Sunday, January 03, 2021

Major climate change measures included in Covid aid bill

The Covid-19 relief bill that President Donald Trump signed on Sunday includes legislation to fund investments in clean energy technologies and regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases — a step that offers some hope for the bigger climate ambitions of President-elect Joe Biden.

The legislation, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that was included within the Covid relief deal, authorizes $35 billion in spending over the next five years on solar, wind and other clean power sources. It also includes new regulations aimed at phasing out a planet-warming coolant called hydrofluorocarbon that is often used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

"This is the most significant piece of climate and energy legislation enacted by Congress in at least a decade," said Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based global research nonprofit.

The climate policy within the 5,593-page bill attracted support from prominent members of both parties in Congress.

"Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told The Associated Press.

"These measures will protect our air while keeping costs down for the American people,″ he added.

The funding comes ahead of what is expected to be a significant climate push from Biden, who campaigned on a $2 trillion plan to modernize the U.S. energy system and achieve a 100 percent clean electricity standard by 2035. Biden has also said he plans to have the U.S. re-enter the Paris climate accord.

And while Biden does have some Republican allies in his fight against climate change, pushing through significant legislation is expected to be challenging. Gina McCarthy, the former Environmental Protection Agency chief who Biden has tapped to lead his climate efforts, said in an interview that Biden will have options as president if Congress resists his efforts.

"I know people are worried about what we can do legislatively, but there's so much that you can do with executive authority," McCarthy said. "It's the federal government that decides how it is going to advance the budget that is given by Congress."

"I think we can do a lot with executive orders," she said. "You can do a lot on the mitigation side to reduce greenhouse gases with work to begin immediately."

The legislation included in the Covid-19 relief bill gives those efforts a head start by targeting hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which make up a small percentage of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere but are considered extremely dangerous because they have a thousand times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.

The law makes the U.S. consistent with the Kigali Agreement, an October 2016 deal reached by 197 nations to eliminate HFCs. During his presidency, Trump never ratified the agreement, which is seen by climate activists as a crucial part of the broader fight against global warming.

"All together the Kigali Amendment is projected to reduce global warming by 0.5 degrees Celsius, or almost 1 degree Fahrenheit," Lashof said.

McCarthy said these kinds of steps are key to reintroducing the U.S. as a global leader in the fight against climate change.

"I think we'll be welcomed with open arms," said McCarthy, who was also a negotiator on behalf of the U.S. for the Kigali Agreement, "I think people are waiting for the U.S. to rejoin and to again play a leadership role."

In addition to its HFC regulation, the legislation extends tax credits for solar and wind power companies, originally set to expire at the end of the year, by two years. It also puts money behind research into new "grid technology" to store energy and the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere produced by power and manufacturing plants.

Lashof called the bill a "very positive way to end a very difficult year."

Electric Vehicles and Their Drawbacks

Electric-powered cars are now the rage. Tesla’s market capitalization is seven times larger than that of General Motors and fourteen times larger than Ford’s, though it builds a fraction of the vehicles that those companies do. Many politicians are even considering banning gasoline-powered cars within a few years in favor of electric vehicles (EVs), all in the name of saving the planet.

This has significant meaning to me. As a third-generation automobile dealer, I need to get ahead of the curve and prepare for what is next. I want to sell what people want to buy. I have driven the Volkswagen Golf EV, the Honda Clarity plug-in (PEV), and now the Hyundai Kona EV. All have good road characteristics and operate similarly to gasoline-powered cars, with the exception of how they are powered. I installed a Level II charger at my home. The cost: about $850. I am fortunate that my fuse box is located in the garage, so I did not need much additional wiring. The garage is where I charge these EVs overnight.

Some say that a 250-mile range is a must for an EV, and I agree. Charging one with a normal 120-volt plug requires about 54 hours so a Level II, 240-watt charger is needed – the same voltage that a home drier uses. To fully charge the Kona with its 64 kW battery requires up to ten hours. Plug in when you come home, and it is ready by the time you leave for work in the morning. A 250-mile range gets me just about anywhere I want to go.

The question remains: What is it like to have to depend upon a public charging stations? Tesla has a robust, nationwide rapid-charging infrastructure, but Tesla uses a proprietary charging plug that does not work with other makes of vehicles. Volkswagen, as part of its diesel settlement, has constructed a large charging network under the name of Electrify America. Electrify America has the closest rapid chargers to both my home and my office.

Driving from my home and with about 25 miles of battery range (10% of capacity), I headed off to the Reston Virginia fast charger, located in an office park. It is a few miles farther than the local gasoline station that I normally use. It had three charging towers, each with two cords. One of the cords fits only the Nissan Leaf. There were four 350 kW chargers and one 50 kW charger to select from. I chose the 50 kW charger, plugged in the cord, inserted my credit card, and experienced my first public fast charge.

