Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Warmists have found a use for Vladimir Putin

Flights should be banned in continental Europe and car use banned in city centres to save energy and prevent Vladimir Putin profiting from fossil fuel sales, campaigners have said.

It would be possible for Europe to quickly end its reliance on oil and gas from Russia by taking strong measures, according to a report by the climate adviser Mark Lynas, energy analyst Rauli Partanen, and energy and sustainability installations specialist Joris van Dorp.

Policies include rationing, with everyone in Europe allowed the same minimum amount of energy to use, and limiting thermostats to 18C in winter.

“The biggest problem is gas. In total last year Europe imported 155 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia,” the authors said. Critics of the EU’s oil and gas policy have pointed out that hydrocarbon sales are financing the war in Ukraine.

Even the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said recently: “We’ve given Ukraine nearly €1bn. That might seem like a lot but €1bn is what we’re paying Putin every day for the energy he provides us with. Since the start of the war, we’ve given him €35bn [£29bn], compared to the €1bn we’ve given Ukraine to arm itself.”

The report’s authors said: “We conclude it is possible to eliminate Russian gas imports starting immediately in Europe. This will require an unprecedented level of European solidarity, a combination of a Marshall plan and a Berlin airlift to redistribute energy around the continent as needed and support the transition.”

The International Energy Agency recently released a 10-point plan to reduce demand for oil use in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, with suggestions including subsidised public transport, lower speed limits and a reduction in business flights. The authors of the latest report from the RePlanet Research Institute, however, say such measures would reduce demand by 2.7m barrels a day in advanced economies, still substantially less than Russian oil exports to Europe.

The authors argue that we need to go further, and say they have worked out how to eliminate 25% of all oil use in Europe.

“We propose bans on all business flights, private jets and internal flights within Europe to save oil, and bans also on car use within cities,” they said. “This should be combined with free public transport. While the impacts of this are not easily quantified, we believe this could double the reduction in oil use beyond that proposed by the IEA.”

To replace the gas Europe buys from Russia, the authors recommend measures including stopping the nuclear phaseout in Germany, Sweden and Belgium, reducing heating in buildings by 4C, and a fast-track deployment of additional solar and wind generation.

These policies could be popular in Europe. New polling conducted by Savanta ComRes found that 41% of people polled in the UK, Germany Poland, France, Sweden and the Netherlands said they “strongly agreed” that their country should immediately stop buying Russian oil and gas. Only 6.4% strongly disagreed.

Just over 40% said they would be prepared to accept energy rationing to manage demand, and 52.7% that they would eat less meat to reduce demand on Ukrainian exports.

“Europe is sending over €500m every day directly to the Kremlin because we continue to import vast quantities of Russian oil, gas and coal. This situation cannot continue,” the authors of the report said.

“It is morally and politically untenable for Europe to fund Putin’s war machine – paying for the same missiles and bombs that are raining down on Ukrainian schools and hospitals – at the same time as supposedly uniting to stop Putin through sanctions. There is only one solution. We must cut off this torrent of money we are sending to the Kremlin by immediately stopping our imports of Russian fossil fuels.”


Electric Cars not Ready for Showtime

It seems that no one can ever do quite enough to satisfy the demands of professional complainers. Not even Elon Musk, world-famous promoter of electric vehicles. He was met rudely by protesters at the grand opening of his Tesla assembly plant, just outside Berlin, during recent ceremonies: " [the plant] has faced opposition and some environmental activists blocked the factory’s entrance while displaying banners flagging its high water use…”

All said and done, it should become clear to various parties that the newer generation of electric vehicles is no better, environmentally speaking, than late-model automobiles powered by the much-maligned internal combustion engine. The goal of saving the Earth from ungrounded fears of “climate disruption” attending CO2 emissions pales in contrast to the massive disruptions by a transportation system whose dependence on EVs that will trigger dreaded brownouts.

Modern EVs share inherent shortcomings with their dowdy ancestors. I recall my father pointing out a relic black Baker electric (made circa 1910–14) as it trundled down our street. It resembled a hearse more than a car. Obviously, 2022 Teslas far outperform the Baker, but both the Baker in its own time and today’s nifty Teslas require lengthy recharging when the batteries run low. More about that detail a little later.

Here’s another sobering thought for EV prospects in northerly climes. There is no waste heat from onboard fuel combustion to warm the car’s interior. Both warm and cool air must come from a heat pump operated parasitically with current drawn from the battery pack, whose stored energy is intended primarily for vehicle propulsion. Diverting power to accessories decreases the driving range below its advertised value, and substantially during very cold or very hot weather.

