Climate clippings 69

1. Electric cars

you have about 750 million cars in the world today; you’re going to have about 1.3 billion cars in about 25, 30 years; and you can’t expect them all to be running on gasoline. There isn’t that much gasoline around.

Stan Correy has a look at the future of the car industry and our potential place in it on ABC RN’s Background Briefing.

Evan Thornley, who is behind Better Place, thinks our niche in the electric car future is in the larger powerful muscle car, where we have always been.

2. Transport for a rainy day

The Emcycle is a 3-wheel, tilting, fully-enclosed 500W pedelec weighing just 36 kg.

It can carry 144 kg, including the driver, perhaps ideal for delivering pizzas, flowers and small parcels. More electric bicycle than car it can drive on bicycle paths or in the traffic. It has nearly all of the comfort, safety and weather protection of a car.

Well, it’s still a concept. If you don’t mind being out in the weather you may prefer something like this 14 kg electric bicycle, which folds up into a guitar-sized bag.

3. Plenty of gas in China

Preliminary surveys showed that China has explorable shale-gas reserves of 25.1 trillion cubic metres, in theory enough to meet China’s gas needs for the next two centuries. “Technically recoverable” reserves were about 50% more than in the US, and enough to last 200 years. The Weekend AFR has a slightly longer version of the story, telling us that China Petroleum Corporation has shale gas at 20 sites and has launched a joint venture with Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to develop shale projects for the last two years.

4. Increase in worldwide drought

In the process of sorting out a dopey commenter at RealClimate, Tamino at Open Mind looks at the trend in drought. This graph was tendered in evidence of increased wetness. Problem is the graph shows the reverse. The Palmer Drought Severity Index spans -10 (dry) to +10 (wet).

5. Gas is not the answer

Joe Romm at Climate Progress takes a look work by Ken Caldeira and tech guru Nathan Myhrvold on the impact of switching from coal to natural gas and finds it a bridge to nowhere.

“…a switch to natural gas would have zero effect on global temperatures by the year 2100. “If you take 40 years to switch over entirely to natural gas,” he said, “you won’t see any substantial decrease in global temperatures for up to 250 years. There’s almost no climate value in doing it.”

“The most surprising thing we found,” lead author Nathan Myhrvold told me recently, “is that unless you switch to a form of energy that cuts emissions really drastically” — and he isn’t talking about any piddling 50%, either — “you basically don’t get any real effect.”

6. Skeptical science penetrates a university

When Ottawa’s Carleton University needed a lecturer to fill in on a second year course on “Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective” they appointed a mechanical engineer who happened to be a climate sceptic. A group called the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) had a look at the course materials and according to this account found 142 statements that were either inaccurate or misleading.

The course is not being offered this year, but over the previous three 1500 students were misinformed and misled.

Course instructor Tom Harris:

is executive director of an Ottawa-based group called the International Climate Science Coalition. His course featured guest lecturers from Carleton, the University of Ottawa, the University of Winnipeg and James Cook University in Australia, who are all on the coalition’s scientific advisory board.

38 thoughts on “Climate clippings 69”

  1. We’re probably screwed, and way sooner than we think. But this is a fascinating historical overview of why, and how the ‘distrbuted’ (decentralised) ICT revolution may prefigure a distributed energy revolution, which could save our butts.

  2. The graph to be found here
    is a useful look at petrol vs electric,
    Note that the efficiency for petrol is rather overstated as it does not account for city driving where the engine will run for long periods of time with no load. Permanent Magnet (PM) and Switched Reluctance electric motors have excellent efficiency /torque/power output characteristics. PM motors require very expensive and exotic materials that come from sand mining mostly.
    Unfortunately many of the home brew conversions use induction motors, and IGBT drives – these very inefficient by comparison.
    We are at the very beginning of this technology, batteries and in particular the Battery Management Systems (BMS) have a very long way to go.

  3. Brian, I just wanted to say thanks for your Climate Clippings series. I’m pretty busy these days and I don’t have time to dig into the news as much as I used to, so its great to have a regular summary.

  4. I would also like to thank you for keeping this going while you must be more than a little busy with the CSG stuff. While Joe Romm is reporting I would say responsibly on unconventional gas Andy Revkin at Dot earth is wittering on about how things are about to get much better with tighter EPA reg’s and better industry practice and by the way CCS is so much easier with gas than coal. No wonder Heartland think he is worth cultivating.

  5. The Jeremy Rifkin interview is excellent, the most comprehensive but accessible overview of climate change’s origin in globalization and explanation of the need for distributed generation I’ve seen.

  6. electric bicycles are already pretty common in Japan: you can rent them at the car rental shop near Kichijoji station, and I think they’re used by the Yakult delivery people.

