New Nukes, More Nukes, not No Nukes

The war in Ukraine created a new energy reality. Russian petrochemicals, including natural gas once bound for Europe, are now being sold to India, China and other customers in Asia. Offering discounts out of necessity, Russia has displaced 'gray market' Iranian and even Gulf oil in Asian countries. The distribution has rearranged the map of buyers and sellers, but there is little doubt that the market for petrochemicals has shrunk for a long time to come.

The world is reeling from the economic impact of steeply rising fuel costs but bureaucrats at the International Energy Agency (IEA) can scarcely contain their delight at the shortage of 'fossil fuels.' They hope to avoid any further investment in petroleum and meet the entire energy shortfall through increases in renewables. "Global fossil fuel use has grown alongside GDP since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century: putting this rise into reverse will be a pivotal moment in energy history... Today’s growth rates for deployment of solar PV, wind, EVs and batteries, if maintained, would lead to a much faster transformation than projected in the Stated Policies Scenario, although this would require supportive policies not just in the early leading markets for these technologies but across the world." In other words subsidies and incentives for renewables will still be needed to save the day.

First World problems.

Prominently missing from the IEA's list of preferred energy technologies is nuclear power, which despite a high regulatory cost burden that must be capitalized is nevertheless "cost competitive with renewable generation when capital cost is in the region of 2000-3000 ($/KW)." It is extremely reliable and insensitive to fluctuations in fuel costs because the fissile material is replenished so infrequently. Moreover the big reactors -- unlike renewables -- are 'load following', that is to say able to increase or decrease their output in response to the demands of the grid. Because they are so useful, planned nuclear power capacity worldwide will increase steadily with about 55 reactors under construction, mostly in the Asian region.

Nuclear power technology is also advancing steadily. "More than a dozen advanced reactor designs are in various stages of development." The most mainstream of the new designs are the Generation IVs. The Generation IV International Forum (GIF), initiated by the US Department of Energy in 2000, has 13 member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, China, Russia, Australia, U.K., U.S.A.) plus Euratom jointly developing next generation nuclear technology. Six designs have been readied so far. They feature:

Perhaps the most exciting development is the availability of commercial small nuclear reactors, which are perhaps the most tested kind of all. Many hundreds of smaller power reactors have been built for naval use accumulating over 12,000 reactor years of experience. They are inherently safer. "This is largely due to their higher surface area to volume (and core heat) ratio compared with large units. It means that a lot of the engineering for safety including heat removal in large reactors is not needed in the small reactors." But their biggest advantage is they can be located—even airlifted—anywhere, even where the local grid is limited or nonexistent.

By contrast solar PV, wind, EVs and batteries require a smart grid to smooth out supply and demand. Solar farms built in North Africa, for example, need huge, kilometers-long undersea power cables to send electricity to overcast Europe. Called the EuroAfrica Interconnector, it will have 1000 MW capacity in the first stage, only equal to an average nuclear power plant. But unlike a nuclear power plant, which can be securely located near the user, a solar array in North Africa has to be secured along a long, vulnerable line of communications across national boundaries.

Given these factors, why aren't Green activists turning more to nuclear power to redress the energy crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine war? The counterintuitive reason is that cheap and reliable nuclear power would enable wasteful capitalist consumption and undo the Green agenda. Environmentalist Paul Ehrlich said in 1975:

In fact, giving society cheap, abundant energy at this point would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun. With cheap, abundant energy, the attempt clearly would be made to pave, develop, industrialize, and exploit every last bit of the planet—a trend that would inevitably lead to a collapse of the life-support systems upon which civilization depends.

Cheap nuclear power would allow ordinary people, even in the Third World, to afford big screen TVs, game consoles, electric vehicles, lights, air conditioning, etc., all of which in the Leftist view would spell disaster.

The Catch-22 is that hardcore Greens prefers power to be expensive in order to cut consumption. As an op-ed in the Seattle Times put it: "High gas prices? They’re just what we need." The Green nightmare is billions of Africans living like Americans. The advantage of solar and wind over nuclear is it sets a hard limit on the lifestyle it will support. In that way Americans would live like Africans. As filmmaker Robert Stone put it: "as you provide societies with more energy it enables them to do more environmental destruction. The idea of tying us to the natural forces the wind and the sun was very appealing in that it would limit and constrain human development."

For the radical Greens, that's a good thing.

How Do We Stop California from Throwing Its Weight Around?

California is the American Left's biggest asset and its biggest liability. It is a liability because it clearly demonstrates to the world what unfettered "progressive" governance looks like: out-of-control crime, through-the-roof taxation, an inhumane regulatory regime, insane gas prices, the constant threat of blackouts, and a government so divorced from reality that it is unable to actually accomplish anything.

If you need proof on the last point, check out the New York Times' recent deep-dive into the state's "multi-billion-dollar nightmare" of a high-speed rail system, which has seen its cost projections rise from $33 billion to $113 billion, is currently costing $1.8 million a day, and which will almost certainly never be completed. And for all the Left's bellyaching about "income inequality," the Golden State is the poster child for that concept. As Victor Davis Hanson once wrote,

By many criteria, 21st-century California is both the poorest and the richest state in the union. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Another fifth is categorized as near the poverty level — facts not true during the latter 20th century. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients now live in California. The state has the highest homeless population in the nation (135,000). About 22 percent of the nation’s total homeless population reside in the state — whose economy is the largest in the U.S., fueling the greatest numbers of American billionaires and high-income zip codes.

