The stock market is quiescent and it is time to ponder questions such as should I buy more BP shares and should I buy an electric or hybrid car? There is an article in the FT today on the rejection of resolutions focussed on climate change at the ExxonMobil and Chevron annual meetings. It said: “shareholders solidly rejected climate change proposals at the US oil majors’ annual meetings on Wednesday, scaling back support from last year and splitting with results at peers in Europe where resolutions related to global warming have won stronger support. Only 11 per cent of Exxon shareholders supported a petition calling for the company to set emissions reduction targets that would be consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. A similar proposal at Chevron received less than 10 per cent support”. See FT article here: https://www.ft.com/content/7faccadc-beef-4b10-be53-ae7aceaeafce
Resolutions on this subject at the BP and Shell AGMs were similarly defeated even though many institutional holders like to promote their green credentials.
Individual shareholders need to make up their own minds on how to vote on whether to put companies like BP and Shell out of business by stopping their oil development activities. Both BP and Shell argue for a transition to renewable energy at a pace acceptable to their customers and which does not impose unreasonable short-term costs and I agree with them. The transition to renewable energy for many purposes may make sense but for transportation carbon fuels have a very high energy intensity and the infrastructure to support electric vehicles means a high loss in the transmission system.
I have a pressing personal decision to make on this issue. My diesel-powered Jaguar XF is almost ten years old now and I like to buy a new car when they have done more than 60,000 miles as they get more unreliable and expensive to maintain after that. I don’t do many miles now so a somewhat smaller car might make some sense. But should it be an electric vehicle, a hybrid or a petrol/diesel one?
I think a hybrid is the best bet and have booked a test drive of a Toyota Corolla. They are self-charging hybrids but can only run a short distance on battery power so I am betting that petrol will be readily available for at least the next ten years.
I am surprised that Jaguar are still selling XF models but they do now have a petrol option and a “sportbrake” version which probably shows how well liked the car is but I fear that diesel will be discouraged by regulation soon.
They do sell all-electric models now but they are expensive and are bulky SUV style cars when I prefer smaller vehicles. Note that the environmental benefits of electric cars over petrol ones are quite marginal if you take the all-in lifetime environmental impact costs into account and the latest scare is that the heavier weight of electric vehicles is causing damage to our roads – thus explaining why there are so many potholes in our roads of late. The weight of current electric batteries is becoming a major problem while the production and recycling of batteries is a negative aspect not yet confronted.
Electric cars are cheaper than they used to be but they either have limited range or are expensive (£43,000 to £58,000 for a Tesla Model 3 for example, or over £70,000 for a Jaguar I-Pace).
Readers of this article can suggest alternatives for me to look at. Use the comment box below.
I could of course hold on to my current vehicle for another few years in the hope that Sadiq Khan changes his mind on the ULEZ expansion (my Jaguar XF is not compliant) or is not elected again next May. There are several strong contenders lining up to take him on. But I do so few miles within the ULEZ area (current and future) that it does not bother me much what the Mayor decides to do. Whatever he decides he is bound to be wrong based on his past decision record.
The following is an article written by Michael Simons on the likely impact of the ULEZ expansion on the incidence of asthma. It is a very good summary of the causes of asthma and the negligible impact that the ULEZ will have on it.
What Impact Would ULEZ Expansion Have on Asthma and COPD Cases?
The Mayor of London does not justify his plan to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone to outer London by referring to the official Integrated Impact Assessment1 projections – the Impact Assessment forecasts only very small health benefits – instead, the Mayor relies on rhetoric and anecdotal stories, mainly centred around asthma, and childhood asthma in particular.
So what is known about asthma in London in the context of air pollution, and particularly pollution by nitrogen dioxide, NO2, the main target of ULEZ?
