Saturday, October 01, 2022

No, EVs are NOT now as expensive to run than ICE cars

You read a lot of stuff from bloggers, or bad news reporters who think they have found a scoop, about how electric vehicles (EVs) are now just about as expensive to run as gas cars, if not more so. The latest such claim appeared in the Globe and Mails Report on Business this weekend.

The article specifically quotes research by British roadside assistance and insurance company RAC, which says that the research shows that charging costs in Britain have increased hugely in recent months (true), and that "the cost of driving one kilometres on battery or gasoline power is almost identical (false, see below).

What the RAC research actually shows, if you can be bothered to seek out the source and not blindly believe hacks with axes to grind, is that the recent huge increases in energy prices (and a fall in gas/petrol prices there) has indeed narrowed the gap. But the devil, as always, is in the details. The RAC's figures show that, if an EV driver exclusively uses commercial fast changers on public roads, they will now pay as much as 18p a mile, due to the recent (temporary?) huge increases in electricity and therefore charger costs. This is almost as much as the 19c price of petrol/gas per mile for someone driving a reasonably efficient gas car (rated at 40mpg).

It does also mention that, if the EV driver charges from home (and over 80% of EV charging is done from home), the cost would only be 9p per mile, even after the price increases. Also, this is all based on UK data, and the UK has a notoriously expensive power grid, certainly compared to North America, which the recent changes have only exacerbated.

This is, then, a far cry from the claim that EVs are now as expensive to run, as well as more expensive to buy, than gas cars. And if you also take into account the large savings on service and maintenance costs for an EV, the comparison is not even close.

"Justinflation" phrase flagged as agaist parliamentary rules, but Tories use it anyway

If you always thought that parliamentary politics and debate was a mite puerile, then the quality of the recent discussion in the Canadian federal politics is going to do nothing to dispel that belief. 

All the heckling, guffawing, cries of outrage, cheap shots, ad hominen attacks, and name-calling still continues, just as it does in many another parliament (just have a listen to recordings of the British parliament, for example). But a very specific example of made-in-Canada puerility has taken hold in Conservative circles and is proving hard to police.

Pierre Poilievre (well, it would be him, wouldn't it?) coined what he clearly considers a very clever phrase some time ago, when he called inflation in Canada "Justinflation", suggesting that the inflation we are currently experiencing here was manufactured personally by Justin Trudeau. This is despite the fact that the whole world is experiencing inflation, many countries much worse than in Canada, the fact that such across-the-board economic phenomena cannot possibly be attributable to one individual, however poweful and influential, and the fact that nothing Mr. Poilievre might have done, or have been able to do, would have avoided it. But nobody ever said that party politics was logical or even sensible, did they?

Of course, other Conservative politicians quickly jumped on Poilievre's bandwagon, and started using the "Justinflation" phrase ad nauseam. Tory MP Garnett Genuis (no, that's not Genius) managed to work in "Justinflation" three times in a single speech, so powerful and effective does he consider it.

Problem is, there are some very specific rules in Parliament that the first names of MPs should never be used, and that they should be referred to by each other's official titles (those are just the rules of the game: if you don't like them, don't go into politics). So, House Speaker Anthony Rota has cautioned MPs more than once not to use the phrase, as it contravenes the House rules  - you can imagine the booing and cat-calling that accompanied THAT ruling - lest they be found in contempt of the House.

Nothing daunted, the Conservatives have managed to use it over 100 times since last November. The rest of the Conservative caucus love it, and can be seen sniggering approvingly. They seem to think that this kind of petty schoolyard name-calling is effective political discourse. But who do they think it is being effective against? The Liberal Party? The general public (insofar as it is reported in the media)? I really don't know. I think they just do it for their own rather pathetic idea of fun.

Friday, September 30, 2022

To say mask-wearing is "not justified by science" is just plain wrong

Air Canada, for some reason, believes that the federal governments highly suspect decision to do away with the requirement for masks on planes and trains is "acknowledging that air travel is safe and that the measures were not justified by science". 

Cobblers, I say. The government has made a purely political and economic decision and kowtowed to the anti-masking, anti-vaccine lobby. "Science" doesn't come into it. The "science" is that masks are one of the few meaures available to us (and the easiest one at that) that can be effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, which is still rampant in Canada and in the rest of the world. 

Just because they think it benefits their own commercial interests (a dubious contention in itself - many people are now less likely to fly, not more) does not mean that it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ontario court's mysterious ruling on teachers of colour

Way back in 2019, the province of Ontario, in its wisdom, mandated a math test for all new teachersmandated a math test for all new teachers, regardless of what subjects they are to teach.

