Sunday, January 15, 2023

A Greenie was Germany’s most popular politician. Then he took office

Robert Habeck arrived in Bayreuth, a small Bavarian town about four hours’ drive from Berlin, in an elegant slate grey suit and a white shirt open at the collar. A charismatic 53-year-old with salt and pepper hair, a stubbled jaw and a warm smile, he spent much of his adult life as a writer of novels and children’s books, only entering politics after becoming frustrated with his local Green party.

His frankness and intelligence — he has a PhD in literary aesthetics but wears it lightly — proved appealing to German voters. Less than a decade after becoming a full-time politician, he’d risen to the top of the Green party and then helped it enter government at the 2021 election. Habeck became Germany’s economy minister and deputy chancellor. He was the second most powerful politician in the country and often ranked by polls as its most popular.

It was late July and the sun reflected off the white walls and decorative columns of Bayreuth’s old town castle, now a tax office and the backdrop for Habeck’s appearance. He was in town for a “citizens’ dialogue”, a Q&A with voters that was part of a two-day tour of the south and east of Germany aimed at reassuring a country worried about the effects of the war in Ukraine.

Hundreds of people waited in the stifling heat to hear him. Habeck jettisoned his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He is a confident, even relaxed, public speaker. But as he walked on stage and began to address the crowd, he could barely make himself heard above a chorus of boos, whistles and insults. “Liar!” shouted one attendee. “Traitor!” said another. A chant broke out: “Warmonger!”

A few months earlier, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the German government had overturned a longstanding ban on exporting arms to war zones in order to supply Ukraine with weapons. The decision was controversial. German voters, conscious of their country’s history, are noticeably more pacifist than their European peers. Many feared the weapons shipments would prompt Russia to escalate the conflict. “Our politicians have no fear of nuclear war, but we do!” read one placard in the crowd.

As Robert Habeck began to address the crowd in Bayreuth, he could barely make himself heard above a chorus of boos, whistles and insults. “Liar!” shouted one attendee. “Traitor!” said another © Soeren Stache/picture alliance/dpa

Habeck tried to keep calm, answering questions while ignoring jeers. Gripping the microphone and speaking firmly, frustration occasionally rippling his brow, he acknowledged that sending arms to Kyiv was a “morally ambivalent” thing to do. But abandoning the Ukrainians to their fate — “just letting all those people die” — would be even worse. “It would not make us more innocent,” he said.

The heckling in Bayreuth was some of the worst he’d ever experienced. But it was less bruising than the criticism Habeck faced from those who had once been his most loyal fans. A year before, his reputation as one of the most successful Green politicians of his generation seemed sealed. The electoral performance he’d helped deliver was a turning point for a party that had spent 16 years in opposition. Habeck was increasingly spoken of as a future chancellor. In a practical sense, he was the most powerful green leader in Europe.

Then came the war and Germany’s longstanding reliance on Russian gas threw the economic security of Europe’s largest economy into jeopardy. As Moscow weaponised its energy exports, the threat of gas rationing and blackouts loomed. If anyone had the immense burden of ensuring the lights stayed on, it was Habeck. “Every day there are new developments that can change everything. Every day he has to do a reset,” Omid Nouripour, the Green party’s current co-leader, told me in September. “He is walking on a razor’s edge.”

When I interviewed Habeck in the economy ministry late last year, it was easy to see the toll the past few months had taken. His hair was messier than usual, his face lined and puffy with fatigue. His tone was subdued, at times almost sombre. “I am ultimately responsible for the security of the German energy system,” he said. “So the buck stops with me.” He was being tested, and so was everything he stood for.


How the population scare predicted today’s climate hysteria

Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich’s recent appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes reminds us what can happen when those with impressive academic credentials begin making end-of-the-world predictions.

