given the current war on history, and decades of historical white-washing where African American stories and inventions were buried within the dates they were written, it does take some effort to overcome these challenges and discover African American history for yourself. However, as this writer will testify, it’s an important part of our own country’s makeup and given modern technology and the preservation of documents, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself on these fundamental truths about our collective history.

This year could prove to be one of the most significant Black History months to date, as President Joe Biden has vowed to nominate for the first time in our nation’s history, a Black woman to the Supreme Court, tackling inequality head-on – both through physical representation, and actual judiciary power.

I’ve seen several infographics since the announcement was made, however I think this one by @SlyngCartoons really helps to put this historical precedent into context:

Black History Month: Benjamin Slyngstad (@SlyngCartoons) / Twitter

Infographic by Benjamin Slyngstad (@SlyngCartoons)

I like using tools like these that really help to paint the full picture in an easily digestible and visual way. Focusing on the info-graphic itself for just a moment, we can see that there has never before been a Black woman on the Supreme Court, even though according to the US Census, Black Americans make up roughly 13.4% of the entire US population (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221).

Of the total number of our nation’s Supreme Court justices since it’s inception, only 2 out of 120 have been Black – meaning that less than 2% of all Supreme Court justices have been Black, even though historically the African American population was much higher than 2% of the total US population. All that said, it’s safe to say that if we want a Supreme Court that’s truly representative of the people of this country, it’s long past time to elect the first Black woman to this office.

In terms of political representation, another key figure you may have heard of is current Vice-President, Kamala Devi Harris. Not nearly enough has been written about her historical candidacy and election to Vice-President, however being the first woman to achieve this role is nothing short of incredible, and she’s done a ton of work to further American progress on the world stage within her short time in this role thus far.

Focusing for a minute just on the importance of representation, let’s again turn to a familiar format – the infographic – which shows all of the former and current US Vice-Presidents, and demonstrates just how many female, and/or Indian, and/or Black Vice-Presidents we’ve had prior (I’ll give you a hint, the answer is none):

Black History Month: Kamala Harris

Thanks to ABC News, you can check out the infographic and accompanying news segment, here: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/kamala-harris-make-history-vice-president-75353167. According to senate.gov, there have been 51 total Vice Presidents in the US, and since only one has been a woman, and a woman of color, we can say that once again, less than 2% of those who have held this office have been Women or Black Americans – and looking again at US Census data, we know that this is certainly not representative of the total US population (51% of the US population is female; and 13.4% of US population is Black per the 2020 census; here: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221).

To learn more about her accomplishments prior to becoming the first Black, female VP in US history, check out the following links:

Now let’s review what her responsibilities have been, and what she’s done in this role to date. For starters, in order to measure her progress we need to know what Vice-presidents are typically responsible for – and thanks to Senate.gov, we know the following:

“During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the vice president’s role has evolved into more of an executive branch position, and is usually seen as an integral part of a president’s administration. The vice president presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote may be needed.

When the vice president is absent, the president pro tempore presides over the Senate. Junior senators fill in as presiding officer when neither the vice president nor president pro tempore is on the Senate Floor.”

https://www.senate.gov/general/Features/Part_1_VP.htm#:~:text=Other%20than%20to%20succeed%20to,except%20with%20the%20senators’%20permission.

This helps us to frame her accomplishments as Vice President in a more accurate lighting – and makes her work thus far all the more impressive.

Black History Month: Kamala HarrisFor example, the following link discusses five key areas in which Harris has made notable achievements while in office:

1) helping our central American allies in addressing migration; 2) ensuring that Biden’s nominees are confirmed in the Senate, including “Rachael Rollins, who is now the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Harris also broke a tie to appoint Catherine Lhamon as assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education”; 3) providing the tie-breaking vote on the American Rescue Plan; 4) becoming the First Acting Female President of the United States during a temporary transfer of power while President Biden underwent surgery; and finally making progress on Universal Voting Rights (https://blavity.com/5-major-accomplishments-from-kamala-harris-in-her-first-year-as-vice-president?category1=news&category2=politics&item=2).

It’s safe to say that in terms of racial makeup, our political offices and general population percentages have not aligned, however given the that the 44th president was a black man from Chicago, Barack Obama, and that our current Vice-President is a Black-Asian Senator from California, Kamala Harris, it appears we’re starting to trend in the right direction.

