Monday, August 07, 2017

Electric cars won’t get us very far. Because they can’t

When I heard the government’s announcement that petrol and diesel cars are to be banned from 2040, I resorted, as I often do for entertainment, to the British Pathé news archive. I found a 1967 film showing trials of a prototype electric Mini, as well as a similar experiment from Ford. Then came this rather delicious prediction, delivered in clipped tones: ‘In the next few years there is the prospect of seeing millions of them on the road.’

The hype over electric cars has been going on a long time. Had Harold Wilson been moved by it and done what Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has just done, he would have passed a law banning petrol and diesel cars from 1990 — and the country would have been virtually immobilised when that year arrived. Why create a hostage to fortune now? The Conservative manifesto, published in May, suggested merely: ‘We want almost every car and van to be zero emission by 2050, and will invest £600 million by 2020 to help achieve it.’ Yet with the introduction of the government’s plan for tackling nitrogen oxide emissions, published last week, that position has rapidly evolved into a pre-announced outright ban, which echoed a declaration by the French government early last month.

I don’t have any repressed emotional need for the throaty roar of a V8 exhaust pipe. In common with millions of motorists I would happily swap my antisocial diesel Citroën estate for an electric model tomorrow were it not for two problems. First is the cost of batteries. Take the Nissan Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car. Nissan’s website quotes a list price for the base model of £16,680. This, it turns out, excludes the batteries. You can either rent these from Nissan at a cost of £80 to £90 a month, depending on what mileage you cover, or you can buy the batteries at a further cost of £5,000. Nissan can only sell its electric cars at this price, however, thanks to a government subsidy of £4,500 per car. Without this subsidy, and including the cost of the batteries, your Nissan Leaf would cost £26,180.

Nissan doesn’t make a petrol version of the Leaf — perhaps to avoid a direct comparison — but the nearest equivalent, the Micra, retails at less than half this: £11,995 for the base, petrol model. No doubt there is scope to reduce the manufacturing costs of electric cars and batteries, but it is difficult to see them attracting willing consumers unless the industry can first overcome the other fundamental problem with electric cars: their range, or rather, lack of it.

According to the Nissan website, a Leaf will do 124 miles between recharges, after which it will have to be plugged in for a minimum of four hours (if you install a special recharging point in your garage, assuming you have a garage) or 12 hours from an ordinary electric socket. If you are able to find a rapid recharging point, a device which has been installed at a motorway service station, for example, it is possible to achieve an 80 per cent recharge in 30 minutes. It gets worse. The 124-mile range is only in test conditions. When the magazine What Car? tested the Leaf it found the car’s range in real road conditions to be between 70 and 80 miles. Top Gear tested a more upmarket model which claimed to have a range of 155 miles and found that it managed 90 miles. This was when the batteries were new. Over time, the charge they can hold tends to decline. Longer-term owners on various green websites have found their Leafs to cover only 45 miles (a vehicle which had covered 52,000 miles, tested at 70 mph) and 30 to 35 miles (in a car which had covered 90,000 miles).

Battery technology will improve, but you can’t assume that will happen fast enough to meet the 23-year deadline. After all, engineers have been grappling with the problem for 50 years. They managed to improve the range compared with the 1960s prototypes, which could only manage 35 miles between charges, but progress has stalled since 1996 when General Motors produced an electric car called the EV1, with a 100- to 140-mile range. The EV1 won devotees among celebrities and environmentalists — yet GM, which leased the cars rather than sold them, recalled the lot and crushed them.

The same devotees now flock around Tesla, the Silicon Valley company set up by the PayPal billionaire Elon Musk. The company has never made a profit, yet in April it overtook the $50 billion market valuation of General Motors. Tesla claims to have 400,000 pre-orders for what would be its first mass-market car, the Model 3 — its waiting list stretching into next year. Again, though, the problem is range. Tesla claims it will be able to travel 215 miles between recharges. As with Nissans, however, that is a little hopeful — one owner of a four-year-old earlier Tesla model, claimed to have a range of 245 miles, says he can’t get beyond 150 miles.

If the problems of range and battery cost can be solved, the government’s ban on petrol and diesel cars would not be a problem. But then neither would it be necessary, because motorists would go electric anyway. Mile for mile, running an electric car is already far cheaper than running a petrol car — Nissan suggests less than 2p a mile if the electricity is bought off-peak, compared with over 10p for petrol or diesel. Servicing costs are also markedly lower.

