A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Turnbull govt proposes carbon tax on new cars to keep old cars on the road and increase pollution

Showing an uncanny knack to do exactly the wrong thing in an expensive way and with prosaic timing, the Turnbull government is apparently considering using Australian cars to control the climate. As a nation of die-hard car heads with the lowest population density in the world and award winning high prices for electricity, we qualify as the last advanced nation on Earth who should go “electric”.

Currently, EV’s are so rare here, we have one for every 1,750 square kilometers. Don’t be fooled by the Australian continent’s map of charging points. Each charging point is scaled up to approx 14,000 times its real size.

The day after Trump was elected on a vow to quash Paris, we signed up, now as the US winds back emissions rules, Turnbull wants to ramp them up:

Carbon laws ‘to drive top cars off the road’

The Australian, Ben Packham and Remy Varga

The car industry has warned that some of Australia’s most popular cars will be taken off the market, or face significant price hikes, under tough carbon-emissions standards being actively considered by the Turnbull government.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, [...]

Another way to destroy a grid: add a million electric vehicles

New electric vehicles have big fat batteries, which will help solve the problem known as “charge anxiety” (let’s call that the Flat-Bat-Fear).

The new fat-batteries, however, have the small catch that they need two days to trickle charge. Hmm. Then there is the other catch that each slow charger (7KW) is equivalent to adding nearly three houses to the grid.     ur Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg predicts there will be one million electric cars on Australian roads by 2030.

You might think this is slow motion train wreck, but we might avoid this if households opt for fast 50KW chargers. In that case we can do the train-wreck at top speed.

Each fast charger will apparently be “like” adding the equivalent of 20, count them, 20 homes.

This is fearmongering obviously — no one is going to want a fast charger when they could leave the car in the garage for 48 hours instead.

New Zealand report claims new generation electric vehicles threaten the power network

Ben Packham, The Australian

New Zealand’s biggest energy distributor, Vector, warned electric vehicle chargers “put a large electrical load on the network”, with even 2.4kW “trickle” chargers adding the equivalent of one additional [...]

Inconvenient Bill: Electric cars may lower your fuel bill, but make electricity, jobs, lifestyle, unaffordable

The electric car push is on. Sadly, what people save on petrol bills looks like it’s going to be spent on electricity or tax. Steve Goreham outlines the international push to get our cars and heaters electrified. But the dark alter-implication of electrification is renewables. (No point in driving a coal driven car.) It follows then, that electrification of everything that isn’t already electrificated, will mean more solar, more wind, and then more decimal places on your electricity bill. Welcome to the Bermuda triangle of cost savings in a subsized-mandated-unfree-market. The more you save, the less you have. We all know wind power is “free”, but somehow costs seem to keep rising in places with more wind power. It’s so unfair: Inconvenient Factoid:  Electricity prices in most top “wind” powered US states rose 2 – 7 times faster than in other states Read and weep Australians. Pedal faster: “…on average US electricity prices increased less than five percent during the eight years from 2008 to 2016″ Some US consumers are still paying rates in single digits. For contrast, the Australian situation, is pathos and bathos simultaneously: Australian households are paying 60 per cent more for their power than those [...]

Save the world with internal combustion engines

Who cares about 50% more emissions?

China is powered by 65% coal.

A new study in China compares cars with internal combustion engines to electric cars. Qiao et al estimate that from cradle-to-gate electric cars use about 50% more energy and produce around 50% more emissions. (Thanks to Kenneth Richards at NoTricksZone.)

All Greens should hereby recycle their EV and buy a gas guzzler.

This is not even “lifetime costs” which include disposal.

These results will come as no surprise to people who remember the detailed study in Norway of 2012 which found that “…in regions where fossil fuels are the main sources of power, electric cars offer no benefits and may even cause more harm, the report said.”

In China, these electric cars are powered by 65% coal. Call them “coal-fired-cars”.

The largest single difference was with the battery.

Below, marvel at the results of the Chinese study. (ICE means Internal Combustion Engine.  BEV means Battery Electric Vehicle.)

Not. Even. Close.

If you think CO2 matters, oil powered cars beat coal powered ones.

ICE = Internal Combustion Engine:  BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle. By every measure Electric cars use more energy and emit more CO2.

Even if [...]

Britain can have electric cars or turn Scotland into a wind farm, which will it be then?

Who wants to wait for charging? Instead, just dump the flat batteries, pick up a new set. (See the youtube below).

Having a nation full of electric cars is fine as long as you don’t want to drive them.

Wind Farms would need to “cover whole of Scotland” to power Britain’s electric vehicles

By Paula Murray

Jack Ponton, emeritus professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, said another 16,000 turbines would be required in order to replace petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles.

“If you want to do this with wind turbines, you are talking about 16,000 more wind turbines, four times as many as we have at the moment, and I’ve estimated that would occupy some 90,000 square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Scotland.”

The academic – a member of Scientific Alliance Scotland, a group which promotes open-minded debate on issues such as climate change – believes the plan is “unworkable”…

The UK plans to phase out combustion engines by 2032. What happens when surges of holiday tourists arrive in a town without enough charging points? “Charge-rage” and long queues. Lets spend our holidays waiting for [...]

