Friday, September 06, 2013

Britain to scrap taxpayer-funded £5,000 grants to electric car buyers after experts find incentive did little to help the environment

Taxpayer-funded subsidies of £5,000 aimed at boosting sales of electric vehicles are to be phased out, ministers said last night.

The grant was introduced to fuel a consumer boom in emission-free cars but it ‘cannot be maintained indefinitely’, they warn.

It comes after experts found the incentive was doing little to help the environment and instead allowing rich families to buy a second car on the cheap.

The £5,000-per-car subsidies, which have been in place for two years, will now be reduced before being phased out.

Details emerged in a new blueprint for green vehicles by the Government, which wants almost every car and van to have ultra-low emissions by 2050.

The Government has spent £11million on the subsidies, while a network of more than 1,600 public charging points has been installed across the country to encourage drivers to switch from fuel. 

It was hailed as a way to boost the economy and help encourage motorists to embrace green technology.

But demand for electric cars has remained low because most families still find them too expensive – and only £11million of the total available pot of £30million has been spent.

Research commissioned from the respected Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) suggests that axing the subsidy will come as a major blow to electric car manufacturers.

The grant is said to play an ‘important role’ in electric vehicle purchase’ in nine out of ten sales.

However, ministers said tax subsidies for company car drivers who choose an electric car will continue ‘until at least 2020’. 

Most people were found to have little if any knowledge about electric cars and suffer ‘range anxiety’, fearing they will run out of juice before they can recharge.

‘The distance a pure electric vehicle can travel one charge is a consistent concern,’ said the report.
Drivers are also unsure where public charge points are available.

A scathing report, published by the Commons Transport Select Committee last September, found the £5,000 subsidies were doing little more than ‘subsidising second cars for affluent households’, adding: ‘The Government appears to have spent £11million on providing infrastructure that currently benefits only a handful of vehicle owners.’

Ministers have committed £500million between 2015 and 2020 to support the development of electric and other ‘green’ vehicles and are consulting with industry and consumers on how best to spend it.

Transport Minister Norman Baker yesterday insisted the new strategy ‘moves us up a gear’ in its ‘ambitious but realistic’ vision for zero-emissions cars.


How 40mph winds wrecked this turbine: Photo shows two blades torn off and a third buckled under force of gale

And much stronger winds than that are on the widely-used Beaufort scale

A single crooked blade dangling precariously from its rotor is all that remains of this wind turbine, which was left badly damaged as gusts reached 40mph.

Two blades of the turbine were torn off altogether following storms last week, with one piece of debris estimated to have been thrown about 60 yards, after a suspected technical fault was 'magnified' by the wind.

The incident has prompted calls for similar structures to be removed from nearby schools.

The 60 kilowatt micro-turbine at Dunhobby, on Scrabster Hill, near Thurso, in the Highlands, was wrecked in storms on Friday evening.

The Highland Council has insisted it was 'satisfied' with the procedures in place to ensure 'their safe operation' in schools.

But Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness Wind Information Forum (CWIF), said the incident illustrated the need for turbines to be removed from schools.

He said: 'Highland Council steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any risk from siting small wind turbines in school playgrounds and considers that only at 80mph - twice the wind speed which destroyed the Scrabster Hill turbine - is there any need to consider action.'

Mr Young said the council’s trigger level of 80mph to shut down turbines is 6mph above hurricane force, the highest level on the Beaufort Scale.

'There is abundant evidence these machines can and do fail under conditions far less severe than warranted by manufacturers.'

Mr Young said the incident at Dunhobby was most likely to be 'due to a technical fault but the wind magnified the problem'.

He said: 'Surely now Highland Council will take notice and remove wind turbines from school playgrounds. This is not an anti-wind farm issue but a safety one.'

Following concerns expressed over the safety of wind turbines in school playgrounds, the council closed them down for a time last year while risk assessments were undertaken.

'They were subsequently restarted earlier this year in the belief that any risk would be eliminated by having the turbines serviced twice a year rather than the standard once a year,' added Mr Young.

A Scrabster farmer was granted permission in 2011 for the 25.9 metre turbine at Dunhobby. He was not available for comment yesterday.

A Highland Council spokesman said: 'We are satisfied we have put in place the required risk assessments of wind turbines in schools to ensure their safe operation.'

It is not the first time turbines have suffered at the hands of strong winds.

In January this year a 115ft wind turbine crashed to the ground after apparently struggling to stand up to 50mph gusts at East Ash Farm in Bradworthy, Devon.

Endurance, which manufactures the turbine, said in a statement: 'Immediately upon report of the tower collapse, our technical teams from the UK and Canada were deployed and arrived on site within hours to start an investigation.

'While there was no malfunction or abnormality with the turbine or tower contrary to early inaccurate media reports of a fire and and missing fasteners, there was a problem with the structural grout and the manner in which the tower was fixed to the foundation that affected the durability of the anchor rods resulting in the tower collapse.