It was 1968 when Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, a book that declared with absolute certainty that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over.” Because so many people were living so close together and consuming so much of the world’s limited resources, the inevitable future was one of “mass starvation” on “a dying planet.” A year after the book’s publication, Ehrlich went on to say that this “utter breakdown” in Earth’s capacity to support its bulging population was just fifteen years away.

For those of us still alive today, it is clear that nothing even approaching what Ehrlich predicted ever happened. Indeed, in the fifty-four years since his dire prophesy, those suffering from starvation have gone from one in four people on the planet to just one in ten, even as the world’s population has doubled. More importantly, there have been great advances in fertilizer potency, the genetic modification of seeds, irrigation, and related farming techniques.

What did happen is that those who believed in Ehrlich’s predictions caused a different but very real suffering. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Ehrlich’s book inspired the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the World Bank, and other groups to undertake cruel depopulation programs throughout the 1970s and ’80s. In Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia and Bangladesh, millions of people were sterilized, often against their will.

In India, many states required sterilization in order for citizens to obtain water, electricity, ration cards, medical care, pay raises, and even an education. And in China, according to Smithsonian author Charles Mann, a “one-child” policy led to as many as 100 million forced abortions, often in unsanitary conditions, causing needless infections, sterility, and even death.

Unfortunately, Paul Ehrlich was not the first presumed expert to foretell a world-shaking catastrophe that would inspire the most awful of “remedies.” In 1798, a British writer named Thomas Robert Malthus published his own warning about the growth of the world’s population, arguing it would inevitably outpace the food supply and lead to famines, wars, mass poverty, and eventually rapid depopulation.

Just as with The Population Bomb, the dire prophecy outlined in Malthus’s widely read Essay on the Principle of Population failed to come true. But not before convincing many of his countrymen to stop supporting charities for the indigent and, in 1834, persuading British Parliament to pass the New Poor Law, which cut back relief for the destitute and limited its provision to the very workhouses novelist Charles Dickens famously condemned.

The latest end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario is, of course, climate change, and its weaknesses have already become apparent. Its first predictions about the rapid extinction of polar bears and the death of the Great Barrier Reef have not only proved false, but both are flourishing more than ever. And despite the alarmist media death counts following every hurricane or other natural disaster, the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database estimates that the real number of 2022 climate-related fatalities will be the lowest in twenty years.

At the same time, carbon-capture, making biomethane from organic waste, producing diesel from low-carbon waste, making fuel from hydrogen, and other promising technologies for reducing atmospheric pollution continue to make progress — and in many cases with financial support from the “evil” oil companies themselves.

Yet climate fear persists, driven in no small part by the entertainment industry. Just go to the science fiction section of Netflix and note the large number of films and series based on the premise of an approaching environmental apocalypse. And nearly all the non-fiction books and articles on climate change, which we might expect to take a more sober approach, ignore the fact that even if all the current efforts to produce carbon-free energy sources were to fail, we already have a good fallback in nuclear power.

Unfortunately, the exaggerated fear of climate change, just like the fears raised by Malthus and Ehrlich, is causing its own harm. According to a special 2020 issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, the constant warnings of environmental catastrophe have led to what mental health professionals call “passive anxiety,” in lay terms, a constant worrying over events one feels helpless to stop. And not just among those who live in states like Florida and Oklahoma, which are frequently hit with severe weather. The panic attacks, insomnia, obsessive thinking, substance abuse, and depression associated with passive anxiety are widespread.

The two demographics that seem to be suffering most from this disorder are those with preexisting psychological problems and those under thirty who know they would be most likely to endure the horrors of an increasingly unlivable planet. Judy Wu of the University of British Columbia has become concerned about the second group. She is calling for a robust effort “to mitigate the effects of climate anxiety and stress on the short-term and long-term mental health of young people.” A 2021 study by the research group Avaaz found that over half of those between ages sixteen and twenty-five believe humanity is irrevocably “doomed” because of climate change.

