Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Electric car revolution almost here

The above heading is a prophecy of sorts but what the article reports is poor support for it.  It says that a lot of car manufacturers are gearing up to make electric cars. Big deal!  After the big goof Ford made with the Edsel we know that car manufacturers can guess wrong.

Battery cars are completely unsuitable for cold climates -- like most of Europe and North America. Northern heating requirements slash battery life to ribbons.  Let us see you drive your battery car to work in a Winnipeg winter. Battery cars will only ever be toys

What is unusual about the changes in the car industry is that businesses know they are coming and they are so big that in the near future they will not be able even to sell the products that have brought them so much success. As Herbert Diess, chief executive of Volkswagen, told a collection of senior executives in January: “The time of classic manufacturers is over.”

One of the reasons that shares in Tesla have soared — they are still up almost 70 per cent in 2020, despite the coronavirus sell-off — is the recognition that the skill of developing an internal combustion engine and managing a traditional automotive supply chain is different from building an electric computer on wheels. Tesla has a clear head start. It sold 367,500 electric vehicles last year, compared with Volkswagen’s 79,000.

VW is investing $US30bn ($46bn) trying to catch up, while General Motors said last week it would spend $US20bn by 2025 after claiming to have made a breakthrough on the range and charging speed of its batteries.

Geely, the Chinese owner of Volvo, is developing satellites to support its autonomous and electric vehicles, while Toyota thinks hydrogen cars could be a big part of the future.

These are still early days in the revolution. Carlos Tavares, chief executive of PSA Group (formerly Peugeot Citroen), said last week the only people buying electric cars were “green addicts”. There are not enough charging points and the cars are too expensive.

However, change is happening; it’s just that predicting much else about the revolution is foolhardy


The Government’s energy policy could cripple global Britain

As Britain relaunches itself as an independent trading nation, its fate will depend on how competitive it is. We have lots going for us, but we also have a heavily regulated economy, high labour costs and low productivity, so we may be in for a shock. And there is one slug of self-inflicted burdens that we are in the process of making much worse, perhaps crippling: our energy policy.

Britain has uniquely legislated to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in 2050, which means going cold turkey on the 85% of our energy that currently comes from gas, oil and coal. That means finding ways to run not just the electricity grid, which is about 20% of our energy, without net emissions, but all our heating, transport and industrial processes too. Surprisingly, the Committee on Climate Change failed to produce a detailed costing of this ambition before recommending it, but reputable estimates put the cost at around £3 trillion in the absence of any breakthrough in nuclear fusion or carbon capture.

The cost of some existing policies is already being passed on to consumers at the rate of £10 billion a year. Subsidies for wind, solar and biomass electricity have made household electricity prices about 35% higher than they would otherwise have been, according to the government’s own estimates. The prices paid by businesses – which are also passed on to consumers in the prices of products and services – are more like 60% higher. Industrial electricity prices here are among the highest in the world. That is a big drag on competitiveness, and is a large part of the explanation of our falling within-country emissions. Carbon dioxide has been one of the most successful exports of the last decade.

The main beneficiaries from these policies are the renewable energy industry, and the government itself, which charges VAT on top of these subsidies. Fortunately for politicians the pain of these increases has been dulled by two factors: first, a fall in gas and oil prices during the past decade; and second, a decline in the quantity of electricity consumed. Had this not happened, as Professor Dieter Helm of Oxford University wrote in 2017, “there would then have been a serious capacity crunch and much higher prices.”

The world, and Asia in particular, is electrifying more and more processes, because it is such a versatile and efficient source of power, but we and the EU seem to be moving in the other direction. One of the reasons for the fall in electricity consumption is the emigration of industry to cheaper locations. An EU study published last year showed that industrial electricity in the EU28 is not only 50% more expensive than in the G20, it is actually more expensive than domestic retail electricity in the G20. No wonder factories are moving. We have already lost our aluminium industry and much of our steel industry. We still need these materials but we import them from countries with higher emissions, which makes no sense. Even our successful digital economy is not immune to energy costs: server farms are huge users of power. High energy costs are a non-tariff barrier against our own exports.

Energy is not just another raw material, like paper or cement. It’s the very source of wealth. An economy is a thermodynamic engine, creating useful structures and patterns by harnessing energy to undo entropy. High energy costs are extremely dangerous for an economy over time. They become embedded in the costs of the capital they create and they deter experimental innovation. The Germans are now recognising that their extremely expensive Energiewende has poisoned their export economy, and only an undervalued exchange rate is keeping the show on the road.