Unsurprisingly, Californians of all political persuasions have been fleeing in droves, which has led to the state's losing a congressional seat (and therefore a vote in the electoral college) in the wake of the 2020 census. But even with that population shift, California is still the largest state in the union, the 400-poound gorilla of the U.S.A., which is why it remains an asset. It has the ability to throw a lot of weight around.

Sacramento's acting out again.

Case in point: this past August, the California Air Resources Board approved Governor Gavin Newsom's directive banning the sale of carbon-emitting (that is, gasoline- and diesel-driven) vehicles in the Golden State by the year 2035. This will have major repercussions for the automobile industry nationwide. Manufacturers, unwilling to be locked out of the California market and its 39 million perspective customers, will shift their development priorities towards EVs. So if this rule remains in effect, it will be increasingly difficult to purchase a non-E.V. as 2035 draws near.

There's another reason that California's environmental regulations is putting pressure on auto-manufacturers: in 2009 the state was granted a waiver by the Obama administration regarding the Clean Air Act which allows it to set harsher emissions limits than the national standard, an authority the Trump administration attempted to revoke and the Biden White House reestablished. Seventeen states have tied their emissions standards to California's, with New York State recently taking the plunge. New York governor Kathy Hochul said that, in light of government subsidies for charging stations and vehicles themselves, “you will have no more excuses” not to buy an E.V. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board correctly translates this sentiment: "You will have no more choice."

One state, at least, is trying to abstract itself from this scheme. Virginia signed onto Sacramento's emissions standards in 2021, under former governor Ralph Northam. That same year saw the election of Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, whose tenure in office has seen him declare war on the destructive policies of his predecessor. He has signed executive orders banning Critical Race Theory, rescinding the state's school mask mandate, and beginning the process of withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (another plot to remove environmental regulation from the realm of democratic oversight). And now he's turned his attention towards bringing emissions standards back home to Richmond.

Youngkin's 2022 state energy plan, released earlier this month, called on state legislators to reverse the alignment with California, and Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates of delegates are answering the call. Any repeal, however, will have to make it through the state senate, where the Democrats are in the majority.

Still, we wish Governor Youngkin well in his efforts, along with the attorneys general of the seventeen Republican-led states which are currently suing the Environmental Protection Agency in the hopes of getting the Golden State's Clean Air Act waiver revoked. After all, if Leftists are successful in turning the whole country into California, there will be nowhere left to flee to.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Concoursing

Surprisingly I couldn’t get anyone to go join me at this year’s Salon Privé. It’s not a ‘must-do' but I didn’t expect a flat ‘no’ across the board. Daddy and Judith are in Italy, my school chums are everywhere but London, and even my ex, Patrick, is in New York watching tennis. So it will just be me and my Gemma Chan squiggle dress.

I’m hoping the tone will not be dour given the likely end of the fuel-powered car. It’s early days but with California promising to ban this planet-killing transport, the world is likely to follow. And follow they should. I was an early adopter having purchased a Tesla car and solar panels well before Elon Musk bailed on California. As to blaming cars for the demise of our planet… Daddy and I have gone round and round on this subject. He likes to remind me that Britain was once a peninsula of continental Europe until the Channel was flooded by rising sea levels about 8,000 years ago—well before cars. But as I’ve explained to him—we can’t just ignore the science, no matter what history says.

This way to the egress, Boris.

I budgeted two hours drive to Blenheim which should be sufficient except for traffic getting out of London due to all the stupid bike lanes. Of course I’m not saying that bicycling is stupid, only putting so many lanes in an already-congested city has just made for more traffic. And stalled traffic means more CO2. Plus no one is really using the lanes anyway. So was it any wonder Boris got caught cycling outside of his own proscribed covid-zone? It was also his bright idea that bikes become ‘as commonplace as black cabs and red buses’. I mean, really! No one would get anywhere.

It took me a while to find the non-preferential parking, which meant a ten-minute walk to the main entrance on one’s choice of grass or gravel. UGH! Obviously some man with wide feet and a love for sensible shoes had managed this. Making a quick trip to the ladies' I sorted myself out, but I overheard complaints about people having taken the train to Hanborough where there was no taxi rank. Seriously? It was the car event of the season and everyone was walking way more than they wished.

Making my way to the gallery I met an American who introduced himself as ‘Ken’. I was hoping he’d be a candidate to talk about making cars carbon-neutral but he seemed only to want to talk about his ’54 Corvette mule car that he’d shipped over. Oh how he went on about this particular 'vette—and his other 250 cars. I had half a mind to ask if he, like Prince Charles, had any that ran on leftover wine and cheese but thought better of it. My guess of course, was no because he mentioned if you’re lucky you’ll see flames come out of the back end. FLAMES! Not exactly carbon-neutral. I tried easing into a meaningful conversation but it was no use. He didn’t know who I was, he didn’t know who my clients were, and he was impressed by shooting flames.

