WunderBlog Archive » Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

Category 6 has moved! See the latest from Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson here.

Big Loopy Road Trip: Energy in America Moves On

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 6:00 AM GMT on January 12, 2015

Big Loopy Road Trip: Energy in America Moves On

I still like the road trip, and last week I drove from Boulder, Colorado to Ann Arbor, Michigan. For two full days along U.S. 34, U.S. 136 and U.S. 36, I did not see a Starbucks, Cracker Barrel or a Whole Foods. Some of the bigger towns had a WalMart, but I was on the lookout for towns that might be big enough to support a Casey’s, literally sputtering into one because aging Subaru-san’s gas seems a little sludgy at the bottom of the tank. For a while I was feeling hopeful for America, that I had set behind the culture of retail-political polarization, but alas, it runs deep. I confess to equal affinity for Cracker Barrel and Whole Foods, which might deem me an unreliable narrator.

The choice of my route is a minor exercise in the use of weather models. I had decided that I was going against my personality preferences and make my way up to I-80 in the mid-part of Nebraska. It being winter, I thought that was smart. Left midday from Colorado, with the goal of staying in McCook, one of my favorites, on U.S. 34. Looked at the forecast maps and saw one of those Arctic clippers for eastern Iowa and Chicago, plus the potential for a lot of lake-effect snow along I-94 in Michigan, so I decided to meander south along U.S. 36. Hadn’t been to Marysville in a while to see all of the coal moving from Wyoming and Colorado to wherever it goes these days. Sometimes it is best of avoid I-94 during lake-effect snows. Anyway, I managed to prove the usability of models and came up I-69 from Indianapolis after the snow had been scraped and worn off of the interstate. Gee, models are useful – those clever meteorologists.

This road trip was the conclusion of a loop that started the week of Thanksgiving with Chicago, Kentucky, North Carolina and a nice night in Topeka, with a truly outstanding meal.

Some may remember a couple of earlier road trips with a report of energy in the U.S. There was one in 2009 after the recession had hit hard, and there were wind turbines being hauled around like whales. And then the one in 2008 with the "Clean, Carbon Neutral Coal" billboards. What I can say from this trip, the energy landscape in the U.S. is changing, the All of the Above Energy Strategy is blooming everywhere.

Crossing County Line road from Boulder County to Weld County in Colorado is a transition from we-fight-fracking to we-love-fracking, with many oil wells and a few flaring stacks of escaping methane. In Nebraska there is the sweet smell of ethanol processing. Illinois has the most aggressive roadside signs with all matter of ethanol, biodiesel and gun advocacy. Also a sign accusing President Obama of a variety of misdeeds with practically the same language I have recently been receiving from some new email fans.

The most impressive things I saw, however, were the wind farms along I-65 in Indiana, along I-70 in Kansas and near Limon, Colorado. There are many hundreds of turbines. Stopped to see if we could hear them, but the wind was blowing too hard to hear any turbines. Is there some sort of irony of these massive renewable energy installations quietly growing in where, well, there are a lot of Casey’s General Stores?

I will end my casual observations with the gigantic Alltech algae facility in Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky. Here’s some more links Algae the Growth Platform, Algae Biofuels and Algae Fermentation Video. Gee, seems like all of these states have something with an energy edge that politicians might be interested in protecting. Cool.

There is no doubt that things are changing out there in the countryside. There are small, medium and large solar installations - wind, corn, biodiesel, oil, natural gas and coal (Fracking and coal best at radio advertisements!). I have never seen energy so present and visible. I think that’s a good thing. Good and bad policy, good and bad technology seem to be working it out a little bit (Solyndra and U.S. energy loan program). No telling what’s off of my little transect. Let me know what energy is growing up in your backyards.


Figure 1: Meadow Lake Wind Farm from Indiana 43 in White County: Chris Light at en.wikipedia

Climate Change News Climate Change

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.