In the past few weeks, the government has made a string of announcements relating to energy, all attempting to appease the green lobby. Every single one will raise costs to consumers but reward special-interest lobbies of crony capitalists: building HS2 at public expense, complete with its own trackside wind farms; backing off Heathrow’s privately funded third runway; bringing forward the date of banning diesel and electric cars; banning coal and wet-wood stoves used by the less well off in rural areas; mandating the use of subsidised ethanol from wheat; reopening subsidy schemes to wind and solar power. In that last case, ministers argue that onshore wind power is now cheaper than fossil-fuel power and no longer needs subsidies, so they have reopened the subsidies for it. Eh?

The falling cost of offshore wind power is a big myth, by the way. The system cost, connections and back-up required to stabilise a grid relying heavily on intermittent energy is huge, growing and not included in the headline figure for wind subsidy. On top of that, two studies have now confirmed that capital expenditure per megawatt of new capacity in the wind industry has not fallen significantly. Gordon Hughes, CapellAris and John Constable presented public-domain data suggesting that capex in offshore wind was falling only slightly due to technical progress, and that this was completely offset by moving into deeper water. And economists at the University of Aberdeen used a different data set to come to almost the same conclusion, that it will still cost £100 per MWh to get electricity from UK offshore wind farms.

So why are the operators of offshore wind farms bidding lower prices than this? The subsidies take the form of “Contracts for Difference”, but these are misnamed. They are not binding futures contracts, obliging the generator to supply at a bid price. The penalty for non-supply is trivial. The CfDthus gives the generator an entitlement to a price, but puts them under no binding obligation to supply.

As John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation puts it: “Consequently, generators have bid very low in order to obtain an entitlement to a price, and an option for development. This option secures a market position, inhibits competition, and generates excellent public relations. In essence the generators are gambling on future market prices rising above the CfD for whatever reason, in which case they will bail out and take the market price.”

In the case of transport, fuel tax is already exceedingly high in this country, leading many hauliers who come here from the continent to carry extra diesel tanks so they don’t have to refuel while here. Insisting on biofuels will increase the underlying cost and that will be multiplied by Fuel Duty (is that the Chancellor’s cunning plan?). In any case, it takes almost as much diesel and gas to plant, fertilise and harvest a crop of wheat as you get ethanol out of it.

Britain deludes itself that it is setting an example to the world by decarbonising faster. But China, India and even Germany are still building hundreds of coal-fired power stations. The UK is unlikely to be able to manufacture attractive high-value exports if its energy costs are higher than the competition.

Nor can we sell the energy technologies themselves. The experience of Scotland clearly shows that even when government colludes with the renewables industry, there is almost no local employment in the manufacture of wind turbine parts, because renewables are already expensive, and insisting on substantial local content drives up costs still further. Wind turbines will not be made in the United Kingdom, unless labour costs are driven down, and the only way to do that is to force down living standards. Does that sound like good politics to you? Me neither.

The purpose of decarbonisation is to alter the climate for the better. Yet nobody in their right mind thinks that net zero emissions will prevent wet winters and flooding. Such bad weather happened in the past anyway, and flood prevention and mitigation would be necessary even if the climate ceased warming. Rather than wasting money on subsidies to renewables, how about some flood defences? They work!

Our energy policy is centrally planned but it resembles the practice under fascist regimes rather than socialist ones, because it rewards favoured private firms. As Dieter Helm wrote in 2017: “In the current decade, the government has moved from mainly market-determined investments to a new context in which almost all new electricity investments are determined by the state through direct and often technology-specific contracts. Government has got into the business of ‘picking winners’. Unfortunately, losers are good at picking governments, and inevitably – as in most such picking-winners strategies – the results end up being vulnerable to lobbying, to the general detriment of household and industrial customers.”

I fear that the Conservatives have fallen into the error of thinking of the nation as a business. This is both illiberal and makes the classic mistake of answering to the interests of producers rather than consumers. Businesses are command economies on the inside (which is why business people generally speaking do not make good politicians). But populations and the nation states they create to represent their common interests are not businesses: they are voluntary collaborations. The green agenda, as with any ‘crisis’, gives a pretext for the creation of a command economy. If we continue down this road it will not only make us uncompetitive, but also, like all the other corrupt and inefficient command economies before us, very, very dirty.


CO2 Coalition Member Craig Idso Files Petition to Repeal EPA CO2 Endangerment Finding

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (hereafter, Center) announces it has filed a petition with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking it to repeal its Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (74 FR 66,496, Dec 15, 2009).

