Saturday, 15 February 2020

Vandalised Wall Vandalised

From the BBC

Vandalism by Banksy has been defaced just 48 hours after it appeared.

The vandalism, featuring a young girl firing red flowers from a catapult, appeared on the side of a house in Bristol on Thursday.

Banksy confirmed he was behind the vandalism by posting a picture of the work on his Instagram page at midnight on Valentine's Day.

But new vandalism has now been daubed over the vandal's design in bright pink lettering.

Electric vehicles - not particularly energy efficient

The conclusion to my previous post, Fun with numbers - what if we all had electric cars was this:

If electricity generation goes up 40% [to charge all the cars] and half of that is gas, oil or even coal, we simply use half of that 37 bn [fuel saved] in power stations, a net saving of 19 billion litres.

We could achieve much the same reduction by simply moving to hybrid cars (as recommended by Bayard), which can achieve 80 or 90 mpg. They can do 10 - 50 miles on battery alone, so you could turn off the petrol or diesel engine while in town, thus reducing pollution where people live (Mombers' argument in favour of electric cars, about the only valid argument in favour of them IMHO). This requires absolutely no changes to our infrastructure and the shift could happen organically.

The calculations were long and complicated, even by my standards, and I had to make quite a few assumptions and go back and tweak it several times.

There's a much easier way to compare and contrast, and ultimately, I don't think I was far off:

1. It takes 0.3 litres of diesel to generate 1 kWh of electricity (from here), and approx. 10% is lost in transmission (from here).

2. So 1 litre of diesel used in a power station = 3 kWh of electricity at the socket.

3. Electric cars do 2.9 miles/kWh (from here), so 1 litre in the power station = 3 kWh in the battery, x 2.9 miles/kWh = 8.7 miles/litre = 40 miles/gallon.

4. That is not particularly impressive by modern standards, and a hybrid diesel/electric (not plug in) can easily do 80 miles/gallon (from here).

"Ah yes," cry the Greenies, "But the electricity to power the vehicles wouldn't be generated from fossil fuels, it would be generated from renewables!"

For sure, but that logic applies to all electricity, about 50% of which is generated using fossil fuels in the UK, so it's not really an argument. We could tackle that issue first (to the extent you believe it is an issue, which frankly, I don't).

So if we all shifted to diesel- or petrol/electric hybrids*, that would halve the amount of petrol and diesel used, halving the CO2 emissions from that source, which I think is the object of the exercise. And of course, private vehicle use only accounts for about one-quarter of UK CO2 emissions, which have been declining by compound 1.5% a year since the peak in 1975 anyway, and we are back to the levels of 130 years ago (from here).

* This is much more feasible than going all-electric. The cars are much cheaper than all-electric. The batteries in diesel- or petrol/electric hybrids are much smaller than in fully electric vehicles, which means that it will not be quite as difficult rustling up all the rare metals required to make them. It would require no massive infrastructure investment (more power stations or at least, existing power stations running 24/7, installing tens of million of charging points etc) and everything continues pretty much as normal.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Fun with numbers - what if we all had electric cars

Qs - would we have enough electricity generating capacity if each household in the UK had one electric car? And would we have to reduce the number of miles we drive every year?

A - I don't know, but here's how I would guesstimate it.

(Feel free to pile in if you have better info, or just skip to the conclusion in my later post.)
Typical daily electricity usage per household - 9.25 kWh (from here).

Check: Total electricity generated/used in the UK per annum 335 TWh (from here), 30% of which is domestic (from here) = 100 TWh. 28 million households x 9.25 kWh x 365 days = 94 TWh.

That's (say) 16 hours a day, grid running at near full capacity.

That leaves (say) 8 hours where not much electricity is being used, in which time power stations, if they continued running at near full capacity, could generate (say) another 40% x 335 TWh = 134 TWh, = about 13 kWh per household/car per day.

A typical electric car, like a Nissan Leaf has a 40kWh battery and a 100 mile range* (from here). 40 kWh divided by 13 'spare' kWh per household per day = people can recharge their cars every three days. It would have to be staggered; if everybody plugged them in Sunday at midnight, there wouldn't be enough electricity to go round. So instead of Economy 7 electricity, which is cheaper in the night time, there would have to be a massive premium on electricity in the night from Sunday to Monday, or something.

* Check: Electric cars can do 2.9 miles/kWh (from here).