This month, we’ll focus on so much more than the racial makeup of the Supreme Court and Presidential and Vice-presidential offices – including inventions and key figures from the Black community that helped the United States become the country that it is today. We’ll once again delve into the important historical inventions pertaining to modern-day electricity and/or home improvements, but also explore African American history, outside of the energy-lens we normally focus on. So keep an eye out, and as always, feel free to add more context in the comments section!

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On 11/19 Build Back Better Passes in the House

Build Back Better Passes in the House

Thanks to our partners at ACORE, there has been a lot of excellent work done in order to help pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes key legislation around renewable energy. Just this past week, this important package was passed the in the House of Representatives, and many hope to see it pass the Senate and head to the President’s desk for signature in the coming weeks. For a quick read on what is actually in this bill, please check out the following summary from ACORE regarding the Build Back Better bill, and which key elements they’re most excited about seeing addressed within it (directly below).

 

Highlights of the House Build Back Better Act Reconciliation Package

Media ACORE

Reflecting a deal reached between the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the bill includes five years of PTC and ITC extensions from 2022 through 2026, after which the Wyden tech-neutral clean energy production and investment credits will apply.

    • The solar PTC is revived and extended through the first five years, after which broader credit optionality across qualifying technologies applies.
    • There is a new ITC for energy storage through the end of 2026, followed by a comparable incentive for energy storage technologies in the Wyden regime.
    • There is also a new ITC for regionally significant transmission lines that are placed in service before 2032.

“Full value” credits are defined as a 20% base credit, with an 80% bonus credit for compliance with prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. (For example, the ITC base credit would be 6%, with the remaining 24% available as a bonus credit for complying with prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements). This bifurcated credit structure applies to the PTC and ITC, as well as the Wyden tech-neutral extensions.

  • There is a 10% bonus credit for qualifying energy properties that meet the bill’s domestic content or energy community requirements.
  • Additionally, there is a 10% bonus credit for solar, wind and battery storage projects that qualify for the Section 48 ITC and deploy in low-income communities. There is also a 20% bonus credit for deploying in qualifying low-income residential building projects or low-income economic benefit projects.
  • There is a new clean hydrogen PTC whose value scales based on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to steam-methane reforming. No credit is provided for facilities t
    hat start construction after 2028.
  • There is a 100% direct pay election for PTC and ITC technologies. (Note: the value of the direct pay election begins to phase down in 2024 and zeroes out completely in 2026 for projects not meeting specified domestic content requirements related to iron and steel, and manufactured products).
  • The 25D residential solar credit is extended at full value through 2031, phasing down in 2032 and 2033. The definition of the 25D credit is expanded to include energy storage technology, and the 25D credit is made refundable starting in 2023.
  • The 48C advanced energy property credit is revived, and new domestic manufacturing production credits are established for qualifying solar and wind components produced and sold before 2027, phasing down by 25% a year until the credits become unavailable for components sold in 2030 and beyond.
  • An additional $30 billion for the DOE Loan Program Office to guarantee loans under the Section 1703 program.
  • $2 billion for grants and loans for long-distance and offshore transmission lines, and for upgrading interties between interconnections.
  • $800 million in technical assistance and economic development grants to facilitate the siting of interstate electricity transmission lines.
  • $100 million for planning, modeling and analysis of a nationally connected grid, including a Macro Grid.

 

Copyright © 2021 American Council on Renewable Energy, All rights reserved.

 

For the direct text from the Build Back Better bill, feel free to check out the pdfs on the following link: https://budget.house.gov/build-back-better-act, and let us know in the comments what you think!

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Living Sustainably, Since We May Soon Have N0 Choice

Sustainable Living

We’ve discussed how to live sustainably on this blog plenty of times – just check out the following links to see what I mean:

However, we’ve really only mentioned the ‘Why’ to this question a couple of times, so this week we’ll dig a little deeper on why we recommend working and living sustainably, and just what it means to do so.

What is Living “Sustainably”?

To learn more about this movement and where it first began, we consult the help of UNICEF to explain what sustainable development looks like and how we can achieve it. Check out the link, here: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/guide-sustainable-living/35821.

The most simple definition I can think of is that ‘Living Sustainably’ involves consuming as little energy via fossil fuels as possible, to undergo your normal daily routines (I specifically mention fossil fuels here because if you use a renewable energy source such as wind, solar, or hydro-power, you can still live sustainably even if you consume a lot of energy).