Unfortunately, the fear of a looming climate catastrophe has produced not only needless emotional pain but foolish legislation as well. As Toyota Motors president Akio Toyoda recently confided to reporters, the trillions President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act plans to spend on boosting the use of electric cars will most likely be completely wasted. Toyoda and his auto industry colleagues know full well that battery-powered vehicles have limited range, are expensive, and recharging them is both time-consuming and costly. Most keep quiet, he said, only because they “think it’s the trend, so they can’t speak out loudly.”

Similarly in Europe, where France, Germany, Spain and other governments have passed sweeping laws to accelerate the deployment of solar panels and wind turbines. In places like the Galician countryside of northwest Spain, for example, tourist organizations have had to organize to stop and even dismantle the threat to their livelihoods from what they call “green eye pollution.”

Perhaps the most helpful way to understand the current debilitating obsession with climate change is to go back to a time when another movement to stave off global catastrophe should have had the same cultural impact, but never quite did. I am thinking of the 1950s, when the United States and the Soviet Union were both armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, which could have destroyed the world many times over.

Certainly, there was a prudent concern back then about what might unintentionally happen. Schoolchildren were drilled in how to hide under their desks to reduce their exposure to radiation fallout, and groups like the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) led protests around the world to demand unilateral disarmament. Yet the fears we see today of a carbon-drenched atmosphere never developed with the same intensity or influence in the 1950s. Indeed, it was during this period that public support for nuclear power plants and other peaceful uses of atomic energy was at its peak.

Part of this undoubtedly had to do with the fact that the country had just recently won World War II and was confident about its future. Without dismissing the need to treat atomic power with respect, its citizens were optimistic about their ability to harness science for the greater good.

It also helped that the financial incentives of the time, what President Eisenhower famously called the “military-industrial complex,” were on the side of the US containing Russia’s nuclear technology, not abandoning its own. By contrast, today’s net-zero believers get considerable marketing support from the growing number of companies with a vested interest in government subsidies to replacing fossil fuels with their own products.

And finally, we cannot overlook that the 1950s were the high point for spiritual belief in America, at least as measured by parish affiliation and attendance. Unlike now, fewer people were ready to believe that their God would let centuries of admittedly difficult but steady progress just evaporate in some meaningless catastrophe.

We may think ourselves more intellectually sophisticated today, but the price has been a dramatically increased vulnerability to the worst projections of our supposed understanding. Paul Ehrlich today is regarded by many as a false prophet; how long until we acknowledge the others in our midst?


"Extreme weather" mythology

Climate science is the business of numbers and graphs and, above all, trends. Each year, weather agencies crunch the numbers to chart how average global temperatures compare with past years.

There is another graph, however, that says a lot about what has become a dominant trend in climate politics. It is the way in which extreme weather, like the famous hockey stick graph of runaway heating, has exploded on to the scene.

Analysis of how frequently extreme weather is mentioned in scientific and media circles has gone from nowhere only a few years ago, to race up the charts like an Apollo mission rocket launch. A search of the Scopus academic website similarly shows an exponential rise in the number of published papers that mention extreme weather. From just a handful of “extreme weather” references in university research 20 years ago, last year there was close to 2000 instances, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences leading the charge, but Australia’s prestigious University of NSW, University of Melbourne, and University of Queensland are all in the top 10.

A review of the factiva archive of published material worldwide shows a similar explosion in mentions of extreme weather, since about 2015. The US, Britain and Australia have led the way, with our Bureau of Meteorology and the British Met Office prominent. In contrast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has medium confidence but produced a spike in references to it in 2021 and 2022. The result is popular confusion about what is climate and what is weather.

Extreme weather has become a central part of the ritual new year declaration of how hot it has been in the age of a changing climate.

The year 2022 is expected to come in as the eighth-warmest year globally. In Australia, it was the 22nd-warmest year since national temperature records began in 1910. And, despite the floods that have swept through cities and caused havoc across large areas from Queensland to South Australia and now Western Australia, 2022 was the ninth-wettest year.

