Monday, February 17, 2020

Do ‘green’ buses pass the performance test?

Do they even pass basic energy, environmental, economic and human rights tests?

Duggan Flanakin

Should Americans follow China in a massive commitment to supposedly eco-friendly battery-electric buses (BEBs)?  California has mandated a “carbon-free” bus system by 2040 and will buy only battery or fuel cell-powered buses after 2029.  Other states and cities are following suit.

Vehicle decisions are typically based on cost and performance. Cost includes selling price plus maintenance, while performance now includes perceived environmental impacts – which for some is the only issue that matters. But that perception ignores some huge ecological (and human rights) issues.

China today has 420,000 BEBs on the road, with plans to reach 600,000 by 2025.  The rest of the world has maybe 5,000 of these expensive, short-range buses. However, the Chinese still get 70% of their energy from coal, so are their BEBs really that green? Are they safe? And are they really ethical?

Battery costs are the main reason BEBs today are much more expensive than buses that run on diesel or compressed natural gas. But bus makers say electric buses require less maintenance, and climate activists say the lower net “carbon footprint” (carbon dioxide emissions) justifies paying a little more.

China gets around the up-front cost problem by establishing national mandates, heavily subsidizing bus (and battery) manufacturers, and rewarding cities that replace entire bus fleets at one time. This ensures that their factories benefit from economies of scale – and that the transition will be swift and complete.

Beijing simply dodges the environmental costs by ignoring the fossil fuels, horrific pollution and human illnesses involved in mining, ore processing and manufacturing processes associated with building the buses. California and other “renewable” energy advocates do likewise. In fact, those costs will skyrocket as China, California and the world emphasize electric vehicle, wind, solar and battery technologies.

Meanwhile, the USA and EU nations focus on subsidizing passenger cars. Thus, there are far more zero-emission passenger cars on the road today in the U.S. and Europe than public transit vehicles. No wonder Westerners still view electric vehicles as subsidized luxuries for the “woke wealthy,” who boast about lowering their carbon footprint, despite also often needing fossil fuel electricity to charge batteries.

The huge costs for fast-charging stations across Europe, let alone the vast United States, pose more huge challenges for future expansion of the electric vehicle market. But transit vehicles, even school buses, run regular routes, and if the routes are short enough, the bus can be recharged overnight in the garages.

Tax credits, free HOV lane access, free charging stations and other subsidies for the rich are seen by most as terrible policies. Yet another, says University of California–Davis researcher Hanjiro Ambrose, is the Federal Transit Administration funding formulas that favor short-term cost-efficiency over long-term innovation. “Those funding mechanisms haven’t been aligned with trying to stimulate policy change,” Ambrose says. “The cheapest technology available isn’t usually the newest technology available.”

To work around high upfront battery costs, innovative capitalists are creating new financial products that allow fleet owners to finance battery purchases. Treating battery costs the same way as fuel costs – as ongoing expenses – meets federal guidelines. Matt Horton, chief commercial officer for U.S. BEB maker Proterra, says, “The importance of the private capital coming into this market cannot be understated.”

Green advocates admit the primary reason people choose EVs is their belief that electric cars and buses, even with electricity generated from fossil fuels, are good for the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists claims BEBs are 2.5 times cleaner in terms of lifespan emissions than diesel buses. That is highly questionable. Moreover, BEBs with today’s strongest batteries can take a full load no more than 150 miles in good weather. That’s fine for airport shuttles, maybe even for short public transit routes.

However, electric battery life is shorter than the 12-year vehicle life that many transit and school bus systems rely upon in their budgets. Battery replacement for BEBs is very expensive and unpredictable.

And then there are the horror stories. Los Angeles Metro purchased BEBs from Chinese-owned BYD Ltd. but yanked the first five off the road within a few months. Agency staff called the buses “unsuitable,” poorly made, and unreliable for more than 100 miles. Albuquerque returned seven out of its 16 BYD buses, citing cracks, leaking fluid, axle problems and inability to hold charges.

French journalist Alon Levy reported that BEB sales teams in Vancouver admitted their buses could not run for an entire day without recharging during layovers. Worse, in Minneapolis, bus performance suffers tremendously in cold weather: at 20o F buses cannot last all day; on Super Bowl Sunday, at 5o F, a battery bus lasted only 40 minutes and traveled barely 16 miles. Imagine being in a BEB in a blizzard.

