Friday, September 25, 2020

The Observer [Leftist] view on Boris Johnson’s environmentalism

Boris is pretty sane so he can be expected to do mostly tokenistic things. He relies on Northern seats for his government and they are a rather cynical lot. Greenie righteousness is probably one of the things that put them off the Labour party

But Boris does seem to have been damaged by his encounter with the Coronavirus, which may explain why his leadership has been weaker than expected. And that could also make him less able to resist the constant pressures to be “Green”

Much has been made of Boris Johnson’s purported green credentials. They are in his blood, it is claimed. His father is an environmentalist, he says, while his brother Leo is a sustainability expert. At Oxford he even introduced himself as “a green Tory”, it was alleged in the Times last week. It sounds impressive, though it remains to be seen how well Johnson’s passion for protecting the environment and for combatting climate change will serve him over the next few weeks. His green badge of honour faces a testing time.

First on this agenda is the setting fire to British peatlands, an issue that we highlight in today’s Observer. Peat bogs are burned to encourage the growth of new heather shoots and so maximise the availability of food for grouse. It is good for the grouse (until the shooting starts) but bad for the environment. Our peatlands hold about 400m tonnes of carbon, according to the RSPB, and burning these reserves releases plumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It also destroys lichens and mosses and plays havoc with the habitats of waders and otters. The government’s Committee on Climate Change says peat burning should be halted and the environment minister, Zac Goldsmith, agrees. However, the move is being blocked by the environment secretary, George Eustice, who is keen to protect grouse estates that would otherwise have fewer birds to shoot and so lose business.

It is an unedifying spectacle in which privilege, as exemplified by the owners of shooting estates and by those who pay to kill grouse there, has used its influence to help halt action urgently needed to help the UK cut its carbon emission. It is only one of many other environmental headaches that lie ahead for our prime minister, however.

Next year, Britain will host one of the most important international summits ever staged. In November, in Glasgow, delegates will gather for the Cop26 climate meeting to debate how different nations will introduce strict emission cuts in order to implement the 2015 Paris agreement, which aims to keep global warming at a relatively safe level. That concordant has been under constant attack by Donald Trump who claims it is “ridiculous and extremely expensive” and harmful to industry. Johnson has uttered not a single word of defence against this invective despite the fact it is intended to undermine the summit Britain will be hosting. Johnson has a duty to do all he can to ensure Cop26 succeeds. His silence is an ominous warning that he does not accept such responsibility and is more interested in appeasing Trump.

The government’s position over environmental concerns has been further undermined by the recent decision to appoint the Australian climate sceptic Tony Abbott as a UK trade ambassador. The move has provoked a furious reaction with the UK’s former climate chief Claire O’Neill – who was sacked by Johnson earlier this year – describing the move as “a particularly bad decision” that erodes government claims to support green causes.

Last week, the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi announced it was abandoning plans to build a new £20bn nuclear power station at Wylfa in Anglesey. The reactor would have supplied 6% of Britain’s electricity and should have played a key role in replacing the nation’s network of ageing atom plants without building new oil or gas power stations. Britain once planned to build up to six new nuclear plants to provide the nation with electricity – alongside wind and solar power plants – in the 21st century. Today only one is under construction, Hinckley Point C, which is currently running almost £3bn over budget.

Johnson is expected to unveil a vision of how to ‘build back green’ after the coronavirus crisis has abated

Nuclear power plants are expensive, with high front-end construction costs, and that often leads to projects being axed. Nevertheless, the shrinkage of UK nuclear aspirations has not arrived abruptly. Plant cancellations have been accruing over the past decade with little sign that the government appreciates the impending crisis. Now it has arrived. It remains to be seen how Johnson will deal with it.

These grim tidings arrive at a time when it has become very clear we face a real chance of having to live with an unstable, overheated climate. Last week five separate tropical cyclones developed over the Atlantic for only the second time in history; wildfires continued to devastate Oregon and California; while summer Arctic sea ice coverage has reached its second-lowest level on record. All these events are linked to global heating caused by continued increases in fossil fuel consumption. We urgently need to end this addiction.

In the past, Britain has played a key role in the battle against climate change but our influence has waned and we look increasingly isolated and ineffective as an international player. This point was underlined last week when the EU and China concluded a leaders’ conference at which they agreed to establish a high-level environment and climate dialogue to pursue ambitious joint commitments to help combat global warming. Thanks to Brexit – which was so energetically pursued by Johnson – the UK was not involved in those talks.

Government sources say Johnson is planning to make a major speech on the environment in the next few weeks and is expected to unveil a vision of how to “build back green” after the coronavirus crisis has abated. Given the catalogue of green bungles and lost opportunities that have unfolded during his premiership, his words should make interesting reading.


Tesla hit with complete network outage locking some owners out

Tesla is experiencing a complete network outage that has hit its internal service and customer mobile app a day after the company lost $50 billion in its market value due to its failed ‘Battery Day.’

The mobile app holds a digital key and and only owners who have a physical version have been able to access and drive their vehicle – leaving those without stranded.

Sources told Electrek that Tesla’s internal systems are also down, making it impossible for staff to process deliveries and orders.

According to Down Detector, the outage is stretching across the US and over into parts of Europe.

Frank Lambert, a Twitter user and Tesla owner, was the first to sound the alarm about the outage. ‘Tesla is currently having a complete network outage. Internal systems are down according to sources. On the customer side, I can’t connect to any of my cars and website is not working,’ Lambert shared in a tweet.