Now, whatever you might think to that particular idea conceptually (and I know what I think), an Ontario Divisional Court has ruled that the math test should be discontinued, not because it's a daft idea, but because they say it has "a dispropotionate effect on racialized teachers".

I don't know whether the court gave a little more insight into this decision, but I truly don't know what it means. Can people of colour not do math as well as white folks? Is this what they are saying? It's a bit of a mystery to me.

The government is taking its new math test for teachers to the Ontario appeals court.

US ratifies major international climate treaty - what?

Hardly anybody noticed and very few news outlets bothered to report it, but the US Senate ratified a major international climate treaty this week.

The Senate finally joined 137 other countries (including Canada) in ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol (what? and what?). Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer dates back to 1987, and was the international agreement to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that had been found to be destroying the ozone layer. It was one of the stand-out international environmental agreements of the 20th century. The Kigali Amendment dates from 2016, and calls for the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs have been widely used as replacements for the banned CFCs and HCFCs and, while they have next to no impact on ozone, they are potent greenhouse gases, hence the Kigali Amendment.

The US Senate voted to ratify it with bipartisan support (48 Democrats and 21 Republicans). Probably the main reason such a major ratification attracted such little media attention is the fact that the US has actually been effectively complying with the treaty since December 2020, even without having ratified it,  when the US Congress passed stringent targets for eliminating HFCs as part of an otherwise lame COVID stimulus bill. 

By some calculations, this is expected to eliminate the equivalent of 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (for context, this is more emissions than Germany produces in a year) by 3036, so yes, this is a big deal climate-wise, not so much the ratification, but the 2020 legislation that hardly anyone remembers. The ratification, however, is important too, as it keeps the legal regime underpinning the agreement strong for the future. Now, the three largest producers and consumers of HFCs - USA, China and India - have all ratified the Amendment.

Between this and the climate change elements of the poorly-named Inflation Reduction Act (which I have commented on elesewhere), the Biden administration could be said to be presiding over a mini golden age of climate change policy-making. Long may it last.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Extraordinary footage of post-tropical storm Fiona aftermath

Here is some fascinating footage of coastal dunes in Prince Edward Island before and after post-tropical storm Fiona passed through the other day, courtesy of University of Windsor Research.

The dunes, delicate ecosystems at the best of times, have been completely scraped up and scattered to the winds. It looks for all the world as though an almighty backhoe has been through and excavated the whole beach. Extraordinary.

In among all the economic damage, it's easy to forget the environmental damage of all these storms and hurricanes, particularly when they affect us so rarely here in Canada.

Fallout from Ukraine war takes on an environmental aspect

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already had many deleterious effects on the world, from runaway inflation to uncertain energy supply to famine in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. But now another major implication is raising its head.

The apparent sabotage of both of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the North Sea is leaking massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Most commentators are laying the blame on Russian actors, official or otherwise, despite the fact that it is also a shot in their own foot. The predictable Russian response, that it is sabotage by the USA or Germany (or anyone but Russia, really), is much less convincing.

It is hard to measure the amount of gas escaping from the pipelines, but it is likely to be the largest ever methane leak, and words like "disastrous" and "unprecedented are being bandied around by climate scientists. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and has a climate impact of over 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The Environmental Defense Fund has estimated that more than 115,000 tons of methane has escaped, equivalent to about 9.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, or emissions from 2 million cars for a year.

This is just one more disastrous effect of Putin's ill-advised exercise in empire-building. Europe, and the world in general, will be recovering from this for many years to come.

Monday, September 26, 2022

The fascinating (and unexplained) phenomenon of chain fountains

I seem to have missed it until my daughter pointed it out to me, but apparently chain fountains are "all over the Internet".

A chain fountain is a strange scientific phenomenon similar to the way in which certain polymers and even plastic beads will self-siphon out of a beaker, once given a start. But Steve Mould realized that, when metal beads are used instead of plastic, the chain actually rises above the pot before falling back down, in a kind of counter-intuitive anti-gravitational event.

In this longer video, as well as trying to break the world record for the highest recorded chain foutain, Mould (whose YouTube channel specializes in all sorts of of weird and inexplicable physical effects) attempts to give a layman's explanation of it without getting too bogged down in the physics and the math (roughly gravitational potential energy being converted into kinetic energy), but it seems clear that there are still some unknown forces acting on the chain, which has become known as the "Mould effect", so even the brightest minds have been unable to fully explain it.