Category Archives: Energy and Climate Change

News and articles on climate change, vehicle pollution, and renewable energy.

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The Supermarket Food Gamble May Be Up

Brexit, migration and climate pressures mean our ‘too big to fail’ global food chain could unravel

The UK’s clock has been set to Permanent Global Summer Time once more after a temporary blip. Courgettes, spinach and iceberg lettuce are back on the shelves, and the panic over the lack of imported fruit and vegetables has been contained. “As you were, everyone,” appears to be the message.

But why would supermarkets – which are said to have lost sales worth as much as £8m in January thanks to record-breaking, crop-wrecking snow and rainfall in the usually mild winter regions of Spain and Italy – be so keen to fly in substitutes from the US at exorbitant cost?

Why would they sell at a loss rather than let us go without, or put up prices to reflect the changing market? Why indeed would anyone air-freight watery lettuce across the whole of the American continent and the Atlantic when it takes 127 calories of fuel energy to fly just 1 food calorie of that lettuce to the UK from California?

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)
‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The answer is that, in the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of this Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all.

But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit.

Add the impact of this winter’s weather on Mediterranean production, the inflationary pressures from a post-Brexit fall in the value of sterling against the euro, and the threat of tariffs as we exit the single market, and suddenly the model begins to look extraordinarily vulnerable.

Read more: The Guardian

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Diesel scrappage scheme: Sadiq Khan warns diesel cars could be BANNED

MAYOR of London Sadiq Khan refuses to rule out a driving ban for the most polluting diesel and petrol cars in central London in a bid to reduce air pollution.

Sadiq Khan has warned that diesel cars could be banned from Central London in a bid to reduce air pollution.

This comes just a week after the Mayor announced a £10 toxicity charge for the oldest and most-polluting cars in the city, which will become effective in October.

Diesel cars that enter the congestion charge zone in central London will pat an additional T-charge of £10 on top of the £11.50 congestion charge.

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget
A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Early predictions by the Mayor’s team believe that four in ten motorists will change their behaviour and stop entering the city centre.

In an interview on ITV’s Peston on Sunday the London Mayor claimed that “nothing is off the table” in relation to banning diesel cars.

“Well, I want to address the issue of poor quality air 365 days a year, not only on those days where the air is dangerous.”

“I’m using all the tools that i’ve got and we’re being innovative but the government has to do more.”

Air pollution contributes to the deaths of 9,000 Londoners annually and the level of harmful toxins in the air have exceeded legal limits regularly in the capital.

Read more: Express

The Nissan Leaf (L) and Kia Soul on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)

Electric cars and cheap solar ‘could halt fossil fuel growth by 2020’

Solar power and clean cars are ‘gamechangers’ consistently underestimated by big energy, says Imperial College and Carbon Tracker report

Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested.

A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “gamechangers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded.

The Nissan Leaf (L) and Kia Soul on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)
By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050 (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)

Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.

A 10% loss of market share was enough to cause the collapse of the coal mining industry in the US, while Europe’s five major utilities lost €100bn (£85bn) between 2008 and 2013 because they did not prepare for an 8% increase in renewables, the report said.

Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded”, the study claims.

Emerging technology, such as printable solar photovoltaics which generate electricity, could bring down costs and boost take-up even more than currently predicted.

Luke Sussams, a senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said:

“Electric vehicles and solar power are gamechangers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates.

“Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more.”

Read more: The Guardian

Isis has made huge profits from captured oilfields (Image: Getty)

Electric Cars Could Cause Big Oil This Much Damage

The growth of battery-powered cars could be as disruptive to the oil market as the OPEC market-share war that triggered the price crash of 2014, potentially wiping hundreds of billions of dollars off the value from fossil fuel producers in the next decade.

About 2 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced by electric vehicles by 2025, equivalent in size to the oversupply that triggered the biggest oil industry downturn in a generation over the past three years, according to research from Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank, published Thursday. A similar 10 percent loss of market share caused the collapse of the U.S. coal mining industry and wiped more than a 100 billion euros ($108 billion) off the value of European utilities from 2008 to 2013, the report said.

(Image: Razzouk/Shutterstock)
(Image: Razzouk/Shutterstock)

Major oil companies are waking up to the potential disruption plug-in vehicles could have on their industry. BP Plc says electric vehicles, or EVs, could erase as much as 5 million barrels a day in the next 20 years, while analysts at Wood Mackenzie say they could erode as much as 10 percent of global gasoline demand over that time. Global oil demand could peak in as little as five years, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry.