Lambert, who has three Tesla vehicles, said on the social media site that he was unable to connect to the cars using the mobile app.

Other users chimed in shortly after, stating they were experiencing the same issue.

The Tesla mobile app holds a number of features for owners, including GPS Location to find their vehicle, Range Status to check the car’s charge status and a section to schedule services.

One of the connectivity features on the customer side that has been affected is the digital key, but owners with a physical version have been able to access and drive their vehicles.

However, some owner have been locked out of their vehicles.

Megan McChesney shared: ‘Can’t unlock my 3.. app is down.. can’t log into the website either… been on hold for an hour and wait time still says over an hour. This is what I get for trying to save the planet.’

Down Detector, a website that monitors outages online, shows most of outage is being felt in the US and in major cities like San Francisco, Boston, New York City and Chicago.

The outage has cross over the Atlantic, hitting parts of the UK, Germany and as far as Russia.

Tesla’s website is also showing errors beyond the main page, with problems hitting the firm’s energy products and leaving owners unable to monitor their systems, Electrek reports.


Founder of electric truck maker resigns after fraud allegations

The Phoenix-based company said in a statement that it had accepted Trevor Milton’s resignation and that he would be replaced by Stephen Girsky, a Nikola board member and former vice-chairman at General Motors (GM).

Founded by Milton in 2015 to develop trucks and pick-ups powered by electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, Nikola has not yet built anything, but caught attention by signing strategic partnerships with such renowned groups as GM and German engineering giant Bosch.

The announcement of the GM partnership on September 8 caused shares to leap 41 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

But two days later, investment company Hindenburg Research published a report accusing the startup of “intricate fraud” based on multiple lies by Milton, who it said “misled partners into signing agreements by falsely claiming to have extensive proprietary technology.”

That announcement triggered a plummet in share value, with stock diving 36 percent in three days.

It also sparked an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to sources cited by Bloomberg.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Milton said: “The focus should be on the Company and its world-changing mission, not me. I intend to defend myself against false allegations leveled against me by outside detractors.”

Nikola had rejected most of the claims in the Hindenburg report.

But it did not deny that it staged a 2017 video of one of its prototypes apparently in action.

According to Hindenburg, “Nikola had the truck towed to the top of a hill on a remote stretch of road and simply filmed it rolling down the hill.”

Nikola responded that it had “never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video” but had simply said that it had been “in motion.”


Green efforts that raise energy costs disproportionately hurt black people and poor people

If you try to find this article via Google using the headline above, you will fail. I note that on the search I did, there was a message “Some results have been removed”. Censorship of an unwelcome truth

“Black, Hispanic, and Native American households spend a much larger portion of their income on energy bills than non-Hispanic white households on average,” a new study finds.

And the differences aren’t small. For black households, energy’s share is nearly 50% higher than for white households.

Why is that? There are plenty of reasons, but mostly, it has to do with poverty.

African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans tend to be poorer than whites, and as the new study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy points out, energy costs as a percentage of income are 3 times larger for low-income families than they are for the average family.

That’s largely basic economics. When your income is low, a greater portion of your income goes to necessities: food, health, housing, heat, and electricity. For rich people, even though their energy costs are higher in dollar amounts given larger houses, more gadgets, multiple cars, et cetera, energy takes up a smaller slice of their income since much of their money goes to services, savings, vacations, and expensive stuff.

ACEEE and the liberal environmentalist website Grist point out other reasons energy costs for the poor are higher proportionately: Low-cost housing is less likely to have good insulation and weatherization, and energy-saving appliances and systems are expensive.

So this ought to inform our debates about climate and pollution policies.

Most environmental regulations impose economic costs in exchange for purported environmental gain. Often, those costs fall on the consumer. Your stuff becomes more expensive, your energy bills go up, your taxes go up, etc. Think of a carbon tax. The point is to make it more expensive to consume natural gas, gasoline, and coal, which is most of what powers the average person’s life.

At Grist, the website reporting on the ACEEE study, writers regularly point out that we need to pay more for energy to fight the climate fight. “Are we willing to accept global warming in exchange for cheap energy?”

Now, there are ways to transfer the higher costs away from the poor and onto society as a whole. The smartest involve efficiency. One of the cruelties of being poor is that it can be so darned expensive — poor people don’t have the capital to invest in things that will save them money in the long term. This applies to energy efficiency, too.

Better windows can pay for themselves with lower heating bills, but not if you can’t afford them upfront. Publicly funded weatherization for poor people will save poor people money, prevent energy waste, reduce pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet most environmentalist policies on the national level aim for moonshots, major climate programs that big business can sign on to because big guys shape the regulations and pocket the subsidies.

The Left doesn’t ignore the dynamic that simply increasing energy costs will punish the poor and minorities. They also sometimes perceive that bigger government historically is a home game for big business.

Hence the latest iteration of liberal environmentalism, the Green New Deal. A climate crisis, the logic goes, justifies a complete rewriting of society. You could see the logic of the Green New Deal this way:

1) We need to raise the cost of fossil fuels to make people use less.
2) This will fall disproportionately on poor people, so maybe we need to move away from the price system altogether.
3) In fact, to make our plan work, we need to rewrite society and the economy, which is great because we have some ideas about how things would run if we could restart at Year Zero.

In the end, you have some conservatives denying anything should be done, standard liberals teaming up with big business for inefficient handouts, and left-wing ideologues fighting for a new world that will rise up like the sun.

Meanwhile, poor people just want lower bills and some windows that will actually keep out the cold.




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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