Government shutdown has consequences. Trump oblivious

Shutdown impact by state

Apparently Trump didn’t bother to consider the impact of a government shutdown on those who have nothing to do with his silly wall idea. The House and Senate passed a budget Trump had agreed to. Rush Limbaugh then had a fit, causing Trump to break his word and refuse to sign the bill. Trump consulted no one, and since he is pathologically self-centered and amoral, gave no consideration to what the impact would be.

He really gave it no consideration. The map shows which states will be affected the most based on percentage of federal employees in their population. Red states generally get impacted the hardest.

Did I mention the wall is a gimmick aides came up with to keep Trump focused? And of course, there is no border crisis that is any worse than what has existed for years, even as alleged human and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen “Let’s Put More Kids in Cages” Nielsen says otherwise. But hey, let’s shutdown the government anyway.

Blowback

Apparently HUD is now so incompetently run that no one there realized rent funding for HUD tenants expired on Jan 1. Or they didn’t care. Now HUD is sending letters to landlords asking them not to evict tenants whose rent is partly covered by HUD. Instead, they tell landlords to use their reserve account money. This of course presumes landlords have reserve money to use. Meanwhile, HUD is scurrying around trying to find funding now.

The IRS says tax refunds may not go out next month as they are prohibited from doing so during shutdowns. Even if the shutdown ends soon, payments will almost certainly be delayed. The IRS also is calling back workers on an unpaid basis now to process presumably tens of millions quarterly payments due on Jan 15.

National park are using entrance fee money earmarked for other purposes to clean up messes, empty trash cans and chemical toilets, and maybe do rudimentary policing. The longer Trump’s tantrum lasts, the worse conditions will get in the parks.

Cities like Odgen Utah, which has a major IRS office, are getting collateral damage from the shutdown. Local stores and restaurants are closing or have limited hours. Federal employees will almost certainly get full back pay when the shutdown is over. Contractors do not. A shutdown hurts them badly. There are thousands of other cities like Odgen that rely on income generated by federal employees and contractors.

Perovskite could cut cost of solar cells by 50%

Perovskite panels on an office building
Perovskite panels on an office building

Solar cell prices have dropped steadily for years. Solar power is now cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. Perovskite, a new material, may cut those costs in half. Plus it’s more versatile and efficient than silicon-based solar cells. Oxford PV is already getting 27% efficiency with perovskite cells – 4% more than silicon-based panels – and are working towards 37%.

Perovskite is made by mixing two readily-available cheap salts. It is a very lightweight thin film and easily transportable. Thus, it could power areas in the third world that don’t have electricity or in disaster areas that need power.. Even better, the cells can be multi-color. So, instead of hiding solar cells, they could be an integral part of a building’s design. Attractive perovskite-tinted windows could shade office building interiors and also cut down on air conditioning costs because incoming heat would be turned into electricity.

It can be used on its own or as a film going on top of traditional silicon panels, increasing efficiency at little extra cost.

So, perovskite is cheaper, better, and more efficient than silicon cells. If it works on a grid-scale, it’ll provide huge amounts of cheap solar energy.

Sam Stranks, co-founder of Swift Solar, explains the technology at a Ted Talk.

Forget the 2020 campaign horse race for now

Horse race. Arlington Park

The 2020 campaign doesn’t get started until about April 2020, an eternity away in politics. So much can – and since it’s 2019 now – will happen, that predicting now who the candidates might be seems pointless. Instead, Democrats and the left should focus on toppling Trump. There is no chance of a progressive agenda happening while Trump is in power. However, if he is forced from office or impeached, then the Republican Party falls with him. That means Democrats could easily take back the Senate as well as the presidency.

Republicans will defend 22 Senate seats in 2020, Democrats only 12. If Trump goes down in flames, so will the Republican Senate. IMO, Trump / Russia corruption is so pervasive that numerous Republican politicians will be more concerned about staying out of prison than staying in office. The NRA has already suffered severe collateral damage from all this, thanks to Maria Butina being arrested. Fundraising is way down at the NRA. And there will be many more arrests.