By contrast the next person I met was Bill Ford, of the Model-T Fords. The Fords didn’t pre-date the Churchills but at an event like this he was no less impressive. Also he knew who I was, and announced that he, too, was an environmentalist. Why had I spent so much time talking to Mr Fire-Butt? Bill had grown up with many thinking his family the enemy. To a lesser degree I had carried the guilt of a father who was the top geophysical engineer in the oil industry. Talk about kismet! I was sure we’d partner in some way to move toward carbon neutrality in the automotive industry. This was exciting. I quickly dazzled him with the work I’d done, and my near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the issue at hand. He didn’t interrupt so I continued on explaining my position and the path we needed to take in order to avoid extinction.

Don't blame me, Greenies.

He led me into the Aviva Pavilion and excused himself briefly. I texted my father to tell him the good news. Daddy texted back ‘Hold your horses’.

What?? ‘THIS IS DIVINE PROVIDENCE!’ I texted back.

‘I doubt it’. Was his response. ‘I’m not saying you can’t find common ground and achieve your end but talk to him about something YOU know. Like traffic jams. And how Boris has it all wrong. Tell him that four billion clean cars is still four billion cars on the road. Tell him that restrictions on movement in the name of global warming is not the answer’.

What? OMG NO! Daddy had it all wrong. When Bill came back I told him I owned one of the first Teslas. Bill beamed and said ‘Then you understand! Clean cars alone are not the solution’.

‘Uhhhhh…correct!’ I said. ‘Four billion clean cars is still four billion cars’.

‘YES!’ He roared.

‘And…restrictions on movement in the name of global warming is not the answer’.

‘THANK YOU!’ He said. ‘You know, the freedom to move about the country is by far the greatest thing my grandfather, Henry, created. I aim to preserve that, so obviously I’m against banning cars, and we both agree that more bikes and more smart cars is just—more. Unfortunately some are trying to ban the very thing my grandfather created—the freedom to move about the country. If we allow this next they’ll be rationing energy. Yet global gridlock will stifle productivity. Maybe we need underground roads.

‘Correct’. I said again, baffled.

'Would you be interested in partnering with me on an interconnected system of intelligent transport?'

’‘I would indeed’, I said. And that is all I said. Because clearly I could not have said it better myself. Wait 'til I tell Daddy...

EVs Down Under: No Bang for the Buck

I help my next-door neighbour out if she wants something done that only an electric drill can manage. Last Australian winter she bought a panel heater for her bedroom and asked whether I would affix it to the wall, which I did. A little time later she said that it kept tripping the safety switch. Ours is a 1973-built apartment building. Not among the youngest; not among the oldest in Sydney. The electrics were wanting when it came to handling the addition of a mere $250, 1,500W panel heater.

She had to call in an electrician to fix the problem; who, for the princely price of $600, put a contraption on her fuse box. Charging an electric car at home overnight apparently needs 7.2kW; almost five-times the power which stymied my neighbour's panel heater. Obviously, my building is not fit for purpose. How costly it would be to make it so; I simply don’t know. Nothing is yet out there to tell us. There is no clamouring of demand to pique enquiry. Incidentally, for the open road, rapid charging ranges from 50kW to 350kW. Better get those wind turbines a-spinning.

Would that i'twere so simple.

A friend shared with me an account by an electrical engineer who, for understandable reasons, prefers to remain anonymous. He’d been asked whether some electric-car charging points could be installed in a large apartment building in Melbourne’s central business district. Part of his account goes something like this:

Do you ever get the feeling that ambitions among those demonising fossil fuels are light years beyond our capacity to deliver? In the past I tended to think of queues for elective procedures at public hospitals as being preeminent in provoking unrealisable ambitions. Whenever, and in whatever country, there were inevitably long queues and some shameless politicians promising to spend other people’s money to slash their length. Two insuperable problems. Money doesn’t conjure up experienced doctors, nurses and technicians. And second, and more intractable, demand is never sated when those enjoying unhealthy lifestyles meet free remedial treatment.

That was in the past. Now, nothing compares, or has ever compared, to the boundless and fanciful ambitions of those intent on healing the planet. Electric vehicles (EVs) are, of course, only one facet of the delusional outer limits within which they abide.

In its 'Powering Australia Plan', the Australian government projects that the proportion of light EVs on the road will increase from 0.2 percent now to 15 percent (i.e., to 3.8 million vehicles) by 2030. Financial incentives and new charging infrastructure will do the trick, apparently. And the infrastructure: 1,800 new public fast-charging stations, and 100,000 businesses and 3.8 million households with charging capacity. All these figures have been pulled out of a hat.

For example, 3.8 million households represent about 35 percent of the projected number of about 11 million Australian households by 2030. I’ll guess none of the 43 households in my aging building will have one; and ditto for lots of other aging apartment buildings, and the millions of houses without garages. As it is, the vast majority of electric cars on the road are swanning around posh inner-city suburbs; a few miles at a time. You won’t find many, if any, in working-class suburbs and none traveling the 550 miles between Sydney and Melbourne. Let’s face it, the worthless promises of politicians have reached new heights of self-deception.

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I turned my mind to CO2. Just how much does a conventional car exhale? The answer from the American EIA is 19.64 pounds per gallon of petrol. Of course, it’s a U.S. gallon (= 128 fluid ounces) which for some reason lost in the mists of time is different from an imperial gallon (=160 fluid ounces). The babel of different measuring sticks, tons versus tonnes for example, can complicate calculations. Traps for the unwary. Lucky for me, my school learning paid off. While there are some standards which have 12 ounces to the pound; 16 applies uniformly in Australia, Britain and the U.S., where a pound is the same pound.