Contrary to popular fears of never-ending drought, BoM records show that multi-year rainfall deficiencies, which originated during the 2017-19 drought, have been almost entirely removed from the eastern states. The largest area of remaining multi-year rainfall deficiencies is in the Goldfields district of Western Australia, with smaller pockets in southwest WA and the north of the Northern Territory.

The cooler temperatures and wetter conditions in Australia have been due to consecutive La Nina weather patterns, a natural phenomenon driven by ocean temperatures in the Pacific. Consecutive La Ninas are relatively common. According to BoM, consecutive La Nina events have occurred in about half of all past events since 1900.

Three La Nina events in a row, as has just been experienced, are less common but the phenomenon has happened four times in the bureau records since 1900. Other occurrences were in 1954-57, 1973-76 and 1998-2001.

While much has been said about the impact of severe flooding, the flip side has been a restoration of water catchments, an ending of years of drought, bumper crop yields for farmers and a recovery in corals on the Great Barrier Reef to their highest levels since the Australian Institute of Marine Science started its long-term monitoring program in 1983.

For ecologists, floods are important to reconnect creeks and wetlands, and initiate breeding of fish, frogs and birds that bolster the food chain for reptiles and other larger fauna.

For climate catastrophists, attention instead is directed to what are called extreme events, sometimes from datasets that have only a limited history.

As the La Nina weather system degrades, attention has already swung to the possibility of a return to El Nino that would bring higher temperatures and a greater risk of bushfire. That is made likelier by the healthy vegetation growth due to an extended period of above average rainfall, as well as the fertilisation effect of increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Although too early to predict with any certainty, an El Nino phase following a prolonged La Nina is a likely probability.

The takeaway is that natural variability continues to play its role in climate against a background warming trend. According to BoM, the background heating from climate change has elevated average Australian temperatures by more than 1.47C since 1910. This compares with a global average increase reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of 1.07C since the industrial revolution. According to BoM, the atmosphere can hold about 7 per cent more moisture for every degree of warmth, increasing the potential for more severe deluges as the planet heats up. This is the reasoning on which the now ubiquitous claims of extreme weather are built. But both the narrative of extreme weather and the quality of the temperature record itself are under constant challenge.

Extreme weather has replaced global warming as the totemic issue of climate change and has become an article of faith for campaigners seeking to galvanise public attention and push policymakers for change.

The IPCC’s most recent report on the science of climate change, AR6, says there is medium confidence that the frequency of extreme fire weather days has increased, and the fire season has become longer since 1950 at many locations. There is medium confidence that heavy rainfall and river floods will increase.

But in its annual report for 2022, the Climate Council has left no room for doubt. It says Australians are experiencing the impact of more frequent and severe extreme weather, with climate change a key influencer in the 2022 flooding emergency that swept through key parts of Queensland and NSW. The council says its community played an instrumental role in pressuring candidates in the 2022 federal election to cite their climate credentials.

“During the 2022 flooding emergency … our work with journalists, spokespeople and the media helped reinforce the narrative that climate change underpins the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather disasters such as this; putting pressure on the federal government for greater policy ambition,” the Climate Council’s report says. “We secured more than 1000 media hits and helped to cumulatively shift the discourse from no discussion around climate change at the onset of the disaster, to flooding being explicitly linked to climate as coverage progressed … We have also worked hard to communicate the role of climate change in driving extreme weather.”

In a message in the report, outgoing chairwoman Sam Mostyn says: “In a year filled with far too many ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ extreme weather events – including devastating flooding, record-breaking temperatures, heatwaves and fires across the world – the urgency of climate action is paramount.” This is a global trend. US climate scientist Judith Curry says she was an inadvertent contributor to explaining the potential harm of one degree of warming through a 2005 paper that identified a doubling in the proportion of Category 4/5 hurricanes since 1970. “For the first time, the connection was made between a devastating hurricane such as Katrina and a small amount of warming,” Curry writes in an essay posted on her Climate Etc website in December.