Industry contenders (Tesla, GM, Toyota, and others) are in the latter stages of sorting through the best combinations of energy storage (the battery system) and prime mover (the electric motor).

Electric motors in primitive form go back to the early 19th century. Pioneers like Faraday, Tesla, and Edison contributed to their development. By the late 19th century, the DC (direct current) motor had evolved sufficiently for use in automobiles. Trolley cars, buses, and subway trains also ran with DC motors when the Big Apple was young.

With the advent of AC (alternating current), its inventor, Serbian-born Nicola Tesla, enabled practical AC induction motors that power most commercial applications today. But today’s highly competitive automotive playing field leaves the outcome for dominance (AC or DC) far from settled.

At issue are scarce materials needed in the construction of both the lithium-ion batteries and several versions of high-performance motors to power EVs. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare-earth metals (lanthanum, neodymium, and other elements) lead the list of key components in batteries and motors. Serious supply problems ahead promise to keep consumer prices sky-high.

And to no one’s surprise, China cornered about 90% of lithium reserves and dominates the market. Automakers are scrambling for other sources amid turmoil in other international arenas.

Mining lithium and other strategic metals incur environmental costs such that strictly enforced regulations in the United States force most mining and processing of lithium offshore. But in Third World countries, extracting these exotic minerals often leaves behind improperly disposed of dross containing toxic waste. Out of sight, out of mind, right, greens?

It is mistaken to assume electric vehicles leave behind no environmental footprint, either in their construction or operation. The electricity needed for charging comes from the grid fed by coal-fired, nuclear, and hydro-plants, far more than from wind farms or solar panels atop roofs.

Those pushing for a rapid transition to an all-electric fleet suffer myopia that may come back to bite them, sooner than later.

The favored cars of the future are not ready for prime time in 2022, despite what the President recently said. And in many more ways than proponents are willing to acknowledge.

What’s to come? Factors yet to emerge will help buyers decide whether the evolving EV, a conventional model, or a hybrid presents the intelligent choice. There are several things to consider: investment cost, operating costs, convenience, reliability, and safety. There is no obvious choice based solely on what’s good for the environment, despite the widely advertised opinions of EV advocates.

Stubborn safety issues persist with electrics, centering on potential fire hazards inherent in lithium batteries. In February, a freighter loaded with high-end EVs sank in the Atlantic after a fire swept through its cargo (4,000 Porches, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, etc.), many equipped with lithium-ion batteries. The ship capsized and sank, having sustained irreparable damage. It’s not clear whether the fire originated within a battery, but once ignited, it quickly spread through the EVs onboard.

Hastening the transition to electrics will further expose hazards within the existing technology. Manufacturers may be tempted to shorten recharging times to entice buyers but would put the driving public at greater risk. Minimizing fire hazards translates into delays drivers will experience whenever venturing beyond the normal range, requiring the next recharge.

Newsmax compares the costs of owning and operating an EV with a comparable SUV. It reached the conclusion that combined costs of purchasing the new vehicles (with EV subsidy) and subsequent operating expenses favor a conventional model by more than $13,000 over a six-year period. The figure doesn’t account for increases in electricity rates that may accompany the enormous increase in power demand with 50 million EVs taking to the highways. Rates applicable to charging stations away from home would be higher.


Germany's 'Renewable Energy' Policy: Who's Laughing Now?

In 2019 Germany announced an ambitious "climate change" goal: by 2022, it would close its last nuclear power plant and by 2038, stop burning coal altogether. The Wall Street Journal called it at the time the "world’s dumbest energy policy," but the Germans said it was all part of the Energiewende (German for 'energy turnaround') the ongoing transition to a low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply. Then an event occurred in 2022 which demonstrated how much Green energy was politics. Russia invaded Ukraine.

The repercussions of the invasion rippled like hydrostatic shock through the whole fabric of the European "climate change" agenda. At a stroke the war made natural gas from Moscow on which Germany was dependent politically toxic and killed sacred cows like the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline overnight. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, addressing Germany’s parliament, promised he would "create strategic energy reserves while shifting energy purchases away from Russia." Germany took steps to revive its nuclear power industry by extending the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants. Even coal was back on the table for Europe, as politicians mooted keeping anything that could produce power going. "All options must be on the table," said the German Economic Affairs and Energy Minister.

But sheer habit and inertia die hard. From the start the Green agenda fought back. John Kerry warned the Russian invasion of Ukraine would worsen climate change. "The top White House climate official said a negative impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be that it sidelines efforts to curb emissions worldwide." Despite the fact that fuel was a basic necessity and Europe's immediate problem was how to get energy from anywhere, such was the power of Green that U.N. Secretary General António Guterres specifically warned against quickly replacing Russian oil if it would "neglect or kneecap policies to cut fossil fuel use."

Trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, Europe's compromise strategy was to "diversify gas supplies to reduce reliance on Russia in the short term... but ultimately to boost renewables and energy efficiency as fast as technically possible." In effect Europe would try to solve the energy shortage caused by its renewables policy without politically abandoning the climate change ideology.

The first step to walking this tightrope is European energy rationing. Although no specifics have been announced, proposals include include lowering speed limits and introducing car-free Sundays in large cities. Rationing is being sold as both good for the planet and bad for Putin -- a win-win. "This point is about trying to bring down demand for fossil fuels — this is our true and effective weapon against Vladimir Putin,” a Cambridge University academic said.

But on the supply side there were few quick fixes to the problem of storing the output of wind and solar energy, even assuming that enough could be generated by these means. "The ability to cheaply generate, transport and store a clean replacement fuel like hydrogen to power trucks, cars and airplanes remains years away... [the] chief technology officer of the offshore wind unit at Siemens Gamesa, said that companies like his 'are now forced to do investments based on the prosperous future that we are all waiting for'."

A similar challenge faces the electric grid for it to universally replace the internal combustion engine. By dint of emergency efforts Europe hopes to have a hydrogen infrastructure in place by 2030 -- eight years from now -- a gargantuan task. Green requires a complete overhaul of how people live -- digitalization, smart grids and meters, flexibility markets, the electrification of transport, charging points -- the works. All of it is necessary to store wind and solar power and get it to the consumer.

However exhilarating this transformative vision is, not every country is willing to put all its eggs into the Green basket. Britain and France, perhaps harboring secret doubts, plan to invest in small, new technology nuclear reactors. The normally left wing Guardian ran an op-ed proclaiming "we need to revive the U.K.’s nuclear industry." But even with a change of heart plants take time to build and in the short term Europe has no choice but to import fossil fuels from non-Russian sources, principally the U.S. and the Middle East if it is to avoid economic catastrophe.

From Angola to the U.S. gas is heading for Europe. "Toby Rice, who runs the U.S. largest natural gas producer EQT, told the BBC the U.S. could easily replace Russian supply... He estimated the U.S. has the potential to quadruple its gas output by 2030... U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urged the country's fuel industry to pump more oil. 'We are on a war footing. That means you producing more right now, where and if you can'." Energiewende may not be "world’s dumbest energy policy" but only because it can repudiate itself.

The nearly comic irony of progressives being in the "drill baby drill" situation is hardly ever pointed out, it being considered bad form to do so. But it may be useful to recall that Germany's delegation at the U.N. General Assembly once laughed during then-President Trump's speech when he suggested that Germany was becoming “totally dependent” upon Russian energy, as shown in this video from the Washington Post. With the benefit of hindsight there's no denying that mistakes were made regarding Russia's suitability as a Green energy partner. Even Mitt Romney pointed out the growing threat posed by Putin during his 2012 presidential campaign against Obama but he too was laughed to scorn. It's fair to say that nobody's laughing now.


States Should Decouple From California’s Oppressive Emissions Policies

In a “let them eat cake”-style speech given last month, President Joe Biden suggested that if motorists switched to electric vehicles, they could spare themselves from high gasoline prices.

And while this claim itself may be dubious and indicative of how out of touch he is with real-world family budgets, at least he used the word “if,” suggesting that consumers should have a choice in the matter.

But soon, that choice could be taken away for many Americans if state lawmakers fail to take action. The long-time goal of the left is to ban the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles. The total cost of vehicle ownership would rise substantially, while available consumer options will drop precipitously.

It is not widely known, but about one-third of all U.S. states are legally bound by their own prior actions to adhere to whatever “emissions standards” the California Air Resources Board puts in place, and California has already taken significant steps that will drive up costs of purchasing and operating a vehicle.

The same kinds of policies that have driven gasoline prices to $6 and $7 per gallon in the Golden State may be coming to a state near you—and it’s going to be much more costly than prices at the pump.

California is the only state in the country that may promulgate their own vehicle emission regulations, and 16 states have statutorily adopted—or plan to adopt—the California Air Resources Board agenda: New York (implementation 1993), Massachusetts (1995), Vermont (2000), Maine (2001), Pennsylvania (2001), Connecticut (2008), Rhode Island (2008), Washington (2009), Oregon (2009), New Jersey (2009), Maryland (2011), Delaware (2014), Colorado (2022), Minnesota (2025), Nevada (2025), and Virginia (2025).

In 2020, with more than 40% of the EVs in America registered in his state, and believing that every state shares his “green” zeal, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to the California Air Resources Board that will phase out and eventually ban the sale of new internal combustion engines vehicles. Under the order, only zero-emission vehicles may be sold by 2035.

