Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Electric Car Fantasy

Hilariously unmentioned is that in a NY winter you will be able to drive electric cars only a small distance.  Winter heating gulps a huge amount of battery power, leaving a much reduced capacity to move the car.  So unless you have a very short commute, you will need a combustion car to get to work in winter. Fun!  A two car family is going to have a new meaning

And let me not mention congestion at charging stations.  Are you looking forward to waiting for half and hour while the guy in front of you charges up?

Greenie ideas are unbelievably dumb

Senator Chuck Schumer’s ambitious proposal bucks basic economics—and science.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has promised that if Democrats win the Senate in 2020, they’ll pass a law requiring that every car in America be electric by 2040. Chinese policymakers must be celebrating, because China makes the majority of the world’s batteries and has the most new battery factories under construction.

The Chinese will need someone to buy all those batteries. This past summer, when China abandoned subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs), sales collapsed. China’s plan now is to require automakers to produce EVs, but at a paltry 3 percent to 4 percent of output. Perhaps Beijing will ultimately increase the allocation, but truly revolutionary technologies never require governments to order their adoption. As for Schumer’s plan, it will fail on every front—including saving China’s battery industry.

Let’s start with what consumers want. SUVs and pickups now account for 70 percent of all vehicles purchased. Most people, it seems, like big vehicles. The minority who buy purely for economy choose small cars with gasoline engines. This option, by the way, puts less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a Tesla.

Consumers are price-sensitive in every category, a reality that politicians ignore at their peril. Batteries add about $12,000 to the cost of small and midsize cars. That’s meaningful for all consumers but the 1 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, automobiles constitute the most expensive category of consumables for the average household, costing twice that of health care. (Housing is the biggest expense, but that’s not a consumable.) A recent McKinsey analysis suggests that automakers could “decontent” EVs to cut costs—that is, take out the extra features that every salesman knows are what sells cars.

Setting aside details like cost and features, the key claim is that widespread use of EVs will reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions—except that it won’t, at least not meaningfully. First, it bears noting that regardless of Washington’s creative accounting, the all-EV-option would entail at least a $2 trillion cost to America’s economy, just in higher car costs. Then, simple arithmetic shows that this option wouldn’t even eliminate 8 percent of world oil demand. And the impact on global carbon-dioxide emissions would be even smaller.

Why? It takes energy—the equivalent of 80 to 300 barrels of oil—to fabricate a battery that can hold energy equal to one barrel. Thus, energy used to make batteries brings a carbon “debt” to EVs which, depending on where the factories are located, greatly diminishes, or even cancels out, emissions saved by not burning oil.

None of this changes the fact that, for the first time in a century, EVs are exciting options for niche markets. Credit for that goes to the three scientists who received the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing the lithium battery—and to Elon Musk.

If Teslas weren’t well-designed and appealing, even subsidies wouldn’t have enticed well-heeled buyers. Nor would every automaker be trying to compete. But for perspective on sales adoption in niche markets: even Tesla’s impressive cumulative total of over 500,000 sold in the six years after its introduction was eclipsed by the Ford Mustang, selling 2.5 million in its first six years.

The reality: there’s no stroke-of-a-pen way to change energy use radically for mainstream cars, 100 million of which are purchased every six years in America. And, as the International Energy Agency notes, efficiency improvements expected for combustion engines will save 300 percent more global energy than will all the EVs forecast to be on roads by 2040.

Senator Schumer is looking for a transportation revolution in all the wrong places. New York City was the epicenter of history’s last mobility revolution, when citizens embraced the automobile, leaving behind the era of filthy streets congested with inconvenient and expensive horses and a fatality rate tenfold higher than for car passengers today. Changing the fuel used by today’s cars is no more revolutionary than changing the type and source of horse feed 120 years ago.

For a real energy revolution, policymakers should join Bill Gates in calling for the only viable path to a radically different future: much more research in the basic sciences. That’ll require different budget priorities, as well as patience. Someday a chemist or physicist may discover, for example, a way to make a low-cost room-temperature superconductor. That would really change the world. Such a discovery would mean that electrons could be poured into a meta-barrel as easily as oil is poured into a steel one. Meantime, if today’s electric cars were genuinely compelling, consumers wouldn’t have to be ordered to buy them.


