Reality Checkpoint 2022
News from previous year

I am receiving reports from North Dakota that non-Tesla electric vehicles are failing to charge up in adverse weather (very low temperatures). In extreme cold (e.g. a week well below 0C) , some chargers do not connect; others misbehave by dropping the initial charging rate to about half of what it should be; it gradually increases as the car detects that the battery is starting to warm up. This is dangerous; people could get stranded in cold weather.

    AL adds...... They are doing rolling local blackouts at our homes because of the cold. How will we manage charging EVs if we can't heat our houses without the grid being strained? They really need to think this through.

27 Dec 22

Remember when you are paying your electricity bills that the extortionate price we are paying is the fault of successive Lab and Con governments for refusing to invest in reliable generation capacity (Labour: 13 years under Blair, followed by about 12 years under Conservative leadership). We should have more nuclear, and no more wind and solar. The sooner this is remedied the better.

The quickest and possibly the best solution would be to buy about ten of Hitachi's BWRX-300 small modular reactors; the build time is only 24-36 months. We could have affordable electricity again in a little over three years if the government had the will to do it.

The lack of scientific expertise in Westminster is frightening. It's now 11th December. Demand on the Grid is 42 GW and is being met (in GW) by: gas 24, Nuclear 6, Interconnectors 5, with the rest from biomass, coal and hydro. We have had no sun today and now it's dark so the solar input to the Grid is 0; wind is currently delivering 0.5GW.

11 Dec 22

Michael Gove has been urged by MP Mark Williamson to allow the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria to go ahead, to reduce Britain's dependence on Chinese steel. He pointed out that Britain still needs coal to make steel, and therefore the coal to make it should come from here rather than be imported.

Update - Mr. Gove had said that the mine will go ahead.

2 Dec 22

The upshot of more than 30 years of Britain’s disastrous energy strategy: We are importing energy because we failed to invest in new nuclear plants, closed our coal mines, turned our back on home-produced gas, and moved to a renewable energy source which doesn't work on calm days.

A power station supplying energy to a town or city, even if it is fossil fuelled, is much better than people cooking and heating their homes by burning wood, and our power stations have become progressively cleaner. Similarly with transportation; a petrol engine car nowadays produces far less pollution than a petrol car of just a few years ago.

The environmental lobby promotes a solution that would take us back 100 years to a time when there was no international travel, no cars and when ordinary people lived on a meagre diet.

We should be encouraging and helping the economic development of the poorer countries. This could be achieved with a lower environmental impact than that caused by Western development because now we have experience.

28 Nov 22

The charity CPRE has issued a statement saying that the government should install more solar panels on rooftops, car parks and brownfield sites instead of productive farmland. The countryside charity's analysis shows that this is a realistic approach.

I would also suggest that all new-build houses should have solar panels installed; it is much cheaper to do it at this stage rather than retro-fitting to existing roofs. The problem with fitting onto an old roof is roof integrity. It is all too easy to cause a leak - especially on slates.

20 Nov 22

Most people are not aware of the difficulty of extinguishing an EV fire. I recently received the following message:

"I recently went on a work related fire training course . One of the instructors was an ex-firefighter. He had attended a fair number of EV fires. The only way they were able to fully extinguish them was to keep the hose trained on the EV until a skip was delivered and a mobile crane. The procedure they used was to fill the skip with water; a crane would then pick up the car and submerge it in the skip until it was cool enough to remove". [from P.R.M.; edited for clarity; 16 Nov 22]

On E10 petrol, which contains 10% ethanol, a local garage owner writes: Use E10 at your peril. We've seen a massive increase in engine problems on customer vehicles using it. Fuel pump failures, burnt cylinder head valves, lack of power, poor fuel consumption. You also get bacterial growth if the fuel is stored for a while, which usually shows as dirty fuel.

11 Nov 22

The new P.M. does not inspire confidence. He has re-banned fracking to appease climate protesters and is now buying fracked gas from America and Brazil, whilst saying that the best route to energy security is more renewables. You couldn't make it up. He needs to read a book on how the energy system works, and sack his advisers.

10 Nov 22

"The underlying cause of Britain's energy misery is its fixation with climate goals, especially the ambition to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. To meet that goal, Britain has grown hostile to domestic energy exploration, banning shale gas fracking and slapping windfall-profits tax on North Sea oil and gas producers which will deter investment. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has hurt, but the UK's policies made its citizens vulnerable to global shock".

1 Sep 22

Austria is preparing to reopen a coal-fired power station which closed in 2020 to help avoid power cuts this winter. Germany and France have made similar announcements.

Governments have over-invested in unreliable generation and have refused to approve new nuclear stations. They are still committed to the concept of 'Net Zero' and appear to have no awareness of energy security. They claim to be 'following the science' but have not listened to the engineers or the physicists. (see, for example, my news for 15 Jun this year, below).

Now there is a banquet of consequences.

11 Jul 22

Electric vehicle drivers at the pop festival were charged up to £50 an hour to use the electric car charging points - the power for which was supplied by a diesel generator.

A ban on petrol and diesel cars in favour of electric vehicles prematurely abandons a century of accumulated engineering expertise, handing dominance of the automotive sector to China. Why would anyone do this?

27 Jun 22

The German government will authorise the burning of more coal and pay industry not to use gas in a scheme to secure next winter's energy supply and keep the lights on. More gas will be put into storage facilities.

23 Jun 22

The European Commission has proposed a complete reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035, which means that it will not be possible to sell new petrol and diesel vehicles. However, Christian Lindner, the Berlin finance minister, said that there would be niches for internal combustion engine vehicles, and that phasing them out was the wrong decision. He said that Germany is not going to agree to a ban on combustion engines.

I fail to see how a car containing half a tonne of lithium and other metals in its batteries can be in any way environmentally-friendly. As for lorries - I wonder what the batteries will weigh, what the vehicle range will be, and which companies, if any, will be able to afford them.

22 Jun 22

Germany will soon reopen some mothballed coal power stations. The government will pass emergency laws to allow this, to cope with reduced energy supplies from Russia.

The NSW government has invoked emergency powers so that miners in the state have to redirect coal heading overseas to local generators. This is to improve energy security. “We’re just giving ourselves all the levers we need to give the community certainty that we’re doing everything we can to keep the system going,” said Matt Kean, the energy minister.

18 Jun 22

The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has turned down a petition asking the Government to start exploiting onshore gas resources. This shows that the UK administration is still ranking 'climate crisis' above 'energy needs'.

We should be using every means possible to alleviate the energy crisis, not just the ones acceptable to the climate-activists giving the Government its energy advice.

However, purchase grants for EVs have now been stopped, which is a good sign. There is no point in supporting a flawed technology. I also fail to see how a vehicle carrying 500kg of lithium and other metals in its batteries can be considered environmentally-friendly.

15 Jun 22

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 windscreen 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 travellers: “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 attractive. 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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