Over ten years have elapsed since the EPA Administrator made this judgment in its so-called CO2 Endangerment Finding. During that time a considerable amount of scientific research has been conducted on the potential impacts of rising greenhouses gases on humanity and the natural world. The additional knowledge obtained from such research and observations reveal quite clearly that rising greenhouse gases do not represent what EPA identified in 2009 to be a current or future threat to public welfare.

According to the Center's Chairman, Dr. Craig Idso, who is the lead author of the petition, "multiple observations made over the past decade confirm the projected risks and adverse consequences of rising greenhouse gases are failing to materialize. The truth is, in stark contrast to the Endangerment Finding, CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use during the Modern Era have actually enhanced life and improved humanity's standard of living. And they will likely continue to do so as more fossil fuels are utilized."

The 139-page petition by the Center highlights multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of this thesis. In particular, the petition shows (1) there is nothing unusual or unnatural about Earth's current warmth or rate of warming, (2) historic and modern records of atmospheric CO2 and temperature violate established principles of causation, (3) model-based temperature projections since 1979 artificially inflate warming (compered to observations) by a factor of three, invalidating the models and all their ancillary claims associated with greenhouse gas-induced warming, and that (4) key adverse effects of greenhouse gas-induced warming, including extreme weather events, temperature-induced mortality and sea level rise, are not occurring despite EPA predictions they should be worsening.

The petition also presents compelling evidence that CO2 emissions and fossil energy use provide critical benefits that act to enhance health and welfare for humanity and the natural world. According to Dr. Idso, "Without adequate supplies of low-cost centralized energy derived from fossil fuels, few, if any, of the major technological and innovative advancements of the past two centuries that have enhanced and prolonged human life could have occurred. Additionally, without the increased CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use over the past two centuries, Earth's terrestrial biosphere would be nowhere near as vigorous or productive as it is today. Rather, it would be devoid of the growth-enhancing, water-saving and stress-alleviating benefits it has reaped in managed and unmanaged ecosystems from rising levels of atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution began."

Such demonstrable facts presented in the Center's petition provide clear evidence that EPA's 2009 Endangerment Finding is scientifically flawed. Consequently, the Center calls upon the EPA to overturn its 2009 Endangerment Finding.

The petition can be viewed or downloaded at:

Via email

What 'Climate Change' Is Really All About

At the polls this year voters have a rare opportunity to slow or even halt the runaway scaremongering campaign of global warming, a.k.a. climate change. Or as yours truly refers to it, hucksterism by profiteers intent on separating people from their money.

As I’ve written for nearly a quarter of a century, global warming never has been about the globe getting warmer. It’s always been about control and money. Warmists’ control and your money.

It’s not difficult to discern a candidate’s stance on the issue. The warmists in particular are loud about their positions. If you’ve already been persuaded that man is creating unprecedented, dangerous increases in earth’s temperature, you’ve been misled.

The real science is clear. Man is not dangerously raising the planet’s temperature. Doom is not just around the corner. Don’t believe me? Check out the in-depth studies here.

Voters shouldn’t be stampeded into costly fixes for what’s not broken. What we should be asking is, “Why would anyone want me to believe something that’s not true?”

There are trillions of reasons. They’re called dollars. (See above: what global warming always has been about.)

Common sense helps cut through the clatter. What on earth do alarmists even mean when excitedly squalling about earth’s temperature?

Well, they don’t mean local temperatures. They’re up and down all the time.

No, like politics, the climate that really matters is local. Global “averages” are meaningless. The “average” human being has ½ penis, ½ vagina, one testicle, and one female breast. Average is a statistical caricature. It’s not real. It doesn’t exist except on paper — or in computer models in the case of global warming’s “settled science.”

Voters should also ask why environmental alarmists promote endless fear of any change in nature. By their logic, any warmer change automatically is man’s fault. Doesn’t it then follow that any cooler change means we should celebrate whatever we did to bring that about? Don’t count on it. In the 1970s, when things actually got cooler, the same breed of opportunists screamed that a new ice age was near, and man was to blame.

What’s a man to do? If it’s hotter, it’s his fault. If it’s cooler, ditto. Either way, guess who will be forced to pay to fix it? Yep. Man.

The reality is that climate has continually changed since earth’s first sunrise. It will continue to change as long as the planet exists. Greenland once grew grapes. London’s River Thames used to freeze over. Change is the constant. Unchanging climate exists in the same place as “average global temperature” — in the imagination. That’s also the only place you’ll find the predicted horrifically high temperatures.

