FOR years we have been told how wonderful electric cars will be. How they would be cheap to buy and run, how they would create gazillions of green jobs, how they would power our economy through the 21st century!
They were to be the poster child of the glorious green future waiting for us just around the corner, where we would all be much better off without all those nasty fossil fuels!
Bit by bit, however, things are turning out to be not quite as wonderful as advertised. The latest blow came last week when BMW announced it was moving production of its electric Mini from the UK to China, where manufacturing is powered by cheap coal. It is unlikely that BMW will be the last to make this switch.
This news comes on top of the financial crisis affecting Britishvolt, the major battery manufacturing startup which is said to be on the brink of collapse. A £3.8billion ‘gigafactory’ was supposed to produce batteries for 300,000 cars and vans a year and employ 3,000 people at Blyth in Northumberland. If Britishvolt folds, those 300,000 batteries a year will be imported from China, which already dominates the global market.
As with most products, we are learning the hard way that British manufacturing jobs end up going to China, not least because energy costs are much lower there.
Meanwhile the increase in electricity prices this year has meant that charging your electric car at home is now more expensive than filling up with petrol when the cost of fuel duty and VAT is excluded. If you need to use a public charger, your cost is even higher, making it more than twice as dear to run than a diesel equivalent, according to a survey by Parkers.
Electric car drivers continue to be heavily subsidised, which is probably the major factor behind their sales. Although subsidies towards the purchase of EVs have been discontinued, electric car drivers don’t pay fuel duty or vehicle excise tax, while VAT on electricity is only 5 per cent as opposed to 20 per cent for fuel. This works out on average of a saving of about £1,100 a year. On top of that, EVs are often exempted from congestion charges, and company car drivers pay an ultra-low rate of benefit in kind tax on EVs, typically worth around £2,000 a year.
The combined cost of all these subsidies to the government is already well over a billion pounds a year. And this amount could increase ten-fold in the next five years, if government EV sales targets are met. At a time when the public sector deficit is at unsustainably high levels, this is money that the Exchequer simply cannot afford to give away. Eventually it is likely that some sort of road charging mechanism will be introduced, but this will take years to implement.
In the meantime the government must bite the bullet, end the benefit in kind subsidy and start charging vehicle excise duty on all EVs at a rate of, say, £1,000 a year to make up for the loss of fuel duty. This will probably kill the EV market stone dead, and leave the 2030 target for banning petrol/diesel cars in the air. But the current economic and financial crisis must take priority over the Net Zero agenda.
Believing the Chinese lies
CHINA has always been the elephant in the room for climate alarmists. It produces a third of the world’s emissions, so people understandably are concerned that the UK, which produces 1 per cent, should be the first lemming over the cliff.
That is why those pushing the Net Zero agenda either ignore the elephant or lie about it. Take Lord Deben, aka John Selwyn Gummer, the chair of the Climate Change Committee, who said last year that ‘China was already doing a great deal to address climate change’.
But one of China’s biggest defenders is our old friend, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Telegraph‘s World Economy Editor, who regularly pushes the Net Zero agenda, but conveniently never tells us its costs and pitfalls.
In a recent article, Let King Charles go to campaign on climate as head of the Commonwealth, he wrote: ‘The US, Europe, Japan, China, and India are charging ahead even faster. Britain is in danger of being left behind in the global race for dominance of 21st century clean tech, sidelined in the biggest economic growth story of our times.
‘China is picking up that gauntlet, not because Xi Jinping is primarily worried about global warming, but because he is worried about losing this technological arms race, and worried about strategic reliance on imported energy. Carbon Brief says China is on track to double installed wind and solar to 1,200 gigawatts by 2026.’
Before anybody runs away with the idea that China is going to save the world, a quick check of the facts would be in order, with the help of three simple graphs based on data from the BP Energy Survey.
The first graph shows how CO2 emissions in China have risen by 30 per cent since 2010. It is not just China, as the rest of the Asia/Pacific region have increased by 24 per cent as well. It is a little-known fact that Asia/Pacific emissions excluding China are almost as high as the US and EU combined – 7,211 Mt v 7,429 Mt.
China’s emissions show no sign of abating, and even went up during the lockdowns of 2020. At the Communist Party Congress last week, President Xi announced: ‘We will work actively and prudently toward the goals of reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality. Based on China’s energy and resource endowments, we will advance initiatives to reach peak carbon emissions in a well-planned and phased way, in line with the principle of getting the new before discarding the old.’
Time magazine was blunt in telling us what this really meant: ‘Xi’s speech made China’s path to decarbonisation clear: It won’t stop burning fossil fuels until it’s confident that clean energy can reliably replace them. The speech shows more emphasis on energy security and the significant role of coal in China’s energy supply given the resources endowment, said Qin Yan, lead analyst with Refinitiv’. Xi knows full well that unreliable wind and solar power can never replace fossil fuels.
The second graph is even more telling, and it shows just how little inroad wind and solar power have made into China’s energy mix, contributing just 6 per cent. Double nothing is still nothing! The growth in fossil fuel consumption since 2010 is four times greater than wind and solar.
The final graph looks at the Asia/Pacific region excluding China. It shows a similar picture, with fossil fuel growth since 2010 six times that of wind and solar, which still only accounts for 3 per cent of total energy consumption. It is easy to ignore the rest of Asia and concentrate on China. This is a mistake, as fossil fuel consumption and emissions are almost as large as China’s.
Quite why Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is allowed to get away with writing this sort of nonsense week in and week out remains a mystery!