Alan Kohler dreams of banning combustion engines in cars in Australia

You have to hand it to The Australian – they will publish both sides. Take this (please, take it): “Our energy policy still stuck in coal country”. This is Alan Kohler, bless him, who doesn’t get it and dreams of a nation of motor-heads “going electric”. But, wow, ouch, watch how he reasons it out… not with numbers and graphs (he’s the numbers man on the nightly finance report) but with pop psychology?

The idea of an Australian government banning petrol and diesel cars to promote public health seems especially remote right now: we can’t keep the lights on as it is, having closed a few fossil fuel power stations.

But you can bet that the Coalition government and its media supporters will argue that the electrification of transport makes it even more necessary for there to be more “baseload power” from coal-fired power stations — how could we possibly charge millions of cars, and run millions of airconditioners and fridges if we let Liddell close in 2022?

And you can fix that Mr Kohler, how?

Wait for it…

This is the underlying reality of Australia’s energy debate: a majority of the government does not actually [...]

Labor hope for fantasy 45% reduction in Australian emissions by … 2030

Australians keep voting against climate taxes, but in 2016 we’re having an election based on climate. (We get the choice of “Bad” or “Worse”. For the economy, it’s the TNT-plan or the Nuclear-bomb?)

The Liberals are offering the obscene cut of 26 – 28% from 2005 by 2030. As a nation dependent on fossil fuels, with no nuclear or no new hydro on offer, the target is ridiculous. With the most rapidly growing population in the West, and one of the most energy intensive export industries globally, it’s economically suicidal. The Labor Party have a fantasy that it should be 45%. (Why not 85%?)

As far as the election goes in 2016, our only hope is to elect minor party and independent Senators to stop our two main parties from  hobbling the nation. Start planning now.

According to the opposition spokesman Mark Butler on the 7:30 Report last night, the 45% fantasy will all be fine, because energy use and economic development will be “decoupled” (for the first time in human history) and new technology will save us. We’ll have profoundly different cars he says.

Look at what the last 15 years have done for cars…

Imagine how different cars [...]

Holden Volt $2.50 to fill? But it costs more to run than a big SUV

The Holden Volt

The Holden Volt is an electric hybrid car that, according to advertisements, costs only $2.50 to fill. Thanks to a polished ad campaign, there are probably people out there who think it might be cheap to run.

The ads don’t mention that if you are an average driver, doing about 40 km a day, you’ll need to fill it every day. It still only has a 60-80km range on electric power, before it has to switch to petrol. (The charge will take about four hours from a home socket). Even so, it almost sounds useful, except that it costs $60,000. (And don’t even think about the network grid infrastructure we’d have to build if everyone drove one).

When RACQ (Royal Automobile Club of Queensland) looked at the average running costs of different models the five year total costs of a Volt were $74,000 – $78,000.  The five year cost of running, say, a 2 ton Ford Territory (medium SUV) came in at $63,000.

So it’s cheaper to run an SUV for five years than it is to run a Volt If you commute 60km a day, and can pick up one of these second hand, and drive [...]

Each electric car could add costs of $2000 per year for “our” electricity network

What was that Ms Gillard said about not wanting to “gold plate” our electricity networks? The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) released a warning in December that electric cars will cost a lot more than just the purchase price and the electricity:

Electric vehicles in particular are another new “appliance” which is set to place new demands on Australia’s power system. This review has found that each electric vehicle could impose additional network and generation costs from $7500 up to $10,000 per vehicle over the 5 years from 2015 to 2020 in the absence of appropriate pricing signals and efficient charging decisions.

Who pays for the extra generation capacity? You do.

AEMC Chairman, John Pierce, said today that each electric vehicle could result in additional generation and network costs that, under current market arrangements would be shared by all consumers.

AEMC recommends several ways to split up the pricing, sort our metering so houses can figure out what was “the car” and what was “the house”. Me, I recommend we charge the EV owners the real cost, and let the free market do what it does best.

The AEMC last word — it’s easy to sell natural gas cars:

The [...]

Electric cars are worse for the environment

When everything else about being Green turns out to be a pox on the environment, it’s no surprise that electric cars are too.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology study found greenhouse gas emissions [of electric cars] rose dramatically if coal was used to produce the electricity.

Electric car factories also emitted more toxic waste than conventional car factories, their report in the Journal of Industrial Ecology said.

So electric cars are only bad if they are powered by coal fired electricity, or made in a factory. Oh.

Presumably the aspiring Green needs a hand-made hydroelectric car, right? That, or the kind of car that has 18 gears, a chain and two wheels.

The kicker with electric vehicles, or EVs, is that awful secret that batteries don’t grow on trees, don’t recharge spontaneously either, and need replacing every five years or so. There is no getting around the fact that electric vehicles need electricity. They may not emit any evil CO2 themselves, but they have to get those electrons from somewhere, and in most places that’s from coal.

And it wasn’t just the coal, it was other stages of the “life-cycle” too. The production of EVs produced about twice [...]