Why Live Sustainably?

Climate change, climate change, climate change! If you haven’t heard this phrase by now, you must be living in a hole, because newsrooms, science labs, classrooms, and the workplace – have all been inundated with this phrase and the insundry implications that accompany it. Take a look at our previous blog posts on the subject to get an idea of what Climate Change is, and why it’s occurring: https://suntexllc.com/?s=climate+change.

Living Sustainably is Cheaper

Though I’ve worked in green energy for a few years now because of my own personal desires to “make the world a better place,” most people choose to ‘Go Green’ because it’s actually cheaper for them financially! How is this possible? Read the following article to see why, however in many times the simple answer is that you’re using less, and choosing a more efficient means of producing energy for consumption when you do – Eco Friendly Home Improvements.

SustainablyLiving Sustainably is Greener

Of course, as I already mentioned, even if you’re a traazillionaire, and your goals do not include saving money, living sustainably is much greener, and therefore healthier for the environment. By using fewer fossil fuels, or using fossil fuels more sustainably, you’re actually reducing your own carbon footprint, thereby mitigating some of the greenhouse gases and other types of pollution in the environment, all on your own!

How can you measure your own carbon footprint? For the answer to that question, we turn to Nature.org to help us out: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint.

Living Sustainably is Cooler

While I don’t always adhere to the latest trends, I do think it’s important to note that one common reason why people may paint the exterior of their homes, or adorn more and more Christmas lights in their display each year is the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Understandably, this thought might just make you cringe a little – after all, we’re all unique individuals living our own lives, right? Of course it can be a bad thing, if it leads to debt or buying things you don’t need – check out the following article to see what I mean: Keeping Up with the Joneses is a Terrible Pursuit.

However this psychological phenomenon is something we are all guilty of to an extent, and while it can have some negative implications, it’s not always a bad thing. The following article explores where this phrase came from, and what it really means: How the Jones Effect Can Help Brands Better Understand Consumers.

Particularly as it pertains to not buying material goods, but living sustainably and minimally, this trend is one that can be helpful for your pocketbook, as well as de-cluttering your space and mind (see Marie Kondo’s method of de-cluttering your home and your life: https://konmari.com/about-the-konmari-method/), so I for one hope this trend remains for a long time, so that hopefully, we won’t be forced to live sustainably by climate change.

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Climate Change: Oh No! What on Literal Earth Are We Going to Do Now?

ClimatePerhaps you’ve heard this phrase – in particular if you’ve been following this blog I would hope you’ve heard the words “climate change” at least a time or two (see previous blogs, here: https://suntexllc.com/?s=climate+change). Maybe you even have an idea about what it is, or what it will mean for your personal future and the future of those around you. However it’s important to note that this isn’t just a buzz word designed to increase your blood pressure, and it’s not something we can just sweep under the rug either. Climate change is here, and it will get worse before it gets better.

There are lots of ways to determine that climate change is happening – from the flooding experienced all over the world (see London in 2015, https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/uk-winter-20152016-floods-one-century%E2%80%99s-most-extreme-and-severe-flood-episodes#:~:text=The%20highest%20ever%20recorded%20rainfall,(cubic%20metres%20per%20second)…New York Subways in 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/21/20976248/mta-floods-test-nyc-subway-climate-change-equipment-flex-gate..Bangladesh, annually, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201201-bangladesh-the-devastating-floods-essential-for-life, and the list continues), to raging wild fires that engulfed much of the U.S. (and Australia in 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-50951043) and have devastated several different species of plants and wildlife in the area still recuperating from the last fire season.

Since we’ve discussed these phenomenon in previous blogs, I won’t spend much time focusing on the actual weather effects that climate change is already bringing us each year – instead, I’d like to focus on something that is seemingly much smaller, with a potentially even greater impact: bumble bees.

A few years ago I met someone during my time in the U.S. Peace Corps that kept repeating the phrase, “save the scorpions.” Naturally, I thought she was nuts.

“Scorpions?! Have you ever met a scorpion in real life?! They’re not exactly nice creatures,” I would say, and I think most people would agree we should avoid them at almost all costs. However, having learned a little more about what she was trying to tell us, I understand now what she meant: that human developments can/will/and is already having a devastating impact to many different species, and whether or not we even know what these species do to benefit the earth, we might just wipe them out before we ever even learn about them. Hence her chant, “save the scorpions.”

