Environment

Tesla – when the plug is pulled on subsidies

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It seems that the removal of generous electric vehicle (EV) subsidies in Denmark shows the true colours of those willing to buy a car in order to signal their willingness to save the planet. While Musk has been one of the most effective rent seekers around, it seems that if consumers aren’t given massive tax breaks they aren’t as committed to ostentatious gestures of climate abatement. In Q1 2017 alone it seems that Danish sales of EVs plummeted 60%YoY. In 2015 Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen announced the gradual phasing out of subsidies on electric cars, citing government austerity and evening up the market. Tesla’s sales fell from 2,738 units in 2015 to just 176 in 2016. The irony of the Tesla is that it is priced in luxury car territory meaning that taxes from the less fortunate end up subsidizing the wealthy who can afford it!

Naturally if internal combustion engines (which by the way are becoming more efficient by the years as new standards are introduced) are taxed the same as EVs then it is clear they’d sell many more. Do not be fooled – car makers have not heavily committed to EVs for a very good reason – brand DNA. That is why we see so many ‘hybrids’ which allows the benefits of battery power linked to the drivetrain, which outside of design is the biggest differentiator between brands.

While many automakers missed the luxury EV bus, Tesla has opened their eyes. The three things the major auto makers possess which Tesla doesn’t are

1) Production skill – much of the battle is won on efficiency grounds. Companies like Toyota have had decades to perfect production efficiency and have coined almost every manufacturing technique used today – Just in Time, kanban and kaizen to name three.

2) Distribution – the existing automakers have been well ahead of the curve when it comes to sales points. Of course some argue that there is no real need for dealers anymore, although recalls, services (consumables such as brakes) and showrooms are none-the-less a necessity.

3) Technology – The idea that incumbent auto makers have not been investing in EV is ridiculous. Recall Toyota took a sizable stake in Tesla many years ago. Presumably the Toyota tech boffins were sent in to evaluate the technology at Tesla and returned with a prognosis negative. Toyota sold Tesla because the technology curve was too low. Toyota invests around $8bn in just hybrid technology alone per annum. Tesla spent $830mn last year as a group across all products. A ten fold budget on top of decades of investment in all available avenues of planet saving technology gives a substantial advantage.

Tesla is a wonderful tale of hope but it rings of all the hype that surrounded Ballard Power in fuel cells in the early 2000s. Ballard is worth 1% of its peak. As governments around the world address overbloated budgets, trimming incentives for EVs makes for easy savings. Now we have a good indicator one of the electric shock that happens when the plug is pulled on subsidies.

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Many Americans would gladly accept Macron’s offer to take these conditional patriots away

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It didn’t take long for the group think press to lavish praise upon new French President Emmanuel Macron. Poor old Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has lost his status as the poster child of victim based politics. Perhaps his life-size cardboard cut outs now have purpose.

Macron’s appeal to American asylum (rent) seekers was yet more evidence of his stance on all the en vogue political causes which often ignore harsh realities. How smug to host a televised commentary calling for Americans to throw in the towel on their country. What he is basically saying it is ok for US citizenship to be conditional. The sort of mentality that says beheading a sitting president for (supposed) comic value is ok. Plastering “Earth to Trump: Fuck off” on a German tabloid is acceptable editorial behaviour and pushing for the overthrow of a democratically elected official who has not succumbed to group think.

Just because someone doesn’t agree with you President Macron doesn’t mean they are wrong. Perhaps the persuasiveness of the argument to date has been too poor. Sure you can argue he’s cozying up to his fossil fuel fossils but his decision was the world’s worst kept secret. Instead of questioning “why” he quit you’ve launched an all too common dismissive narrative that attacks his intelligence. Yet again another leader who plays the man not the ball. Is that the right stuff of leaders today? It would appear that keeping up popularity on social media is the most important trait on government officials these days

Macron boasted, “To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland…I call on them: come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.”

Perhaps he’d be better off to look at all of the sell-out celebrities who promised to leave the US if Trump won the presidency. Most if not all still remain. The same people, who owe much of their extravagant lifestyles to the generosity of US consumers and taxpayers, would gladly sell their country out. Those that fly their eyebrow trimmers half way around the world on a private jet yet tell us in Oscar speeches how grave our situation is. Quite frankly Monsieur President I think many Americans would be more than grateful at your offer to take these people off their grid.