In largely rural Maine, lawmakers proposed converting all school buses to BEBs. But Maine Heritage Policy Center policy analyst Adam Crepeau found that BEBs can travel no more than 135 miles per charge (in good weather), while diesel buses go up to 400 miles and can be refilled quickly almost anywhere. “This,” he said, “will severely impact the ability of schools to use them for longer trips, for sporting events, field trips and other experiences for students.” Or in bitterly cold Maine winters.

The economic and practical bottom line is simple. Activists and sales teams are pressing American cities, school boards and other public entities to follow China and convert their fleets to BEBs, calling them “the wave of the future.” Even in California, where lengthy power outages have become routine, this climate and anti-fossil ideology dominates. Given the growing vulnerability of our electric grid, among other concerns, cost and performance may not be the only considerations in making such an irreversible choice.

The environmental and ethical bottom line is equally simple – but routinely gets shunted aside.

Electric vehicles require about three times more copper than internal combustion equivalents – plus lithium, cobalt and other metals for their batteries. Wind turbines need some 200 times more steel, copper, plastics, rare earths, concrete and other materials per megawatt than combined-cycle gas turbines. Photovoltaic solar panels have similar materials requirements. 100% “renewable, sustainable” Green New Deal electricity systems on US or Chinese scales would require millions of turbines, billions of solar panels and billions of half-ton Tesla-style battery packs for cars, buses and backup electricity storage.

Those technologies, on those scales, would require mining at levels unprecedented in world history! And the environmental and human rights record we’ve seen for those high-tech metals is terrifying.

Lithium comes mostly from Tibet and the Argentina-Bolivia-Chile “lithium triangle,” where contaminated lands and waters are poisoning fish, livestock, wildlife and people. Most cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 40,000 children and their parents slave in open pits and dark, narrow tunnels – and get exposed constantly to filthy, toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water and air. Broken bones, suffocation, blood and respiratory diseases, birth defects, cancer and paralysis are commonplace.

Nearly all the world’s rare earth elements come from Inner Mongolia. Mining the ores involves pumping acid into the ground and processing them with more acids and chemicals. Black sludge from the operations is piped to a huge foul-smelling “lake” that is surrounded by formerly productive farmlands that are now so toxic that nothing can grow on them, and people and wildlife have just moved away. Here too, severe skin and respiratory diseases, cancers and other terrible illnesses have become commonplace.

In many of these cases, the mining and processing operations are run by Chinese companies, under minimal to nonexistent pollution control, workplace safety, fair wage, child labor or other basic standards that American, Canadian, Australian and European companies are expected to follow.

And this is just for today’s “renewable, sustainable, ethical, Earth-friendly, green” technologies. Just imagine what we are likely to see if China, California, New York, Europe and countless other places start mandating a fossil-fuel-free future – and then shut down nuclear power, to boot. Where will we get all the raw materials? Where will we put all the wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and transmission lines?

The prospect is horrifying. And it’s all justified by exaggerated fears of a climate apocalypse. Crazy!

Via email. Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)

Bernie’s Green New Deal to go 100 percent renewable in 10 years would destroy America

By Robert Romano

Are the American people about to vote to destroy the way of life?

If socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) is elected, his utopian promise to implement a 10-year Soviet-style Gosplan to end oil and gas consumption —the Green New Deal—will radically transform the U.S. economy, and possibly leave America in the dark and cold.

The plan, according to Sanders’ website, calls for “[r]eaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization of the economy by 2050 at latest – consistent with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goals – by expanding the existing federal Power Marketing Administrations to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources.”

All sources of non-renewable energy accounting for 62 percent of the electricity grid would need to be replaced. No more coal, natural gas or petroleum based electricity generation. Those aren’t renewable.

In addition, 19 percent of the grid via nuclear power would come to an end, too, even though it doesn’t emit carbon. New nuclear plant construction would cease under the Sanders plan.

Every building including 129 million households would all have to be upgraded to no longer emit any carbon.

Home heating and hot water heaters via natural gas and oil would all have to be replaced. So would all of your stoves if they run on fire. Are you ready for winter yet?

Every car and truck—more than 250 million—that runs on gasoline and diesel would have to be replaced.

Convenient air travel would have to be banned.

The oil, coal and gas industries will be eliminated.

To get across the country, you’d probably have to take a train. Overseas? Hope you got your sea legs.

This is a dagger pointed at the heart of Middle America. Do you commute to work in a car? Do you live in a single family home? Can you afford tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades for your home? How about a new electric car? Does that fit in your budget?

Work in the energy industry? Drive trucks for a living? Not any more. It’s job retraining camp for you.

The Green New Deal would change everything, compelling millions of Americans to probably move to warmer areas to survive as the federal government unilaterally ends the industrial revolution — the reason we’re such a prosperous species — with a radical revolution of its own.