While they’re only marginally better company, I would suggest that “Save the bees” would be my variation of this chant. You probably learned in first grade or so, that bees are pollinators, but what does this really mean? To engage the experts, I navigated to pollinator.org for a little help; here’s what I found:

Climate Change

Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.

Pollinating animals travel from plant to plant carrying pollen on their bodies in a vital interaction that allows the transfer of genetic material critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants – the very plants that

  • bring us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts,
  • ½ of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials;
  • prevent soil erosion,
  • and increase carbon sequestration

This nearly invisible ecosystem service is a precious resource that requires attention and support – – and in disturbing evidence found around the globe, is increasingly in jeopardy.” (https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators). The web article outlines exactly what it means to “pollinate,” and why this is so very important to our lifecycle – keep reading on to learn more.

Which brings us to the main point of this article: bumble bees are disappearing, and rapidly. Check out the following USA Today article to learn more about this phenomenon, and which states are feeling the impacts first: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/10/14/american-bumble-bees-disappeared-8-states-face-extinction/8448637002/.

Some of you may be thinking, “but there are plenty in other states, why not simply migrate them over?” and the answer of course is two-fold: 1) bees only live 28 days (https://www.gopests.com/how-long-do-bumblebees-live/#:~:text=The%20Bumblebee’s%20Lifespan&text=Like%20all%20bees%2C%20bumblebees%20don,their%20queen%20can%20last%20longer.)!

So, if you want to help them move to a new home, you’d better be quick about it because they’re not exactly able to wait for the close of escrow before they take to their new hive. 2) the issue is not that they simply don’t enjoy living here, but that they no longer can live in these areas – thanks to rising temperatures (or natural disasters like fires and floods), and in large part thanks to unsustainable fertilizers damaging the environments in which they live.

Maybe it sounds alarmist, but if we run out of bumblebees, we may run out of food, and while I too enjoy the occasional processed food, there won’t be anything at all to process if the bumblebees are all gone. What will you do to make sure the bumblebees stay? Please share your experience in the comments below – you may be our last hope to “Save the Bees!”

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Texas Senate: Following the Bills, Where are we Now?

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ve likely been following along as we attempted to analyze the events of the Texas winter storm in February, and what has been done to mitigate this from happening again in the future. If you need a quick refresher, feel free to check out the following links:

Texas SenateHaving read these posts, as well as a myriad of other news reports from February and the months following, you probably already know two main things: 1) that this winter storm was (hopefully) a once a decade type storm, though the intensity of winter storms, hurricanes, and other weather patterns may continue to intensify as the planet temperature continues to heat up; and 2) that the power outages, and resulting deaths from the winter storms, could have been prevented had the Texas grid been better prepared.

So what’s the government response to this issue?

“Texas natural gas companies will not be “weatherized” for the upcoming winter. Senators say they’re angry over the slow timetable and loopholes that allow the companies to opt out of improvements But those lawmakers OK’d the loophole in the law.” https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/28/texas-power-grid-loophole/.

Unfortunately, very little is the answer. Weatherizing the grid for winter is expensive, especially when it’s already prepared to handle the extreme heat temperatures we see in the summer time, and thus the major issue Texans face is mitigated since we’re able to keep the air-conditioner on even in the sweltering temps of June, July, and August. However it seems that the price of winterizing that same equipment – which cost over 400 people their lives in February (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/05/27/report-finds-hundreds-more-died-in-texas-winter-storm-than-state-says/?sh=7b3a86a352cc) – is just too high of a burden for Texas law makers to bear.

Instead, “some of the legislative moves are targeting renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, which experts and some lawmakers say seems more like a way to protect oil and gas interests than fix problems with the state’s beleaguered power grid” (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/19/texas-renewable-energy-oil-gas/).