To put the shoe on the other foot. I am disgusted with the state of politics in Australia. Even though my life long support for the Liberal party has waned, my love of country has not. No matter what stupid direction my country takes I will not throw in the towel. Ahh but you live in Japan! Yes I do. However I do my utmost to facilitate business between our nations, work my hardest to promote a solution that will hopefully improve countless lives by weaning drug addicts off menaces like ICE and so forth.

We shouldn’t be surprised by your words. They speak the language of those willing to talk but not listen. Your victory was more a vote against Le Pen than a vote for you. Such speeches show your true colours. By all means spend up on climate alarmist causes using French taxpayers  euros to full the void. What a coup if Trump got you to chip in for his absence from “making the planet great again.” Still go on with your tokenist virtue signaling if you don’t think the price is too high. America welcomes it.

America IN or OUT makes no difference to a dud Paris Climate Accord where 75% aren’t onboard anyway

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Across social media there are dozens of posts from Americans apologising to the world for abandoning the Paris Climate Accord. “There are millions more like me.” Yes you are probably right but there are millions like him too. What people should question is the ‘real’ commitment to the accord. If we were to replay the video tapes of the Paris COP summit we were hearing wails and gnashing of teeth that there was no agreement pending. Then in the final throes we were led to believe that an agreement was reached. The joy! The triumph! We did it! Here is the catch! It was agreed by ‘politicians’ not ‘scientists’. Politicians are renowned over the millennia to making compromise and commitments way beyond the scope of their likely hold on power.

Climate commitments are the ultimate level of virtue signaling and tokenism. Politicians can say in their legacies that they tried to save the planet for their great grandchildren even if nothing is achieved. Remember how the long held 2 degree upper limit target was  heralded as a no quid pro quo line. At Paris it became 1.5. In order to accelerate alarmism the upper band had to be cut to get countries to redouble their efforts. All of a sudden, decades of climates science that told us that 2 was acceptable (bearable) became 1.5 degrees with the stroke of a pen.

As I wrote yesterday, the garage of your neighbour was more telling of individual climate commitment. In Australia one energy company offers a service which gives you the opportunity to pay a premium over fossil fuel based power to source your energy in green form. Take up rate? Less than 5%. Who elects to tick the carbon offset box when they fly commercial? I don’t think many airlines even bother with this such is the low take up. Not to mention carbon calculators are so inaccurate. A passenger has no idea what the load factor, headwinds/tailwinds, holding patterns and conditions en route are that the figure you pay would be more accurate if spewed out of a bingo wheel.

Let’s check reality of the climate game. 75% of the evil gas that helps plants grow are caused by 4 countries – America, China, India and Russia. Let’s tackle them one by one.

America. Well the commitment to the Accord was so flimsy to begin with, It was laced with out clauses such as being exempt from being sued for any environmental damage caused in the past or future. Obama decided to tick the box himself after lawyers breathed on the fine print – remember the US was the last to commit.

China. China, China, China. The commitment is so robust they don’t have any intention to  get serious until 2030 (likely peak emissions). China has explicitly said it will raise the coal share of power to 15% by 2020 from 12% and this will keep climbing. China’s pollution problems have stuff all to do with global warming but public health however it can virtue signal under the banner of climate change mitigation and win brownie points.

India. The construction of 65 gigawatts worth of coal-burning generation is under way with an additional 178 gigawatts in the planning stages in India will mean they’ll not achieve Paris targets.

Russia’s commitment at Paris would have been more serious if drafted on a hotel napkin such was its lack of substance. 4 pages of nothing.

The accord is worthless. It was rushed at the end by bureaucrats not scientists. If it is really such a binding pact there will be no need to have 50,000 climate pilgrims kneel at the altar of the next religious cult meeting. They should thank America for its action because it will guarantee the hypocrites get to keep the junkets in exotic tourist locations going.

