Category Archives: Energy and Climate Change

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

Mass adoption of electric cars will send diesel extinct in UK, experts predict

Diesel technology is set to be a thing of the past, UK car industry executives believe.

The plan is to invest in the technology needed for battery electric vehicles over the next five years, according to 93% of executives while 62% felt that dieselis losing its importance for manufacturers.

Figures from KPMG’s annual global automotive executive survey also show that 90% of executives expect battery electric vehicles to dominate the marketplace by 2025.

Big shift expected in the next decade. Getty Images

John Leech, of KPMG, said:

“Improvements in the cost and range of battery technology, coupled with growing concern over the emission of both carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides from diesel engines, means that almost the whole automotive industry believes that the mass adoption of electric cars will happen during the next decade.”

Senior executives working for vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, financial and mobility service providers plus car users took part in the survey.

Some 74% of executives thought more than half of car owners today would not want to own a vehicle.

Researchers believe there will be fewer cars and therefore less money to be made from building vehicles in the future as people may opt to use, rent or pay for a car service rather than to own a car.

This was not feared as a looming problem because 85% of executives were convinced their company might make more money by providing new digital services than by selling cars alone.

Mr Leech said:

“Carmakers plan to sell a myriad of new digital services to vehicle users. Today car makers already make substantial profits from the sale of consumer finance and annual vehicle insurance but this will grow in the future as innovative services such as remote vehicle monitoring and the integration of the car as a focal point in people’s ever more connected lifestyles are demanded by consumers.”

Source: The Independent Online

Nissan Leaf

Car Tax, the new VED rules explained

An overhaul of UK car tax rules will increase the cost of motoring – but not if you’re buying a Nissan LEAF

On April 1, the system for taxing new cars in the UK, known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), is being radically overhauled (click here for details). The revamp will make it more expensive to run certain types of low-emissions cars – but the Nissan LEAF, the world’s best-selling electric car, will remain exempt from tax.

Nissan Leaf

If you’re confused by the changes, or uncertain of what they mean if you’re considering buying a new car, here’s a quick guide.

How car tax works now

The amount of VED you currently pay is based on your car’s CO2 emissions. There are 13 VED bands: vehicles that emit between 0 and 130g/km of CO2 (think electric vehicles and certain hybrids) don’t pay any VED in their first year. After that, vehicles that emit 101-120g/km of CO2 have to pay between £10 and £30. The duty jumps from there, to at least £100 for cars that emit 121g/km of CO2 or more.

What’s changing

From April 1, only vehicles that produce no emissions while driving, such as the Nissan LEAF, will be exempt from VED in year one. Vehicles that produce 1-50 g/km of CO2 pay £10; those that emit 51-75 g/km pay £25. VED then leaps to £100 for vehicles that emit 76-90 g/km. From year two on, CO2-producing vehicles costing less than £40,000 pay an annual rate of £140 – with a £310 premium for cars that cost more than £40,000.

Zero emissions, zero tax

Cars that produce 0g/km of CO2 and cost less than £40,000 will remain exempt from VED for their lifetime. The fully-equipped, five-seat electric Nissan LEAF falls into that category – and it’s also exempt from congestion charges. So as well as fuel costs of as little as 2p a mile, buying a safe and reliable LEAF could save you hundreds of pounds in tax.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, the British-built Nissan LEAF remains ahead of the pack – because it uses no combustible fuel at all.

Read more: What Car?

 

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

Google set to reach 100% renewable energy in 2017

In December 2016, Google announced that they are set to reach 100% renewable energy to power everything such as their offices and server farms. 

Every year people search Google trillions of times and upload over 400 hours of YouTube every minute! All of that takes a very large amount of processing power which means a lot of electricity is needed.

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

“I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. We were one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; we signed our first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future.”

Urs Hölze, Google’s Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure.

Google operates in an environmentally sustainable way which is one of its core values since its founding. This is a very good value and one we should all follow. Whatever your thoughts are on global warming, we all know that pollution is a bad thing for us and the environment.

Science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent worldwide issue and that we must take steps in doing our own individual bit for the environment.

Read more: Medium. Phil Leach

Use pram covers ‘to protect babies from air pollution’ during school run

Parents should use pram covers to protect babies and young children from harmful air pollution during the school run, researchers suggest.

Traffic lights and bus stops were pollution hotspots and there were higher levels of pollution in the morning compared with the afternoon, the University of Surrey study said.

Young children are more at risk because their bodies are small and developing.

And they could be breathing in damaging substances, the study said.

A recent World Health Organization report said that 570,000 children under the age of five died every year from illnesses that could be linked to pollution.