CO2 in the atmosphere is measured in units of one billion tonnes. Such a tonne is 1000 kg or 2,204.6 lbs, compared with 2,240 lbs of the imperial ton. Though, confusingly, gigatons and gigatonnes of CO2 are used interchangeably, both meaning the latter; written for short as GtCO2.

According to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (on the physical science), issued in 2021, the cumulative emissions from 1850 to 2019 are roughly 2,390 GtCO2. Global (fossil-fuel) emissions are estimated at 37 GtCO2 (rounded) in the year 2019; that is, before Covid hit, and had been inexorably rising year-by-year. Lofty emission-cutting ambitions notwithstanding.

Can you spell "insufficient capacity"?

Displaying prescience par excellence, the IPCC claim that if cumulative emission rise by another 1,350 GtCO2, we have only a 50 percent chance of avoiding 2.0°C and more of warming. For sure, 1,350 GtCO2 seems like a lot. However, it will be breached in 37 years, by 2059, even if emissions stabilise at their level of 2019. And they won’t. Fondness for coal among the Chinese and Indians will see to that. Be alarmed greenies, sweaty times ahead and way before 2059.

What to do? We all have to do our bit, is the catchcry of the miniscule. Apropos the Australian government’s fantasy of having 3.8 million EVs on the road by 2030. Based on 2019-20 data, each vehicle on the road uses on average 441 (U.S.) gallons of petrol each year; incidentally, about a third less than in the U.S. Assuming, generously, that EVs will do as much travelling as conventional vehicles, which they won’t, this will save 1,677 million gallons per year. As each gallon accounts for 19.64 lbs of CO2 emissions, a bit of arithmetic shows a saving of 15 million tonnes of atmospheric CO2. This would equal just 0.04 percent of the emissions of 37 GtCO2 in 2019.

Ergo, in the very unlikely event that the Australian mouse succeeds in roaring, it’ll have bugger-all effect. And, by the way, how about the CO2 emitted to make the electricity to fuel the EVs? Wind and sun, they say, will do the trick. In such manner is ruse built upon ruse.

Piercing the Electric Car Fantasy

Electric cars are having a big moment right now, with the supercilious wonderboy of the Biden administration Pete Buttigieg proclaiming last week that we could escape the pain at the gas pump if more people could “access” electric cars (EVs). Very telling that he chose to say “access” rather than “afford” electric cars, because without the $7,500 tax credit, very few middle-class people can afford to buy an electric car. And very few middle-class people do: the lion’s share of “clean energy” subsidies are captured by high-income households.

But press beyond the typical economic illiteracy of leftists like Buttigieg who think having the government pay billions in subsidies makes something “cheaper,” and note that electrons aren’t printed out of thin air by the Federal Reserve like our fast-depreciating currency. With electricity rates rising fastest in those places that have overemphasized “renewable” energy such as California or Germany, it's not clear that consumers will save much by driving a more expensive electric car and paying higher utility rates. And that’s if you can still fill it up with electrons whenever you want to. During recent power crunches, which are threatening to become endemic in the U.S. under the current policies of the Biden apparatchiks, grid operators have asked EV owners not to charge their vehicles in the evening, when power demand is highest and the time of day when most working people will want to charge their cars.

The truth hurts.

Right now, electric vehicles make up about 1 percent of America’s car fleet. If they pose challenges for the electric grid already, what will the challenges look like if the EV fleet reaches 50 percent of the auto fleet as Biden proposes? No wonder Elon Musk says we’ll need to expand electric power generation by 30 percent or more to meet the demand of a larger EV fleet on the road. And yet it is supremely uncouth to point out that electrons for EV batteries are generated mostly from fossil fuels right now, and thus EVs may not deliver a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when a proper life-cycle analysis is done.

Economist Mark Perry notes that nearly two-thirds of current U.S. electricity is generated by coal and natural gas, and the figure rises to 86 percent if you include nuclear power, which environmentalists irrationally hate and are trying to eliminate. When you raise this problem, you are met with a hail of green indignation about how we’re starting on an “incredible transition” to a carbon-free energy future (a phrase Biden and energy secretary Jennifer Granholm have both used repeatedly with the unsettling grin of the chiliastic fanatic). “EVs are just an early step toward the carbon-free nirvana, which is just a few hundred thousand more windmills and square miles of solar power away!”

A recent little-noticed report from Volvo punctures this green myth, even though the very green Volvovians try very hard to obscure this conclusion. The report notes what a number of neutral analysts have pointed out for some time now: EVs are more material-intensive than old-fashioned gasoline-powered cars, requiring more steel, aluminum, copper, and other rare earth minerals and specialty products like magnets that must be mined (which environmentalists oppose) and require an energy-intensive process to manufacture into shiny EVs. And that’s before you get to the huge quantity of lithium needed for the batteries.

Where "clean energy" comes from: lithium mining in Zimbabwe.

