Saturday, December 26, 2020

Hit the rich, say Greenies

World leaders should aggressively reduce the carbon footprint of the wealthiest to curb the effects of climate change, experts have said.

It comes after a UN report found that the wealthiest 1 per cent pump more than twice times as much carbon into the atmosphere as the bottom 50 per cent.

It is hardly the first time that wealthy figures have been accused of driving climate change with their lavish lifestyle choices.

Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry and Leonardo DiCpario were among a slew of well-heeled celebrities criticsed for attending a Google climate summit in Italy last year - arriving on private jets and yachts that left an estimated 800-tonne carbon footprint.

DiCaprio, a UN climate ambassador, has previously been criticised for speaking out on the issue despite frequently flying on private jets, renting a yacht from an oil baron, and owning four houses.

Oxfam's Confronting Carbon Inequality report singled out SUVs and frequent flying as two of the biggest drivers of the '1 per cent' carbon footprint, with many billionaires known to own private jets.

Like the UN report, published this week, it found the top 1 per cent contribute significantly more to climate change than the bottom 50 per cent.

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, is known to get around on a $65 million Gulfstream jet and in October 2018 was pictured taking an SUV to the airport with then-mistress Lauren Sanchez before hopping on board the aircraft.

Billioanaire Mark Cuban owns three jets - a Gulfstream that he uses as private transport and two Boeing business jets, one that he rents out as a charter and another that he uses to fly his basketball team around, Business Insider reported.

And despite producing eco-friendly electric cars via Tesla, Elon Musk's love of private jets has previously made headlines after he flew 150,000 miles using a Gulfstream jet in 2018.

Other billionaires to own polluting vehicles are Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, owners of two of the world's largest private yachts.

According to the UN, the richest will need to shrink their CO2 footprints significantly to avoid dangerous levels of global warming this century.

The annual study, carried out by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), highlights the gap between the levels emissions should be at to keep temperatures down and current real-life levels.

It found that the world's top 10% of earners devour about 45% of all energy consumed for land transport worldwide and 75% of that used for aviation.

The world's poorest 50% of households, meanwhile, consume just 10% and 5% respectively.

'This elite will need to reduce their footprint by a factor of 30 to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets,' Unep executive director Inger Anderson wrote in a foreword to the report.

Better batteries for electric cars from Toyota


The Japanese giant was due to unveil a working prototype of its new electric-car tech at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. But according to Asian business publication, the Nikkei, this is now due some next year.

A solid state battery is a huge advancement over the current lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars.

In simple terms, a solid-state battery is smaller, faster to charge, more energy dense and less likely to catch fire than current batteries. The main reason is because the battery uses a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid or gel.

Estimates put range at more than 800km and up to 1000km, with the ability to charge in under 10 minutes.

These advancements would enable electric cars to be more practical than most petrol- or diesel-powered cars.

The batteries provide other benefits such as a roomier cabin and greater efficiency due to a lower vehicle weight.

Toyota is aiming for its next-generation batteries to hold about 90 per cent of their charge for up to 30 years, much longer than lithium-ion examples.

Reports in the Nikkei say Japanese manufacturers are gearing up to start producing the battery tech in greater numbers. The Japanese government has set up a special decarbonising fund worth about $25.5b to help develop the new batteries.

The first working prototype vehicles fitted with a solid state battery are expected to break cover in 2021, although full production isn’t expected for several years at least.

Toyota isn’t the only brand working on the groundbreaking tech.

American electric car start-up Fisker has previously said it has been investing heavily in solid state battery tech. It is looking to fit the new tech to its low-volume EMotion luxury electric sedan.

Volkswagen and Nissan are two other conventional car makers working on developing the new electric car fuel cell, but both are behind Toyota.

Time to Finally End Solar and Wind Subsidies

Famed Chicago School economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman often said, “There is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.” Each year, when it comes time to pass an omnibus spending bill, taxpayers get a firsthand view of just how prophetic Friedman’s words were. This year is no different as Congress negotiates end-of-year spending and a potential COVID relief package. Programs and subsidies that should have gone by the wayside years ago once again find themselves squarely on the table.

Such is the case with the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) for both the wind and solar industries. The American taxpayer has been burdened enough by the rampant spending of the past year combatting the coronavirus and the deleterious effects of the associated lockdowns. Both the PTCs and ITCs for these industries – that have long since become mature enough to stand on their own – are sad testaments to government waste.

Another troubling provision would potentially mandate 100 percent renewable power. According to the American Energy Alliance, “The word on the street is that there are negotiations taking place to try and jam a pre-negotiated energy bill into the year-end spending bonanza. AEA obtained a page from the discussion draft that appears to include a provision from the House Green New Deal lite version of energy legislation, H.R. 4447, making is a ‘Sense of Congress’ that calls for 100% of power demand to come from ‘clean, renewable, or zero-emission’ energy sources.” This type of mandate would open the floodgates of taxpayer subsidies and raise energy costs.

Wind and solar subsidies are already estimated to cost American taxpayers a shade over $60 billion in just this decade alone. Extending these wasteful tax credits would add another $13 to $19 billion to that tally. Given that the United States is facing debt and deficit numbers never before seen in the nation’s history, the refusal of Congress to reject these extensions outright is patently absurd.