Coastal NC storm shows fragility of solar farms

Solar goons and their bought-and-paid-for politicians (like Bob Steinburg and Bobby Hanig) like to tell you there’s nothing to fear from all these state-subsidized solar farms being erected all over the countryside.  A little poking-around by Currituck County commissioner Paul Beaumont is telling us otherwise.   Here is Beaumont’s personal testimony to his county board  colleagues which was supplied to The Haymaker:

Wednesday morning, September 18th, I was asked to come out and meet with a concerned resident neighboring the Grandy, EcoPlex Solar Electric Plant. The resident called because workers at the facility were wearing masks over their faces and she was concerned about her family’s health. After arriving, an additional two neighbors joined us. Their concerns consisted of:

How the facility had stood up to the winds during hurricane Dorian.

How flooded the site and the surrounding lots became, that the drainage was worse than before construction.

One neighbor had experienced electric arcing when using a sump pump. She was concerned that the damaged panels, which were lying in standing water, were electrifying the water.

Based upon the video showing the destruction of a section of panels during the storm, I called Michael Ali, (PE) in the State Construction Office. During the conversation I informed him of the damage suffered in Grandy. He told me that this was the first significant test of a solar plant during a hurricane in the coastal region and was alarmed at the damage I described, despite winds significantly less than “designed” wind load certification.

Thursday morning, September 19th, I requested that I be able to visit site to better understand how the damage was caused, and the extent the damage. I asked Ben if it would be possible to go out with Eric Weatherly and Bill News which occurred later that day.

In examining the damage, it appeared as though every failure of frame and panel was caused by the loss of the fasteners holding the system together. Nuts, washers, and bolts were frequently found by the failed components. The panels are attached by only four bolts; where two fell of, the remaining two were torn from the frame as the panels departed.

As of Friday, EcoPlex was waiting on the insurance company prior to securing the damaged sections or reinforcing the remaining sections; I’ve been told every time the wind blows, panel sections bang together.


Neither Eric Weatherly nor Bill News are qualified to contradict the obviously flawed certification by the EcoPlex Professional Engineer (nor permitted statutorily). Although the County has requested analysis and revised engineering, currently they may not be under a date of completion. EcoPlex is still permitted to install solar panels on the current frame system. For consideration of the Board of Commissioners:

Should a “Stop Work” be issued considering the design failed during significantly less winds than the 120/150 mph the system was “certified” able to withstand?

Should we require independent engineering analysis of the proposed solution as a second opinion?

Should a date be set for the revised engineering input to the county?

Should the Board consider a “Field Trip”?

There is a strong possibility the identical design was used in Shawboro.


NY State blows smoke to hide wind costs

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy agency issued a stern correction to an October 24 blog post in this space that said subsidies for offshore wind developers could cost ratepayers more than $6 billion.

NYSERDA, the state Energy Research and Development Authority, said my calculations (which were based on NYSERDA’s own data) were “incorrect and misleading.”

So I went back and double-checked. In one respect, I did make a mistake, explained below—but not in reaching the $6 billion estimate. In fact, the final price tag could climb even higher.


First, some basics: Wind turbines set for construction off Long Island and New York City can’t operate profitably under present market conditions, so the state must subsidize their installation and operation. In the case of two wind projects announced by Governor Cuomo in July, the subsidies will be collected by public utilities from ratepayers across the state—a form of indirect taxation.

The turbine operators will sell electricity (at a loss) into New York’s wholesale market. Over a 25-year period beginning around 2024, the difference between their revenues and a higher rate guaranteed by NYSERDA will be made up with money collected through “credits” that utilities must buy. The utilities will then charge higher rates to recoup that cost.

So what will this cost ratepayers? The wind projects were first announced months ago, but it wasn’t until last month that we got a glimpse of more specifics in a report filed by NYSERDA with the state Public Service Commission.

Based on the numbers in that report, my blog post included the following:

State-of-the-art turbines … have capacity factors greater than 60 percent. The contracts with Empire and Sunrise appear to acknowledge as much, since NYSERDA has agreed to subsidize up to 9.9 million MWh per year—reflecting capacity factors averaging 66.4 percent. In that case, at $25.14 per MWh, the contracts now “valued” at $2.2 billion in 2018 dollars would cost ratepayers $6.2 billion over 25 years.

Within hours of the blog post, NYSERDA issued (to a single journalist, not the general public) the following unsigned statement:

"The Empire Center’s calculations are incorrect and misleading. In back-calculating the annual megawatt hours generated by the projects, Girardin confused real and nominal values to create erroneous ratepayer impact metrics. NYSERDA’s calculations did in fact utilize the generation from the Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind projects as bid – with an approximate 50 percent capacity factor, as noted in the OREC agreements themselves appended to the Phase 1 Report. NYSERDA used an outlook of wholesale energy and capacity prices to calculate the expected OREC prices, resulting in an average OREC cost of $25.14 per megawatt hour (2018 real dollars). The estimated total OREC contract value, in 2018 real dollars, is $1.2 billion and $1.0 billion for Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind, respectively.