The Office of National Statistics, responding to a freedom of information request, gave the following numbers for total child asthma deaths in London2:
Aged under 1
1 to 4
5 to 9
There are multiple known causes and triggers for asthma, so most of this tiny number of cases may not have resulted from air pollution anyway. For instance, hot weather is a recognised aggravating factor, and 2018 had a particularly hot summer, which might account for the higher number that year. While every child’s death is an individual tragedy, in the administrative context of a population of over 9 million, these numbers are vanishingly small, and so would be any marginal improvement from ULEZ expansion.
A 2022 report from the Imperial College Environmental Research Group3 presents estimates of the number of hospital admissions for asthma. It states that:
“ Exacerbation of asthma by air pollution is estimated to lead to around 700 asthma admissions from 2017 – 2019 in children in London, 7% of all asthma admissions in children in London. (Asthma admissions may have more than one cause e.g. air pollution may worsen response to an allergen.)”
This was over 3 years, so the average annual number was 233. Note that, as stated, this number accounts for just 7% of child asthma admissions. Note also that the headline announcement by City Hall of 3600 child asthma admissions in 2021/22 referred to all-cause admissions, not pollution-exacerbated admissions. (Asthma has many causes and triggers, including indoor pollution, mould, dust mite, household chemicals, outdoor pollution, pollen, cold weather, hot weather, and hereditary factors – see the Appendix). This is an important distinction to bear in mind.
The Imperial College report also gives an estimate of the percentage change in admissions per 10 µg m-3 change of pollutant concentration. For nitrogen dioxide, NO2, and children aged 0-14, this value is 3.9% per 10 µg m-3 (p11 of the report).
The likely reduction in NO2 levels from expansion of ULEZ into outer London is not clear. The Integrated Impact Assessment gives a reduction of 6.9% in emissions, and a 1.4% reduction in NO2 level when population-weighted. For simplicity and transparency in the arithmetic, we will illustrate the reduction in admissions expected from a 10% decrease in NO2 levels in outer London, well above those estimates.
Roadside levels4 (within 5 metres of a busy main road) of NO2 in October 2022 were 28 µg m-3, and background levels (away from busy traffic) levels were 19 µg m-3. Most residents in outer London live well away from busy main roads, so we will adopt an effective value of 22 µg m-3.
A 10% notional ULEZ reduction is a reduction of 2.2 µg m-3. Since a 10 µg m-3 reduction in NO2 level is estimated to reduce child asthma emissions by 3.9%, the ULEZ reduction in NO2 level will bring about a proportionate reduction in admissions of 2.2/10×3.9 = 0.86%.
0.86% of 233 gives a reduction of just TWO hospital admissions per year across the whole of London.
And note we are talking about hospital admissions, not deaths.
The numbers associated with the 15 – 64 year age group in the report are lower all round and give a much smaller result, so we will not report further on these.
For the over 65 age group asthma was combined with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) because it is difficult to clinically distinguish between the two conditions. In this case, the report estimates 900 admissions over the 3 years, or 300 cases per year. For COPD/asthma in the over-64’s the percentage change in admissions per 10 µg m-3 change of pollutant concentration was estimated at 1.42%. The same NO2 levels apply as before.
Applying the same process as above, the % reduction in admissions will be 2.2/10×1.42 = 0.31%. 0.31% of 300 = 0.94, or rounding up, ONE less admission per year across the whole of London.
The Jacobs Integrated Impact Assessment1 considered the decrease in health burden expected from expanding the ULEZ zone. It did not give estimates for asthma hospital admissions, only “incidences” (undefined). However it did give estimates for Respiratory Hospital Admissions, a term which includes asthma, and in Table 6-2, p73, it estimates that the extended ULEZ scheme would reduce annual London- wide hospital admissions from 2122 to 2086, a decrease of 26 cases or 1.2%.
A decrease of 26 cases across a city of over 9 million people is still a very small number. There are 33 boroughs in Greater London, so that averages out at less than one hospital admission fewer per borough per year. Again, a negligible benefit.
There appears to be no credible evidence that the expansion of the ULEZ into outer London would produce anything more than insignificant health benefits in asthma – or other respiratory diseases for that matter. We identify in this report three separate and credible sources which point to the negligible benefits which might be expected.