But as long as “change” is considered the problem, these exploiters of fear will reap perpetual paydays. Here is what actually is settled about global-warming alarmism: Nothing will stop the pretend “problem,” no matter how much you pay in taxes, regulatory costs, penalties, and interest.

You’ll always be told, no matter how much you’ve already paid, that you must pay more. And more again, ad infinitum. It’s the perfect marriage of faux science badly applied and criminal shakedowns that would make the mob envious.

Regarding change, climate physicist/meteorologist Richard Lindzen said, “We are scanning for small changes … we are talking about tenths of a degree … and viewing them as ominous signs of something.”

Such infinitesimal differences are doubly absurd when you realize temperatures alarmists tout aren’t even real. They shamelessly “adjust” already dubious raw data, pushing earlier readings down and later readings up — and, voila! The numbers fall in line with their talking points. Like magic. Or something.

Global warming alarmism began with apocalyptic predictions of dying polar bears, mass starvation, and metropolis-submerging tidal waves. Four decades have passed. No such events have occurred. Yet every 10 or 12 years we’re told we have only 10 or 12 years left before “it’s too late!”

But Gaia-worshiping alarmists continually harp on “change” as if it were an evergreen hymn. Change itself has become the thing to fear, particulars aside. Who needs particulars when they’ve got taxes, regulatory costs, penalties, and interest?

If a purported “increase” of a few hundredths of a degree over decades justifies the current shakedown of hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide, imagine how much in taxes, regulatory costs, penalties, and interest climate-change cashiers will ring up if things actually do get warmer — say, by a whole degree or two.

When you cast ballots this year, don’t be duped. Global warming, or its alias, climate change, is not about you making the globe warmer. It never has been. Its motives are as old as politics.

In addition to the site linked above, you can catch up on the facts about the global warming controversy at Enjoy and be enlightened.

But in this campaign year, as always, be leery of global warming advocates who stand to gain taxes, regulatory costs, penalties, and interest if they persuade you.


Minding the carbon offset gap: bringing net emissions down to zero

Australia’s carbon offset industry will need to grow exponentially if the country is to reach a net zero emissions target, underscoring the challenge facing policymakers trying to weigh up achieving climate targets while also sustaining lucrative coal, oil and gas industries.

Data released by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and the Clean ­Energy Regulator last week shows the massive gulf that exists ­between the volume of carbon emitted by Australia and the amount captured through abatement measures.

Less than 3 per cent of the ­nation’s emissions are being offset under the federal government’s emissions reduction fund.

Labor has adopted a target of Australia becoming carbon-­neutral by 2050, with leader Anthony Albanese flagging that the coal industry could continue to exist under such a target because of offsets in the likes of forestry and agriculture.

But the latest data reveals the daunting scale of the task of relying on offsets to achieve the target, with the equivalent of 33 tonnes of CO2 emitted across Australia for every one tonne of CO2 captured through official offset programs.

The latest edition of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory showed a slight fall in carbon emissions for the year to September last year, with the total falling 1.4 million tonnes, or 0.3 per cent, to 530.8 million tonnes.

That fall was achieved only as a result of the drought that crippled much of rural Australia last year, which reduced emissions by 4.1 million tonnes because of declines in livestock populations and a drop in fertiliser use.

Emissions linked to the oil and gas industry jumped significantly as new liquefied natural gas projects continued to ramp up.

The total emissions volumes dwarf the progress made under the federal government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, which Energy Minister Angus Taylor said this week had issued just under 15 million carbon credit units last year. Each credit is the equivalent of one tonne of offset carbon emissions.

Limited options

The carbon offset industry in Australia broadly revolves around planting trees and vegetation in areas degraded through historical agricultural practices, or preserving forest previously earmarked for clearing. Savanna fire management — in which areas of grassland are burnt off early in the dry season to avoid larger-scale fires from longer grass later in the season — also has become a significant area of activity. Offsets also involve investing in renewable ­energy projects.

Increasingly affordable renewable energy sources are forecast to make strong inroads into emissions associated with electricity generation — which is the largest single source of emissions in Australia, accounting for more than a third of all carbon pollution — in the years ahead.

But the path to offsetting the emissions of other sectors, such as the mining industry, oil and gas, transport and agriculture, is less apparent. Last Friday Taylor said the government would look at the “biological sequestration” techniques used in offsets as well as ­hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, lithium and livestock feed supplements as part of the government’s plans to reduce emissions.

While Taylor held fast against setting a 2050 emissions target, both the federal opposition and every state government have adopted net zero by 2050 policies.

And the Business Council of Australia, global mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto, and big oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum have all put their support behind a ­target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The broadening support for a net zero emissions position means the role of carbon offsets is expected to grow significantly.

