Green energy

How to solve ‘range anxiety’

In ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze’, Sherlock Holmes mentions ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night-time’. ‘But the dog did nothing in the night-time,’ argues Inspector Gregory. ‘That was the curious incident,’ replies Holmes. You never hear anyone say: ‘We finally stumbled across a charming little petrol station nestling among the trees’ Along with Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘Unknown unknowns’, this is perhaps the most famous example of what you might call ‘perceptual asymmetry’. We mostly act instinctively based on what is salient, giving little thought to what is easily overlooked. It is hence surprisingly easy to change what people do simply by changing what they pay attention to. A

Going electric requires electricity. Who knew?

A lead article in the sober-sided New York Times is seldom funny. Yet ‘A New Surge in Power Use is Threatening US Climate Goals’ earlier this month cracked me up. Check out this sternly dramatic first paragraph: ‘Something unusual is happening in America. Demand for electricity, which has stayed largely flat for two decades, has begun to surge.’ Personally, I’d have headlined that article ‘Well, duh’ – perhaps with the subhead ‘Aw, shucks’. Lo and behold, when you push people to electrify everything in their lives – cars, cookers, heating systems – while bribing them to go all-electric with lavish government subsidies, it turns out they use more electricity. Who

Why you no longer need a driveway to go electric

Entrepreneur Jonathan Carrier reckons more people would drive electric cars if they had portable chargers in their boots. The electrical equivalent of a can of petrol. So he’s launching one. Called the ZipCharge Go, he claims it’s a design world first. There are portable battery packs that work with electric cars. Generally, these are designed for giant American recreational vehicles, some of which have their own solar panels, and if you search YouTube you’ll come across allegedly comic videos of people recharging moribund Teslas with petrol generators, but the Go has been designed from the off to charge vehicles, and has the necessary software to pair up with them. ‘The

What the Formula E ‘catastrophe’ teaches us about electric cars

I didn’t make it down to Valencia, Spain, for the weekend Formula E electric car grand prix. Long trips are more or less out of the question now in my Kona electric car, since Hyundai crippled the range of the battery pack to stop the car from bursting into flames. Not that I missed much. On the first day five teams were disqualified for having consumed too much energy, three cars came to a stop on the track, and others limped to the finish as best they could. Formula E superstar Jean-Éric Vergne completed the last lap at an average speed of just under 20 mph. Slower than my horse.

The good news on climate

As I watch the snow blow past my window, it’s hard not to scoff at the idea of a ‘climate emergency’. However, I’m probably in a minority. The idea that we are currently experiencing a dangerous deterioration in our weather has been pushed so hard, and for so long, that the man in the Clapham Uber is now thoroughly convinced. Those of us who have the time and inclination to look at the evidence for such claims, on the other hand, realise that they are largely overblown. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, where I work, has just published a review of the impacts of climate change and it’s a valuable

Green energy is a Dot-com bust waiting to happen

Scottish Widows is committed to net zero alright. For years, the endowment policy I had with it was worth pretty well just what I had paid into it. Although, on second thoughts, maybe Maria Nazarova-Doyle, head of pension investments at Scottish Widows, wasn’t referring to the returns on its policies when she said this week: ‘Moving to net zero will protect savings against climate-related risks and uncertainty and offer longer-term sustainable growth by accessing low-carbon transition opportunities.’ The firm says that as an interim target it wants to halve the emissions from its share portfolio by 2030. What exactly it means by this isn’t clear. I’m not sure my share

The Co-op Bank isn’t worthy of its name

We’ve heard a lot this week about infrastructure spending, and how much more will be needed if the UK is to achieve the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ that the Prime Minister seems to have sketched on the back of a pizza box. We’ve also heard that the Chancellor is looking at ways to squeeze billions for Treasury coffers out of the private pension sector. What we haven’t heard so far is a plan to join those two pieces of the economic jigsaw — by encouraging pension managers to become committed investors in infrastructure projects. There are signs of a small shift in that direction among local authority pension funds, but at

Denial is not a strategy, Prime Minister

The psychodrama in No. 10 is badly timed. The government has used emergency powers to ban meetings, church services and even family visits. A million jobs have gone since the first lockdown, with at least a million more to follow when the furlough money runs out. Children’s education was so badly set back by school closures that there are calls to cancel summer exams because pupils won’t be ready. Millions are facing financial ruin. A country looks to its Prime Minister for leadership. Yet the big announcement, made on the eve of the Brexit deal Boris Johnson was elected to deliver, is that he will ban the sale of new

Now the Tories must make it their mission to repair the country

The centrepiece of Boris Johnson’s speech to Tory party conference this year was his Damascene conversion to the merits of wind farms. Some people used to sneer and say wind power wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, he said — referring, of course, to himself, writing in 2013. Now, his post-Covid plan for Britain is wind farms powering every home by the end of the decade. But the Prime Minister was right first time. When he was dismissing wind power, it was eye-wateringly expensive and was forecast to stay that way for the foreseeable future. No one envisaged, then, how global competition and technology would force prices down.

It’s time for an honest debate about the true cost of going net zero

When the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) launched its report on the feasibility of entirely decarbonising the UK economy, we were told the expense involved was manageable. The CCC’s chief executive Chris Stark explained that the project ‘carried a cost – of one to two per cent of GDP – which was affordable’. His claims were noted approvingly by MPs during debates in Parliament on whether to enshrine a ‘net zero’ emissions target in law. While others complained about the lack of a clear cost-benefit case, CCC chairman Lord Deben put aside these concerns. He told the Lords: ‘the report has been recognised universally as the most seriously presented, costed