Thus it is eye-popping when Volvo admits that the carbon footprint for the manufacturing of its C40 Recharge electric car is 70 percent higher than its comparable internal combustion version of the car (the XC40). But not to worry, says Volvo: you’ll make up the higher manufacturing emissions when you drive the emission-free EV far enough.

How far? Kudos to Volvo for calculating that: at the world’s average electricity sourcing today, a C40 driver would need to drive his car 68,000 miles to reach a break-even carbon footprint with a gasoline-powered model. The average American drives about 14,000 miles a year, and thus would need to drive his Volvo EV almost five years before reaching a lower carbon footprint. What if we had a grid that was 100 percent wind- or solar-powered? Volvo calculates that an EV driver would still need to drive 30,000 miles before reaching a carbon-footprint breakeven point with a gasoline car.

It is all a ruse anyway. If electric vehicles drop in price and effectiveness, which may be possible with enough brute-force engineering, you can expect environmentalists to turn against them, by noting the huge environmental footprint to make them and the human-rights problems of child labor in Africa mining all the cobalt EVs need. They did it before with natural gas, which environmentalists embraced back in the aughts (2000-2010) as a “bridge fuel” when they thought they could bash coal with gas, and turned on a dime when natural gas became cheap and plentiful. They’ll do the same with electric cars someday.

The E.V. Market: Mandated, Not Demanded

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Allysia Finley has a piece about the oddities of the Electric Vehicle market, which is driven almost entirely by government mandate. In practice this has meant that "a parade of electric-vehicle startups" found themselves with multibillion dollar stock valuations despite the fact that "most had never sold a single car." "Fueled by cheap credit and political subsidies," -- after all, our governing elite are convinced that E.V.s are the way of the future -- "their stocks surged, only to crash."

China, "the world leader in electric-vehicle production and exports," is seeing similar problems:

Beijing has set aggressive production quotas for car makers and provided generous subsidies for buyers. China’s annual electric-vehicle production capacity has ballooned to 5.7 million vehicles... and is expected to hit 15 million in a couple of years. Yet concerns are mounting in China about oversupply of what the country calls new energy vehicles. “Reckless investments and disorderly efforts can be seen in the country’s NEV industry,” Lin Nianxiu, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, warned in March. “We have too many EV firms,” Xiao Yaqing, minister of industry and information technology, said in September. Some 200 Chinese EV startups have launched in the chase for government subsidies. Many have struggled to scale up production, and some have gone bankrupt.

Both cases illustrate something instructive about the Electric Vehicle market, which is that, overall, it is built upon a desire to circumvent that basic organizing principle of economics, demand. This is a struggle even in China's "state capitalism" economic model, which is much more comfortable dictating to consumers, rather than responding to them, than America's ostensibly free market system is.

In America, E.V. companies like those mentioned above sprung up in response to Democrat-enacted policies whose object was to create an industry more or less ex nihilo, while also smothering the traditional, gas-and-diesel driven automotive industry. But with inflation soaring, and the cost of minerals like cobalt, lithium, and nickel (which are necessary for the production of E.V. batteries) rising, even government subsidies can't cover the cost of doing business. Finley quotes representatives for the E.V. company Canoo (which, she mentions, is currently able to produce only 12 cars per week) as saying that “substantial doubt exists about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern” in the next year.

A kid could grow old and die...

Oddly, the only companies who seem able to take advantage of the regulatory preference for E.V.s (apart from Tesla, which consciously sells itself as a boutique status symbol for wealthy virtue signalers) are the established automobile manufacturers, who are essentially supporting their electric lines by means of government subsidies on the one hand, and gas-powered cars on the other.

But even they are struggling with our new economic realities. Finley mentions that Ford's new electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, is currently selling for only $10,000 more than the traditional model, and they hope that scaling up production will allow them to further bridge that gap. But, once again, the cost of E.V. manufacturing is going up, not down. The great hope of Ford and the other major automakers is that the government will keep throwing money at them (they've been "lobbying hard" for Biden's "Build Back Better" bill) until a major breakthrough in battery technology makes E.V.s financially self-sustaining. Unfortunately for them, that's not how innovation works.

So how will they -- green politicians and automakers on the take -- keep their electric dreams alive? Finley suggests that it will be through a combination of carbon taxation, emissions mandates, and other forms of government intervention, which will have the effect of making traditional cars more expensive rather than bringing the cost of E.V.s down. Unsurprisingly, letting consumer preference -- demand -- sort out these problems seems never to have occurred to them.

We're becoming more like China every day.

'At the Mercy of this Goddamn Spaceship'

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an amusing article entitled, "I Rented an Electric Car for a Four-Day Road Trip. I Spent More Time Charging It Than I Did Sleeping." The title more or less speaks for itself -- reporter Rachel Wolfe rented a brand-new Kia EV6, loaded her friend Mack into the car, and set off on a road trip from New Orleans to Chicago and back, a "2,000-mile trip in just under four days" so Mack could make it back in time for work.

She thought it would be a fun adventure, but in reality their desperate search for E.V. charging stations along the way, coupled with the extreme length of time it took to actually charge the car, undercut the thrill of the open road.

The main "pro" of her E.V. experience was cost. Though, Wolfe explains, "cost varies widely based on factors such as local electricity prices and charger brands," she estimates that her trip would have cost about $275 if she'd been driving a car with a gasoline powered engine, whereas she spent $175 total for her E.V. trip.