A lot of this disparity, however, is down to tax on road fuel — which accounts for 67 per cent of the price of a litre of unleaded.   If this revenue stream dries up, the government will have to find other taxes to impose on us. The low cost of electricity is thanks to the fact that most of it is still generated from cheap fossil fuels. From an environmental point of view, a switch to electric cars only makes sense if the electricity used to power them is produced by renewable means. National Grid, which has responsibility for the electricity distribution system, estimates that electric cars, should they become ubiquitous, will require a peak demand of between 6GW and 18GW — this on top of the 60GW peak demand which can currently be satisfied.

The lower figure assumes that owners of electric cars recharge their machines mostly with off-peak electricity. That seems unlikely, unless the range of the cars can be significantly extended. Extra power capacity can be built, but how much of it could be renewable? In 2016, only 9 per cent of electricity was generated by renewable means — and that includes waste burning, and the burning of wood pellets imported from the US, which cause about as much particulate pollution as diesel engines. Moreover, the more intermittent wind and solar generation that comes on stream, the more reliant we become on back-up sources of power — or vast banks of batteries. We now have 3.9GW back-up generating capacity provided by gas and, er, ‘diesel farms’ — ranks of diesel-powered generators. It would be somewhat ironic if the government managed to phase out diesel cars only to find that much of the electricity required to power them comes from diesel engines anyway.

Technology could change dramatically in 23 years. By then we might be able to drive 700 miles and then recharge in minutes. Or, like nuclear fusion, which has spent the past 50 years being just around the corner, electric vehicles may turn out to be the great hope which never quite materialises. We just don’t know. Given that, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to keep the abolition of petrol and diesel cars as an aspiration rather than to pre-announce a ban? The ban is an example of a novel form of policy-making which began with the Climate Change Act in 2008 — where government makes laws to take effect at some point in the future on the assumption that some uninvented technology becomes invented.

Nine years on from the Climate Change Act and with the 2050 target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent now just 33 years away, we still have no idea whether it will be achievable. Defra wouldn’t quite answer my question asking when the 2040 ban was added to its plan for tackling pollution. Since it only appears in the introduction to the plan for reducing pollution, not in the body of the text, it has the air of a last-minute addition. Was it a pitch to appear virtuous on the international stage, or to emulate the French? Or was it a sop to car companies in order to secure post–Brexit investment? Remarkably, the announcement of a future ban on petrol and diesel cars came in the same week that, to the surprise of many, BMW said that the electric version of the Mini will be built in Britain.

Remember how Nissan announced last October that it would commit to building new cars in Britain, without anyone being sure what the government had promised in discussions with the company? That’s the same Nissan which staked $5.6 billion on developing the Leaf — many of which are built in Sunderland. How convenient that instead of Nissan having to compete for custom, motorists are suddenly going to be forced to buy the product in which the company has a market lead.

We will just have to hope that the electric car hype finally comes good. If not, don’t bother planning a long road trip after 2040.


Billions down the drain as new nuclear plants scrapped

Billions of dollars spent on two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina went up in smoke Monday when the owners nixed plans to finish them after years of delays and cost overruns, dealing a severe blow to the industry's future.

The reactors were set to be among the first built in the U.S. in decades. While the decision will save customers billions in additional costs, customers of the two utilities — Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas — may get little to nothing refunded of the billions they've already paid for the now-abandoned project.

"I'm disappointed today not just for Santee Cooper and its customers but for our country and the industry as a whole," said Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter. "If you really believe we need to reduce carbon, this was the way to do it."

Energy demands are far less than the utility's pre-Great Recession projections that factored into the initial decision to build.

But Monday's decision may eventually result in the utility putting a coal-fired unit idled earlier this year back in operation. Another option for supplying power needs in the decades to come include building a natural gas unit.

"Absolutely, this pushes us back to more carbon, whether it's natural gas or coal," Carter said.

Santee Cooper's board said the decision to end construction will save customers an estimated $7 billion. The utility had already spent about $5 billion for its 45 percent share of the project, and completing it would have cost an additional $8 billion, plus $3.4 billion in interest.

"I'm not celebrating," said Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth, which has questioned the project from the outset. "This is a sad day for South Carolina. So much money has been wasted. Ratepayers are losers any way you take it."

He said the group will work to "get to the bottom line of how this happened, who's responsible" and what that means for customers.

Gov. Henry McMaster called for legislators to hold hearings to get customers' questions answered.

The project has been shrouded in doubt since earlier this year, when primary contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection.

The utilities have since determined the project likely wouldn't have been finished until 2024. Under a timeline adopted in 2012, the first reactor was supposed to be operational earlier this year. Westinghouse hasn't been forthright since, according to Santee Cooper.