Motorists in all impacted states should be troubled by the nature of Newsom’s executive order. Lawmakers are essentially stripped of the right and responsibility to represent their own constituents in a manner that best reflects conditions in their respective states, while consumers would be deprived of more affordable vehicle purchase options.

These California regulations have the potential to ban the sale of traditionally powered internal combustion engines vehicles in all 16 states. In New England, New Hampshire (not beholden to the California Air Resources Board) would become the major beneficiary of this mandate, as New England residents and businesses would flock to the Granite State for its lower vehicle costs and larger array of options, crushing vehicle dealers in neighboring states.

But there is a way out of these self-inflicted wounds. By repealing statutory requirements to follow California’s increasingly costly standards, state lawmakers would save their own drivers by maintaining market demand levels of more and lower cost vehicle purchase options.

In early March, my organization, the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, signed onto a coalition letter along with organizations from 14 of the 16 impacted states.

Led by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, we also conducted a press conference with five other New England states, calling on our state legislatures to decouple our “emissions” policies from the increasingly radical and costly standards that California is setting.

Significant discrepancies exist between extreme California-type emission reduction plans and the problems they would produce in other states.

Unlike California, about two-thirds of the 16 impacted states deal with harsh winter months that produce heavy snowfalls. Newsome’s ban would eliminate the option of powerful and reliable internal combustion engines vehicles specifically designed for these conditions, as opposed to electric vehicles that do not perform well in cold-weather climates.

Think of the inanity of electric-powered, heavy-duty snow-plow trucks, without the power to push tons of snow—while also requiring a multi-hour recharge session, multiple times per day, in contrast to a five-minute gasoline fill-up.

EVs for consumer use also suffer from limited suggested mileage ranges per year. This means that they are better suited as a second around-town vehicle, an expensive one at that, and are not likely to perform well as the family or commercial workhorse vehicle.

Most importantly, if state lawmakers fail to take action, vehicle purchase prices will soar, while passenger safety will plummet. The manufacture of EVs and zero-emission vehicles is a far more expensive process, generally increasing purchase prices by tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle, if not more.

On top of their very high purchase prices, also to be factored in is the “electricity” cost of charging EVs and the purchase and installation of a home charging station, which can amount to another multi-thousand-dollar expense.

And, according to ValuePenguin insurance, EV models are about 23% more expensive to repair and insure as compared with internal combustion engine models, not to mention the significantly higher cost of replacing an EV battery.

Today, only the most affluent Americans can afford EVs. Even with government subsidies, it is difficult to imagine how low-middle-income families could ever afford to comply with these EV mandates.

Also, high fuel-efficient and electric vehicles normally use significantly lighter weight materials, meaning they are far less likely to sufficiently protect passengers in the event of a crash.

With inflation at a 40-year high, supply chain delays, and COVID-19 still impacting everyday life, it is clear that real-world events have put enormous financial and health strains on much of our population. The theoretical fears over global warming are not a top-of-mind concern for most citizens, according to most polls. These costly California vehicle bans are the wrong idea at the wrong time.

Further, these California Air Resources Board EV mandates are highly regressive in that they would harm lower-income and rural residents much more significantly than their more affluent urban and suburban peers.

People drive out of necessity. Higher vehicle costs would have to come out of other areas of household budgets, leading to difficult choices for families already struggling to make ends meet.

It will also mean that small businesses that transport goods or provide remote services will have higher operating costs. Those increased expenses would ultimately be passed along to consumers through higher prices, putting even further upward pressure on inflation, as America is currently seeing via increased grocery item and other product prices.

Now is the time for lawmakers to give motorists a break by decoupling their states from California’s harsh emissions regime and its vehicle bans.

Such foresight would demonstrate that public officials put the well-being of their constituents ahead of an unachievable environmental agenda pushed by extremist advocacy groups and unelected bureaucrats—who live in another state.

It is not government of, by, and for the people to be beholden to one-size-fits-all policies devised in another state, or by political decisions made decades ago.

In circumventing the local democratic process that reflects the unique circumstance of each state—via blind obeisance to California—these 16 states are defying the concept of state sovereignty.

State lawmakers must reconsider whether or not it is in their constituents’ best interests to remain tethered to California’s increasingly extreme and costly emissions standards. It is America’s design that each state should be free to craft its own policies.

And ultimately, in a free market approach, Americans should be allowed to choose what kind of vehicle or transportation option makes best sense for them—whether a conventional car, an EV, public transit, or something else. Expanded choices are welcomed, however, mandates that limit choice are highly offensive.




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