By 2040 16 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced, rising to 25 million by 2050, a

“stark contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry,”

according to the report. The impact on the oil industry could exceed price slump of 2014 to 2016 that “wiped hundreds of billions off capex,” Stefano Ambrogi, a spokesman for the Carbon Tracker Institute, said by e-mail.

The cost of EVs is already falling faster than previous forecasts and they could reach parity with conventional internal combustion vehicles by 2020, eventually saturating the passenger vehicle market by 2050, the report said.

EVs may take 19 to 21 percent of the road transport market by 2035, according to the researchers. That’s three times BP’s projection of 6 percent market share in 2035. By 2050, EVs would comprise 69 percent of the road-transport market, with oil-powered cars accounting for about 13 percent.

Source: Bloomberg

Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm

Some people who study climate change believe that addressing it later — when economic growth has made humanity wealthier — would be better than taking drastic measures immediately. Now, though, one of this group’s most influential members appears to have changed his mind.

In the early 1990s, Yale’s William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.

Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term. Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)
Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.

Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what’s politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.

Nordhaus deserves credit for changing his mind as the results of his analyses have changed, and for focusing on the implications of current policies rather than making rosy assumptions about the ability of new technologies to achieve emission reductions in the future. Many other analyses — including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — don’t demand such realism.

Nonetheless, the shift in his assessment is stark. For two decades, the advice has been to do a little but mostly hold off. Now, suddenly, the message is that it’s too late, that we should have been doing a lot more and there’s almost no way to avoid disaster.

Perhaps the main lesson is that we shouldn’t put too much trust in cost-benefit calculations, the standard economic recipe for making policy decisions. In the case of climate change, they are inherently biased toward inaction: It’s easy to see the costs of immediate emissions reductions, and much harder to quantify the benefits of avoiding a disaster likely to materialize much farther in the future. By the time the nature and impact of that disaster become clear, it may be too late to act.

Source: Bloomberg

Ten ways the electric car revolution will transform the global economy

The world has begun a rapid switch to electric vehicles. In the first half of this year, worldwide sales were up 57 per cent to 285,000, despite low oil prices, and there are now more than 1m electric cars on the world’s roads for the first time ever.

Last February, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast that electric vehicles would account for 35 per cent of new car sales by 2040, and perhaps more under certain scenarios.

The reason for this bullishness is not just that battery costs are plummeting – down 65 per cent in the past five years – it is also that electric vehicles outperform internal combustion cars in so many key areas. They drive more smoothly and accelerate better; they can be charged without a trip to the petrol station; they require less maintenance; they help solve air quality problems; and they increase the autonomy of oil-importing countries.

The rapid uptake of electric vehicles has given established car companies a huge shock. Tesla, the upstart technological leader, expected to produce 85,000 vehicles this year, has a market value of $32bn. That’s more than half of the value of General Motors, which makes nearly 120 times as many vehicles.

All of the incumbent car companies are racing to adjust their strategies, putting electric vehicles at their heart. Volkswagen, still reeling from the “Dieselgate” scandal, is intending to invest $11.2bn over the next decade to push electric vehicles to 25 per cent of its sales.

Read the full list of ten: LinkedIn

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Ministers plan HUGE scrappage scheme for diesel cars and vans

A DIESEL car scrappage scheme could soon see Brits earn up to £8,500 for their clapped-out old vehicles.

Anyone in the UK with a diesel car or van more than 10 years old is likely to be eligible to get whopping discounts off a low-emission replacement.

The Government is keen to rid Britain’s roads of diesel cars by 2030 and officials are considering copying an extremely successful French scheme, where drivers of the worst polluting cars are effectively handed up to €10,000 to switch to a new, super-clean model. More than 100,000 people in France now drive all-electric cars, which are now more popular in the country than hybrids.

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget
A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Officials from the Departments for Transport and the Environment are in advanced talks about the plan, which could be announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond as soon as the Budget on March 22.

Ministers are conscious that successive governments encouraged drivers to buy diesel until recently, wrongly believing they were better for the environment. As a result, the new scheme will incentivise diesel drivers to switch, rather than punish them.

It follows a hugely successful scrappage scheme for old cars introduced in 2009 which saw 300,000 drivers replace their car in the first year. Under that programme, designed to boost the car industry in the wake of the recession, motorists were given £1,000 from the Government – matched by car manufacturers – to change their vehicle. It boosted new car sales by as much as 26%.

The new scheme would be far more ambitious by seeking to replace the most-polluting cars in Britain with the very cleanest, with punchy discounts to match.

Read more: Express

Oil Decline (in million barrels of crude oil per day)

How EVs are Driving the Next Oil Crisis

When Bloomberg published a story under a version of the above headline at around this time last year, it was based on data predicting that by 2040, 35 per cent of new cars worldwide “would have a plug.”