About half of all car miles are commuting, and the average journey (one way) is less than 10 miles, so most of us would be OK for commuting and a weekly shopping trip, with just one overnight charge per week (in a normal week).

Check: Total miles driven in the UK per year (car, van, taxi) = 658 billion km = 409 billion miles.(from here). 100 miles every three days (max capacity, from above) x 28 million households/cars = 340 billion miles/year, so miles driven would have to come down by about a fifth.

So ball park, yes, if we ran power stations 24 hours a day, and reduced overall miles driven (more public transport, more car sharing, work nearer home or from home, don't go on holiday by car, no driving round just for the joy of it* - a problem which solves itself), we could just about manage.

It's still a ridiculous idea, for many other reasons**, but on this narrow point***, I think the idea just about passes the feasibility test.
* Most of the miles I drive, to be honest.

** Negative impact of CO2 on climate has been exaggerated ten- or a hundred-fold; it will he hugely expensive to upgrade all the transformers and sub-stations in residential areas; there isn't enough copper for the cables or rare metals for the batteries; it will take decades to switch over; the number of people run over will increase because you don't hear them coming; and electric cars are no fun, but hey.

There's also the point that one of the many reasons why fuel duty is such an excellent tax is because it trebles the actual real cost of the fuel (a few pence per mile). Electricity only costs a few pence per mile simply because there is no tax on it (and not because it is inherently cheaper or more resource efficient), and electric cars use hardly any electricity while stationary, so the number of traffic jams might well increase.

*** Judged on its own terms, the exercise is fairly futile. Retail petrol and diesel sales are 37 bn litres/year (with another 9.5 billion litres for commercial, i.e. lorries, construction equipment, trains, tractors, who are definitely not going to go electric). So in theory we could stop burning 37 bn litres of fuel on the road.

If electricity generation goes up 40% and half of that is gas, oil or even coal, we simply use half of that 37 bn in power stations, a net saving of 19 billion litres.

We could achieve much the same reduction by simply moving to hybrid cars (as recommended by Bayard), which can achieve 80 or 90 mpg. They can do 10 - 50 miles on battery alone, so you could turn off the petrol or diesel engine while in town, thus reducing pollution where people live (Mombers' argument in favour of electric cars, about the only valid argument in favour of them IMHO). This requires absolutely no changes to our infrastructure and the shift could happen organically.

That 19 billion litres saved is only a fraction of total fossil fuel usage in the UK. 19 billion litres = 172 TWh, and current gas usage (domestic and power generation) is 869 TWh. Then there's the 9.5 billion litres of commercial diesel = 92 TWh, plus various other bits and pieces. See various charts and tables here.

I'm assuming here for simplicity that CO2 emitted per TWh is approx the same whether you are using gas, petrol, diesel or coal; whether you are using it in a car engine or in a power station to generate the electricity to run the car. On this basis, UK's CO2 emissions would come down by about one-sixth.

Interestingly, UK CO2 emissions have been dropping by a compound average of 1.5% a year since the peak in 1975 and we're already back at the level of 130 years ago (from here), so we'd achieve that one-sixth saving in ten or fifteen years anyway if this trend continues.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Short List

Fairly senior members of the UK's Royal Family who married an American divorcée and were nudged into moving abroad a couple of years later.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

How is this going to Happen?

Stupidity from Shapps via the BBC

Last week, the government sparked industry concern after bringing the date forward from 2040 to 2035 in a bid to hit zero-carbon emission targets.

But Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 5 live it would happen by 2035, "or even 2032," adding there would be consultation.

Of course, the consultation will mean that every green sockpuppet paid for by the government will file returns because they know exactly where to go, so it'll be a consultation in favour.

But aside from that, how will it even happen?

For one thing, we don't have the cars. We've got the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla, a few really expensive cars, but very few are being bought. They're also only tackling smaller cars, and for people needing a bit of offroad or towing power, they aren't there. People just don't like the range. Or the cost.

But even if someone creates a Ford Mondeo size car with decent range at a good price in 3 years, are most people going to rush out to buy them, or are they going to wait and see what problems occur? Maybe that battery won't be good in 5 years. It's not like there's huge upsides. OK, cheaper to run, but petrol's a pretty small cost of owning a new car. Plus, for a while, it's going to still be difficult to fill the car.