My mistake: NYSERDA said the “contract value” of the two deals totaled $2.2 billion, and I assumed that was the total cost of subsidies. I wrote that such a price-tag wasn’t consistent with other project figures, and said NYSERDA had likely low-balled the subsidies by underestimating how many megawatt-hours it would subsidize.

That assumption was wrong, however, because NYSERDA never intended the “contract value” to represent how much New Yorkers would pay in subsidies (in today’s money). The agency used an accounting technique to put a “value” on the contracts as though they were an investment. This valuation used a 6.55 percent “discount rate,” which makes numbers look considerably smaller in future years than just adjusting them for expected inflation.

For example, applying NYSERDA’s 6.55 percent discount rate, a 2048 dollar will have dwindled in value to the equivalent of about 15 cents in today’s terms. But assuming average consumer price inflation of 2 percent, which is the Federal Reserve’s target level, a dollar in 2048 will be worth about 55 cents in today’s terms. Applying a discount rate, instead of adjusting for inflation, made the subsidies look considerably smaller.

So for the purpose of figuring out what New Yorkers will actually have to pay, the “contract values” are useless because we don’t know how much subsidy they can expect to pay in each year. NYSERDA has assured developers they’ll get up to $29 billion, in nominal dollars, over the life of the contracts. There is, to say the least, a lot of uncertainty baked into these deals, which will still have New Yorkers paying subsidies beyond Andrew Cuomo’s 90th birthday.

In short, the mistake was in trying to deconstruct NYSERDA’s $2.2 billion figure: it was never meant to represent a serious cost estimate, but to deliberately mislead.

Digging deeper

For anyone interested in calculating the actual cost impact of the wind turbine projects, the most substantive number in NYSERDA’s filing was a $25.14 “average” subsidy, in what the NYSERDA filing labeled “2018 dollars,” for every megawatt-hour generated over the life of the 25-year deals. Taken together with the 9.9 million megawatt-hours maximum generation NYSERDA has agreed to pay for each year, that puts the total ratepayer subsidies at up to $6.2 billion in “2018 dollars”—which presumably means an inflation-adjusted value.

Even this number relies on long-term energy market forecasts and on assumptions about how much energy NYSERDA expects to buy from each developer in each year. NYSERDA hasn’t released details of those forecasts and assumptions. Thus the per-megawatt-hour average subsidy could be even higher than $25.14.

So why does NYSERDA need to conceal the actual price-tag of these projects?

Because, for one thing, the agency has put New Yorkers on the hook for more money than it publicly acknowledges. And because NYSERDA has good reason to conceal what is shaping up to be a very bad deal.

State blew up wind costs

The Cuomo administration’s approach to offshore wind has been primarily driven by political considerations. Offshore wind has a cult-like following in certain environmentalist circles, and the state zeroed in on it as a solution instead of weighing it alongside other substantive mechanisms for reducing carbon emissions (such as a carbon tax or hydroelectric power).

The bidding process for subsidies was completed earlier this year, in a seemingly rushed manner, before the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could let additional companies get leases directly off New York’s coast. In fact, the Cuomo administration has vocally opposed a federal plan to allow turbines off the Hamptons in Suffolk County, where they could potentially be built at a lower cost than those now set to get state subsidies.

Cuomo’s stance artificially shrank the pool of bidders, and left just four developers able to submit bids. Only one (Empire Wind) actually proposing anything in New York waters—even as several other companies were asking the feds for permission to build offshore the Empire State.

And for those that could compete, the state artificially hiked their costs: Governor Cuomo last summer pledged to force developers to pay union rates during the construction of these and other renewable energy projects. He also, unlawfully, coerced bidders into steering work to certain construction unions that had endorsed his re-election last fall. These steps have likely driven up the project costs, and the subsidies needed, considerably.

The subsidy contracts themselves, with 25-year terms, are curiously long, considering the rhetoric from offshore wind proponents about how the industry will eventually operate without subsidies. New Jersey and Maryland, for instance, gave developers 20-year deals, meaning they envision profitable operation without subsidies during several years when New York ratepayers will still be subsidizing ours.

And finally, NYSERDA (and by extension, ratepayers) are assuming tremendous risk under these contracts. If electricity prices end up lower than NYSERDA expects, the subsidies (for which more than half the cost will be borne by people living north of New York City) will have to be larger. At the same time, the Cuomo administration may even be counting on electricity prices to rise downstate and decrease the need to subsidize the wind projects—which is yet another reason why NYSERDA should, but won’t, be more transparent about these deals.