"Dear Diary..."

There are several reasons for this price disparity, including one Wolfe mentions herself -- "some businesses offer free juice as a perk to existing customers or to entice drivers to come inside while they wait." The cash spent on impulse buying as you wait for hours for your car to charge doesn't technically come out of your fuel budget, but it might as well.

The more important difference, though, is one of supply and demand. Fossil fuels are stretched particularly thin at the moment, and the tight supply has to both fuel the vast majority of vehicles on the road and generate most of the electricity fueling E.V.s (among other things). But the incongruity between the point-of-delivery price of gasoline and electricity isn't scalable. The more people owning and driving E.V.s, the more expensive it will become to charge them.

And then there is the main "con." Wolfe had "plotted a meticulous route" from one charging station to another, with their car's advertised range of 310 miles always in mind, planning to use thirty minute "fast chargers" twice per day and then eight-hour "Level 2" charges at their hotels overnight. The plan was straightforward, but the reality was not.

Right from the start they found that the car battery's charge was unpredictable -- on the first morning it "tick[ed] down 15 percent over 35 miles" and then the "quick charge" top up they wanted to do so that they would hit the road with a full battery ended up taking an hour instead of the estimated five minutes.

Eventually they make it to a Kia dealership in Meridian, Miss., where no one seems to know how to use the fast charger on site, and when they finally get it hooked up, the dashboard computer informs them that "a full charge, from 18 percent to 100 percent," will take them more than three hours. Wolfe explains:

It turns out not all “fast chargers” live up to the name. The biggest variable, according to State of Charge, is how many kilowatts a unit can churn out in an hour. To be considered “fast,” a charger must be capable of about 24 kW. The fastest chargers can pump out up to 350. Our charger in Meridian claims to meet that standard, but it has trouble cracking 20.

Are we there yet?

Once they make it to Chicago, Wolfe figures that they've mastered E.V.s and predicts that the return journey will be uneventful. “Don’t say that!” [Mack] says. “We’re at the mercy of this goddamn spaceship!” Boy was she ever right -- the drive back was, if anything, even more stressful, with continual “Charge, Urgently!” warnings as they power down everything in the car in the hopes of making it to the next charging station on "electric fumes." They discover, rather too late, that E.V. batteries do worse on the highways, since they're designed to draw some charge from the energy generated by slowing down.

Ultimately they make it home in time... barely. "The following week," says Wolfe, "I fill up my Jetta at a local Shell station. Gas is up to $4.08 a gallon. I inhale deeply. Fumes never smelled so sweet." Expect more and more people to come to that realization, sooner than you think.

Chasing the Future by Slow Train

San Francisco in recent years has become an advance warning for the collapse of city government, urban life, and even of civilization itself. Now it seems that “a survey of electric vehicle (E.V.) charging stations in the San Francisco area has discovered that about one in four don’t work.” It’s no surprise, of course, that some of the urban infrastructure of San Francisco might not be in the best of shape.

At the same time, California used to think of itself until very recently as the future of America and even of the world—the harbinger of innovative technologies that will transform our lives for the better. It’s also the state that has the deepest-greenest consciousness in the U.S. There’s a “tension” between these two self-perceptions, as we’ll see, but they combine easily enough to make Californians the Americans most likely to lead the switch from petrol-driven to electric vehicles.

And the latest statistics confirm that. With only 10 percent of the nation’s cars, California now accounts for over 40 percent of all zero-emission cars in the U.S. As sales of E.V.s rise, however, there needs to be a matching increase in the number of electric charging stations to give the new model vehicles the juice to keep them on the road.

Gov. Newsom's got things well in hand.

As Yahoo News discovered, when researchers drove their E.V.s to hundreds of public charging stations in nine Bay Area counties, they found that 27.5 percent were unusable for one reason or another. Given the newness of the technology, the list of failings had an oddly familiar, almost domestic ring to it. The most common fault, at 7.2 percent of stations, was a payment system failure. Second was a charge initiation failure, at 6.4 percent, where charging either didn’t start after paying or stopped within two minutes. Around the same number had a problem with the screen — either totally blank, non-responsive or displaying an error message. Almost 5 percent of chargers had cables too short to reach the car, and a few had broken connectors or other trouble connecting with the cars.

Because a full tank of electricity goes less far than one of petrol, E.V. drivers often have to calculate pretty accurately how long a journey they can afford to take in time rather than money. If a quarter of charging stations aren’t working, they can be stranded unexpectedly. Hilly San Francisco has its own kinds of hazards for stranded drivers—ditto California’s endless series of spaghetti junctions—but only very rarely will they include the weather (earthquakes, more so).

What, however, of the great plains? Even for everyday driving tasks, people there are accustomed to going long distances through places where you wouldn’t want to be stranded on a cold day anyway, but in particular if you were driving an E.V. since they don’t work so well on cold days.

Consumer Reports has recently examined the performance of E.V.s in this regard. The experts they asked pointed to two problems: first that an E.V.’s battery power and range declines as the temperature falls, especially when it falls below zero Fahrenheit—not uncommon in large parts of the U.S. during the winter, from the Upper Midwest across to New England; second, even at somewhat warmer temperatures, the car’s internal heating arrangements draw electricity from the battery and decrease its range.