Not only is Congress’s profligate spending absurd, it is also thoroughly unnecessary in this case. These subsidies have been in place since 1992. Since 2010, the cost of onshore wind has dropped 40 percent and solar has dropped a staggering 80 percent. If, at this point, neither industry can stand on its own two feet without the ITC and PTC given to them by the federal government – and thus the American taxpayer – perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate them as viable energy sources moving forward.

Congress initially intended for the ITC and PTC to expire in 1999, a mere seven years after their debut. However, they have since been extended on 12 separate occasions. This year’s omnibus would mark the 13th such extension if allowed to go forward. This present extension would be particularly unnecessary given that even the industries involved have admitted to some extent that they no longer need these tax credits.

Last year, the Vice President of Federal Affairs for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced he would no longer be advocating for “wind-specific incentives” in the year-end package. Sadly, he changed his tune and decided to renew his call for wind tax credits ostensibly to compete with the solar industry. Ironically enough, the solar tax credits were not extended that year.

The solar industry continues to thrive without the tax credits, for the time being. In 2019, it became “the number one source of new electric generating capacity installed in the United States, representing 40% of all new capacity installed. Over the last 10 years, solar deployment has grown an average of 48% every year.” The same holds true for the wind industry. It has tripled in size and is expected to continue to grow even if the tax credits are phased out.

To be clear, the emergence of alternatives to traditional energy sources should be applauded. All honest lovers of the free market enjoy healthy competition for services. If wind and solar can finally stand on their own two feet, it will make the market for electricity and energy a far more vibrant one. However, free marketeers also know that no marketplace can be truly free if the government constantly has its thumbs on the proverbial scales.

Taxpayers should also be concerned with proposed language seeking to mandate the use of wind and solar. The decades of Congress reapproving PTCs and ITCs for these technologies have proven that our elected officials are bad at predicting the future. Boxing ourselves into a corner with mandates for today’s technology serves to only limit our options in terms of reducing emissions going forward.

These tax credits no longer represent a key lifeline for emerging alternative sources of energy. Instead, they have become just another form of government cronyism and – like most other forms of cronyism – crawl out into the limelight to get mindlessly shepherded through the halls of Congress without anyone second guessing the necessity of it. Let 2020 finally be the year that these programs are allowed to expire as they should have over 20 years ago.

The Green/Left nightmare

Below is what the World Economic Forum has in mind for us

As Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory show, predicting even the immediate future is no easy feat. When it comes to what our world will look like in the medium-term – how we will organise our cities, where we will get our power from, what we will eat, what it will mean to be a refugee – it gets even trickier. But imagining the societies of tomorrow can give us a fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities of today.

We asked experts from our Global Future Councils for their take on the world in 2030, and these are the results, from the death of shopping to the resurgence of the nation state.

1. All products will have become services. “I don't own anything. I don't own a car. I don't own a house. I don't own any appliances or any clothes,” writes Danish MP Ida Auken. Shopping is a distant memory in the city of 2030, whose inhabitants have cracked clean energy and borrow what they need on demand. It sounds utopian, until she mentions that her every move is tracked and outside the city live swathes of discontents, the ultimate depiction of a society split in two.

2. There is a global price on carbon. China took the lead in 2017 with a market for trading the right to emit a tonne of CO2, setting the world on a path towards a single carbon price and a powerful incentive to ditch fossil fuels, predicts Jane Burston, Head of Climate and Environment at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. Europe, meanwhile, found itself at the centre of the trade in cheap, efficient solar panels, as prices for renewables fell sharply.

3. US dominance is over. We have a handful of global powers. Nation states will have staged a comeback, writes Robert Muggah, Research Director at the IgarapĂ© Institute. Instead of a single force, a handful of countries – the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, India and Japan chief among them – show semi-imperial tendencies. However, at the same time, the role of the state is threatened by trends including the rise of cities and the spread of online identities,

4. Farewell hospital, hello home-spital. Technology will have further disrupted disease, writes Melanie Walker, a medical doctor and World Bank advisor. The hospital as we know it will be on its way out, with fewer accidents thanks to self-driving cars and great strides in preventive and personalised medicine. Scalpels and organ donors are out, tiny robotic tubes and bio-printed organs are in.

5. We are eating much less meat. Rather like our grandparents, we will treat meat as a treat rather than a staple, writes Tim Benton, Professor of Population Ecology at the University of Leeds, UK. It won’t be big agriculture or little artisan producers that win, but rather a combination of the two, with convenience food redesigned to be healthier and less harmful to the environment.

6. Today’s Syrian refugees, 2030’s CEOs. Highly educated Syrian refugees will have come of age by 2030, making the case for the economic integration of those who have been forced to flee conflict. The world needs to be better prepared for populations on the move, writes Lorna Solis, Founder and CEO of the NGO Blue Rose Compass, as climate change will have displaced 1 billion people.

7. The values that built the West will have been tested to breaking point. We forget the checks and balances that bolster our democracies at our peril, writes Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

8. “By the 2030s, we'll be ready to move humans toward the Red Planet.” What’s more, once we get there, we’ll probably discover evidence of alien life, writes Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist at NASA. Big science will help us to answer big questions about life on earth, as well as opening up practical applications for space technology.




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