The Surrey research, published in Environmental Pollution, was based on measurements from air monitoring equipment inside toddlers’ prams being pushed to and from schools during drop-off and pick-up times.

Scientists looked at pollution levels in prams during 64 trips, covering about 50 miles (80km), in Guildford.

Bus stops and traffic lights were the worst places for being exposed to the tiny particles from exhaust fumes and tyres that can get into the bloodstream.

And there were more of these harmful particles in the air during morning drop-off times, when traffic was at its busiest.

Dr Prashant Kumar, lead study author from the University of Surrey, said his findings were a warning to parents.

“Young children are far more susceptible to pollution than adults, due to their immature and developing systems and lower body weight,” he said.

“Essentially, children could be at risk of breathing in some nasty and harmful chemical species such as iron, aluminium and silica that form together the particles of various size ranges.”

Dr Kumar said the best way to stop this happening was to use a barrier between children in prams and the emissions from vehicle exhausts, especially at traffic lights, crossroads and bus stops.

He said his research team was also trying to find a way to clean the air around children sitting in their prams.

Source: BBC

Ice covering the ocean surface along lower Baffin Island, in the Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea (Image:: K. Calvo/National Geographic/Alamy)

Drastic cooling in North Atlantic beyond worst fears, scientists warn

Climatologists say Labrador Sea could cool within a decade before end of this century, leading to unprecedented disruption, reports Climate News Network

For thousands of years, parts of northwest Europe have enjoyed a climate about 5C warmer than many other regions on the same latitude. But new scientific analysis suggests that that could change much sooner and much faster than thought possible.

Climatologists who have looked again at the possibility of major climate change in and around the Atlantic Ocean, a persistent puzzle to researchers, now say there is an almost 50% chance that a key area of the North Atlantic could cool suddenly and rapidly, within the space of a decade, before the end of this century.

Ice covering the ocean surface along lower Baffin Island, in the Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea (Image:: K. Calvo/National Geographic/Alamy)
Ice covering the ocean surface along lower Baffin Island, in the Hudson Strait and the Labrador Sea (Image:: K. Calvo/National Geographic/Alamy)

That is a much starker prospect than even the worst-case scientific scenario proposed so far, which does not see the Atlantic ocean current shutdown happening for several hundred years at least.

A scenario even more drastic (but fortunately fictional) was the subject of the 2004 US movie The Day After Tomorrow, which portrayed the disruption of the North Atlantic’s circulation leading to global cooling and a new Ice Age.

To evaluate the risk of extreme climate change, researchers from the Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux laboratory (CNRS/University of Bordeaux, France), and the University of Southamptondeveloped an algorithm to analyse the 40 climate models considered by the Fifth Assessment Report.

The findings by the British and French team, published in the Nature Communications journal, in sharp contrast to the IPCC, put the probability of rapid North Atlantic cooling during this century at almost an even chance – nearly 50%.

Read more: The Guardian

Exxon Caves to Oil Crash With Historic Global Reserves Cut

  • International oil giant wipes 3.3 billion barrels from books
  • Entire Kearl oil-sands project in western Canada de-booked

Exxon Mobil Corp. disclosed the deepest reserves cut in its modern history as prolonged routs in oil and natural gas markets erased the value of a $16 billion oil-sands investment and other North American assets.

The equivalent of about 3.3 billion barrels of untapped crude was removed from the so-called proved reserves category in Exxon’s books, the Irving, Texas-based explorer said in a statement. The revisions were triggered when low energy prices made it mathematically impossible to profitably harvest those fields within five years. The sprawling, 3.5-billion barrel Kearl oil-sands development in western Canada accounted for most of the hit.

The 19 percent drop amounts to the largest annual cut since at least the 1999 merger that created the company in its modern form, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That includes 1.5 billion barrels of reserves that were pumped from wells. The previous record cut was a 3 percent reduction taken during the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. The reserves are now at their lowest since 1997.

The shares gained 0.2 percent to $81.08 in after-hours trading as of 5:46 p.m. in New York on Wednesday, after closing at $80.93.

Exxon, facing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into how it valued its portfolio amid the worst oil market collapse in a generation, signaled in October and again last month that the revision was probably coming.

The oil-sand mines in northern Alberta are among the costliest types of petroleum projects to develop because the raw bitumen extracted from the region must be processed and converted to a thick, synthetic crude oil. As such, they have been particularly hard hit by the worst oil slump in a generation.

ConocoPhillips on Tuesday removed the equivalent of 1.15 billion barrels of oil-sands crude from its books as part of a 21 percent cut that pushed the Houston-based company’s reserves to a 15-year low.