In retrospect, Curry writes: “Climate activists, the media and even scientists seized on the ‘extreme weather event caused by climate change’ narrative as being the ideal vehicle for ramping up the alarm about human-caused global warming … Every extreme weather event is now attributed to global warming, even extreme cold outbreaks and heavy snow.

“Scientists who should know better just can’t resist the opportunities for media attention and enthusiastically place blame on human-caused global warming. In spite of the fact that IPCC assessment reports find very little in the way of any contribution of human-caused global warming to extreme weather events.”

Curry is concerned about the psychological harm climate alarmism is causing to a generation of children: “Extreme weather events have become an increasingly important part of the climate alarm narrative since 2005, but kids didn’t start getting ‘psychologically injured’ until the climate communicators and ‘educators’ took this to the next higher level,” Curry writes.

“The timing of this started around 2017, following the increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric from UN officials and national leaders in support of the Paris Agreement and the coincident formation of the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, etc. I don’t find much in the published literature about psychological injuries to children from climate change prior to about 2018; this is a very recent (phenomenon).”

Analysis of available data shows that events being routinely touted as extreme have invariably happened in earlier decades. The paleoclimate record has extensive evidence of much more extreme weather. “No matter – never let the historical and paleoclimate data records get in the way of an alarming story that attributes the most recent disaster to fossil fuel emissions,” Curry writes.

Fellow US climate scientist John Christy, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, best known for developing a satellite temperature record with colleague Roy Spencer, is similarly concerned.

“You have to give credit to those who in the climate establishment and the media, or whoever is behind all this, have been successful in scaring people about the climate,” Christy says.

“They don’t ever go back and talk to someone who actually builds these datasets and says, ‘Is that really the worst it’s been in the last 120 years?’. They just make those claims.”

Christy’s main concern is that a lot of surface temperature stations on which the global temperature data is built are spuriously affected by the growth of infrastructure around them.

In Britain there are similar concerns, including the fact the Met Office has placed a temperature measuring device halfway down the runway of a military air base that houses two squadrons of Typhoon fighter jets.

Acting Greens Leader Mehreen Faruqi announced her party will enter into negotiations with Energy Minister Chris… Bowen and demand Labor impose a limit on the number of carbon credits fossil fuel producers can buy. The Greens are able to prevent the bill from being legislated through their numbers in More
Australian scientist Jennifer Marohasy has been on a years-long quest to force BoM to better explain its temperature measurements. Her challenge to BoM to provide details about the effect of the switch from using mercury thermometers to platinum resistance probes in automatic weather stations will finally be heard in February by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Marohasy and colleague John Abbot want BoM to release parallel data – temperature records taken by traditional thermometers alongside the new temperature probes when they were replaced – to confirm the compatibility of BoM’s automatic weather stations and probes with the historical record.

Marohasy is concerned that while other weather bureaus have also made the transition to temperature probes in automatic weather stations, BoM is the only weather bureau she knows of that does not average the one-second readings from its temperature probes.

The bureau has claimed in correspondence to Marohasy that it never averaged measurements from probes. BoM chief executive Dr Andrew Johnson told her the probes were specifically designed to have a long response time to mirror the behaviour of mercury in glass, making numerical averaging unnecessary. But according to Marohasy, the lack of numerical averaging despite the use of probes makes the BoM measurements unique in the world.

BoM has refused a Freedom of Information request for parallel data on several grounds, recently claiming the information did not exist in the format requested. This was after the request was revised on the advice of BoM, which said the initial demand was for too much information.

In an affidavit to the AAT, BoM’s chief data officer, Boris Kelly-Gerreyn, explains that rather than extensive records, the new FoI request was for reports that included the data.