Senate Bill 3, which was enacted and signed into law in June 2021, reads as follows (as it pertains to natural gas regulation and weatherization, for the full text of the bill, check out the following page, https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3): 

Texas Congressional Bills

“Sec. 81.073. CRITICAL NATURAL GAS FACILITIES AND ENTITIES. (a) The commission shall collaborate with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to adopt rules to establish a process to designate certain natural gas facilities and entities associated with providing natural gas in this state as critical customers or critical gas suppliers during energy emergencies. (b) The rules must:

(1) establish criteria for designating persons who own or operate a facility under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) or engage in an activity under the jurisdiction of the commission under Section 81.051(a) who must provide critical customer and critical gas supply information, as defined by the commission, to the entities described by Section 38.074(b)(1), Utilities Code;

(2) consider essential operational elements when defining critical customer designations and critical gas supply information for the purposes of Subdivision (1), including natural gas production, processing, and transportation, related produced water handling and disposal facilities, and the delivery of natural gas to generators of electric energy; and

(3) require that only facilities and entities that are prepared to operate during a weather emergency may be designated as a critical customer under this section.”

Senate bill 3 (SB3) also states:

Texas Senate Chambers“(e) The commission may submit additional [subsequent] weather emergency preparedness reports if the commission finds that significant changes to weatherization techniques have occurred or are necessary to protect consumers or vital services, or if there have been changes to statutes or rules relating to weatherization requirements. A report under this subsection must be submitted not later than:

(1) March 1 for a summer weather emergency preparedness report; and

(2) September 1 for a winter weather emergency preparedness report.”

Full text for SB3 here: https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB3

Alas, natural gas and retail energy providers must provide reports on weatherization and energy generation, however there is still no mandate to actually enact said practices to protect the people of Texas. That decision will still be left to appointed individuals to oversee said reports and decide the appropriate course, much like they did in February – hopefully in the future, these appointed people will make a different decision about what’s needed to properly weatherize the grid ahead of any winter storms.

Hopefully you’re in an area deemed “critical” so that you may turn on your heat if temperatures should dip below freezing and remain there for days at a time.

Hopefully, we will not see massive outages and resulting deaths.

Hopefully, someone will do something this time, before it’s too late to do anything at all.

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“Tackling ‘Energy Justice’ Requires Better Data. These Researchers Are On It”

The article we focus on today actually came our some time ago – June 13th of this year to be exact – however the implications are long lasting, and little has been done thus far to address the issue. To what issue am I referring? Check out the link below for more information, but long story short, we need better energy data (and analysis) in low-income neighborhoods to determine why energy costs are so much higher than in white neighborhoods:

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/13/1004873139/tackling-energy-justice-requires-better-data-these-researchers-are-on-it

In this article, there are some pretty staggering quotes, including:

  • “The researchers found that in low-income communities, homes averaged 25 to 60 percent more energy use per square foot than higher-income neighborhoods.”
  • “The Princeton researchers also looked at which households participated in energy efficiency rebate programs. They found homes in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods were more likely to take part, while poorer, non-white households were less likely.”

Full study can be found here: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/24/e2023554118.

One tool I found while doing research on this article, was the Low-Income-Energy-Affordability Data Tool (https://www.energy.gov/eere/slsc/maps/lead-tool), or LEAD Tool, which demonstrates this point on a macro-level across the United States, with three charts: 1) The average energy burden (or what percentage of a household income is spent on energy bills), 2) the Average Energy Cost ($), and 3) housing counts by state, using census data.

One of the most staggering findings from this chart was the average energy burden found in Arizona, specifically on Native-American reservations. If you look at the second map (average energy costs), you’ll start to see that this may in fact be due to lower incomes, rather than higher energy costs – however the disparity is not solved by this fact, and thus more is needed from the Department of Energy, as well as local Retail Energy Providers (REPs) in order to combat this issue.

What may be even more enlightening is the second chart on the bottom-half of the page – where you’re able to actually change the dimensions of the data you want to analyze. For example, if you sort this data by ‘Building Age’ as the primary dimension, you’ll find that there is very little difference in utility costs for buildings built prior to 1940 versus those built in the past 20 years – which seems insane given what we know about the development of different, green energy sources and building materials. Check out the image below, or click on the corresponding link to see what I mean:

Energy Data - LEAD Tool

Click on image to learn more: https://www.energy.gov/eere/slsc/maps/lead-tool

Play around with the dimensions and axes to learn more – I think you’ll find some interesting information about the way that energy costs are distributed in the U.S., even at a high-level.

As you may already know, globally this phenomenon is even more wide-spread – however without proper resources and outside funding, we’re even less equipped to tackle it – see: https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/what-you-need-know-about-energy-and-poverty and, https://www.enbridge.com/energy-matters/energy-school/what-is-energy-poverty.