Pseudo science by pseudo scientists

It’s not often that an opinion piece makes headlines around the world. But last week, a ‘viewpoint’ article in the science journal Bioscience did just that. ‘World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency’ featured the grandiose byline ‘William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw, and 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries’. While the intent may have been to give the impression that the scientific community had come together to sound the alarm, the article actually seems to demonstrate that there is no ‘climate emergency’ at all.

Much fun has been had at the expense of the authors – members of the self-proclaimed Alliance of World Scientists – and their puffed-up claims because it has been shown to be pretty easy to put fake names on the list, including ‘Micky Mouse’ (sic) from the ‘Micky Mouse Institute for the Blind, Namibia’. The headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, also makes a guest appearance. The list of signatories was withdrawn at one point to allow for a cull of obviously made-up names.

But such leg-pulling aside, the real problem was that the definition of ‘scientist’ was so broad as to be pretty much meaningless. This was not just a list of experienced academic researchers in climate science and its associated fields — it also included biologists, geographers, social scientists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and others.

Of course, anyone should have the right to declare their concerns about climate change or any other issue. But the implication of the article, as amplified through the media coverage of it, is that these authors and signatories speak with authority. They are the experts, we are the numpties, therefore we should all just shut up and pay attention to every pearl of their wisdom. In truth, the vast majority of the signatories are not experts on the issue of climate change, never mind having the authority to tell the rest of us what we should do about it.

More strangely, the article seems to demonstrate the opposite of what the authors claim. If we are living in a ‘climate emergency’, what would that look like? Perhaps it would be a state in which living standards plummet, food supplies run short and we live a miserable existence, if we even survive at all. So what does the article tell us?

The article helpfully provides us with a myriad of different graphs – what the authors call ‘vital signs’ – showing the changes going on over the past four decades. Human population is shooting up (graph 1a), but birth rates have fallen sharply (graph 1b). That means that people are living longer lives than before. We’re farming more livestock (graph 1c), presumably because we’re eating more meat (graph 1d). World GDP is rising by 80.5 per cent each decade (graph 1e). This all sounds incredibly good to me, but the eco-worrying authors call these changes ‘profoundly troubling’.

Global forest cover is down, says graph 1f, but the authors also admit that: ‘Forest gain is not involved in the calculation of tree cover loss.’ They counted the trees lost, but not the ones gained. Data compiled by the World Bank suggests the total area of land covered by forest worldwide has fallen from 31.6 per cent in 1990 to 30.7 per cent in 2016 – a fall of less than one percentage point in 26 years. Even the authors of the Bioscience study have to admit that the rate of loss of the Amazon rainforest has fallen sharply since the early 2000s, though it has accelerated a little recently.

To summarise, we have a bit less forest than before and the decline of the Amazon rainforest, with its considerable biodiversity, has slowed down a lot. Not a perfect picture, but hardly worthy of being called an ‘emergency’.

Energy consumption has risen sharply, which is surely good news for poorer people, but not much of it is wind or solar power (graph 1h). The situation with air travel (graph 1i) is truly exciting, with the number of passengers carried by plane rising by over 64 per cent per decade. Wow! (Again, this is one of those ‘profoundly troubling’ trends, apparently.) Greenhouse-gas emissions are rising, of course, but that seems a price worth paying for wealthier and healthier lives – especially when global temperature has risen by just 0.183 degrees Celsius per decade over the past 40 years (graph 2d).

Other graphs show that there has been some melting of ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic, though simply putting this down to rising global temperatures is tricky. Ocean ‘acidity’ is increasing, but what that really means is that the oceans are slightly less alkaline than before. The change is not huge at all.

Overall, it is clear that the world is changing. It is different to the way it was before. This raises some problems. But in terms of human welfare, the changes of the past 40 years represent the greatest, fastest leap forward in history.

What really gives the game away is the authors’ mini-manifesto for what we should do about all of this: stop using so much energy, leave fossil fuels in the ground and transfer resources from the greedy developed world to the developing world. They also say we should restore ecosystems (even when they are constantly changing anyway), eat mostly plant-based foods, reorganise the economy away from GDP growth, and control population. This, they claim, ‘promises far greater human wellbeing than does business as usual’.

In truth, most of these ideas are reactionary, a way to ensure the continuation and exacerbation of poverty. Such claims are an insult to the wonderful and profound achievements of science and human ingenuity in increasing human knowledge and improving lives across the world. These so-called scientists should stop taking the name of science in vain.