  7. OK Lefty E @ 5. I didn’t hear anything in the program about the ‘effectiveness’ of sea-walls against sea level rise and king tides. My guess is that they are enormously expensive and ultimately fail. I wish I could be more positive about the future prospects for Sabai and other TS islands but like Tuvalu in the Pacific I can’t.

  8. A new paper in Science examines the geologic record for context relating to ocean acidification…The research group (twenty-one scientists from nearly as many different universities) reviewed the evidence from past known or suspected intervals of ocean acidification…They find that the current rate of ocean acidification puts us on a track that, if continued, would likely be unprecedented in last 300 million years.

    300 million years is quite a long time.

  9. #1,

    This bloke’s notion of an electricity grid inspired by the internet reminds me of an April fools joke Electricity over IP

    The document – RFC 3251 – is written in the style of other Requests For Comment – the standards that govern the operation of the internet and related stuff.

  10. Pablo – totally. I was more pointing out that parts of Australia are going underwater, now.

    What is the denialist explanation of these events I wonder?

  11. Perhaps encapsulated in that notorious Australian newspaper story quoting old surfies who said that had not seen any change in 30 years.
    My guess is that this issue is currently a bit of a sleeper wrt AGW but that it could change quickly with stories like the Sabai Island one.
    It’s a hip pocket issue as illustrated recently in Lake Macquarie where the local council has gone with the 0.9 – 1 metre expectation rise by 2100, as too has the equally watery neighbouring Gosford Council. A developer called a public meeting with invited deniers, Carter and Plimer the ‘expert’ panel. Got a big roll up with plenty of threats of legal action against Council, not to mention insurers. It will be interesting to see if this carries over to local government elections in September.

  12. Lefty E: I was more pointing out that parts of Australia are going underwater, now.
    What is the denialist explanation of these events I wonder?


    Re Lake Macquarie water levels, the results of the poll conducted by the local (Fairfax) paper :

    Q: Are you concerned about rising sea levels?

    Yes, we need to start preparing now

    Yes, but it will be decades before property is affected

    No, I don’t believe sea levels are rising

    Total Votes: 363
    Poll Date: 24 February, 2012

  13. don coyote, leaving aside the rigour (or lack of it) of online polls, what on earth do peoples’ opinions have to do with what is actually happening?

  14. DI(nr)
    I gather you have not read Pablo’s post 13:

    It will be interesting to see if this carries over to local government elections in September.

  15. Chumpai and Doug @ 3 and 4, thanks. CSG is driving me nuts right now, to be honest.

    On sea level rise, the problem with islands is that there is almost always something else going on as well, but it ain’t rain. It’s not the one I was looking for, but this graph collects some recent studies. If you look at the last four a midpoint is about one metre. A council would be stupid if they were planning for a midpoint outcome as the maximum.

    In Climate clipping 61, 4th item, I had a look at Hansen’s notion of 5 metres by 2010 and said why I thought it was extreme.

  16. don coyote, I had read that, but I still fail to see the real world relevance. Sea levels are rising, and the opinions of ignorant and ill-informed people won’t influence the rate at which it’s happening.

  17. the opinions of ignorant and ill-informed people won’t influence the rate at which it’s happening.

    Thanks for those words of wisdom. However, are you aware that they will affect the local council elections?

  18. don coyote, I guess the likely effect on the local govt election is that the current lot will be replaced by a bunch who’ll let the ignorant and ill-informed build in exceptionally stupid places. I’m still not clear what your actual point (assuming you have one) is.

  19. My check list for a commuter vehicle:
    1 Narrow enough for two to travel side by side safely within a single lane?
    2. Short enough to park head on to the curb in a standard roadside parking space?
    3. Doesn’t fall on its side when driven through a skid pan?
    4. Provides protection from the weather?
    5. Provides some protection for driver in the event of accidents and skids?
    6. Safe enough to be driven in normal traffic?
    7. Accident avoidance technology?
    8. Volume/weight luggage capacity? (Able to carry a weeks shopping?)
    9. Front or rear exits? (Allows very close parking – alternatively able to move into parking slot after driver gets out.)
    10. Suitable for weekend recreation:
    a Able to handle freeway speeds.
    b Powerful enough to pull a trailer carrying the canoe.
    c Plug in hybrid or whatever to make driving b’bane to sydney practical.
    11. Low energy consumption.

    There is a wee bit of nice to have in the above list. I would seriously consider buying a two person version as my next car.

  20. John D, that’s not a bad list, which people could use as a basis and vary to suit.

    I drive a Falcon ute and as such am reminded from time to time that you can’t sit two adult passengers in the cabin, without their legs getting squashed together.

