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Stint as an eco (keyboard) warrior

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

Someone I know posted a Renault Zoe ad on LinkedIn - a very old one. It shows how various electronic devices (shaver, computer etc) might appear if powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) - pumping out fumes. Then shows the Zoe which is powered by electricity just as all those traditionally electrically powered devices.

Someone else commented it was a lie. I attempted to set the record straight. What follows is the discussion.

Me: Yup, a great ad, luckily there's now rather a better choice of EV's than there was back in 2011 when the ad launched! What's interesting is the fact that almost no car manufacturer has wanted to push (advertise) the subject since, as they know how successful a campaign would be, and what that would do to their bottom line (and billions invested in ICE technology). Luckily this will very soon be changing...

Some guy: Of course, the advertisement’s message is a lie. ...If the electric power source for charging the vehicle is not 100% renewable, then the vehicle technology is of no consequence.

Me: Oh dear the coal nonsense again... One thing I learnt from my degree is how to research something properly rather than make spurious suppositions as people tend to do with EV's. The claim that as electricity isn't 100% renewable then EV's have little benefit is SO WRONG on so many levels I couldn't possibly dispute it properly in one post. For starters have a read of a recent blog

Some guy: Arguing for the benefit of your purse, eh? List your arguments, if you have the time.

Me: Actually the 'business' is currently a hobby. Nothing more, nothing less! I may convert my site into free information for some advertising if I get the time. It started as a curiosity, but I've learnt a lot. I've learnt a lot about the misinformation that gets banded around. It's the same when Microsoft releases a new operating system. Remember when Windows 10 was released and everyone felt 'in the know' slagging off all the 'issues'? People are scared of change and will justify their current position, it's a normal reaction. I live off a busy road, you can see the pollution, I have to hold my breath every few hundred yards - EV's will solve this for starters. I want it to happen faster for my sake, for my kids sake, for the thousands that die every year or develop dementia because of it (look these claims up if your sceptical). The grid is already very green - much greener than most people think - coal is typically 2-5% max of UK generation and soon to be extinct. So much for that. This is besides for the all the economies of production, filtration and reduction of transport related emissions that centralised power generation allows. Much more - happy to continue, why not comment on one of my posts to I can stop spamming (the guy who posted the original video)!

Some guy: At this moment, almost 50% of the UK generation is fuelled by natural gas and biomass. EVs will require increased generation. So with EVs the pollution is moved from your neighbourhood into someone else’s neighbourhood.

Me: So a 50% reduction in emissions is a bad thing?! Besides for the incredibly lower amounts of NOx and other pollutants produced in a gas fired power station. This also ignores the pollution saved from not having to extract, refine + transport the fuel to fuel stations, the total life-cycle emissions of the vehicles, efficiency gains (EV's are roughly 80% more efficient) and impact on LOCAL environments. However I would say the main argument is the fact that EV's are fuel agnostic - so every new turbine/solar panel is benefiting everyone. ICE car's fuel ain't gonna get cleaner I'm afraid. Did you know there is enough solar energy hitting earth in one hour to power the world for a year - and it wouldn't take that may panels to harness it either. Estimates vary, but a number of countries will be heading to 100% renewable energy in a few decades. Some countries have already made it.

Some guy: Mark, if solar energy were to completely power the UK, over 25% of the entire land area would be covered by panels. Add to that additional area for energy storage and many more transmission lines and substations, brining the total to perhaps 30%. Shall the land grab begin in your neighbourhood?

Me: One reason why National Grid is building yet another undersea cable linking Tyneside to Norway. There will be 6 operational by 2030 linking UK with Europe to enable renewable energy sharing. However those with solar on their UK roofs will know that it's quite easy to be a net exporter of electricity with roof panels alone - so no further land required! (I have to admit I don't have solar yet - but I've looked at the figures). EV's furthermore will act as distributed storage (V2G tech is already being rolled out in some places). EV's and the de-carbonisation of the grid are two sides of the same coin.

Some guy: Mark, I suggest that you read the Manhattan Institute's report "The "New Energy Economy": An Exercise In Magical Thinking" for a dash of cold water in your face about the rosy scenario that you propose.

Me: Thats exactly why in research (as in my recent dissertation for example) one uses a review of many studies. I looked at a study reviewing almost 5000 investigations into the benefits of EV's - we take the majority conclusion as do governmental bodies and mainstream media. Its why I believe Apollo 11 did land on the moon. If Musk had been put off by a study detailing the problems a startup automaker would face ("stupidity, squared" in his own words) and not tried, they wouldn't have created a car that is beating the BMW 3 series in it's home turf in sales and almost every comparable metric. From nothing, to a world revolution in a matter of years. It takes vision.

Some guy: Did you include the Manhattan Institute’s report in your dissertation preparation? If not, then read it and negate its major findings, if you can.

- I decided not to point out at this point that I have no intention to revisit my dissertation as having received my degree and working full time plus, I have little incentive to work on anything purely academic for the time being! However I do keep up to speed on all 'green' developments and there is no question we can almost entirely replace fossil fuel as a power source fairly rapidly. A recent article in the FT pointed out that it is already uneconomic to invest in fossil fuel production now given that renewable offer a far superior investment.

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