A 2020 campaign that is preceded by numerous Republican politicians and Trump cohorts doing perp walks will be very different from a camapign where Trump is the Republican candidate. There are already at least 17 investigations against Trump. Democrats take back the House today and presumably will wallpaper D.C. with subpoenas and launch more investigations. Imagine that. There will be actual oversight, and no more compromised craven poodles in the House.

There’s no way Trump survives this. Yes, he will scream and foul the floor. But he will fall. Then Democrats can think about who the presidential candidate should be.

2020 Democratic candidates

Biden, Warren, Beto, Bernie are the big names. However, there will almost certainly be sleeper candidates who pop out of nowhere, like Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He says he’s running, and climate change will be his first priority. Maybe he’s really running for head of EPA. Works for me!

Adam Schiff will head the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is relentless in opposing Trump and on the Russia investigation. He’s about to become really well-known. Will he run for president? Who knows? However, he’d make a great Attorney General.

There will be much jockeying for position after Trump falls. But first, let’s make sure Trump falls.

Prevent wildfires with controlled burns, brush thinning

Camp Fire from space. NASA photo.
Camp Fire. NASA photo.

The Camp Fire destroyed 90% of the homes in Paradise CA. The forests in the area hadn’t burned for years and were overgrown. The fire became a conflagration due to extreme dryness and forests that had 10 times more trees than in a normal, healthy forests.

Not only are these forests overgrown, the bark beetle has killed millions of trees, which creates more kindling for fires. The solution is to do controlled burns (yes, sometimes they get out of control), cut down small trees, and clear underbrush in vulnerable areas. This would absolutely cut the risk of huge fires. However, it’s also expensive to do. No one knows where the money will come from.

Increasingly, people in areas that can burn realize it behooves them all to find common cause. Hippies and ranchers may disagree on much. However, no one want their town to burn.

Lumber companies are redoing mills to accept the smaller trees that need to be cleared out of forests. Trees killed by the bark beetle would make great fuel for biomass plants. No one is quite sure how to get dead trees in inaccessible areas to the mills though.

Native Americans who lived in the Malibu CA area routinely let the hills burn. When the Spanish came, they stopped the controlled burns, with the predictable results that their buildings burned. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

In many Northern California forests, they are so overgrown there are 10 times as many trees as there would be in a healthy, natural forest. All of that overgrowth, dried out from hotter and longer summers and a history of suppressing wildfires, is a big reason why we’re now seeing deadly infernos like the Camp Fire.

Attention also needs to be paid way out into the forests, doing selective thinning projects, brush clearing and controlled burns.

North of Paradise near the town of Mount Shasta, Halpern is organizing her neighbors — from hippies to ranchers — into community groups that will conduct prescribed burns on private land.

Global shipping to slash sulfur emissions worldwide

Container ships produce enormous amounts of sulfur emissions.
Container ship. Frank Schwichtenberg (CC BY 3.0)

The governing body for maritime shipping is mandating sharp reductions in sulfur emissions by 2020. Sulfur caps are already required by governments in parts of China, the US, and Europe. However ships often switch to high-sulfur fuel after leaving those areas. The new rules will be voluntary. However ships violating them could be fined or lose their insurance.

Complete decarbonization of shipping is the goal. Some smaller ships now already use fuel cells and batteries for power. However this technology doesn’t exist yet for massive ocean-going cargo ships. Hopefully it will someday. Rather than switching to low-sulfur fuel, some cargo ships plan to use scrubbers to clean their emissions. However, that’s really just a stop-gap measure. A few cargo ships plan to run on Liquid Natural Gas, which has very low emissions. For that to happen, they will need LNG fueling stations worldwide. Mostly though, the ships will switch to low-sulfur fuel, which is more expensive. However, health costs and deaths and illnesses from pollution in shipping areas will drop substantially.

Roughly 70 percent of shipping emissions occur within 250 miles of land, exposing hundreds of millions of people to harmful pollutants.

Starting January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will require that all fuels used in ships contain no more than 0.5 percent sulfur. The cap is a significant reduction from the existing sulfur limit of 3.5 percent and is well below the industry average of 2.7 percent sulfur content. Public health experts estimate that once the 2020 sulfur cap takes effect, it would prevent roughly 150,000 premature deaths and 7.6 million childhood asthma cases globally each year.

“There are very few examples of air quality regulations that have as broad a reach of benefits as this one.”