So for many years after, the dominant demand will still be for petrol because of charging. Over time, as it's adopted more, it might change, but by 2032, I seriously doubt we'll have seen a changeover.

And we simply don't have the power network to charge every car, and the lead time for nuclear power is far beyond a decade.

Doesn't make sense, unless the world is even more corrupt than you'd think.

From City AM:

Robert Johnson, who edits the running site, went so far as to say that those who have benefited from [Nike's apparently excellent running] shoes in previous competitive races have been guilty of "mechanical doping".

And non-Nike athletes have petitioned World Athletics as to their fairness. Responding at the beginning of February, the sports body has set a maximum sole thickness of 40mm on trainers for the first time ever.

Nike's new shoe will, somewhat conveniently, have a sole thickness of 39.5 mm. That means it can be legally worn at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by Nike-sponsored athletes.

While rival manufacturers will look to rush out their own versions, it seems possible that, with only a few months to go until the Olympic games begin on 24 July, Nike's middle and long-distance athletes will hit the start line in Tokyo with a serious advantage.

I thought that the Olympics was a competition between different countries, not a competition between different manufacturers (like Formula One motor racing)? If I'm still right on this, why are the "non-Nike athletes" moaning? Why don't they just pop out and buy some Nike running shoes?

The only conceivable reason why not is that the Olympics won't let you use a manufacturer's equipment without the manufacturer's express permission. I accept that the Olympics is as corrupt as Hell, but that would be setting a new low.
Update - Staffordshire Man suggests that the non-Nike athletes can't use Nike shoes because they have sold their souls to a rival manufacturer/sponsor, in which case it serves them right IMHO.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

"Natwest Three banker slams 'pernicious' US-UK extradition treaty"

From City AM:

Writing in The Times today, David Bermingham, one of the so-called Natwest Three, attacked the unfairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US...

"It is a near statistical certainty that someone extradited to the US will end up guilty, most probably through a plea bargain rather than going to trial, because the criminal justice system in the US is so heavily geared towards this outcome. Extradition becomes, in effect, a summary conviction, without the dull necessity of examining evidence."

Bermingham also pointed to the case of Anne Sacoolas, who the US is refusing to extradite to the UK to face a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. "As the case of Ms Sacoolas shows, the US looks after its own. Maybe, just maybe, the government will finally grow a spine and realise that acting as a poodle is not the mark of a special relationship with America, but simply supine," he said.

Yesterday, former Brexit secretary David Davis writing in the Mail on Sunday said that sending Lynch to the US to face trial would "cripple the City and Britain's ability to determine its own future".

He said: "We are now looking at the bizarre prospect that a UK citizen could be tried and potentially acquitted by an English judge, where the burden of proof against him is lower, but find himself in a US prison facing a charge where the burden is higher, before the UK case has even been decided."

Under the treaty there needs to be probable cause for the US to extradite its citizens to the UK, but just reasonable suspicion for Britain to be forced to extradite its citizens in the other direction.

Amen to all that.

Like most people, I've no particular sympathy for bankers, but they make sound points.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Oops, my bad.

Friday, 7 February 2020

"Experts slam business rates appeals system"

From City AM:

Property experts today said the business rate appeals system is a "time bomb" as the backlog of claims and challenges spiked. Businesses could be waiting years for their challenges to be addressed due to the backlog of appeals, experts said.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs' Valuation Office Agency (VOA) showed that in the 33 months since the new system was introduced, 352,090 properties have started the appeal process. 

It's not the appeals system that's at fault here. if they make the appeals procedures cheaper, quicker and simpler to clear the backlog, then more people will appeal, creating a new back log.

The real cause of this is the fact that Rates are based on the market rental value of each individual building, where there will always be legitimate differences of opinion on which comparatives should be used, the condition of each particular building, how spaces within that building/plot should be classified etc.

Equally stupid is the fact this 'market value' is not the total rental value, but the total rental value minus the Rates themselves, so the effective rate (about 33%) is much lower than the headline rate (about 50%).
It would be far better to proceed as follows:

1. Assess whole streets (or whole shopping centres or whole retail parks etc) at a time, using all available data from recently agreed rents and selling prices on that street (or in that shopping centre etc). Owners of vacant premises, or those let out to charities will give their own figure of what they expect in rent from a normal business tenant. If it seems reasonable, it goes into the total. If they are low-balling, the council just takes on a lease, sublets for the higher actual value and that goes into the calculation instead.