The U.S. emits about 5.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year as of 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency: 45 percent from petroleum, 29 percent from natural gas and 26 percent from coal.

Of the portion of emissions devoted to natural gas, 1.47 billion metric tons a year, only 506 million is from electricity generation. The rest is from heating homes in the winter, making hot water, cooking food and the like

And then there’s the rest of the world — another 30 billion metric tons a year or so — which of course the plan fails to specify how much of that the U.S. will have to subsidize, too, in order to reach the goal of cutting emissions in half globally by 2030 outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the United Nations.

That’s right. To get it done, we have to work out a cooperative plan with China, Russia, Europe and the rest of the world to halve carbon-based production that they need to keep their billions of peoples fed and warm in the winter.

How do we intend to persuade the world to commit economic suicide? Even if some sort of agreement could somehow be made, it would surely be a tyrannical scheme to arrest economic development, sacrificing an entire generation of opportunity and innovation on the altar of radical environmentalism.

This would set back economic progress for decades or longer and crash the global economy and dislodge hundreds of millions of careers.

There are also opportunity costs to be considered. What technological innovations, say in the fields of carbon capture, might have been achieved if the economy had kept growing the way it was before we willingly turned the lights out? What improvements to our lives will be foregone in the pursuit of a utopia?

In 2020, Americans will have a choice to make about which future they want to raise their children in. One where the government dictates allowances and rations resources, forces you to rebuild your homes and every other building in the country under Bernie Sanders, or one where Americans keep their liberty and the freedom to harness the gifts God gave humans to keep the economy growing.


Facing the challenges of climate change at the bedside

Warm weather can be bad for you in some ways but attributing it to global warming is tendentious.  Cold weather is also bad for you but is agreed to be natural. How do we know the warming is not also natural?  It's just a sermon for true believers below.  One hopes that most doctors ignore it

About three years ago, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatric hospitalist at Boston Children’s Hospital, ordered intravenous fluids for an infant who had become dehydrated. He was shocked to receive an alert that IV fluids — a common, life-saving treatment — were being rationed. The reason: Hurricane Maria had shut down the Puerto Rican plant that makes them.

Last summer, the wife of an elderly man living near the top of a low-income high-rise called 911 because he seemed confused. When EMTs opened the door to the dwelling, they were met by a heat blast they likened to the Sahara Desert. Taken to the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency department, the man was found to have a temperature of 106 degrees. He was diagnosed with heat stroke.

In disparate parts of the city, in patients young and old, medical professionals are seeing the effects of climate change in their own practices. And for the first time, some 150 gathered Thursday to start planning a response.

Sponsored by the New England Journal of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and all of Boston’s teaching hospitals, the Climate Crisis and Clinical Practice Symposium aimed “to bring the issue of climate change directly to the bedside,” said Bernstein, interim chief of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and one of the event’s organizers.

The issue is especially salient in Boston because air and water temperatures and sea levels in the Northeast are rising faster than elsewhere.

“The climate crisis has created an unprecedented future that looks nothing like what we have experienced,” said Dr. Renee N. Salas, an emergency medicine doctor at Mass. General. “We are the ones that are experiencing this first and need to work collectively with the rest of the country.”

Thursday’s gathering at a conference center in the Longwood medical area was the first of eight similar efforts to galvanize health care systems to face the reality of climate change. Six additional symposiums are scheduled over the next year and a half in United States and one in Australia, as medical professionals grapple with the myriad ways that climate change affects health — especially for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and poor and marginalized people.

Responding to climate change involves more than contending with more severe storms and disruptions of supply chains and power grids — although those will be big challenges to the health care system.

Global warming affects both health and health care. Heat stress can lead to heart attacks, kidney stones, and preterm birth. Cholera, dengue, Lyme disease and valley fever are all increasing in incidence and also expanding their range. With warmer springs and later winters, the pollen season is getting longer and also more severe, because carbon dioxide prompts plants to release more pollen. That increases asthma attacks, as does air pollution.

The heat also affects the way medications work. Drugs for depression, heart disease, and kidney failure can be less safe in hot weather. People taking beta blockers for high blood pressure are more likely to faint in hot weather. EpiPens and albuterol can be rendered ineffective by extreme heat if left inside cars.

Dr. Gaurab Basu, a primary care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance, told the group about a 27-year-old patient who developed end-stage kidney disease caused by chronic exposure to heat. The man, an immigrant, had worked on sugar farms in El Salvador.