Marohasy argues in her affidavit that in the absence of access to the parallel data – and the absence of any quality assurance and credible research into issues arising from the transition to temperature probes – no reliability can be placed on any claims by the bureau and/or other scientists using their data of record hot days, fewer extreme cold days or the claimed accelerated warming trend, or anything similar.

Marohasy says because of the difficulty in achieving consistency between temperature recordings from the newer temperature probes with traditional mercury thermometers, the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology records and archives measurements from both devices, with a policy of having both types of equipment in the same Stevenson screen, or instrument shelter, at all its official weather-recording stations.

BoM has defended its methodology but so far has refused to hand over comprehensive data on the change for external analysis.

Marohasy says BoM has a policy of maintaining mercury thermometers with probes in the same Stevenson screen for a period of at least three years when there is a changeover. “This policy, however, is not implemented and mostly ignored,” Marohasy says in her affidavit to the AAT.

She maintains data was collected when many of the electronic probes were installed and this requires greater scrutiny. Marohasy says BoM has claimed there is no parallel data but simultaneously has erected barriers to the public accessing parallel temperature data by saying there would be high processing costs involved. BoM refused to waive the costs of satisfying the initial FoI request, claiming there was no public interest in the data sought.

“It is truly astonishing that the bureau should take the position that accurately evaluating the extent of temperature change during the past 100 years by fully understanding the effect of changes in instrumentation has no public interest,” Marohasy says. “At the same time the bureau is publishing reports and giving media interviews claiming that a temperature increase of 1.5C will have devastating consequences for the planet.”

The dispute has more significance than being simply a local spat. The temperatures measured and recorded by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology contribute to the calculation of global averages. Marohasy says rather than averaging temperatures recorded by probes across a one- to 10-minute period, as recommended by the World Meteorological Organisation, the bureau is entering one-second extrema as the daily maximum and minimum values. She says this would bias the minima downwards and the maxima upwards. “Except that the bureau is placing limits on how cold an individual weather station can record a temperature, so most of the bias is going to be upwards,” she says.

Marohasy has gained some insights from limited documents she has received from BoM. She says the first temperature probe installed at Mildura recorded too cool relative to the mercury thermometer. This may have been the situation at other weather stations. We will know only if the data for the other 37 stations where parallel measurements were taken is made public.

A replacement temperature probe installed at Mildura on June 27, 2012, records too hot relative to a mercury thermometer. Again, Marohasy says, this may be the case at other weather stations, but we can know only if parallel data for the other stations in hot arid regions is made public and available for independent analysis.

With so much at stake, both financially and emotionally for a generation raised on a diet of climate extremism, full transparency is the least that can be expected from our public institutions.


Why I’ve pulled the plug on my electric car

The spark is gone — you’re better off walking than relying on useless, unreliable vehicles and chargers that never work

As I watch my family strike out on foot across the fields into driving rain and gathering darkness, my wife holding each child’s hand, our new year plans in ruins, while I do what I can to make our dead car safe before abandoning it a mile short of home, full of luggage on a country lane, it occurs to me not for the first time that if we are going to save the planet we will have to find another way. Because electric cars are not the answer.

Yes, it’s the Jaguar again. My doomed bloody £65,000 iPace that has done nothing but fail at everything it was supposed to do for more than two years now, completely dead this time, its lifeless corpse blocking the single-track road.
I can’t even roll it to a safer spot because it can’t be put in neutral. For when an electric car dies, it dies hard. And then lies there as big and grey and not-going-anywhere as the poacher-slain bull elephant I once saw rotting by a roadside in northern Kenya. Just a bit less smelly.

Not that this is unusual. Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it, beached at the dealership for months at a time on account of innumerable electrical calamities, while I galumph around in the big diesel “courtesy cars” they send me under the terms of the warranty.

But this time I don’t want one. And I don’t want my own car back either. I have asked the guys who sold it to me to sell it again, as soon as it is fixed, to the first mug who walks into the shop. Because I am going back to petrol while there is still time.

And if the government really does ban new wet fuel cars after 2030, then we will eventually have to go back to horses.