South Carolina Electric & Gas, which owns 55 percent, announced its plans shortly after Santee Cooper's unanimous vote. SCANA, SCE&G's parent company, will seek approval from regulators Tuesday about their abandonment plans.

Under the approved Santee Cooper resolution, all work will end within six months. How quickly within that timeframe workers at the site will lose their jobs is uncertain.

About 5,000 people are employed at the site by contractors and subcontractors. SCE&G employs an additional 600 workers for the project, according to the utility.

The utilities announced last week that Westinghouse's parent company, Toshiba Corp., agreed to jointly pay them $2.2 billion regardless of whether the reactors are ever completed.

Santee Cooper will use its $1 billion share from Toshiba — to be collected between October and 2022 — to lower customers' future costs, Carter said. But it's unclear if that will translate to lower bills. Rates are rising due to environmental projects, and the money could offset either those costs or debt, Carter said.

SCE&G will use the money to ensure customers see no increase in their bills for at least the next several years, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh told investors Monday afternoon.

But another unknown is whether Toshiba will actually pay. In May, the Tokyo-based company projected a 1.01 trillion yen ($9.2 billion) loss for the fiscal year that ended in March.

The reactors were planned for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia. Construction contracts with Westinghouse were signed in 2008, and the project was so far about one-third completed.

Environmental groups have called on state regulators to order SCE&G to abandon the projects. They also want customers to be refunded at least some of the billions they'd paid upfront through rates that have increased yearly since 2009. A hearing on that request is set for October.

A 2007 state law allows electric utilities to collect money from customers to finance a project before it generates power. Construction now accounts for 18 percent of the electric bills of SCE&G's residential customers.

Santee Cooper has increased rates five times to pay for the escalating costs. But the Public Service Commission has no authority over the state-owned utility.

Whether the commission can order the utility to refund customers and how much are matters of debate. That could require proof the utility gave regulators faulty information.

Last month, Toshiba agreed to pay $3.7 billion toward two nuclear reactors in Georgia that also were being built by Westinghouse.


State agrees with Trump administration to delay long-awaited water pollution rules

Shock!  Costs matter

A landmark plan to curb pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams throughout Massachusetts that was to take effect last month after nearly a decade of negotiations among local, state, and federal authorities has been delayed for at least another year. And it could be at risk of being weakened or eliminated by the Trump administration.

This week, state officials said they would follow the lead of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which announced earlier this summer that it would not implement the plan until at least next July.

State officials had the option of pressing ahead, which would have required 260 Massachusetts municipalities to reduce storm water runoff into their storm drains, steps that some cities and towns said could cost them millions of dollars a year and thousands of hours of their employees’ time.

The plan, which seeks to ensure that municipalities comply with the federal Clean Water Act, would require towns and cities to remove illegal sewer connections to storm drains, improve street sweeping, increase public education, and take other steps to cut the volume of storm water entering sewer systems.

“When the federal government abdicates its responsibility to protect the environment, it’s time for the state to step up,” said Julia Blatt, executive director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, an advocacy group in Boston.

“But instead, the state has stepped back by refusing to stand up for clean water in Massachusetts. Storm water is the biggest pollution problem we have, and it’s the reason why more than half of our rivers and streams don’t meet water quality standards. It’s awful that the state is not leading on this.”

In 2014, the EPA estimated that urban municipalities would be required to spend between $1.1 million and $2.5 million to comply with regulations under the so-called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Suburban and rural towns would pay less.

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, has worried that some local governments would struggle to pay for it without slashing services or increasing local taxes.

He called the rules “an unfunded mandate” and said the Baker administration made the right decision in delaying the plan. He said municipalities may have sued the state had officials implemented the regulations.

“The communities are going to need the resources to be able to do this, and our most significant concern has been a lack of any federal resources to back up the requirements,” Beckwith said.

At the end of June, EPA officials announced they were delaying the rules, issued by what they call an MS4 permit, saying they were complying with requests from municipalities such as Lowell and Franklin that have opposed the plan.

“EPA finds justice requires postponing . . . the Massachusetts permit for one year pending judicial review,” wrote Deborah Szaro, the agency’s acting regional administrator in New England. “Postponing the effective date . . . should give EPA ample time to determine what, if any, changes are appropriate in the permit and to determine next steps.”

The delay follows sweeping changes at the EPA since President Trump was inaugurated that have included a raft of decisions to roll back or block environmental policies issued during the Obama administration.