So how can we avoid these pitfalls in the U.S.? Well, the Department of Energy is finally working to address this. Check out the following article to learn more about what’s being done to combat energy poverty and energy disparity in the U.S. today, using the same LEAD tool we discussed in the paragraph above: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/about/acs-data-stories/lead-tool.html. Unfortunately however, not every state has adopted these methodologies, and the disparities in data are wide-spread, making it much more difficult for the energy sector to tackle this problem.

If you have ideas as to why this may be happening, or personal examples of high energy costs from your neighborhood, please share your insights with us in the comments section below. SUNTEX remains committed to helping our customers in any way that we can, but particularly as it pertains to saving money and reducing energy costs. We’re also partners with ACORE, the American Council on Renewable Energy (https://acore.org/), and are happy to share our industry experience with those in a position to help improve them, while working alongside this incredible group of people to make a tangible difference in energy equity.

Yellowstone National Forest & the Fire that birthed it

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Forest & the Fire that birthed it

What can I say about Yellowstone that you haven’t heard before? Likely nothing, in all honesty, you just have to see it for yourself!

One thing I will say, is that this was actually our second time visiting the park, and somehow I managed to miss an entire lake (that covers the horizon from the shore) – a massive body of water that can be seen almost anywhere on the North-east side of the park. In our defense, the park is quite large, and we were camping on the South-eastern side of it the last time we came, but when we drove into Yellowstone National Park this time around and saw what looked to be an ocean in the middle of land-locked Wyoming, it’s safe to say we had to stop and see! Check out the photos from our trip to see what I mean (featured on the left and right).

Bull Elk, Yellowstone National Park

Bull Elk, Yellowstone National Park

While I won’t get into great detail here – particularly since we already covered the impacts of climate change on these beautiful forests in an earlier post (here: https://suntexllc.com/on-the-road-again-next-stop-climate-change/) – I did find it odd that we were surrounded on this trip to Yellowstone by completely scorched forests.

It’s important to note here, that naturally occurring forest fires are part of the forest’s history, and even help new life to grow! What was odd this time however, was just how much of the west was covered in dead trees – both within Yellowstone National Park – and in the surrounding areas (we saw evidence of large forest fires in Washington, Montana, and Wyoming, and the smoke from the fires was prevalent throughout the month-long trip).

To learn more about the naturally occurring forest fires of Yellowstone National Park, check out the following link: https://serc.carleton.edu/NZFires/megafires/Yellowstone.html – which includes charts of forest fire activity in the park from the last century! If, like me, you’re curious to learn more about climate change in general in the Rockies, check out the following: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-do-the-rocky-mountains-influence-climate.html, and be sure to share your favorite insights in the comments below!

The Grand Tetons & the Moose!

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Yes, this post is mainly dedicated to Yellowstone National Park, however I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our journey through Grand Teton National Park (https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm). This park borders Yellowstone, so seemingly, they shouldn’t be very different, right? Well, of course, if you said this you’d be wrong.

Yellowstone offers wildlife and dense forests of course – similar to the Grand Tetons – however the main attraction of Yellowstone are the hot geysers such as “Old Faithful” and the entire park is essentially sitting on one big volcano. The Grand Tetons do not have any geysers that I’m aware of, however what they feature is a staggering, jagged mountain range that can (usually) be seen for miles around – and with snake river winding through it, and the golden grassy knolls that waiver in front of it, it’s truly a site to see, setting it apart from any other park around.

Grand Teton National Park

Moose and Calf, Grand Teton National Park

Even though the camp ranger told us upon pulling in that they had seen black bears every single night perusing the mesquite fields just outside our campground, we did not see any while we were there. We did however see something we had been yearning to see all trip, and she and her calf were visible from the road to our campsite each night before sunset: a moose!

 

It’s hard to tell just how big she is from across the river, and because I’m not a complete moron, I wanted to be sure and respect her boundaries, however given her stature from even 100 yards or so away, it’s obvious she is a big girl! We were absolutely mesmerized by her and her calf, and stood there taking pictures for a long time before leaving her to peacefully finish dinner. While I can’t be certain, I would bet that she and her ‘little one’ are still there, just outside of the Grand Teton campsite, munching on brush and awaiting the next group of campers to come gawking. If you happen to see her, tell her I said hello, and Bon Apetite!