But his case got Basu thinking about the many people doing physical labor outside, especially in urban “heat islands” where asphalt and concrete can make the temperature 10 or 15 degrees higher than elsewhere. They could be injuring their kidneys day after day without knowing it.

Salas, the doctor who took care of the man with heat stroke, noted that he came to the hospital with a diagnosis of fever. The EMTs’ account of the heat in his apartment tipped off doctors to the true problem. But doctors, she said, need to “add a climate lens” to their diagnostics.

The man survived, but Salas doesn’t know whether he suffered long-term harm. And she wonders about his wife, who was “left in the same conditions that nearly killed her husband.”

At Thursday’s symposium Salas recalled other cases where the “climate lens” was needed. The 4-year-old who came in with her third asthma attack in a week, apparently the result of high pollen levels triggered by carbon dioxide in the environment. The woman who came from Puerto Rico after Maria with a plastic bag filled with empty medicine containers, begging for refills. “We think about climate refugees happening in other places, but she was internally displaced,” Salas said.

Equally as serious as the physical threats are the dangers that climate change poses to mental health. Trauma among people displaced from their homes by storms will do lasting damage. But even before any storm hits, heat is known to boost aggression and violence.

Extreme heat "makes all mental illnesses worse,” said Dr. Gary Belkin, a psychiatrist and visiting scientist at the Harvard climate group. Emergency room visits for mental crises and psychiatric hospitalizations go up during heat waves.

More broadly, many otherwise healthy people are suffering psychologically, with impaired concentration, loss of sleep, and inability to enjoy things resulting from the ceaseless background anxiety over climate change.

One the best ways to deal with those fears is take action, speakers said. The symposium’s organizers are urging doctors, in particular, to step up in public and private ways.

“We need to start talking about this in general, both to other providers and our patients,” said Dr. Lucy Marcil, a Boston Medical Center pediatrician. “Because if people aren’t aware of it, they can’t act on it.”

Dr. Caren Solomon, deputy editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, urges doctors to educate their patients about climate change when it comes up naturally in the exam room. For example, a doctor could mention that pollution caused a patient’s worsening asthma or that warming winters contributed to their greater risk of Lyme disease.

As one of the most trusted professions, Solomon said, physicians should also speak out publicly about the climate’s effect on health, contacting legislators, pressing for divestment in fossil fuel companies, and participating in public protests.

And they need to talk to one another. Dr. Mary Rice, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said it has often been difficult to discuss climate change with her colleagues.

“Climate change for many decades was treated as a fringe issue even though the science has been so strong for so long,” Rice said. “One of the things we have to do as clinicians is get over that stigma and be confident that the science is strong.”


Save gas – sack this ignoramus

THE Sunday Telegraph reports that climate change minister Lord Duncan of Springbank is contemplating banning gas central heating to ensure that the UK meets its 2050 zero carbon target. This ill-considered announcement is utter drivel, which is becoming a characteristic of both BoJo’s government and the climate change/zero carbon debate.

First, some facts from the 2018 government Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES):

Of the 1,700 Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy consumed by the UK, 600 TWh was provided by natural gas for heating. That’s both domestic and industrial. (Another 273 TWh of gas was used to generate electricity, but that’s not relevant here.)

By comparison the total amount of electricity produced in the UK in 2018 was 330 TWh, of which half came from fossil fuels. Which raises the questions of where the additional electricity needed if gas is central heating is banned is to come from, and how it is to get from the power station (or wind/solar farm) to the user.

It can really come from only one of three sources: nuclear, solar or wind. The latter two are climate-dependent. As one of the effects of global warming is increasingly active weather (more cloud, more storms and stronger winds) it seems bizarre to choose to rely on them. As I have previously written, we would also need an awful lot of wind turbines (250,000, twenty times the number installed) and solar parks (some 10 per cent of the UK’s agricultural acres in the South). Or about 50 Hinkley Point-sized nuclear power stations.

That’s trivial compared with the problems of storing and distributing electricity. Batteries are expensive, require much energy to make and have a limited life. Getting the electricity to the user is the tough bit. There are 22million houses on mains gas, some 80 per cent of UK homes. If their gas is to be replaced by electricity it may well involve upgrading the entire low voltage distribution for the street – more so if electric battery cars become the norm.

Delivering that by 2050 means converting 730,000 houses per year, which is 3,000 per working day or 375 per working hour for the next 30 years. As yet there is simply not the capacity to deliver that. And it doesn’t sound cheap – it’s an additional cost to producing the electricity.

