About mhughes

Mark Hughes has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kansas State and spent over 30 years in the power industry. Now retired, he has devoted a portion of his life to raising awareness about climate change, which he sees as the #1 threat to not just Mankind, but all life on Earth.

San Diego’s April 29 Climate March: Why It Matters

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/27/2017)

In the recently published book, The Knowledge Illusion, authors Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach assert something rather disturbing: we rarely think for ourselves. Instead, we patch together our understanding of the world by taking a bit from over here and a bit from over there. If they are correct, it’s pretty easy to see that it’s whose bits we incorporate  that create our worldview (the IPCC or Trump? Hmm.)

Pipelines Leak

Photo courtesy of SanDiego350.

One effect of this absorptive scheme is that we fall into the illusion of thinking we know a lot about the world, when in truth much of what we think we know resides in other people’s heads. A simple example is the zipper. How well do you understand it’s workings? A scoff-able question, no? After all, you likely use them daily. Okay, so try listing all the steps of just exactly how a zipper works. Yeah, me neither. Expertise regarding zipper operation and manufacture exists in someone else’s head; hardly any of us could make one if our child’s life depended on it.

Next point: it’s clear that societal advancements happen at wildly varying rates. The discoveries of penicillin and the polio vaccine resulted in rapid and near universal uptake throughout the population. The abolition of slavery? Taking a bit longer. All three advances improve people’s lives, so why the difference in adoption rates? You may think you know the answer, but before you speak, consider the zipper. [Read more…]

COUNTY SUPERVISORS CONSIDER COMMUNITY CHOICE AGGREGATION STUDY

by Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 2/19/2017)

On Wednesday, 2/15/17, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors entertained public input on their Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan (CREP). Four SanDiego350 members: David Harris, Ken Brucker, Larry Emerson, and myself provided comment. Our primary message was to urge the supervisors to approve spending $200,000 on a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA, also known as Community Choice Energy) feasibility study. The completion of this kind of study is typically done prior to establishing a CCA program in the county – and SD350 believes that a CCA program would produce lower power costs, higher renewable energy content in the electricity we buy, and provide a stimulus for building more renewable energy production facilities.

County Admin Building

County Administration Building. Photo courtesy of the author.

SanDiego350 is not the only proponent of a county CCA. The consultant that the county hired to provide the CREP determined that a CCA would have a “high return on investment” Table 4-3. To make things even more clear, in Table 6-1, the consultant listed the top priority items in order of importance. The CCA feasibility study was considered the most important of the top priorities. County Staff concurred with the County’s consultant and similarly made the preparation of a CCA feasibility study their top recommendation (page 18/19 staff recommendations). In addition, the cities of San Diego, Solana Beach, and La Mesa, to name only a few, are also looking at setting up CCA programs in our area and we support them all.

[Read more…]

The Truth of the Matter

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 11/24/16

by Mark Hughes

One of humorist Will Rogers’ signature lines was: “Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” In subtext, he’s saying he trusted what he read, so it seems reasonable to believe that in those days newspapers lived and died by getting the story right. What a simpler time; if Will was reading papers and the Internet and watching TV today, depending on the sources he chose, some to much of what he learned would be either misleading or just plain false. The information portal guardians have been overrun by hordes bearing rocket-propelled innuendo, guided missile conspiracy theories, and bandoleers bristling with self-serving lies. But that was only the first wall to fall. In this country, those hordes are no longer raging outside governmental gates; soon they will be the government itself.

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the world. The rules, as they always do, have once again changed, and the eternal response is demanded: what do we do about it? How do we live now?

Let’s start with a review of the situation. Truth, in both the social setting and as science’s burnished product, took a hard beating in this election cycle. But perhaps that was an almost foregone conclusion, obvious once recent history is examined from a certain angle.

[Read more…]

From Coal to Climate: the Evolution of an Activist

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, September 22nd, 2016

So, here is a question: what’s about as likely as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly jointly admitting that pretty much everything they’ve ever said was wrong?

climate activist

Before I knew what coal looked like. And smelled. And tasted.

Answer: that a guy with my background would end up as an active member of 350.org.

I grew up in Kansas, famous for Dorothy, sunflowers, and voting against your best interest (as in What’s the Matter With…). I remember my father vehemently wishing he could vote against Ted Kennedy. My mother railing against the Equal Rights Amendment, saying she liked having men open doors for her. Umm, I guess that such chivalry was banned in the bill’s text somewhere. Both of them mourning angrily that the country was ruined, now that Carter had been elected.

Not to spare myself, I also remember a Charles Kuralt interview in which he wondered what conservatism ever brought us. I turned to Dad and said—without a trace of irony—the money for everyone else to live on. I was maybe eighteen at the time, swimming with the rest of the fish in the Republican Kansas water. Unnecessary to point out?

An engineering degree landed me a job going around the country starting up coal-fired utility scale power plants. Doing that, I liked to reflect on the fact that I worked with some of the biggest “engines” in the world. I thought seriously about building my own small power plant, natural gas fired, and selling power to the grid. What fun it would be, I thought, but then found that the economics of small scale were a bit less than profitable. Regardless, it seemed to me that those of us in the industry were like priests of old, tending the sacred fires around which their civilizations turned.

[Read more…]