How long it takes a battery depends upon four things: the capacity of the charger, the capacity of the battery, the battery discharge condition, and the rate of charge that the battery will accept. The Kona will accept up to a 75 kW rate of charge.

Fast chargers will bring the battery only to an 80% total charge due to the limitations of lithium batteries. Charging above 80% will damage the battery. Since I arrived at the charging station with ten percent capacity remaining, I received an additional 70% charge, which gave me about 190 miles total range. It required one hour and ten minutes. The cost was $21.07, or 43 cents per kW. The cost would be about 34 cents per kW if I joined Electrify America for four dollars per month. Filling my gasoline vehicle for the same range would cost less – about $13. Charging an EV at a fast charger costs more per mile of range than filling up a gasoline-powered vehicle.

What struck me first was how this could possibly work for me if I had to rely entirely on fast chargers and instead of my home charger. I drive at least 80 miles each day, which means I would have to recharge my Kona every other day assuming that I did not do more driving than just between my home and the office. Since it required over one hour to charge the battery, I would have to spend over 200 hours annually charging my vehicle – the equivalent of 25 eight-hour working days. And this assumes that I never had to wait in line for another vehicle to finish charging and that the charging station was nearby when I needed one. If I lived in a town home, or an apartment, without access to a Level II home charger, I would have to rely entirely on the public fast-charging network. And instead of a 250-mile range, I would have only about a 190-mile range to work with.

I later charged with a 150 kW and 350 kW charger, but the time expended was no less. It was quite cold when I used the 350 kW charger. The charging time was actually about five minutes longer than when using the 50 kW charger. Perhaps the periodic cycling of my car’s heater was the reason. Using fast chargers can be quite boring, so make sure that you bring something to do.

Next, I used the nearest fast-charging station from my office. It is 12 miles distant, a 20-minute drive each way. If I had to rely entirely on this charger, it would require one hour and 40 minutes every other day, or 300 hours every year. This would be equal to 37 eight-hour work days annually.

I know that some EV drivers combine shopping and other activities while they charge their vehicles. This might work with the more common, publicly accessible, and slower Level II chargers, but probably not with the Electrify America charging network, since there is only a ten-minute grace once the 80 percent charge is achieved. Otherwise, 40 cents per minute is tacked on to the cost of charging.

Questions also arise about how many chargers would be needed to keep cars like mine on the road. One electrical cord could charge only about 20 cars each day (80 miles per day driving and 170 miles available driving range). Perhaps a more realistic capacity would be 12 cars a day, since it is doubtful many would be doing this in odd hours. Ten thousand cars like mine would require 416 charging cords (or 208 towers with two cords each). It would require only about 14 gasoline hoses (or seven towers) to fuel the same number of gasoline-powered vehicles at 50% capacity. One hundred thousand EVs would require over 4,000 available charging cords.

The other drawback to EVs is their higher cost. The MSRP of the 2021 Hyundai Kona Ultimate I have been charging is $46,985. The same model powered by gasoline has an MSRP of $31,370, or over $15,000 less. I have read that one reason for the price differential is that to manufacture a 1,000-pound battery requires the processing of 50,000 pounds of ore, and one must move 500,000 pounds of overburden to get the ore. The lithium, cobalt, copper, and rare-earth minerals required to manufacture the battery largely come from overseas. Eighty percent of battery manufacturing takes place in China, so this is likely to have an impact on our trade imbalance and energy independence.

EVs start their lives with a larger carbon footprint than gasoline vehicles. Another question is how these batteries will be charged, since electricity mostly comes from non-renewable energy sources such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Some speculate that EV costs will decline with mass production, and that battery-charging times will be reduced with newer technologies. If this does not occur, then affordability, lack of range, and charging times will be major handicaps.

Besides the extra cost to purchase an EV and the larger carbon footprint, the greatest drawback by far will be what to do with all those hours spent waiting while one’s car is charging.

Don't Blame Climate Change for Massive Wildfires

The primary culprit is forestry mismanagement that panders to ecofascists.

According to Democrats and the mainstream media, the primary culprit for the massive wildfires consuming vast swaths of the Pacific Northwest is climate change. However, according to the scientific data accumulated over years of observation, the real reason has little to do with the changing climate and more to do with changes to forestry-management practices instigated by politicians unduly influenced by flawed environmentalist ideology.