Pro tip: dress warm in the Dakotas!

How severe are these problems? Consumer Reports put two E.V.s through the following test last January in Connecticut: three different journeys, amounting to 64 miles in all, with the E.V.s allowed to cool down after the first two journeys so that they would need to reheat each time. What CR found was as follows:

The Nissan Leaf (with its base 40 kWh battery; a longer range version is set to go on sale later this year, Nissan has said) has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 151-mile range. At the end of our 64-mile drive, the predicted range left was only 10 miles. Using the advertised range, the car should have traveled 141 miles before it was left with only 10. That’s more than double the anticipated loss in range.

The Tesla Model 3 has an EPA-estimated 310-mile range. At the end of that same 64 mile drive, it indicated there were 189 miles of predicted range. Put another way, the Model 3 used 121 miles worth of range in only 64 miles. That’s almost double the anticipated loss.

Now, these are early days in the development of E.V.s, and their development teams are very confident of finding ways to improve their performance on battery power and distance range as on much else. For the moment, however, EVs can’t travel very far in cold weather, and in wide open spaces they depend upon the availability of a large network charging stations (that actually work). That means the more thinly populated areas of the United States will need to expand their network of E.V. charging stations very considerably to make it worthwhile for local folks to buy E.V.s—which in turn means a vast program of electrification across the fruited plain.

To get some idea of what that means and will cost, let me quote a U.K. study by a distinguished British engineer, Mike Travers, who in The Hidden Costs of Net-Zero estimates that the cost of installing the E.V. charging points alone will be a considerable one—something on the order of £31 billion in the much smaller geographical area of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Travers goes on to estimate the impact not only of switching to electric cars but also of wider policies of decarbonizing, for instance, home heating, and concludes that the extra demand for electricity would overwhelm the existing system of electricity distribution and require massive infrastructure repair and development at a total bill of £410 billion. Adjusted for population and expressed in U.S. dollars, these figures become $201 billion, $2,665 billion, and just short of $20,000 per household. And for what?

These figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, but they give some idea of the magnitude of the costs of switching from petrol-driven cars to E.V.s in a few years—the Brits are being told to do so by 2035. And they don’t include all the government costs of subsidizing the switch over. In California they include grants to low-income families to purchase E.V.s from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Don't worry: the BAAQMD is here to help!

But what these government rules and subsidies are financing is not the switch from petrol to electricity itself—the evolution and spread of EVs is happening anyway—but its acceleration in response not to market forces but to the non-market instructions of the administrative state. Some of the early flaws and drawbacks of E.V.s would be solved and overcome anyway during the process of market expansion—in effect subsidized by the wealthy acting as pioneer consumers of new luxury products as they always have—while the price gradually comes down. Instead, governments are spending a great deal of money—and making us poorer in the process—in order to make something happen more quickly at the cost of making it happen inefficiently and less cheaply.

Do we really want our economic progress pioneered and charted by government which creates a Bay Area Air Quality Management District to finance the purchase of the latest luxury goods by the poor but can’t manage to maintain the charging stations that enable to all drivers to be sure of reaching their destinations?

Look who’s in the White House. Consider Gavin Newsom in the Golden State. Apparently we do.

Ethanol for Cows, not Cars

How's this for a headline?

Reuters:

Corn-based ethanol, which for years has been mixed in huge quantities into gasoline sold at U.S. pumps, is likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline, according to a study published Monday. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicts previous research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing ethanol and other biofuels to be relatively green....

“Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel,” said Dr. Tyler Lark, assistant scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and lead author of the study. The research... found that ethanol is likely at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline due to emissions resulting from land use changes to grow corn, along with processing and combustion.

Of course, as the piece helpfully reminds us, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that our oil refiners blend roughly fifteen billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into our gasoline per year, ostensibly for the sake of combatting carbon dioxide initiated "anthropogenic climate change." It turns out that, in the nearly two decades it has been in place, the Renewable Fuel Standard has actually increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere!

Now, this story will have a familiar ring to it for regular readers of The Pipeline. Over the past two years we've covered the environmental (as well as the economic) costs of electric vehicles, solar panels, wind farms, biomass and other passions of the environmentalist left. Every item of that list has downsides that either mitigate or obliterate their supposed environmental benefits.

But that isn't to call them failures. That would be to assume that saving the environment was their main purpose. To be sure, there are sincere environmentalists. But for the men and women running the show, the environmentalist movement is an investment. Its monetary returns -- driven by cronyist mandates such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and massive "green energy" subsides -- are enormous. And then there's the cultural capital they accrue for the time and effort they put into saving the world from "climate change."

As studies like the one above show, the environment would be better off without them.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Electrifying

Oh California what are you doing to me? I don’t like that I’m getting caught in what is obviously a war between Elon Musk and Governor Newsom, and in the meantime our planet suffers.

Truth be told, I’ve been away from my home in Los Angeles for a bit. Okay, pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic, but they’ve not made it easy for me. In early 2020 there was the confusion of different quarantine rules for different counties (some of them forced and scary), but mostly it was the very unpleasant phone call to Los Angeles County who said, ‘It will be up to the officer’ so I decided not to leave the airport terminal and hopped a plane to Hawaii.