Read more: Bloomberg

Nest aims to reduce workers’ exposure to companies with reserves of coal, oil and gas (Image: JJ Mitchell/Getty)

Government pension scheme begins ditching oil and gas investments

A giant pension scheme with more than 4 million members is shifting almost 10% of its investments into a new climate change fund designed to move people’s money out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy.

Nest (National Employment Savings Trust), a publicly owned scheme set up by the government, said it was moving £130m into the fund because it wanted to protect its worker members from the risks associated with climate change by reducing their exposure to companies with reserves of coal, oil and gas.

Nest aims to reduce workers’ exposure to companies with reserves of coal, oil and gas (Image: JJ Mitchell/Getty)
Nest aims to reduce workers’ exposure to companies with reserves of coal, oil and gas (Image: JJ Mitchell/Getty)

Nest has named oil groups Shell and ExxonMobil as two of the companies in which it is set to scale back its investment, with SSE, one of Britain’s biggest energy firms, one of those likely to be a beneficiary of the new strategy.

The move has been welcomed by climate change campaigners and comes amid an ongoing global carbon divestment campaign that has succeeded in persuading hundreds of institutions, including universities, pension funds and charitable foundations, to dump billions of pounds of shares in carbon-intensive industries. The Guardian has been running its own campaign called Keep it in the ground.

The move by Nest is notable because it is a public body – it was set up by the government to help employers meet their obligations under the automatic enrolment retirement saving initiative, which went live in 2012. Nest is now looking after the pension pots of more than 4 million UK workers, investing £1.5bn on their behalf, and has signed up more than 290,000 employers. These numbers are expected to increase markedly over the next few years, making Nest a major shareholder and, it hopes, a difficult voice to ignore.

Most of the money looked after by Nest is invested in its retirement date funds – there are 47 of these, with each worker put into the one appropriate for their age. It is £130m of this total pot that is being moved into a new “climate-aware” fund managed by UBS Asset Management, which has been developed to allow members to

“benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Read more: The Guardian

Diesel car (Image: Y. Mok/PA)

Diesel drivers should think twice before buying – Transport Secretary

Drivers should think long and hard before buying a diesel car, the Transport Secretary has said.

Chris Grayling suggested motorists should consider buying a low-emission vehicle rather than spending their money on a diesel.

Diesel car (Image: Y. Mok/PA)
Diesel car (Image: Y. Mok/PA)

His intervention follows reports the Government is considering a scrappage scheme for diesel cars to improve air quality.

The reported scheme would see drivers offered a cash incentive for replacing an old diesel car with a low-emission vehicle.

Asked whether motorists should hesitate before buying a diesel, Mr Grayling told The Daily Mail:

“People should take a long, hard think about what they need, about where they’re going to be driving, and should make best endeavours to buy the least polluting vehicle they can.

“I don’t think diesel is going to disappear but someone who is buying a car to drive around a busy city may think about buying a low-emission vehicle rather than a diesel.”

Read more: MSN

Air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths in the UK and costs the country £27.5bn a year, according to a government estimate

End UK tax incentives for diesel vehicles, ministers are urged

Ministers are coming under growing pressure to remove tax incentives for diesel cars and offer compensation to motorists so they can swap to more environmentally friendly vehicles

A group of medical professionals, environmental campaigners and lawyers has written to the chancellor ahead of the budget to demand a change to the vehicle excise duty that they say subsidises diesel cars.

Separately, senior Labour and Tory politicians have called for a comprehensive vehicle scrappage scheme to help people with diesel cars change to greener alternatives.

Air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths in the UK and costs the country £27.5bn a year, according to a government estimate
Air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths in the UK and costs the country £27.5bn a year, according to a government estimate

The letter from campaigners, including the British Lung Foundation, Greenpeace and doctors’ groups, says toxic air poses a daily risk to people’s health – particularly the young and those suffering from lung problems.

“Air pollution has … been shown to stunt children’s lung growth, which could leave them with health problems in later life,” it states. “We all deserve to breathe clean air.”

On Saturday the Guardian revealed that thousands of children and young people at more than 800 nurseries, schools and colleges in London faced dangerous and illegal levels of toxic air, much of it from diesel cars.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, indicated the government may bow to pressure, saying motorists should be wary of buying diesel cars, adding: “We’re going to have to really migrate our car fleet, and our vehicle fleet more generally, to cleaner technology.” However, he said that diesel “was not going to disappear”.

Air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths in the UK and costs the country £27.5bn a year, according to a government estimate. MPs have called it a public health emergency.

The letter adds:

“We know diesel vehicles, in particular diesel cars, are a major source of pollution in towns and cities … yet vehicle excise duty (VED) not only fails to recognise this, but is still incentivising them. We are therefore asking for a revision of the VED first-year rate in your upcoming budget statement.”

Read more: Edie.net

‘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