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Wyoming Energy Profile

Welcome to WyomingWhile Wyoming might not be the most populous state, it’s certainly populated with millions of breathtaking views. Thus far on the trip we had seen the immense beauty of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Montana – so it was baffling that I was still surprised at just how much more beauty Wyoming had to offer.

The transition from Montana to Wyoming wasn’t too drastic since the two states share a similar topography, as they’re both part of the Rocky Mountain range, but once we got into the Shenandoah forest, it was hard not to feel like explorers traversing an unfamiliar territory. We drove for just seven hours that day, through the most beautiful part of the country – Yellowstone National Park, and just after it, Grand Teton National Park – before finally arriving at our final campsite just beyond Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Elk Reserve outside of Jacksonhole, WY

With the natural scenery, and plentiful rivers along the way, I had a feeling we’d be looking at a similar energy makeup as Montana and Oregon, however this time, I was wrong. Even though Wyoming has made strides in recent years in building their renewable reserves – as you can see by the stats listed on the EIA.gov website, “Wind power in Wyoming has more than doubled since 2009 and accounted for 12% of the state’s electricity net generation in 2020. The state installed the third-largest amount of wind power generating capacity in 2020, after Texas and Iowa” – they’re not a big producer of hydroelectric power as I would have guessed.

According to the state’s energy report from 2012, “Wyoming has a long history of hydropower dams, dating back to the early 1900s. While hydropower generation is considered small and seasonal, it represents a consistent and established electricity source. There are 15 hydropower plants on 10 reservoirs. Thirteen of these are operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and two by private companies. The total hydropower generation capacity in Wyoming is 299.6 MW. The five largest producers are Fremont Canyon/Pathfinder (66.8 MW), Seminoe (51.6 MW), Alcova (41.4 MW), Glendo (38 MW), and Kortes (36 MW)” (https://www.wsgs.wyo.gov/products/wsgs-2012-electricalgeneration-summary.pdf).

However, since 2012 it seems Wyoming has put their energy into producing wind power, which has led to some pretty remarkable advancements in their green energy sector. However green energy is still fairly new, and Wyoming has produced more than it’s share of coal and oil and gas for decades – just see the Quick Facts from eia.gov below (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WY#tabs-1):

  • “Wyoming produces 14 times more energy than it consumes, and it is the biggest net energy supplier among the states.”
  • “Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state since 1986, accounting for about 39% of all coal mined in the United States in 2019, and the state holds more than one-third of U.S. coal reserves at producing mines.”
  • “Wyoming was the eighth-largest crude oil-producing state in the nation in 2020, accounting for slightly more than 2% of U.S. total crude oil output. The state was the ninth-largest natural gas producer, and accounted for almost 4% of U.S. marketed gas production.”
  • “Wyoming’s large energy-producing sector and small population helps make the state first in per capita energy consumption and gives it the second most energy-intensive state economy, after Louisiana.”
Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

It’s funny how we could travel through the state for days and days without seeing so much as a windmill, or an oil well, and come to find out after that Wyoming produces a fairly large amount of energy, enough even to export energy to other parts of the country, and generates a large portion of their economy. Of course, however helpful these quick facts and charts may be, they do not paint the full picture. To learn more about Wyoming’s economy, check out the links below:

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Climate Change & the Powerful Role Glaciers play in Cooling our Planet

Glacier National Park

Jackson Glacier, Glacier National Park

I’ve heard before that glaciers are essential in our planet’s cooling cycle, however to be honest I wasn’t sure exactly why or how it worked. Thankfully, there is plenty of information online to help out, and the scientists over at USGS.gov seem up to the task. Check out their information on glaciers and the “hydrological” cycle, here: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/glaciers-and-icecaps?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.

This article helps to answer questions such as:

Glacier National Park

Jackson Glacier over time, Glacier National Park

What is a glacier?

“In a way, glaciers are just frozen rivers of ice flowing downhill. Glaciers begin life as snowflakes. When the snowfall in an area far exceeds the melting that occurs during summer, glaciers start to form. The weight of the accumulated snow compresses the fallen snow into ice.”

How do Glaciers impact global sea levels?

“Glaciers store about 69% of the world’s freshwater, and if all land ice melted the seas would rise about 230 feet¹ (70 meters)(NSIDC).”

And perhaps most importantly: How do glaciers impact the earth with regard to climate change?