2. Work out the total rental value of all the premises on that street (with no reduction for the Rates payable, which is a circular calculation).

3. Divide that total by the total frontage of all the premises on the street to find a value per running foot of frontage. This is based on the average value of all available rental and price data, which greatly reduces the incentive for a landlord/tenant to collude to depress the headline rent (and share the Rates saving via cash in envelopes). If you value individual premises, then depressing the rent by £1 saves 50p rates. With averaging, if a landlord/tenant collude to depress the rental value by £1, that only depresses the average by a few pence.

4. The Rates assessment for each premises is then simply the frontage (the most valuable element) multiplied by the answer from 3, minus a provisional 20% for those who accept the assessment, multiplied by an arbitrary percentage (see 8). It would be payable by the owner, not the occupant (for administrative simplicity and to improve collection rates).
There would be very few appeals against that sort of system because...

5. It is largely a data gathering and maths exercise, not questions of judgment.

6.  The actual condition or size of a particular building would be pretty irrelevant, so the owner of a dilapidated building with no lift would pay the same amount per foot of frontage as the owner of a new building next door to it which has a lift. So it would act pretty much like Land Value Tax. 

7. Of course, sometimes assessments will be based on poor data or mathematically wrong. but this applies to the whole street, so instead of some occupants appealing against individual assessments, the owners of all the premises on the whole street (which might only be one or two landlords) can pool resources and do a joint appeal.

8. The 20% discount does not mean lower Rates overall, as the percentage payable would be increased accordingly. So instead of paying 40% on £10,000 (the probable actual value), you pay 50% on £8,000 (the discounted value).

9. If you win your appeal and get the assessed value reduced from £10,000 to £9,000, you pay 50% of £9,000 (appellants waive entitlement to the discount). So before putting in an appeal, you would have to be confident you can get enough real world data to push the assessed value down from £10,000 to no more than £7,500 or so, which is going to be nigh impossible in most of the few cases where the assessments appear too high...

10. ... of course, the evidence to support the lower rental value will be taken into account at the next revaluation (appellants and non-appellants alike get a lower assessment), which will tend to depress assessed values nationally, to a low but defensible figure. Again, this is not a problem as the percentage payable in Rates can be nudged up a bit to keep revenues constant.

So that's it for battery cars then?

Excellent article in the March 2020 edition of Motorsport magazine. The article which is all about engine technology and fuel is not on-line yet. But here are some highlights:-  

“From 2025, we could be seeing cars powered by two-stroke engines, using a zero-carbon fuel, which are more eco-friendly than Formula E racers…

F1 is also looking to pioneer the use of synthetic fuel made in a laboratory, rather than being drilled out of the ground and refined.

Small-scale facilities have already shown that they can filter carbon out of the air and combine it with hydrogen to form the hydrocarbon chains that make up fuel. When it’s burnt, that same carbon is then released back into the atmosphere.

If surplus renewable energy (wind farms can produce more energy than is needed on a blustery day) is used to make the fuel, the process can be made largely carbon-neutral. The chemical formula can be altered to replicate existing fuel.

But increased benefits come when the engine is designed with the fuel, allowing the use of greater compression ratios and improving efficiency. Factories to produce the fuel industrially are under construction and Symonds believes that F1 could use it within a few years – despite a higher cost. “As soon as there is enough around we should be doing it and we’re not that far away from what we need”, he says…

EU rules stipulate average carbon dioxide emissions for new cars should not exceed 95g/km. The easiest way for manufacturers to meet the target is to sell more electric cars.

However, these figures don’t take into account the emissions released when producing vehicles: several studies suggest that making an electric car produces more carbon than a conventional one.

“This will be rethought again in 2023 – hopefully in the right direction,” says Ulrich Baretzky, director of Audi Sport engine development, and the man behind the petrol and diesel engines that secured 13 wins for Audi at Le Mans.

“Then electric vehicles will be dead – or some of them. I certainly think that the internal combustion engine has a long future and I think it has a future that’s longer than a lot of politicians realise because politicians are hanging everything on electric vehicles.

“There’s nothing wrong with electric vehicles, but there are reasons why they are not the solution for everyone”.

Or Johnson’s ban of petrol and diesel engine motor vehicles is just stupid?