Reality Checkpoint 2022
News from previous year

The Wall Street Journal gave a report last weekend of a on a four-day road trip from New Orleans to Chicago and back in an electric vehicle. The experience left the author grateful for her ordinary car, even at today’s high petrol price.

Rachel Wolfe's article had the title “I Rented an Electric Car for a Four-Day Road Trip. I Spent More Time Charging It Than I Did Sleeping.” In it, the author described planning the journey, using the PlugShare app to map charging stations and estimate charging times, based on the relative strength of each public charging station.

Covering the distance was highly problematic. At several points, the battery nearly went flat which meant that Rachel and her passengers missed several appointments. They also had to reduce their use of power, unplugging their phones and turning off their windshield wipers. Over 4 days they spent $175 on charging. The equivalent cost for gas in a Kia Forte would have been $275, based on the AAA average national petrol price. The journey was $100 cheaper, but many hours longer.

Rachel also described conversations with fellow travelers: “The woman charging next to us describes a recent trip in her Volkswagen ID4. Deborah Carrico, 65, had to be towed twice while driving between Louisville, Ky., and Boulder, Colo., where her daughter was getting married". Deborah had felt unsafe whilst charging at night, and her family want her to change back to a petrol car.

In 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (Dem) has banned the sale of new petrol-powered vehicles by 2025. That's the only way to get drivers to use EVs - ban the alternative.

High fuel prices are making some people consider switching to electric. However, the limited range on many vehicles and the variable performance in bad weather makes EVs far from unattractive. As a friend put it recently: "Can’t afford £1.80 a litre? Why not spend £30,000 on an electric car?"

10 Jun 22

AA President Edmund King told BBC Radio 4: 'We did a survey of 15,000 drivers and 2 per cent of those on low incomes are actually having to give up their cars.

He added that 27 per cent on low incomes are having to cut back on their food bills because they live in rural areas, they need their car to get to work and there is no public transport.

9 Jun 22

Interesting comment from AP in Australia: "If our government built nuclear power stations we wouldn't have an energy crisis. That's why we don't have nuclear energy".

6 Jun 22

After rolling blackouts because of electricity shortages, the Indian Power Ministry ordered plants burning imported coal to run at full capacity. They have also reopened old coal mines with the intention of increasing output by 100 million tonnes.

31 May 22

Yougov has carried out a poll showing that 53% of UK adults are now in support of fracking, which could go some way to improving energy security. The concept of 'tackling climate change' has been disastrous for energy policy in the UK, and for too long, energy security has been ignored. The tragedy of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia could mean that we get back to reality. Perhaps we need a Minister for Energy Security.

24 May 22

India intends to reopen about 100 coal mines in response to the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. Coal plants will be instructed to run at maximum capacity to avoid energy shortages which threaten economic growth.

6 May 22

Coal-fired power stations have been asked to stay open for longer as part of government plans to avert an energy crunch amid Russia's war on Ukraine. Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, has written to the owners of Britain's three remaining coal-fired power plants to ask them to explore keeping turbines running next winter. The turbines were due to close this September. It seems that the message is slowly getting through to politicians that energy security is important, and that you can't run a technological society on sunshine and breezes.

It is also important that nuclear power is encouraged; let us hope the that Rolls Royce SMRs will be developed and deployed soon.

28 Apr 22

The UK's only shale gas wells will not be sealed up during the energy crisis. UK regulators have decided to remove an order for them to be capped.

31 Mar 22

The sudden invasion of Ukraine by Russia is likely to focus attention on our energy policy and energy security.

10 Mar 22

Six North Sea oil and gas fields should be approved later in the year, as figures in the Cabinet are becoming more vocal about the unaffordable costs of Net Zero. The Chancellor has asked the Business Secretary to speed up the granting of the licences.

The six oil and gas areas, which have been given a preliminary licence from ministers, are expected to be approved by the Oil and Gas Authority to begin construction of the rigs.

The area in question are (1) the Rosebank field, (2) west of Shetland, (3,4,5) the Jackdaw, Marigold and Catcher sites and (6) Tolmount East, The combined reserves are believed to be about 62 mtoe; enough to power the UK for six months. We need more investment in the North Sea whilst we transition to a lower-carbon economy. We need it for jobs, tax revenue but above all for energy security. Producing more energy ourselves will make us less dependent on international energy markets.

11 Feb 22

Amnesty International says China has created a ‘dystopian hellscape’ in Xinjiang.

Nearly half of the world’s polysilicon, the key ingredient in solar panels, has been coming from Xinjiang province, where the Chinese government has launched a program of systematic repression and forced labor. In June, the US government announced it would restrict imports from the province. Al Jazeera reported that the restrictions were focused on five Chinese companies that it said were implicated in Chinese human rights violations, including large producers of polysilicon for the solar panel industry.

US legislators are considering bans on imports of solar panels and other products made in this way.

20 Jan 22

"I have new technology installed in my home, an air source heat pump, fitted October 2020; my electricity bill has increased fourfold to £375 per month for 8 months of the year; £100 in the 4 months of summer. I was paying an oil bill of £600 per annum but now I am paying 3.5 times the amount in energy bills since having this alternative heating. "

Another message from a user:
"We had an air source heat pump installed some years ago. The performance figures you will be offered are unrealistic. Even using cheap rate electricity, it has costs about double those of our previous oil fired boiler."

A message from a retired heating engineer:
"Towards the end of my professional career I installed two air source heat pumps, and both were unfit for purpose; neither attained the temperature they were supposed to and both required expensive use of immersion heaters, and were expensive to run anyway. The UK climate is unsuitable for these expensive white elephants."

12 Jan 22

Summary of a letter in the Daily Telegraph:

I recently received a letter from my electricity supplier offering to place me on a priority services register. Benefits included advice on power cuts, plus support with accommodation and hot meals when they occurred. This is the first such message I've had in about 50 years.

Is this a warning that we are expecting blackouts? The Government is behaving foolishly in ignoring public concern about the premature phasing out of our traditional energy generating capacity.

Energy independence, not climate change, should be the priority.

7 Jan 22

We all know that cars break down. Traditional cars are almost always still able to roll; the bare, absolute minimum you can expect from a car, and as such can be pushed out of harm’s way. This isn’t the case with electric cars, though, and this is a problem. There was a recent scary incident with a Tesla on the motorway.

The Tesla owner was driving his Model S P85D, when the car began to beep and warn that he needed to pull over immediately because of a power problem. Immediately after the warning, all controls locked up, and the car came to a halt in the middle of a multi-lane motorway, leaving him no time to steer the car onto the hard shoulder. The car would not budge from this point; it wouldn't go into neutral, the parking brake wouldn’t release. It was no longer a vehicle; just an immobile bit of sculpture blinking its hazard lights in the middle of the road.

The driver managed to escape off the road, and some local Caltrans workers got the car coned off to help direct traffic around it, which was lucky. About 45 minutes later, a tow truck finally arrived. Teslas (and nearly all other EVs) require a flat bed-type tow truck; any old tow truck will not do. The tow driver didn’t get the car rolling; he just pulled it up, with the rear wheels still locked, onto the bed.

It should be a priority for the designers of electric cars to ensure that in the event of a breakdown, the vehicle can be pushed away easily from the danger zone.

28 Dec 21

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