Wednesday 18 January 2023

 A Business Opportunity?

I notice Beckham the younger recently got himself married, I wish him well. But I also notice that Mum and Dad gifted the happy couple with a rather expensive classic Jaguar car, expensively converted to all electric.

Personally, as someone who appreciates old vehicles for their elegance of design and technical simplicity I don't really approve of such conversions. To me it's rather like remodelling the Elgin Marbles to show Simpson's cartoon characters. But as I won't ever be in the market for a half million quid's worth of classic Jaguar and they have kept it looking original I suppose I have no grounds to complain too much,

More to the point I don't think electric cars will prove to be particularly useful in the near future because so-called Net Zero is fast heading to be a failure. If we want the country and our society to continue to run and allow security and prosperity then significant new, and as yet unknown, sources of reliable and cheap energy and battery technologies are needed first.

There is plenty of official information about how much power, oil, gas, electricity etc, it takes to run the country and there simply isn't enough electricity being generated for everything they want to convert to run on electricity. The pie-in-the-sky political solutions of more windfarms, solar panels, economies, insulation etc, simply do not fit. 

Essentially windfarms and solar are not 'free' energy. The government threw billions of pounds of subsidies, and promises of huge feed in prices, to get them built. And while the wind is indeed 'free' when it blows the cost of building the infrastructure, in cash and CO2 terms, then harvesting that energy has steadily increased our energy costs for the last decade. Not forgetting that some days have no wind when they produce nothing, so we have to pay for a complete parallel, mostly gas fired provision. They save some CO2 but in no sense do they remove our need for oil and gas. What they have done is make everything expensive. Every single item you and I need in our daily lives: Food growing, food processing, heating, lighting, transport, shops, manufacturing, right down to rubbish disposal has at its root fuel cost. When fuel goes up everything goes up, and thanks to the total lack of consideration by our politicians of fuel security, reducing drilling licences and a reliance on Russian gas to 'fill the gap', we are now in serious trouble where many can't even afford basic heating and lighting, Firms are closing because they can't afford the overheads, international manufacturers are pulling out of Europe because prices make them uncompetitive. As long as places like China and India can offer cheap energy we are on a downward spiral into 3rd world poverty. We shouldn't be needing or considering 10% and 20% pay rises for some, that just makes things worse. We should be lowering living costs by at least 20% instead. We could do that if energy were cheap and plentiful!

So back to the electric cars. They take twice the energy input of a small petrol car to build. It takes about 5 years and 50k miles of running on green electricity before they save any CO2 compared to a small efficient petrol car at the same mileage. They are not saving significant CO2, just moving the production of it from the exhaust pipe to the mining and manufacturer. At the same time creating huge environmental damage mining and refining lithium. They are unafordable to many ordinary people, have range problems and charging difficulties, lose efficiency in cold weather, are almost useless for towing, and millions of people have no private driveways or home charging point. We could think this is nothing to do with climate, simply a deliberate plan to reduce car ownership, that makes more sense.

But, ignoring the side issues, the main issue is a battery problem again. There is nothing wrong with electric cars as such, just their expensive and environmentally damaging batteries, which like all rechargeable batteries lose efficiency after a few years. At which time the car becomes an expensive liability. After about 7 -10 years the battery needs replacing, typically £20k. Half the vehicle cost or indeed the price of a new small petrol car. 

What do you do with a nice car, in structurally good condition, that needs a £20K battery? Which is where my business opportunity comes in. One obvious solution would be to take the battery out and retrofit the running gear with a conventional high efficiency petrol or diesel engine. Or a small battery and petrol generator to create a hybrid. There are plenty of small autoengineering companies capable of such work and 'reuse and repurpose' is far more 'green' than scraping a part used car.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

 NIMBY is what NIMBY does

The Not In My Back Yard ephitet has been banded around for years. Usually in a negative context as established inhabitants with their undeserved housing wealth and gold plated pensions blocking the youngsters from much needed housing or commercial development.

Anyhow while I thinking about this and whether to write something - I had the phrase 'like a wart on the Mona Lisa's nose' ready to go - when a different matter emerged on a FB music group I'm on. 

This concerned the permission given for a coal mine in Cumbria. Given that social media and the folk music world is infested with 'people of wokeness' you can imagine the comments against it. Ranging from coal is dirty and polluting, via leave it in the ground or it's not needed to the classic Tory Scum. It was quite interesting and hopeful to see some serious pushback in places.

Coal is not used significantly in the UK nowadays as a fuel, maybe a few heritage railways and folks living outside smokeless areas, so the question of climate effects is irrelevent. But coal is needed for current steel manufacturing processes and as a raw material for hundreds of products ranging from asprin, soaps, glues, nylon and rayon materials and more recently carbon fibre. Even the 'leave it in the grounders' had to acknowledge some of those things were useful.

So I imagined a conversation between a 'leave it in the grounder' and a'realist'.

(LITG)The country needs more houses -- (Realist)The country needs coal.

(LITG)We can get coal imported, even the steel firms say they don't need it -- (Realist) Of course they would rather buy it cheap from foreign places with lower safety and employment standards and then advertise their (fake) environmental virtue by not mining it here. 

(LITG) The mines already exist abroad why can't we use those? -- (Realist) There are depopulated villages in Italy desperate for people, can we send young families there and reduce building here?

(LITG) People need reliable access to their jobs and travel to family -- (Realist) Manufacturers need reliable secure supplies of raw materials.

(LITG)Communities need houses for new people to keep them vibrant -- (Realist) Indeed, just as Cumbria needs new jobs and opportunities.

(LITG) Cumbria is an environmentally important area for its landscape and biodiversity -- (Realist) So are the fields and woodlands that they want to build houses on.

I came to the conclusion that most of the objectors to a Cumbrian mine were simply NIMBYs. Not the traditional old, white, overwealthy, prime property hoarding, Brexit voting NIMBYs as maligned in the left wing press but a whole new generation of brainwashed, shallow minded, tribal, sloganising, new age NIMBYs.