Because the electric vehicle industry is no readier to get a family home from Cornwall at Christmas time (as I was trying to do) than it is to fly us all to Jupiter. The cars are useless, the infrastructure is not there and you’re honestly better off walking. Even on the really long journeys. In fact, especially on the long journeys. The short ones they can just about manage. It’s no wonder Tesla shares are down 71 per cent. It’s all a huge fraud. And, for me, it’s over.

Yet the new owner of my “preloved” premium electric vehicle, fired with a messianic desire to make a better world for his children, will not know this. He will be delighted with his purchase and overjoyed to find there are still six months of warranty left, little suspecting that once that has expired — and with it the free repairs and replacement cars for those long spells off road — he will be functionally carless.

He will be over the moon to learn that it has “a range of up to 292 miles”. No need to tell him what that really means is “220 miles”. Why electric carmakers are allowed to tell these lies is a mystery to me. As it soon will be to him.

Although for the first few days he won’t worry especially. He’ll think he can just nip into a fuel station and charge it up again. Ho ho ho. No need to tell him that two out of three roadside chargers in this country are broken or busy at any one time. Or that the built-in “find my nearest charge point” function doesn’t work, has never worked, and isn’t meant to work.

Or that apps like Zap-Map don’t work either because the chargers they send you to are always either busy or broken or require a membership card you don’t have or an app you can’t download because there’s no 5G here, in the middle of nowhere, where you will now probably die.

Or that the Society of Motor Manufacturers said this week that only 23 new chargers are being installed nationwide each day, of the 100 per day that were promised (as a proud early adopter, I told myself that charging would become easier as the network grew, but it hasn’t grown, while the number of e-drivers has tripled, so it’s actually harder now than it was two years ago).

There are, of course, plus sides to electric ownership. Such as the camaraderie when we encounter each other, tired and weeping at yet another service station with only two chargers, one of which still has the “this fault has been reported” sign on it from when you were here last August, and the other is of the measly 3kWh variety, which means you will have to spend the night in a Travelodge while your stupid drum lazily inhales enough juice to get home.

Together, in the benighted charging zone, we leccy drivers laugh about what fools we are and drool over the diesel hatchbacks nonchalantly filling up across the way (“imagine getting to a fuel station and knowing for sure you will be able to refuel!”) and talk in the hour-long queue at Exeter services about the petrol car we will buy as soon as we get home.

We filled up there last week on the way back from Cornwall, adding two hours to our four-hour journey, by which time Esther wasn’t speaking to me. She’s been telling me to get rid of the iPace since it ruined last summer’s holidays in both Wales and Devon (“If you won’t let us fly any more, at least buy a car that can get us to the places we’re still allowed to go!”).

But I kept begging her to give me one last chance, as if I’d refused to give up a mistress, rather than a dull family car. Until this time, a couple of miles from home, when a message flashed up on the dash: “Assisted braking not available — proceed with caution.” Then: “Steering control unavailable.”
And then, as I inched off the dual carriageway at our turnoff, begging it to make the last mile, children weeping at the scary noises coming from both car and father: “Gearbox fault detected.” CLUNK. WHIRRR. CRACK.

And dead. Nothing. Poached elephant. I called Jaguar Assist (there is a button in the roof that does it directly — most useful feature on the car) who told me they could have a mechanic there in four hours (who would laugh and say, “Can’t help you, pal. You’ve got a software issue there. I’m just a car mechanic. And this isn’t a car, it’s a laptop on wheels.”)
So Esther and the kids headed for home across the sleety wastes, a vision of post-apocalyptic misery like something out of Cormac McCarthy, while I saw out 2022 waiting for a tow-truck. Again.

But don’t let that put you off. I see in the paper that electric car sales are at record levels and production is struggling to keep up with demand. So why not buy mine? It’s clean as a whistle and boasts super-low mileage. After all, it’s hardly been driven .




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