Analysis of the historical records show that wildfires regularly burned millions of acres annually in the U.S. up until the late 1950s. Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. Forest Service, along with state agencies, began efforts to better control and limit the amount of acreage burned annually. Ironically, these efforts to suppress and prevent fires has contributed to the massive fires America is seeing today. The reason is simple: By not being control burned, these forests have accumulated vast amounts of fuel (overgrowth) and have become literal tinderboxes primed for igniting, whether by lightning or, in many cases, arson.

A 2012 paper titled “Long-Term Perspectives on Wildfires in the Western USA” from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded, “There is now a ‘fire deficit’ in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological [factors], and climate change. Large fires in the late 20th and 21st century fires have begun to address the fire deficit, but it is continuing to grow.”

A further indicator that climate change is not the cause of the Pacific Northwest’s massive wildfires is the fact that globally the number of wildfires has been steadily declining since 2003. Talk about an inconvenient truth refuting Joe Biden’s ridiculous and spurious labeling of President Donald Trump as a “climate arsonist.”

The solution to addressing California’s and other western states’ destructive and deadly wildfire problem is better forestry management. As Steven Hayward argues, “Forest management isn’t rocket science; native Americans actually practiced it. Active forest management is especially necessary if serious climate change is real, but instead of forest management, the climatistas think we can stop destructive forest fires by banning fracking and the internal combustion engine.”

Are cows the new coal? Chowing down on meat alternatives

Probably just a temporary fad. Comment from Australia

Vegetarians and vegans aren't the only ones avoiding meat, according to Jack Cowin, a man who made his fortune selling burgers and who is now a firm believer in meat alternatives.

"The meat industry is a huge industry but plant-based is the future as far as new product development goes," Cowin, the owner of the Hungry Jack's burger chain, says.

The billionaire holds a 24 per cent stake in plant based meat alternative V2Foods, which is used in Hungry Jack's Rebel Whopper burgers and stocked across Australia in Woolworths and Coles supermarkets.

Cowin says he's happy with sales of plant-based burgers across Hungry Jack's stores and he believes they will continue to grow driven by customers who are not vegetarian nor vegan but want to reduce their meat consumption for environmental or health reasons.

"We sell a lot more animal-based meat than we do plant-based meat," he says. "But there's also a group of meat eating people that are interested in the health aspects and they're interested in the environmental aspects and the millennial side of the population as you know, anything that is kind of planet friendly they like."

"So there's a definite market there and we've been able to attract new business," he says.

Hungry Jack's isn't the only fast food company getting on board meat alternatives with McDonald's announcing it will introduce a line of plant-based meat alternatives called 'McPlant' in 2021 and local chains Hunky Dory, Pie Face, Mad Mex, Fergusson Plarre and 7-Eleven all stocking meat alternative products.

Globally plant-based meat is attracting significant investment and now boasts cashed-up players like the $US10 billion ($13 billion) listed plant-based meat company Beyond Meat.

Meanwhile, its keenest competitor Impossible Foods is also gearing up for an initial public offering in the new year to cash in on the trend. Established food giants like Nestle and Unilever are also keen to dive deeper into the sector and the COVID-19 pandemic has ended up adding more fuel to the fire.

With abattoirs and meatworks across the US closing down to contain the pandemic, the resultant meat shortage forced many consumers to switch their attention to plant-based meat.

The wider acceptance of the products looks set to accelerate investor activity in the local meat alternative market that a 2019 report from think tank Food Frontier and consultancy Deloitte says could generate up to $150 million in sales. The report adds that on a "moderate" growth trajectory it would be worth almost $3 billion by 2030.

Food Frontier says the sector has been "growing exponentially" since the report was published with 29 Australian companies producing meat alternative products and over 200 meat alternatives on the shelves across Australia.

One of these new entrants is Australian startup Fable Foods which launched its mushroom based meat alternative last year and is now stocked across 150 cafes and restaurants and 1,500 retail stores including Coles supermarkets.

Fable co-founder Michael Fox says there are "significant tail winds" boosting the prospects of the meat alternative sector.

"Talking to people in the food industry who have been in it for a long time, this is very much a once in a generation sort of opportunity ," he says. "It's exciting for the future of the planet and it's an exciting sector to be running a business."

Fox believes we are at the cusp of a dramatic shift in consumption from products derived by animals to plant-based meat, with the transition to fully take hold within the next couple of decades.

"For the most part people buy meat because they love the taste of it and it's reasonably priced," he says.

"So our goal at Fable and the goal of other meat alternative companies is to produce products that have a better taste and texture than meat and are cheaper than animal meat."

"And if we can do that, then there is really no reason for people to eat meat from animals anymore."





Tez said...

HI JR are you OK? - not like you to not blog consisently Terry H

JR said...

I am getting old -- 77
Not much energy now

Tez said...

Tez says Fully understand. I am 77 myself and your lack of energy is mutual