To double up on the stupidity, hearing virtue signaling politicians blather about remaining committed to a target that is now so fundamentally broken shows how untenable it is. Think about it. If America (at c20% of the supposed problem) quits then the remainder of countries have to fill in the gap not stick to existing commitments, Sure Merkel said she’d up Germany’s targets to offset the evil Trump which is pretty unachievable given the already high level of renewables.  China said they’d chip in but don’t think those comments are any more than empty platitudes trying to puff up the image of commitment when economic resuscitation is priority #1.

The irony is that Trump said he’d consider another deal. Another deal is what is needed. Because as it stands, the Paris Accord has all of the hallmarks of political manifestos across the globe – uncosted  broad based promises made against flimsy but overwhelmingly positive/negative assumptions.

So before I read more garbage about Americans having an imperative to take power back, perhaps they should examine the realities rather than the figment of imagination floating around inside their heads. Millions more like you is actually the problem why the message never gets sold properly.

Climate hypocrisy – go check your neighbour’s garage to gauge the fear

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When a politician fulfills a promise shouldn’t we be happy? Do we want them lie so we can live in a perpetual state of disgust? Trump walked away from the Paris Climate Accord as he said he would in the election campaign. Yet articles I read were titled “Trump to planet: Drop dead” (CNN). However if people and journalists truly examined how flimsy that the US commitment signed by the High Priest of virtue (President Obama) was with regards to Paris they would have to accept that it contained more out clauses than a pre-nuptial contract. Like an alcohol free beer it was a pretend signature. One part of it guaranteed that the US wouldn’t be held liable for any ‘damage’ to the environment claimed by other countries.

The best way to think about climate change is to start by looking in your neighbour’s driveway. I’m in Sydney at the moment and the amount of SUVs is astonishing. The five segments that have added the most volume in 2017 YTD vs 2016 are: medium SUVs, 4×4 utes, small SUVs, large SUVs and 4×2 utes, in that order. Where are the save the planet sipping hybrids and compacts? Yet Aussie governments at the state and federal level want to commit to huge renewable targets thinking its a vote winner when consumption patterns don’t reflect it.

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It seems that Americans don’t give a hoot about saving the planet either. SUVs (light trucks) are the preferred vehicle of choice. So maybe it is more Americans don’t give a stuff about climate alarmis or Paris, even during Obama’s reign. So why don’t journalists turn from moaning about Trump fulfilling election promises and examine consumption patterns of all of us.

Sure journalists could take the current line of climate alarmism and push all of the stats from the UNIPCC and NOAA again about how doomed we all are but after decades the argument of this settled science isn’t won. Yes gasoline and diesel engines maybe getting more efficient but the fact sales of larger sizes vehicles are growing overall (trend been rising over the long term) show us human nature puts self interest first. Should a sailing enthusiast be forced to ditch his passion because the V8 Land Rover required to haul his yacht is blasphemous to the environment? Should a family with four kids be forced to use public transport because a 7-seater minivan is just so unethical?

Parhaps the 50,000 climate pilgrims that fly each year to kneel at the UNIPCC altar to warn us of the pending doom if we don’t take drastic action might talk to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “IATA expects 7.2 billion passengers to travel in 2035, a near doubling of the 3.8 billion air travelers in 2016. The prediction is based on a 3.7% annual Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) noted in the release of the latest update to the association’s 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast.”

So when I read CNN and other media outlets attempt to tell Trump he’s told the world to get stuffed, maybe they’d realize by past, current and future consumption patterns that the world has already told alarmists to get stuffed.

Perhaps the hypocrisy, double standards and scandals of those that preach the faith is the problem. The delivery over decades has failed to win hearts and minds. Had sensible debate, fairly reported scientific facts void of embellishment and sensible policy been put forward to address the climate then maybe humans would have taken more serious steps? As it stands Trump is in the majority not the minority. 190 countries don’t speak for 7 billion people. And if you want proof in the pudding of the sustainability of green jobs, the first chart highlights the trend of renewable jobs by state in Australia.

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The NY Times’ Bret Stevens pilloried for pointing out facts

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The NY Times has been pretty much permanently on 50-60% off for a subscription since the election. I’m really surprised why they don’t openly publish the growth in subscribers. In order to redress the balance the paper hired a conservative journalist Bret Stevens whose first Op-Ed piece looked at the dangers of data. Unfortunately he picked climate change as a topic and the alarmists fired a salvo of toxic verbatim. To be honest I am glad to see The NY Times look to redress the criticism that is clearly impacting subs growth despite claims to the contrary.