Last week, a new graph based on new data by Bloomberg New Energy Finance has updated the details on how such a global shift electric vehilces might play out for the oil sector.

Oil Decline (in million barrels of crude oil per day)
Oil Decline (in million barrels of crude oil per day)

According to the graph, featured below, some 13 million barrels of oil per day will be displaced by electric vehicles by the year 2040 – an amount, BNEF says, that is equivalent to 14 per cent of the Energy Information Agency’s estimated global crude oil demand in 2016.

On the same trajectory, BNEF says, electric vehicles will displace 1.1 million barrels per day by 2025. For the record, that’s slightly down on what BNEF forecast last year: that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. But we will leave you with Tom Randall’s closing comments on the February 2016 BNEF analysis:

“One thing is certain: Whenever the oil crash comes, it will be only the beginning. Every year that follows will bring more electric cars to the road, and less demand for oil. Someone will be left holding the barrel.”

Source: Renew Economy

Arctic sea ice under the midnight sun (Image: Solent News/Rex/Shutterstock)

Could a £400bn plan to refreeze the Arctic before the ice melts really work?

Temperatures are now so high at the north pole that scientists are contemplating radical schemes to avoid catastrophe

Arctic sea ice under the midnight sun (Image: Solent News/Rex/Shutterstock)
Arctic sea ice under the midnight sun (Image: Solent News/Rex/Shutterstock)

Physicist Steven Desch has come up with a novel solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic. He and a team of colleagues from Arizona State University want to replenish the region’s shrinking sea ice – by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter, these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice where it would freeze, thickening the cap.

The pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current layer, Desch argues. The current cap rarely exceeds 2-3 metres in thickness and is being eroded constantly as the planet succumbs to climate change.

“Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly,” Desch told the Observer.

Desch and his team have put forward the scheme in a paper that has just been published in Earth’s Future, the journal of the American Geophysical Union, and have worked out a price tag for the project: $500bn (£400bn).

It is an astonishing sum. However, it is the kind of outlay that may become necessary if we want to halt the calamity that faces the Arctic, says Desch, who, like many other scientists, has become alarmed at temperature change in the region. They say that it is now warming twice as fast as their climate models predicted only a few years ago and argue that the 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming will be insufficient to prevent the region’s sea ice disappearing completely in summer, possibly by 2030.

“Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels,” says Desch. “It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.”

The loss of the Arctic’s summer sea ice cover would disrupt life in the region, endanger many of its species, from Arctic cod to polar bears, and destroy a pristine habitat. It would also trigger further warming of the planet by removing ice that reflects solar radiation back into space, disrupt weather patterns across the northern hemisphere and melt permafrost, releasing more carbon gases into the atmosphere.

Read more: The Guardian

SolarCity System With Tesla Powerwall

Springtime May Be Coming Early for Britain’s Energy Storage Market

The U.K. government is on the verge of making structural changes to the energy market that will benefit storage

Powervault Energy Storage System (Image: Powervault.co.uk)
Powervault Energy Storage System (Image: Powervault.co.uk)

Last fall, the U.K. government reached out to players across the electricity industry for suggestions on how to reform the grid. Now industry observers are expecting the country’s energy storage market to take a major leap forward if legislation is enacted this spring.

The U.K. is set to become “the world’s best market for scaling up storage,” said Simon Daniel, CEO of energy storage developer Moixa.

“There’s a perfect storm on its way,”

thanks to a combination of new government promotion programs, a deregulated electricity market and a high adoption of solar, said Daniel.

The legislative changes should be implemented after the government finishes mulling over the results of a recent industry consultation on how to make the grid smarter and more flexible.

Joe Warren, managing director of storage developer Powervault, said the laws will

“focus on removing barriers and opening up access to electricity markets through smart tariffs and more stable network charging regimes.”

U.K. government officials have been warming to storage, most recently announcing funding for £9 million (USD $11 million) worth of projects. Storage advocates remain hopeful that the government will integrate their suggestions for market reform.

David Capper, deputy director and head of future electricity networks at the U.K.’s newly created department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), has expressed the need to encourage markets for flexibility services.

Removing the regulatory barriers for storage are a major priority for BEIS, Capper said. He also believes developers should be allowed to stack revenues.

Some regulatory changes boosting the prospects for storage are already underway. The regulator Ofgem is planning to separate management of the distribution system from National Grid’s management of the U.K. transmission system in order to encourage competition and improve flexibility.

The new distribution system operator role will allow for greater coordination with the regional network operators to help speed up the grid connection process for new projects, according to the Renewable Energy Agency.

Read more: Greentech Media