But today I’m finding that owning (and neglecting) my Tesla is kind of a lot of work. In the first few months when I couldn’t get back to the States anyway I shut off notifications on my phone. Yes, I know that was dumb but who needs to be reminded that you are helpless and failing on a daily basis? And in two month’s time my car ran completely dry. So even when I got someone to go there, it was in ‘hibernation', and he couldn’t even open the door.

And optional accessory.

The second attempt to ‘wake up’ the vehicle required the combined efforts of my housekeeper, a neighbour’s ‘guy’, and the mobile Tesla person. This too was a flop because my housekeeper ditched me despite having cashed four months-worth of checks to look after things. It’s possible she was mad because I refused to pay her in cash ‘like the other ladies’ but I can’t afford to break the law, and I really do think $25/hour in cash is extortion for unskilled labour. Which reminds me to get the number of a housekeeper from one of my friends who moved to Florida.

Nonetheless, I texted my father for advice and he wrote back: ‘Sorry J, in a meeting, try Steven Henkes’.

Who is Steven Henkes? I called daddy’s secretary who assured me she had no such person in his contacts and promised to ask him the minute he was free. Five minutes later she sent an email titled ‘Steven Henkes’. With the note: ’Might this help?’ Attached was a BBC piece detailing Henkes’ dismissal from Tesla and his filed complaint that Tesla solar panels were known to catch fire, and that the company had failed to notify the public or shareholders. UGH.

The only reason I’m on this tack today is because a lot has happened separate from general electric-vehicle anxiety. Planet-friendly was always going to be my choice even if it meant a few hiccups, but I didn’t bargain on the war between Elon Musk and Herr Newsom. First, there was the issue of asking us not to charge our cars, which didn’t sit well with anyone. It was one thing to ask us to run laundry and dishwashing machines in the evening, well after our housekeepers had gone home, but then the request not to even charge our cars due to drain on California’s power grid, was seen a shot across the bow. 

I for one didn’t see this coming. Even with California’s commitment to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 it became apparent to everyone that California didn’t value the business or personal tax revenues of the richest man in the world. And so Musk moved his Tesla headquarters out of California and into Texas, citing ‘overtaxation’. Musk even said California was no longer the land of opportunity that it once was. I would have wanted to work on his messaging but I didn’t need my father’s input to tell me he was telling the truth; suddenly, 2035 was looking further away than ever. 

Austin or bust.

I really didn’t think he'd do it because it meant so much upheaval, billions of dollars in taxes just to leave, and he risked upsetting his largest customer base, but customers get pretty testy when there’s no product to buy. And what was the man to do when on top of its draconian taxes, California was determined to win the Covid standoff? 

Then last week California proposed new net metering rules to include a ‘grid access’ fee, in addition to the fees we already pay, which will add $50-$80/month to the electric bill. If they go ahead with it, (and what do they have to lose at this point?) it will be the highest solar fee anywhere in the country, including states hostile to renewable energy. AND they propose to change the rules for customers who have already signed contracts and purchased a solar system.

My phone rang… it was my father calling me back—‘How may I be of service?’ he asked.

‘Well… I don’t want you to denigrate my choice to buy an electronic car, but…’

‘OK. Excellent choice then.’

UGH! ‘Daddy,’ I began, ‘I just need advice on keeping my car.’

‘I see. Well…excellent choice to purchase, bad choice to keep. Is that helpful?’

‘No. Not helpful! I just don’t know what to do because I will need a car when I return to California.’

‘Which you haven’t wanted to do for nearly two years now.’

‘But I will return.’

Something like this, more or less, but cheaper.

‘… As you keep saying. But may I remind you, that house… which your mother and I were happy to buy for you… is entirely set up for that very car. I believe you told us it was an investment, by which I assume you meant a good investment. But as I recall the powerwall was $10,000, the solar panels were $30,000 and I calculated seventeen years to recoup this investment, or more like twenty-five when you calculate the decline of energy from the panels over the years. But that was assuming you were allowed to charge your car, and that they didn’t renege on the original agreement that categorically violates basic principles of fairness.’

Of course I wanted to scream, but I decided to just keep quiet until he said something else.

‘So as I understand your question, you want to know what to do with a car, for which a house was designed, in a land you no longer wish to remain. Is that putting too fine a point on it?’

‘I expect to return.’ I insisted, calmly.

Now he was silent. It was a standoff. I didn’t want to talk and he knew it.

'Jennifer, I can’t advise you. You alone know what is going to work for you, and since you’ve been living everywhere but there for the last two years, I see no reason to rush to a decision.’

Wow. He really wasn’t going to help.

‘Sweetheart, take your time. Everyone has been finessed into this green push. Even your beloved California had to pay neighbouring states to take their excess solar lest they blow out their own power grid. Germany can’t afford to convert electricity to methane, France spent $33 billion on a solar farce, and even my own petroleum industry spent a billion on advertising and lobbying for climate-related ventures. And speaking of lobbying, think about whether or not you need to keep a base of operations there just to impress your tree-hugging clients’.

My industry is not a farce. And I wanted to say this to him but I was afraid I couldn’t make a good point just now. And why did he have to be so nice when he really did tell me so? As I’d decided against the train, I rented a car and will have plenty of time to think about it all as I drive to the Cotswolds.