In June, for example, the EPA suggested it would reverse a decision that would have required General Electric Co. to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the Housatonic River, which the company polluted for decades from its plant in the Berkshires. As with its plan to reduce water pollution, the agency has called for reopening negotiations that might reduce the scope of the regulations and their costs.

It was unclear until Tuesday whether the state would implement the storm water rules on its own. That was when Martin Suuberg, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, announced the delay at a meeting of the Massachusetts Statewide Municipal Stormwater Coalition in Worcester.

In an e-mail to the Globe, DEP officials said the agency’s decision to “conform its implementation schedule to the federal schedule” was “consistent with longstanding administrative practice.”

They said they felt free to do that because “no legal challenges to the change in the federal schedule have been brought.”

Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the department, said more than 50 of the state’s municipalities have supported DEP’s decision.

“In an effort to avoid duplicative or contradictory requirements with federal permit requirements, MassDEP has historically acted in concert with federal permit requirements,” he wrote. “As EPA has already stated that it won’t act for a year, requiring cities and towns to file [notice of plans] now with the state would be arbitrary.”

Massachusetts, one of just four states that do not directly oversee how much pollution enters its waters, is now seeking such authority from the EPA. State officials say that would give Massachusetts more independence in regulating water quality.

The overall goal of the plan is to reduce elevated levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, metals, sediment, disease-causing bacteria, and other pollutants carried by storm water into rivers, including the Charles, Mystic, Neponset, Shawsheen, and other state waters.

Ultimately, environmental advocates say, it will mean fewer days that beaches and shellfish beds are closed due to high bacteria levels.

The plan would require municipalities to monitor what flows from their pipes into local water sources during dry and wet weather; inspect key manholes within 10 years to ensure they’re not spreading pollutants; and draft plans to detect and deal with illicit pollution within one year.

It also would require some communities and encourage others to improve the designs of their buildings and drainage systems. Environmental advocates lamented that it will now take at least another year for municipalities to take action to curb the pollution.

Ian Cooke, executive director of the Neponset River Watershed Association in Canton, said he worries the Trump administration might water down the rules or eliminate them.

Instead of allowing municipalities 10 years to comply with the rules, the EPA could give them 20 years. The agency could also relax the requirements for how cities and towns search for leaks.


The Humanitarian Hoax of Climate Change

The Humanitarian Hoax is a deliberate and deceitful tactic of presenting a destructive policy as altruistic. The humanitarian huckster presents himself as a compassionate advocate when in fact he is the disguised enemy.

Obama, the humanitarian huckster-in-chief, weakened and politicized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for eight years by presenting his crippling policies as altruistic when in fact they were designed for destruction. His legacy, the Leftist Democratic Party with its "resistance" movement, is the party of the Humanitarian Hoax attempting to destroy American democracy and replace it with socialism.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by executive order under President Richard Nixon in 1970 and then ratified in the House and Senate. The primary mission of the EPA was the protection of human health and the environment through writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by the US Congress. At that time in history the growing public awareness of environmental issues stimulated the creation of non-governmental environmental protection agencies as well. The most famous was Greenpeace which was created by environmental activists from Canada and the US.

To understand why huckster-in-chief Obama insisted and continues to insist that climate change is man-made and the greatest threat to America it is necessary to understand the huckster and the hoax.

The huckster:

Obama was groomed by the globalist elite to bring "hope and change" to America but it was not the hope or change that most Americans understood those words to mean. Barack Obama is a globalist and ideologically a radical socialist tutored in Saul Alinsky's 1971 "Rules for Radicals." Alinsky's "Rules" is the guidebook for social revolution and transforming a democratic America into a socialist state. Socialism with its cradle-to-grave government control is the necessary political structure before imposition of the globalist elite's end-game of one-world government. Barack Obama is a malignant narcissist whose self-aggrandizing personality made him the perfect puppet and most lawless president in US history. His stunning executive overreach was rivaled only by his greater crime of corrupting the impartiality of the US government by politicizing its agencies and using them to advance his personal political goals to weaken and destroy America. Barack Obama is a pawn of the globalist elites - the perfect con man.

The hoax:

The Humanitarian Hoax of climate change is the whopper of the 21st century. It is a deliberate political scheme to transfer the wealth of industrialized nations (particularly the US) to non-industrialized nations. It is globalized socialism where the assets of productive nations are transferred to non-productive nations. WHY?

The answer is found in understanding the nature of the hoax which has two parts. First, it is necessary to focus attention on the fabricated specter of catastrophic climate occurrences that will devastate the planet to deflect attention away from the actual threats to America from a nuclear Iran, the spread of Islamic terrorism, and the economic instability of a an unsustainable trade deficit.