So what did Stevens write that so angered the Twitterati? Let’s take a look.

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

With me so far? Good. Let’s turn to climate change.

Last October, the Pew Research Center published a survey on the politics of climate change. Among its findings: Just 36 percent of Americans care “a great deal” about the subject. Despite 30 years of efforts by scientists, politicians and activists to raise the alarm, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either indifferent to or only somewhat bothered by the prospect of planetary calamity.

Why? The science is settled. The threat is clear. Isn’t this one instance, at least, where 100 percent of the truth resides on one side of the argument?

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.”

Can someone point out why Steven’s article was deserved of

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What ever happened to reasoned debate? What happened to arguing where his article is wrong without resorting to expletives.Libby Watson, by the way, is a journalist. Didn’t she have facts to refute Stevens? Other comments were less charged but he was criticized for not writing something they wanted to read. Isn’t that the first rule of journalism- engage the audience?

We shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction though in today’s twitchy typing finger world. As many forget in the digital world, social media posts have a half-life of infinity.

Steven’s article made salient points. If only 36% of Americans care about climate change then perhaps the message delivery is the problem. Indeed I’m all ears to the debate if it were delivered with raw facts, admissions of failure and culpability when deliberate acts of deceit have been committed and sensible strategy to combat on a settled scientific problem, indeed if necessary. That’s  the problem. It isn’t settled. Were it such a slam dunk then that 64%  would be runnning to the other side of the room.

As it stands countries like Australia are committing acts of tokenism on the back of virtue signaling. Even chasing the most aggressive renewable energy targets have shown using the most alarmist projections that our impact on rising global temperatures is so minuscule that the investment case makes no sense. Then again I always argue the true test of a person’s true commitment to climate change is reflective of consumption patterns. Leo DiCaprio is the poster child of that hypocrisy.

In any event well done to The NY Times for seeking balance.

I’m voting Greens if they believe I can break the law if I think it’s unjust

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And the Greens wonder why they’re now trailing One Nation. Leader Senator Richard Di Natale has openly backed the ACTU Secretary Sally McManus’ stance on breaking laws if they seem unjust. Maybe I should ask that my speeding fines are unjust because The higher spec nature of my vehicle is such that I can achieve the same minimum braking distances from higher speeds. I recall Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon congratulate protesters who illegally  broke in to a Newcastle coal loading port amd shut down shipments costing millions. I guess for the Greens anything is ok if it serves their purpose and why they’ll never be taken as a serious political contender.

An open letter Dear Premier Andrews,

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Sure. It is so easy to grant people certainty. Stop what you’re doing. It most certainly isn’t a game but if you did some proper due diligence you’d realize that you’re copying a model that has resolutely failed in South Australia. Jay Weatherill hasn’t stood up for his state at all. He’s sending them a bill for $550mn because he didn’t do the homework. In fact, such is his lack of preparation he is about to make the same mistake twice. To do a rush job on a battery storage tender inside two weeks and a fossil fuel plant which won’t see the light of day for at least 3-4 years shows the depths of how he deserves censure not congratulations.

Now you attack Josh Frydenberg as responsible for the state’s independent decision to ignore the advice of the experts. The national energy market is indeed a mess. While I agree with you that there is no leadership at a federal level, certain states none-the-less embarked on their own climate crusades with little thought for the realities which are becoming all to clear in South Australia. Now they are wanting the federal government to help pay for their recklessness.

Indeed you plan to follow Victoria down the same path. You will lose over a fifth of your electricity generation capacity by closing Hazelwood. No wonder South Australia is reaching for the bicycle tube repair kit because you’ll leave them no choice given Victoria can no longer be relied on when the lights go out.

Premier Andrews, indeed we do need a serious policy discussion on the future of energy in this country because the path you wish to take us will almost certainly guarantee lower growth, higher unemployment, higher costs and ultimately higher electricity prices. Talk all you want about saving the planet but even listening to the biggest alarmists will tell you that whatever Australia does will have near as makes no difference ZERO impact on the planet’s temperatures. Voters don’t need tokenism. If you want to grant them certainty, stop chasing thought bubbles on climate policy.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Newman