Glacier Facts

For that answer, we navigate to another link within the ‘Related Science’ tab on the same site, and find that “Mountain glaciers are excellent monitors of climate change; the worldwide shrinkage of mountain glaciers is thought to be caused by a combination of a temperature increase since the Little Ice Age, which ended in the latter half of the 19th century, and increased greenhouse-gas emissions” (https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/ice-snow-and-glaciers-and-water-cycle?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects).

As to the how, the same article from usgs.gov had this to say about it, “Just because water in an ice cap or glacier is not moving does not mean that it does not have a direct effect on other aspects of the water cycle and the weather. Ice is very white, and since white reflects sunlight (and thus, heat), large ice fields can determine weather patterns. Air temperatures can be higher a mile above ice caps than at the surface, and wind patterns, which affect weather systems, can be dramatic around ice-covered landscapes” (https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/ice-snow-and-glaciers-and-water-cycle?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects).

Please do give this link a quick read, since it’s an excellent source of information and even contains a reference to the Grinnell Glacier inside of Glacier National Park. See image above, or click on the direct link to read more about how Glaciers impact Climate Change.

The Absolute Beauty of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

I honestly thought I would have to travel to Alaska to ever see a glacier, however I now know that’s not quite true. Even while the world seems to have turned upside-down, and things have seemed pretty dire during this pandemic “season” – which has lasted over two years now, even as we head into another fall – I can’t help but feel grateful for the blessings in my life, that I’m reminded of every time I step out into nature.

I am grateful to be able to take the last few weeks of August off from work to do some site seeing; I’m grateful that whether it be a dining room table or a campfire, we’re able to fill it with food to eat; and I’m grateful that in my lifetime, I was able to go to Glacier National Park to see the beautiful sites – as well as the main attraction, Glaciers.

Glacier National Park

The weather in Montana had already turned colder than the day we arrived, however we were also climbing in elevation again, so we had to stop by the local outdoor-outfitters shop and pick up some snow gear to make sure we made it through the night. I guess in hindsight, not realizing that a park with Glaciers year-round would be cold, was in fact, pretty dumb! Alas, we survived to tell the tale, and warn all of you camping and glamping advocates to layer up when visiting Glacier National Park (https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm)!

Camping Glacier National Park

Camping with the Family in Glacier National Park

So when we finally started setting up camp – putting down the tarp & tent in the driest location, then setting it up and adding the rain-protector over it; building up our “to-go” kitchen while being mindful of bears; and adding our warmest bedding within the tent – we were just happy it was no longer raining. Since we were pretty cold and tired from all of the travel and camp tear down, we heated up some pre-made tortilla soup (don’t tell my mother I did not make it from scratch), and bundled up as we watched the sun go down over the edge of the mountains.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

“Surely we’ll see a bear here!” I thought, “…just hopefully not too close”. From time to time all week I would joke that I was going to leave out a little honey to see if they came – to both my husband and my in-laws fear. Alas, I do not want to end up in the news so of course I did not follow through with this plan, however given my strong desire to see wildlife I was definitely on the lookout all week. We stayed in the Apgar Campground near McDonald lake – which certainly did not disappoint. I mean, look at these pictures (see photos on the right and below post)!

Glacier National Park

Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park

The hikes were incredible as well – trekking through the man-made paths through dense pine trees that smelled fresh and hopeful – and trying to keep Earl in check so he didn’t chase any wildlife to his demise. Though we went in August the air was frigid cold most of the time we were there, however it would warm up just enough mid-day to sweat a little so you felt like you had earned your shower each (or every other) night.

On the day we decided to drive across the park to see the whole thing (an hour-long drive into a cloud forest, on top of the mountain range), we finally saw our first Glacier! While driving the “Going-to-the-Sun Road”, through the Rocky Mountain mountains, there is a trail you can take to see one of the closest Glaciers to the road, named Jackson Glacier.

Admittedly, It was somewhat difficult to decipher it from the mountains around it, however it had a much smoother top and looked like it was covered in dense snow, in the middle of August (see photo below)! The sad truth is that this Glacier, among many others in North America (and all over the world), is shrinking – just check out the excerpt below from the hike to see a little bit about the history of this Glacier.

Glacier National Park

Jackson Glacier, Glacier National Park

There’s a lot more to unpack within that statement, so please check out tomorrow’s blog post (https://suntexllc.com/climate-change-the-powerful-role-glaciers-play-in-cooling-our-planet/) to learn more about Glaciers and the role they play in Climate Change.

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