But the practice, which predominantly involves planting trees or preserving forests, has had a chequered history and has been a point of contention among environmental groups.

The Climate Council says “there is no room for carbon offsets” in meeting any net zero target, and instead says emissions need to be cut “deeply and rapidly at their source”.

Conservation Council of Western Australia executive director Piers Verstegen says scaling up the nation’s carbon ­offset industry to the level needed to offset large-scale emissions would be “problematic”.

Many of the easiest sources of abatement in Australia have already been tapped, he says, while looking overseas for offsets poses problems of transparency and credibility.

While Verstegen says an expanded carbon offset industry in Australia can be a big source of job creation and investment, the recent Black Summer bushfires showed the challenge of relying on planting trees to offset emissions.

“You can grow trees, but how can you guarantee they’re going to be there in five, 10, 20 or 50 years, particularly when we are facing changing climatic conditions and increasing bushfire risk which might make the offset impermanent?” he says.

No guarantees

Globally, the offset industry has been marred by problems of credibility and effectiveness.

US-based environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defence Council has warned of the perils of consumer-levels offset programs, noting there can be big differences in the quality of different offsets.

First, it says, the offset needs to be real, verified and enforceable — that the promised tree, for example, will actually be planted and that the company or individual responsible will be held accountable if it is not.

Even more difficult, the NRDC says, is ensuring the offset is permanent and additional. A tree that is cut down soon after it is planted is of limited value, as is any offset investment that was going to happen anyway.

Then there is the risk of “leakage” — paying an Amazonian farmer not to sell his plot to a logging company, the NRDC says, is cancelled out if the logging company just buys a different plot instead.

Room to expand

Looking overseas for offsets adds another layer of complexity, given the jurisdictional challenges of verifying them.

In Australia, the offset industry falls under the watch of the Clean Energy Regulator, which assesses the eligibility of projects and the methodology they use.

Brendan Foran, chief executive of established carbon offsets group Greening Australia, says there is enormous potential to expand the use of offsets in ­Australia.

There are 90 million hectares of cleared land across the country, he says, that could be tapped for offsets but the sector has been held back by constrained support. Foran says the industry typically has revolved around short-term funding and grants, which has limited its ability to ­execute the sorts of large-scale projects that would increase the amount of offsets and bring down their costs.

Foran is all too aware of the vast gap between emissions and offsets in Australia. “That’s basically the problem that I’m trying to solve at the moment,” he says.

He says he is starting to see some change because of moves in the corporate sector.

Last year Greening Australia struck a deal with Woodside, which has identified offsets as a key plank of its plans to be net zero by 2050.

That deal, Foran says, will see Woodside bring not only money but also the sort of large-scale project execution skills and data analysis needed to significantly expand Greening Australia’s operations and bring abatement costs down.

Globally, he says, there is a vast pool of money looking to invest in offset assets, but there is a shortage of suitable deals.

However, even with a significant growth in offsets, Foran says, there will need to be enormous cuts in the amount of emissions if the gap is to be narrowed.

“I’m not trying to create an impression here that planting native trees is the total answer. It’s just part of the answer,” he says.

“It’s not enough just to stop or reduce your emissions, we actually need to draw carbon out of the ­atmosphere as well.

“We need to do both.”

Foran also notes there is a wide range in the quality of offsets on the market. There is a big difference, for example, between simply planting one type of tree in continuous rows compared with Greening Australia’s approach of establishing biodiverse systems.

New technology

While the gap between offsets and emissions looks huge today, Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Leonard Quong says the world will be a very different place by 2050.

Factors such as the forecast improvement in offset technologies and processes, efficiencies in mining practices and the erosion of global demand for carbon-­intensive commodities such as coal mean offsets are likely to make larger inroads into the world’s emissions by 2050.

Big miners increasingly are looking towards solar and wind to power their operations, global coal demand is already starting to ease, and hydrogen fuel technology is gathering pace and could well be a reality in 30 years.

There’s also potential technological leaps — such as in direct air capture that strips carbon dioxide out of the air — and further refinement of carbon capture and storage systems that could occur in the coming decades.

Those sorts of factors, Quong says, mean the pool of emissions requiring offsets in 2050 will be a lot smaller than it is today.

“Can you get today’s economy completely offset with today’s offset systems and practices? Probably not. But we’re not trying to do that and I don’t think anyone would seriously consider that,” Quong says.

“It’s a factor of everything ­moving — the economy, society and politically — and the abatement technologies that we apply to that.”



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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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