'The customer in this case has been assured that his turbine will be replaced and the foundation will be corrected.'

Renewable energy company Dulas installed the Endurance Wind Power E-3120 50kW turbine at the site despite protests from villagers who said it would be noisy and spoil the view.

In January 2012 three turbines were wrecked in rough weather, while a 300ft turbine in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, erupted in flames the previous month during gales of 165mph.

It was said to have been switched off, but had a ‘brake system failure’.

The accidents swept away any remaining illusions that strong winds simply mean more electricity being generated.

The turbines damaged in January 2012 stood within a mile of one another in the countryside around Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

One in the village of Upper Cumberworth lost one of its three blades, and another in the same village lost two. A third, in nearby Hepworth, lost all three, with debris blown across a road into a neighbouring property.

Wind farms in Scotland were paid nearly £300,000 in the first five days of 2012 to close down because it was too windy.

The ‘constraint payments’ were made after they produced more energy than the National Grid could handle.


Electric Losers, Round Two

The Energy Department hopes to revive an Obama clunker

A leading candidate for the biggest government failure in recent years is the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM), which stopped doling out loans in 2011 after funding such debacles as Fisker Automotive. But this is the Obama Administration, where nothing in government fails, so naturally new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz wants to revive it.

The Energy Department said last week that it "plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds" in ATVM. The PR campaign appears to be the first step in what Mr. Moniz tells the Detroit News may be a "new solicitation" for loans. Hold on to your wallets.

Congress created this market-distorting program in 2008 to spur a green-car revolution, and President Bush went along for the ride in his unlamented late period. The Obama Administration made the program a highlight of its stimulus, committing some $9 billion to electric-vehicle and other projects. Two of the largest taxpayer loans went to global titans Ford and Nissan—not exactly needy but at least going concerns.

The biggest bust was the $529 million loan promise to Fisker, which planned to make luxury cars for the masses from a defunct GM GM +4.77% plant in Joe Biden territory in Delaware. Despite this federal loan, state subsidies and more than $1 billion in private financing from Kleiner Perkins and other Silicon Valley investors, Fisker ceased production last year. It had already drawn some $193 million of its federal loan, which looks to be a taxpayer loss.

Energy is also trying to recoup its $50 million to the Vehicle Production Group, a maker of natural-gas powered wheelchair-accessible vans. VPG shut down in May, and the Energy Department recently announced it would auction off its promissory note on August 15. But the federal auction website ( doesn't show that the event took place.

Secretary Moniz will no doubt tout the case of Tesla, another luxury-car company that earlier this year repaid its $465 million loan ahead of schedule. Tesla's stock price is soaring, and this is supposed to be the success story of government venture capital. But Tesla still benefits from other government subsidies—such as the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric-car buyers and the emissions credits Tesla has cashed in on at the expense of traditional car makers. Let's see how Tesla does when it takes off the taxpayer training wheels.

The $16 billion or so left in the auto-loan program seems to be burning a hole in Mr. Moniz's pocket, so taxpayers should be on the lookout for political favoritism. Congress's investigations into Fisker, Solyndra and other losers showed that the Energy Department passed out funds on the basis of political calculations and then was incapable of exercising due diligence over its portfolio.

Rather than let Mr. Moniz throw money at more companies that will go bust or become government dependencies, Congress ought to kill this monument to crony capitalism. 

The Spanish Government has laid the ground for ‘fracking’

The Spanish Government, led by the Industry Minister, José Manuel Soria, is decided to help the companies interested in exploring the underground gas resources which could be hidden under the Iberian peninsular.

However, despite the early days of the technique there is already a fierce anti-fracking movement in Spain. They say that water tables could be damaged for ever and already the technique has been seen to cause earthquakes.

The Government approved in Cabinet on Friday to remit to Congress the project for the Law of Environmental Evaluation, which among other things, would oblige all the projects which use fracking to submit to a ‘evaluation of impact’ report. This is the first time such a move has been contemplated.

It means that the Government has advanced fracking and given legal protection to the controversial technique. Spain therefore joins countries such as Poland and the U.K. which have also set a course to reduce their dependence on outside energy.

The Superior College of Mining Engineering presented a report some months ago. It said that the was enough gas for fracking for 39 years in Spain, interesting for a country which imports 99% of its hydrocarbons, but nevertheless ecologist groups and dozens of Town Halls and provincial governments, and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, (FEMP) have present 103 motions against fracking.

The protestors will have a battle on their hands. The fracking companies have formed a lobby, Shale Gas España, which says there is no need for any environmental impact evaluation to be carried out.

With diverse opinions across Europe, the European Commission remains cautious. They cannot say whether fracking is fine or not so, but they will be drawing up a regulation which will set out how to avoid any impact on the environment.