Second, Obama's long term plan of an internationalized globalized world requires the de-industrialization of America. His crippling energy restrictions were designed to weaken America's defenses by destroying America's energy industry, making us more dependent on foreign energy, and increasing our trade deficit to unsustainable levels. Obama actively supported the punitive anti-American Paris Climate Agreement deceitfully presented as the premier humanitarian effort to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. Obama disguised his crippling rules and regulations to destroy US energy as altruism and a humanitarian concern for the planet.  

In a laughable outburst Big Footprint former Vice President Al Gore attacked President Donald Trump accusing him of "tearing down America's standing in the world" by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. Only in the eyes of a deceitful globalist can withdrawing from an anti-American agreement be considered destructive. Gore actually said with a straight face on NBC's Today Show, "The climate crisis is by far the most serious challenge we face." Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" is in fact a very "Convenient Lie."

Socialism with its complete government control is the prerequisite social structure for the globalist elite to internationalize the socialist countries, internationalize the police force, and impose enforced one-world government. One-world government is the new world order that the globalist elite intend to rule themselves. It is unapologetically described in chilling detail in Lord Bertrand Russell's 1952 book "The Impact of Science on Society." One-world government is a binary socio-political system of masters and slaves. There is no social justice in one-world government, there is no income equality in one-world government, there are no Leftists, environmentalists, humanitarian hucksters, or political agitators of any kind in one-world government - only a docile, compliant population of slaves ruled by the globalist elite.

One-world government is the goal and the underlying motive of the campaign to destroy America from within. American democracy is the single greatest existential threat to one-world government and President Donald Trump is America's leader. The globalist elite are desperate to stop Trump because if Obama is exposed as a con man it leaves them without their primetime huckster to continue marching America toward anarchy and social chaos with his "resistance" movement. The globalist elites who fund the leftist humanitarian hucksters are using them as useful idiots to facilitate the great Humanitarian Hoax of climate change worldwide that will create the overwhelming social chaos necessary to internationalize the police force and impose their own special brand of a new world order.  

Obama and his left-wing liberal lemmings are too arrogant to understand that they are being used as puppets by the globalist elite who have an end game of their own. If the globalist elite are successful in their efforts to weaken America and collapse the economy through an unsustainable trade deficit, overthrow the US government of President Donald Trump, and transform America into socialism the next step is globalist conquest and the imposition of one-world government.

After 241 years of American freedom the world will be returned to the dystopian existence of masters and slaves because a willfully blind American public was seduced by the Humanitarian Hoax of climate change - the "Inconvenient Truth" told by leftist humanitarian hucksters promising to save the planet. The Humanitarian Hoax will have succeeded in killing America with kindness and a "Convenient Lie."


Hypocrisy Alert: Gore's Astounding Carbon Footprint

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose — that’s the French phrase for “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Such is the case for Al Gore. In 2007, Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his first propaganda documentary effort, “An Inconvenient Truth.” He then pontificated, “The only way to solve this [environmental] crisis is for individuals to make changes in their own lives.”

Well, at the time we discovered that Gore’s massive 10,070-square-foot Colonial-style Nashville mansion consumes 20 times more electricity than the average American home. (He owns two other homes, too.) After getting blasted for such hypocrisy, Gore at least feigned efforts to mitigate his energy-hogging ways, installing solar panels and geothermal heating and making other costly “green” renovations that only elitists like Gore can afford. His 33 solar panels cost an estimated $60,000, for example, and yet they provide less than 6% of his monthly energy use. The geothermal heating system was even pricier at an estimated $90,000.

Just in time for the release of “An Inconvenient Sequel,” we learn that Gore’s efforts didn’t change much since 2007. In fact, the Gore Palace consumes more energy than it did a decade ago. According to the National Center for Public Policy Research, “Gore guzzles more electricity in one year than the average American family uses in 21 years.” Some months it’s far higher. “In September of 2016, Gore’s home consumed 30,993 kWh in just one month — as much energy as a typical American family burns in 34 months.” In fact, Gore uses enough electricity just heating his pool to “power six average U.S. households for a year.”

Drew Johnson, the author of the report, highlighted the rank hypocrisy: “It makes you wonder if he believes what he’s actually saying. Here’s a guy who’s basically exploited concerns about the environment to make $300 million dollars and win the Nobel Prize. It makes you wonder what his real agenda is.”

Johnson is deliberately understating the point. We don’t wonder what Gore’s real agenda is, because it’s obvious: vastly increase the power of government all while cashing in on a “crisis.”




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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