Nor is it necessary. The problem is not the gas infrastructure, it’s the gas. If we switched from methane to hydrogen we could reuse the infrastructure as most of the grid is hydrogen ready, and the rest is being converted. Those who are concerned about hydrogen should remember that until the late 1990s we used ‘coal gas’ which was about 50 per cent hydrogen. Producing pure hydrogen can be done by electrolysis directly from electricity, with an efficiency of about 60 per cent including compression and distribution. Hydrogen can be stored in the existing gas network, so supplies can be built up in the warm months to cover the cold.

As the minister (or his advisers) should know.

Lord Duncan has a doctorate in palaeontology and a degree in geology. He then became a EU policy wonk and ultimately an MEP. He stood for Parliament in 2017 and lost by 21 votes. His qualification for his current position escapes me. Sorting out zero carbon is not a political thing, it’s a technical and engineering challenge. Just an idea, but maybe it’s time for the Prime Minister to ennoble and appoint some industrial and engineering experts rather than failed political hacks.


This fire season, areas of Australia have burnt that used to be too wet to burn

Australia is a land of natural climate extremes.  Always has been. And we had one of our periodic extremes recently. A combination of severe drought and unusually high temperatures  amplified our usual summer bushfires.

A historical perspective is missing in most commentary on it.  Claims that the 2019/20 fires were unprecedented simply show how short memories are. The area burnt, for instance, was much greater in 1974/75.  And who remembers that in the Sydney of 1790 (Yes. 1790, not 1970) bats and birds were falling out of the trees from heat exhaustion?

But weather is highly variable from place to place and time to time so some areas were drier than usual. Some areas had dried out that usually remained damp -- resulting in the events described below

I have deleted below all the claims that the fires were influenced by global warming.  The floods that have immediately followed the fires and put them out are also a great extreme.  Were they caused by global warming too?  Even Warmists have seen the incongruity of claiming that global warming could cause both drought and floods in quick succession so have generally gone silent about climate change.  But if climate change did not cause the floods, how can we know that it caused the drought? We cannot.

There is absolutely no way we can prove that climate change had any influence on the fires.  Claims that climate change did have an influence are mere assertion, mere opinion, mere propaganda.  There are well-established methods in science for establishing causes. None of them were applicable to the recent extreme events.  So there is no reason to believe that the recent events were anything more than normal variations

Binna Burra Lodge in the Gold Coast hinterland was 81-year-old Tony Groom’s life. His father founded the mountain hiking retreat in the 1930s, Tony ran it in the 60s and 70s, and his daughter, Lisa, 52, grew up there.

The lodge’s wooden cabins, bordered by rainforest on one side and eucalypts on the other, were a touchstone for people’s lives: for weddings, wakes and walks around the ancient world heritage forests of Lamington national park.

Next door, Tony and his late wife, Connie, lived for almost 40 years in Alcheringa, a stone-walled house with a deck where Lisa and her brother would dangle their feet out over the Coomera Valley

On the morning of 8 September 2019 the lodge, the heritage-listed cabins and the Grooms’ family homestead were razed to the ground by a bushfire. About 450 hectares of rainforest burned around Binna Burra that day – the kind of lush forest that doesn’t usually burn.

Firefighters use the forest fire danger index to tell them how bad conditions are. The index combines the key ingredients that influence a bushfire – temperature, wind speed, humidity and the dryness of the “fuel”, including grasses and fallen wood from trees.

The trends show not only that conditions are becoming more dangerous, but that the fire season is starting earlier.

The number of severe bushfire danger days has increased in spring for large parts of Australia

Australia’s spring months are September, October and November. The spring of 2019 was the worst year on record for high-risk bushfire weather in south-east Queensland, and for the entire country.

The conditions that helped a fire take hold at Sarabah, north-west of Binna Burra, had been building since the beginning of the year.

Rainfall was well below average, the ground was unusually dry and, in the days before the fire struck, daytime maximum temperatures were at near-record levels after months of hotter-than-average weather.

Then came the winds.

Australia’s devastating fire season of 2019 and 2020 has so far burned through more than 7.7 million hectares in the south-eastern states, claiming 33 lives and almost 3,000 homes. Firefighters have never experienced anything like it.

Neither has Australia. 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record.

The kind of conditions that have delivered devastating and deadly major bushfires in the recent past are going to increase, according to Dr Richard Thornton, the chief executive of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

“People tend to base their risk perception on what they’ve experienced before – a bushfire every 50 or 100 years,” Thornton says. “Their risk perception is based on history. But history is not a good predictor of the future.

As for the home at Alcheringa, and Binna Burra Lodge, there are plans to rebuild in a way that will minimise damage from future fires. But they know the future will be different.



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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