Are Electric Vehicles the Answer?
Global warming is a fact of life today, and many column inches of newsprint have been written how we can become carbon neutral – Green. Sadly for the world, the new Green is in the hands of big business interests rather than the interests of the planet, and we who live here will have little input in that, well, a part that is, for the bill.
Electric cars are being promoted widely as our saviour Zero Emission, electric cars sales have now surpassed 2 million globally. There is plenty of choice for the buyer, Toyota, Chevy, Tesla,
BMW, VW ……. focusing on luxury, high performance, the marketing model for cars has not changed, and at the end of it all we are still buying cars, we are still buying status symbols. The words “Zero Emissions” may be a good selling point, but are electric cars any more environmentally friendly than the big American gas guzzlers, once the manufacturing process for the vehicles and their batteries are taken into account?
Electric cars rely on regular charging from the local electricity network, which in today’s world is a long way from being emission-free. The big polluters, China and America still depend heavily of generating electricity from coal-fired power stations, where the power from their electric cars come.
Greener power is on the way, solar and wind power will reduce the need for coal and gas fired generation, so will be Greener, right? Most people recharge their electric cars overnight, problem, the sun does not shine at night and winds do not always blow and we have not as yet the ability to store sufficient surplus electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing strongly.
The cheapest power is not the greenest power, the cheapest power at present is from hydro, and nuclear (although nuclear is a double-edged sword, when you factor in the cost of decommissioning). Hydrogen, generated by electricity generated by wind and tide and wave could in the future be a possibility, but as yet still in their infancy.
Are electric cars the answer or are we simply exchanging one problem for another, are we in fact looking down the wrong end of a telescope?
I read recently that America is to spend billions of dollars updating an ageing highway network (mostly concrete) that is past its sell-by date. All to run those new zero-emission cars on, how do they square that with zero-emission driving?
How Green is Green (Part Two).
I asked the question about electric cars in part 1 are electric cars really green when you take the manufacturing costs and costs of material exploration and extraction for their manufacture, especially the batteries?
“Greenland may have said “no” to oil and gas, but its vast mineral wealth is up for grabs as the world’s biggest billionaires invest to claim metal reserves needed in the manufacture batteries.”
August 10, 2021, the Guardian.
The reason given for Greenland suspending offshore oil exploration was the dangers of climate change, (although after 50 dry holes drilled you may say it was because no oil was ever found there). Now Greenland has opened itself up to mineral mining, mainly those minerals used in the manufacture of batteries and other components of electric vehicles.
Bluejay Mining and KoBold Metals have formed a joint venture backed by American billionaires (Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezon and Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates is the principal investor in the privately held KoBold) with an investment of $15 million to explore (and if found) exploit Greenland for nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum (Cobalt is essential in the manufacture of electric car batteries).
“Greenland’s Ministry of Mineral Resources announced on 15th July (2021) that Greenland remains committed to developing the vast mineral potential, but that it was in the process of drafting legislation to ban exploration and extraction of uranium, and that the country would also no longer issue licenses to explore for oil and gas”
Well that all right then, we get our electric cars, not gas guzzlers, so global warming fixed, really?
In December 2020, Greenland opened three new offshore areas for applications of oil and gas exploitation licenses: Buffin Bay, Disko West and Davis Strait.
However, in April 2021, Greenland’s current government, led by the Inuit Atagatigiit party, was elected on a pledge to mitigate climate change, (now where have I heard that line before? Em, oh yes, I remember, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, who still wishes to extract oil from the seas around Scotland). Greenland is the world’s largest island, home to a population of 57,000 and though semiautonomous, depends on Denmark for two-thirds of its state budget.
Now you can not blame a country that is dependent on another countries handouts to keep it afloat financially, to want to exploit any natural resources it may, or may not have, in helping close its financial black hole. But this is not about Greenland, it is about Global Warming and electric cars that are being promoted by manufacturing companies and governments as our saviour, Zero Emission cars. Is this really a step in the right direction?
So for the final time, I ask How Green is Green?
Now I have said something about forestry in the past but worth mentioning again – are we going in the right direction on Global Warming.
A quarter of Estonia’s forestland is at imminent risk from a major logging increase, aided by “flexibilities” in EU rules that the Baltic state championed. Climate Home News.
A decade ago you could not get a mortgage on a house that was built by anything other than them employing traditional methods of building, no-fine, timber frame, were two such construction methods that came under such definition. So builders built with bricks and mortar. There has been a big turnaround in that time, now the main form of housebuilding around the world is timber-frame, many built within a factory system and transported to site as a complete package, fully fitted out with first and second fixings.
The demand for construction timber has soared (as has the price) – where does this leave Global Warming?
The scars of clear-fell are plain to see across Estonia,
the demand for wood is already changing the landscape. Logging in Estonia’s has tripled in the past decade. The European Commission expects Estonia’s forests to become a net carbon source by 2030, rather than a sink, as they are today.
Before, when forests were managed, the pace of change was slow, trees were planted as trees were removed. But modern commercial forestry is different, you do not select trees to cut, or plant and cut on rotation, you send in a harvester, capable of cutting and stacking 1000 trees per day, seven days a week – 365 days a year. That is a lot of trees, this is clear-felling, on steroids.
20 per cent, or Estonia’s great forests have already been clear felled, regardless of thickness. They say they do re-plant as they go, but replanting will never keep up with the large volumes cut down. And regeneration will be counted in decades. Once the country bristled with pine. Aspen, spruce and birch, all flourished under Soviet rule. Something is changing in Estonia’s hinterland today. As small forest owners, (mostly elderly) are selling off their forests to the big companies for 50 to 60 euros a tree. Clear felling in this way it will take 80 years to get the forest back.
Estonia has the EU’s second-most intensively farmed forests (after Belgium), with logging making up 91% of forest activity. It is also the most carbon-intensive country – dependent heavily on shale oil for its electricity.
To meet EU green targets, the Baltic state burns biomass for the vast majority of renewable energy – 96% in 2012 – and more will be needed by 2030. A billion-euro “biorefinery” is due to open in 2022, it will be churning wood into pulp for applications including power generation.
This will cause a catastrophic spike in deforestation under the banner of Renewable Energy.
UN climate science reports that the EU’s plans would increase global warming for decades to centuries, even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.
We have been here before and still, lessons go unlearned. By 1850 the uses of wood for bioenergy helped drive the deforestation of western Europe even at a time when Europeans consumed relatively little energy. (the great forests of Scotland all disappeared around that time, the wood used as fuel, pit props, the land cleared for sheep). Coal saved the forests of Europe, but is the solution to Global Warming to go back to wood burning? Hardly.
“Of course people have problems with clear-cutting”
Said, Marku Lamp, the deputy chancellor of Estonia’s environment minister.
“This is something that we must address more by (explaining) what is behind those forests management practices and why we need them…. We also have a really clear obligation for forest owners to reforest their clear-cut areas” lamp added.
Well, that’s all right then. When the forest has gone along with the present owners, cash in their pockets from the sale of the forest, what then minister?
We are so hypercritical, calling out the people of the Amazon Rain Forests for cutting down the worlds largest carbon sink, yet turning a blind eye to what is going on in our own backyard.