The Netherlands Inches Toward Shale

The Dutch government just released a report finding that the environmental risks of fracking shale can be managed. It’s a small but important step for the country, but also for the future of shale energy in Europe. American companies are already balancing the risks of drilling—including the fines, loss of resources, and bad press that accidents bring—against the benefits of the new energy source, and the industry appears to be getting safer. The report found that Dutch shale could entail even less environmental risk, thanks to the country’s geology. The FT reports:

    "The report by the consultancies Witteveen and Bos, Arcadis, and Fugro acknowledges the risks but says the possibility of groundwater pollution is “very small”, partly because Dutch shale gas reserves lie much deeper than those in the US, at three to four kilometres rather than 1.5."

Local government will still have a say in whether or not exploratory wells will be drilled in the Netherlands, and the permits—if they come—likely won’t be issued until next year. Regardless, this is a positive sign for a continent that to this point has remained firm in its rejection of the new source of oil and gas:

    "France and Bulgaria have banned fracking altogether, and there has also been strong resistance in some German states. Yet America’s Energy Information Administration puts Europe’s recoverable reserves on a par with America’s."

Governments should be basing their decision on whether or not to frack on reports like this one, not the knee-jerk reaction and emotional appeals of greens ideologically opposed to the process.

Will Australians Vote to End the Carbon Tax?

By Alan Caruba

There’s an election in Australia on Saturday, September 7, and while the economy is of the greatest concern, it is a carbon tax that has driven up costs and put businesses into closure that is the issue that will determine the outcome. Meanwhile, in the U.S., imposing a carbon tax remains a top priority of the Obama administration.

A carbon tax is really a tax on the use of energy. Diehard environmentalists oppose any form of energy use. The code words are “greenhouse gas emissions”, meaning carbon dioxide (CO2) that the Greens constantly tell us will cause the Earth’s temperature to rise, but the Earth is not cooperating, having been in a natural cooling cycle going on 17 years now. Nor are the apocalyptic predictions about CO2 anything more than lies given the fact that it is a minimal element of the Earth’s atmosphere. That said, without it, all life on Earth would die because all vegetation depends on it.

In “Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change”, Bob Carter and colleagues dismember green claims and, addressing Australia’s carbon tax, note that “price increases will cascade through the economy, and for most of them no compensation will be proposed. At the bottom of the pile, to whom the accrued costs will be passed, lies the squashed citizen and consumer.”  Those citizens will be voting on Saturday.

As an article in The Guardian, a British daily, noted, a conservative coalition led by Tony Abbott is likely to win, ending six years of Labor (socialist) rule that included a battle within the Labor party for its leadership, the result of its having passed a carbon tax after the then-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had promised not to impose it. Kevin Rudd challenged and replaced her. Now he and the Labor party are expected to be defeated.

“Having built his standing as opposition leader on the contention that Labor’s carbon tax would destroy jobs and hurt households,” the Guardian article noted, “Abbott has promised his first legislative act as prime minister will be to repeal it.”

What has occurred in Australia is a case history example of what happens when greens get their way. They always manage to destroy the economy. A recent study of Australia’s carbon tax by the Institute for Energy Research yielded the following findings:

# In the year after Australia’s carbon tax was introduced, household electricity prices rose 15%, including the biggest quarterly increase on record. 

# Currently 19% of the typical household’s electricity bill is due to Australia’s carbon tax and other "green" programs such as a renewable energy mandate.

# The job market had previously been stable, but after Australia’s carbon tax, the number of unemployed workers has risen by more than 10%.

# Because Australia's exports are relatively emissions intensive, the practical result of the Australian carbon tax serves as a tax on exports and import-competing industries.

# Australia’s carbon tax was accompanied by income tax increases for 2.2 million taxpayers.

# Due to fiscal gaps that exist between carbon tax revenues and increased government spending that accompanied the scheme, Australia's budget bottom line will worsen as higher deficits and greater public debt increase.

# Carbon dioxide emissions have actually increased, and will not fall below current levels until 2043, according to the Australian government. 

Viv Forbes, chairman of the Carbon Sense coalition in Australia, an opponent of the carbon tax and other green proposals, says “The growing failure of green energy in Europe should warn Australia to abandon bi-partisan policies dictating targets, mandates and subsidies for ‘green’ energy.”

This mirrors the same problems here in America where billions in loans to so-called green energy companies can be added to the list of Obama administration scandals as one after another went out of business. Solar and wind power is proving to be as great a hoax as “global warming” and a very costly one at that. How long has it being going on? Jimmy Carter had solar panels placed on the roof of the White House. Ronald Reagan had them removed. Barack Obama has had them installed.

Fifteen million registered voters in Australia will go to the polls and render their judgment on September 7. It is a vote that should be reported upon in the United States, but it more likely to be ignored or buried.


Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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