Chemicals in plastic could be harming our health

Groan!  This old scare has so often been debunked in the past that it is a pain to see it still popping up. Briefly, the toxicity is in the dose and the dose people are getting of these two compounds is regularly shown as too low to be harmful

Plastic is everywhere. We use it to carry our food, eat with, we drink out of it, buy our cosmetics in it and even cook with it.

While Australians have embraced plastic and its many uses, there is growing concern about what it’s actually doing to our bodies.

News.com.au has launched its series What a Waste to coincide with Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week, highlighting the impact single-use plastics have on the environment and encouraging readers to reduce their personal waste.

In September, there was a warning about the use of plastic kitchen utensils.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, which advises the German Government on issues related to product, chemical and food safety, released an advisory that recommended people limit the exposure of their polyamide utensils when dealing with hot food.

It said components called oligomers from plastic cooking spoons, spatulas and whisks could migrate from into food and be eaten.

While these utensils have not been proven to have negative health impacts on humans, the organisation said at high doses the compounds could cause adverse effects in the liver and thyroid.

It recommended consumers keep their utensil’s contact with food as brief as possible, especially at high temperatures above 70C.

There is also growing evidence on the impact of compounds found in plastics on fertility.

Dr Mark Green is a lecturer in reproductive biology and is studying the impacts of certain chemicals on people’s fertility.

He told news.com.au that chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to make some types of plastics, is one of the most studied endocrine disrupting substances.

BPA can be found in takeaway containers, plastic bottles, the lining of takeaway coffee cups as well as polycarbonate (hard) plastics such as baby bottles.

It’s also used in the lining of cans to stop the food coming into contact with the metal, and is even found on the shiny coating of cash register receipts.

BPA is so common, about 95 per cent of people have detectable levels in their urine.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has decided it does not pose a significant human health risk for any age group, despite finding BPA at very low concentrations in some foodstuffs.

Other countries have taken a different stance. France has banned it and the European Union has removed its use in baby bottles.

The Federal Government did announce a voluntary phase-out of baby bottles containing BPA in 2010.

Dr Green said scientists had so far found a “strong correlation” between BPA and obesity, and recent research also suggests it increases people’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

There’s also evidence in fertility clinics that it may affects the number of eggs a woman produces, and there’s an increasing link to miscarriage.

Compounds such as BPA are considered endocrine disrupters and can “mimic” oestrogen, which impacts people’s hormones.

“We have gained a lot of knowledge and data on the effects of BPA from animal studies” Dr Green said.

“But we are never going to run a human study in which we expose people to BPA, as we know how harmful it is, which is why it’s hard to show causality, hence we can only show association.”

Phthalates are another class of chemicals for which there is a growing body of evidence to support detrimental effects on our health. These are used in soft plastic fishing lures, shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and sex toys made of so-called jelly rubber.

It’s also an endocrine disrupter that may impact male fertility, including semen quality and the quantity of damaged DNA in sperm.

Dr Green said a chemical’s impact on the body might vary depending on how long people were exposed to it and how long it’s been in their system.

“It’s very hard to measure many of the chemicals that have effects on our endocrine systems,” he said. “Generally these can be at low levels in the environment but these levels are often high enough to have an effect on our bodies.”

Other factors such as exercise and poor diet could also influence people’s health.

“This area is quite hard to work in because we often study the effects of just one compound at a time, but we live in a soup of multiple environmental pollutants,” he said.

This is one reason why studies in different areas sometimes produce different results, as different compounds could be working with or against each other.

“If there is a mixture of compounds, it could be about how they work together to have a particular effect on the body and people’s health.”

Dr Green said these chemicals were so pervasive in our surroundings it was hard to avoid them, however he recommended people minimise their contact with plastic, especially if they were trying to conceive.

There are many simple ways people can easily reduce people’s exposure.

For example, people should avoid drinking or eating food out of soft plastic containers. This includes takeaway containers and especially plastic bottles, which he describes as “lethal if left to heat up in a car”.

“You are basically drinking water and a sizeable dose of BPA,” he said.

“Use glass or aluminium drink bottles; they are more sustainable.

“With a takeaway coffee cup, the lining is BPA, not to mention the plastic in the lid.”

However, looking for plastic products that are “BPA free” may not be safer as some manufacturers have begun replacing BPA with other similar chemicals that could be just as bad for us.

Avoiding plastic when possible is safer, while also being better for the environment.

“There are a lot of common messages around recycling or sustainability, but there is also the added benefit that it’s better for your health,” Dr Green said.

“It’s better for the environment and better for us, so why not do it?”


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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