  21. Brian, as an aside, I drive a ute with a bench seat (for reasons that elude me – the middle passenger would need to be a slender double amputee, given the position of the gear lever). Fortunately, I rarely need to carry more than one passenger.

  22. One of the fascinating things about the Emcycle is the material that it is made of. This will provide serious protection for the driver.

    The use of Tegris composite

    The key to the Emcycle’s remarkable weight and strength is its polypropylene thermoplastic composite Tegris monocoque chassis.

    Tegris is quickly gaining a reputation as being better than carbon fiber composite for many applications, along with offering irreplaceable material qualities to many new industries. It’s no accident. Milliken is one of those companies that makes lots of things you use, but they’re part of other products, and hence not branded.

    Milliken set out specifically to engineer a composite with lightness, stiffness and excellent impact resistance, at the request of the United States military. Its impact resistance is so good in comparison to typical thermoplastic and thermoplastics composites, that it is being used in protective clothing against fragment, projectile or blast threats, and in body armor against ballistic threats.

    The first product to be made entirely of Tegris is the Ultimate 12 Tegris kayak from Native watercraft – you’ll note that the product page specifically states: “Hammer strikes won’t harm this hull, so it can shrug off hard landings and rocky bottoms like nobody’s business. And yet with all that strength, the Ultimate Tegris tips the scales at just 36 pounds (16 kg).”

    Tegris is also the key ingredient in Panoz’s REAMS (Recyclable Energy Absorbing Matrix System) composite, which is used in making stronger and lighter racing automobiles.


    is a revolutionary 100% PP thermoplastic composite with excellent impact resistance and stiffness as well as a lightweight composition. Tegris is based on the PURE technology, which creates a highly-engineered polypropylene tape yarn with a highly-drawn core for strength properties within a lower melt polymer matrix for composite processing. Tegris is fully recyclable and safer to handle than glass-filled composites. Available in fabric or sheet stock, Tegris is ideal for panel or molded applications where impact resistance, stiffness and weight are primary concerns.Tegris (formerly branded as MFT), is a revolutionary 100% PP thermoplastic composite with excellent impact resistance and stiffness as well as a lightweight composition. Tegris is based on the patent-pending PURE technology, which creates a highly-engineered polypropylene tape yarn with a highly-drawn core for strength properties within a lower melt polymer matrix for composite processing. Tegris is fully recyclable and safer to handle than glass-filled composites. Available in fabric or sheet stock, Tegris is ideal for panel or molded applications where impact resistance, stiffness and weight are primary concerns.

  23. The Indians have upstaged the Europeans at the Geneva motor show with the release of their Pixel upgrade, the Mega Pixel. They score points for the shear audacity of proposing a hybride with a 900 klm range an 85 klm battery only range, integrated inductive charging system, and a 325cc petrol engine. If the Envia batteries are eventually deployed, although this is at risk with GM’s involvement unless GM signs up a global distribution arrangement with Tata as a trade off for access to Envia’s technology, the Mega Pixel would boast a 1000 klm overall range and a 160 battery only range. Very suitable for Australian commuter and intercity use.

    Apart fron that the Indians are demonstrating a healthy styling capability that will make even the Europeans and Japanese sit up and take notice. And not just exterior styling, their interior features are very attractive.

  24. Over the years there there have been a raft of proposals for commuter special vehicles that have simply not caught on. The vehicles are very small, easy to park but not particularly suitable for general driving. (The smart car has had a limited success because it can be used for general driving. Its lack of success may be partly related to its high price and high fuel consumption compared with other small 4 seaters.)
    The big attraction of the emcycle is that it provides the advantages of an electric bike with improved safety and protection from the weather. In terms of the John D family needs it could be attractive for doing things like going to nearby shopping centers and as the vehicle for park and ride. However, it has a number of limitations that would discourage its purchase:
    1 A normal bike (or many electric bikes) would be much more fun for recreation.
    2 Can’t be put on a bike rack to take on holidays or drive to bike tracks.
    3 Travel times would become an issue for medium length drives. Even if the vehicle ran at 25 km/h for all the trip it would take me 36 mins to drive the 15 km to the CBD (compared to 15 mins at 60 km/hr.)
    4 Unlikely to be allowed on freeways and use on bicycle tracks may end up being banned.
    In short, it would have limited use and would not replace any of the vehicles we own.
    Which brings me back to the list @23. What I really want is a “safe motor bike” that would replace our small car. Something that combines features of something like this “safe bike” and the emcycle.

  25. John D,

    I’m getting the notion that you did not bother viewing this


    It is a 24 minutes long video so I can see that might be a discouragement, but it is worth the effort for anyone wanting to be informed on the state of the industry for narrow vehicles.

