Opinions & Ideas

Tag: Climate Change

ELECTRIC CARS WIll COME AT A COST

Converting EU motorists from diesel/ petrol to electrically powered cars will be very costly.

It will also make the EU politically dependent on a new set of suppliers. Russia, and Saudi Arabia will be replaced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Australia, and South Africa for minerals needed to manufacture and operate electric cars. 

And, just as oil will eventually run out, these new minerals will also be in finite supply, although new reserves of them will be discovered to postpone that day.

Electric cars require Lithium. By 2050, the EU will have to import 35 times as much Lithium as it is importing today. At the moment Australia produces half of all global supplies of Lithium.

Electric cars require what are known as rare earths. 60% of known rare earths are now found in China and it is estimated that by 2050, the EU will have to increase its imports of them by up to 26 times. Given the deterioration of relations between China and the West, this could be a problem.

Cobalt is needed for electric cars and 70% old global Cobalt is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that has been invaded and wracked by civil wars for years.

Platinum is also needed and 70% of known reserves of Platinum is found in South Africa  at the moment. 

Supplying the global electric car industry will involve opening many new mines. Mining can damage local water supplies and damage the environment. It involves transfers of wealth which will be politically controversial.

Eventually, techniques for recycling minerals from used cars and batteries will become a local source of supply in the EU, and mines will prospected for and opened within the EU, although not without controversy and disruption.

The so called Green Transition to electric cars , and to renewables more generally, will involve a huge capital investment. This will mean a transfer of resources from other uses, including consumption . It will push up the cost of living still further. But it is unavoidable if we are to prevent a climate disaster. That said, it is important that the voting public are prepared for the changes involved and fully accept them.

“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE WATER”

I visited Washington this week and was here for an eventful week.

At a time when there is persuasive evidence that drought is causing a huge famine in East Africa. Yet the Trump Administration is announcing plans to scale back America’s already modest contribution to the battle against man made global warming.

Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, the US committed itself to cutting its CO2 emissions by 26/28% compared to 2005 levels.

The new Administration wants to increase fossil fuel production in the US.

The limitations on CO2 emissions by US power plants will be cut.

Coal production will be boosted .

One study suggests that the policy changes will mean that the US will only cut its CO2 emissions to 14% below  2005 levels , rather than  26/28% below as it had promised under the Paris  Accord.

Meanwhile in East Africa, lack of water is causing crops to wither and animals to die of thirst. I heard former Vice President Al Gore claim recently that a similar drought in the Middle East contributed to the start of the Syrian Civil War because of the hardship it caused. Lack of water leads to poor sanitation. This, in turn, leads to diseases like cholera.  This risk is especially high in camps, where climate refugees congregate.

A human being can survive for weeks without food, but can only survive for five days without water.

And global warming evaporates water. That is the price paid for  CO2 emissions in wealthy, water rich, countries.

As Isaac Nur Abdi, a nomad in Southern Sudan, said

“There is no such thing as free water”

A FAILURE ON HEALTHCARE

Meanwhile President Trump has had to withdraw his Health legislation because of a lack of support.

There is no doubt that US health policy is in need of reform.

It is exceptionally costly.

The incentives in the system are often perverse.  Over prescription of painkilling pharmaceuticals is generating major addiction problems.

The proposed reforms would have put some check on the open ended growth of the cost of Medicaid, a health programme for lower income families. There would have been losers from this.

But the cost of Medicaid has risen from $180 billion in 2005 to almost $360 billion today, but without any clear evidence that it improved health outcomes.

The cost of providing health care for ageing populations will eventually pose a threat to western democracies, because democracies have difficulty making choices in this field, as demonstrated again in Washington this week.

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