  26. Bilb: And the point you are trying to make? I am well aware of the Nissan landglider but it is not clear whether Nissan is going to push it or whether some other concept is going take the lead – hence the comments based on the emcycle.

    It may help if governments start the process of setting out road and parking rules for narrow track vehicles as well as safety standards.

  27. The Huffpost features a speech by James Hansen where he asks the questions

    “What do I know that would cause me — a reticent, midwestern scientist — to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know?”

  28. And the point that I am making, JohnD, is the twenty or so other narrow track vehicular concepts that the video covers. The video is not about the Land Glider, it is about the Convergence of the Motor Bike and the Motor Car, as the commentator mentions in his opening sentence.

    Give it a go, get past our preconceptions and watch the whole thing. Then go back over your laboured comments above.

  29. And here

    is a pretty cool video of the Tata MegaPixel, not to mention the girl in the intro who does a spectacular thing with a spread of silk. I like everything about this vehicle except the leary grin in the front styling. Checkout the tight park exit turning circle. It is just a concept at this stage, but in the so presenting India has thrown down the gauntlet to the Europeans.

  30. The mega pixel could be a winner if it is priced right. Tata is also looking like a company that could really do something about congestion cars so maybe it will be a real starter with a narrow track vehicle.

    With innovation in general there are often tipping points that have to be passed for something to really take off. For example, there was a tipping point with flying when Australia decided it was better to fly immigrants here instead of using ships.
    The same with narrow track vehicles. Things like emcycle look like an extra vehicle. The tipping point for me is the point where a narrow track will replace our echo.

  31. The problem I see is with peoples reluctance to use special purpose vehicles. As soon as you “need” to tow something at highway speeds you’ve upped the power requirement to “unsafe in urban areas”. To me, the whole “narrow commuter vehicle” niche needs to be about something small and cheap enough that the 20% of the driving population who need high speed, high capacity vehicles will buy the commuter vehicle as well.

    Push the cost of one of the these “small commuter vehicles” down to $2000 and if it’s electric the payback period compared to public transport will be under a year. Ask most cyclists – if they want to do two very different things they often have two very different bikes. A second bike can be shoved down the back of the shed when it’s not in use and they’re cheap enough for most Australians to own a bike they never use.

    I have a velomobile, and if I added the 250W legal limit power assist it would struggle to cruise at 40kph unless I pedalled too. But it meets most of the requirements above, except that it’s significantly more reclined and retails for $6000 sans motor. Currently it’s awful for commuting because it’s slower than motorists, faster than cyclists, and it is heavy so start-stop traffic (or road designs) are exhausting. But if we had actual roads designed to allow me to cruise at 40-50kph without having to fight with 1000kg+ vehicles it would be fine. If we had a motor-commuter vehicle as described I’d want to ride the velomobile in their lanes…

  32. Then there is The Compact Urban Bump Car (CUB) an all-electric two-seater built for city driving. Specifically, it comes outfitted with five energy-absorbing bumpers: one for each corner of the car, and one for its rear. The panels are detachable and can be removed as needed.

    Fishman says she wanted to build a car “that copes with urban transportation problems such as driving in traffic jams, lack of space, parking problems and especially parking damages.”

    The car is 2.3 x 1.8 metres, carries two passengers side by side and comes with a number of interesting features.

  33. Moz: A new electric bike will cost a bit less than $2000, so, unless there are real savings from mass production I doubt that an emcycle or equivalent is going to leave much, if any, change from $5000.

    Some people will be willing to pay this much for an extra vehicle on the grounds environmental responsibility, an ability to actually park at a park and ride or whatever. Others may decide that an emway may be sufficient to replace the small family car while accepting that this decision may mean more trips in the larger car, use of public transport and/or taxis.

    For people like my wife and I an emway wouldn’t be an adequate replacement for the smaller car since we do a lot of traveling together as well as travel where the slow speed would be a major inconvenience. Replacing the small car with a narrow track vehicle would only become attractive if the narrow track could carry two people at highway speeds.

    We also have a larger car that we use for camping and expeditions that require the carting of canoes, bikes, etc. Replacing this car with a narrow track would be more difficult. However, but it may actually make sense to have the second narrow track and hire something bigger for major camping trips.

    Canoes and bikes would be a bigger problem because they are used far more often. The answer may be the purchase of toys that could be carried by the narrow track and/or trailers.

    I don’t accept the argument that

    As soon as you “need” to tow something at highway speeds you’ve upped the power requirement to “unsafe in urban areas”.

    Every car used in urban environments has enough power to be dangerous in the hands of maniacs. The big limit on trailers would be that the low weight of the narrow track would limit the weight of a trailer. The stability of a narrow trailer may also be an issue.

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