Vague statements and political histrionics about suffering children are a misleading way to inform public policy in this area. Proper analysis is required, especially when the policy carries heavy costs for society, as ULEZ certainly does. And these analyses point to ULEZ expansion doing effectively nothing for asthma.
The NHS information sheet on asthma states:
The exact cause of asthma is unknown.
People with asthma have swollen (inflamed) and “sensitive” airways that become narrow and clogged with sticky mucus in response to certain triggers.
Genetics, pollution and modern hygiene standards have been suggested as causes, but there’s not currently enough evidence to know if any of these do cause asthma.
Who’s at risk
A number of things can increase your chances of getting asthma. These include:
The FT and other newspapers have reported the threat of a legal action against big oil company Shell (SHEL) and specifically against its directors individually for failing to prepare for the risk of climate change. The threat is based on a possible breach of company law by not acting in the best interests of the company and not taking into account the foreseeable risks from climate change. Wikipedia reports that this is a “derivative” action where shareholders are invoking the company to pursue actions against the directors.
The legal action is being promoted by ClientEarth, an environmental campaign organisation and is allegedly supported by a few institutions. Shell lost a similar case in the Netherlands but it is appealing that decision.
Comment: We suggest this is an unwise attempt to get the courts involved in overruling the decisions of the directors. The directors are appointed to manage the affairs of the company in the interest of all stakeholders and they will be put in an impossible position if all their decisions might come under scrutiny in the courts. Judges are not qualified to decide on the merits of the business decisions of company directors.
In summary, this is a misconceived legal action and we hope the application for a hearing is rejected. Companies such as Shell and BP have already taken major steps to reduce their carbon emissions and to stay within the law of the land.
They not only provide oil and petrol which are essential for the next few years, but also provide a range of essential chemicals, plastics and fertilizers which cannot be otherwise created.
The Government is aiming for “NetZero” carbon emissions when they have not calculated the full cost or practicality of achieving it. It’s driven by sentiment not economics and belief in a false reality. The ClientEarth organisation is clearly being run and funded by extremists who have no understanding of the underlying issues.
There have been a lot of claims by Sadiq Khan about the deaths caused by air pollution in London so as to justify his expansion of the ULEZ but his claims are unsubstantiated by the evidence available.
I have a strong personal interest in this matter because my father died from lung disease (mesothelioma – a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos), my brother died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (a lung disease for which there is no known cause) and I suffered from asthma when young due to allergies to pollen and other things. Anyone who has suffered from asthma or seen people die from lung disease will know how distressing it is.
It is known that air pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms which I can confirm from my own personal experience but whether it can cause asthma is unclear. Even now I avoid walking behind London diesel buses! The onset of asthma can be triggered by many things and is a growing problem worldwide probably because of the change in lifestyles of the population and increased urbanisation. The largest source of air pollution is often in homes and offices and people spend more time in them and lead a sedentary life style as they become wealthier.
To attack air pollution in the hope that we can prevent all lung disease is misconceived. In particular to attack diesel/petrol cars in the hope of removing air pollution is a simplistic notion when there are multiple other sources of air pollution. If Sadiq Khan thinks he can cure his late-onset asthma (which he claims to have) then he is not living in the real world.
The air pollution sources in the UK in 2018 is given in the diagram above taken from a Public Health England report. Note that road transport only produces 12.4% of all PM 2.5 (particulate) emissions whereas residential and small commercial combustion produces 43.1%.
Note how over 50% of PM2.5 emissions in central London come from commercial cooking! That report also shows how emissions of particulates and NOX (nitrous oxides) have been falling rapidly across London. This is not just due to the ULEZ and Congestion Charge schemes which probably only had minor impacts but a general improvement in energy production, heating and industrial processes.
The Freedom for Drivers Foundation published this report in 2018 (revised in 2021) called “Air Quality and Vehicles: The Truth” – see Report . It provides a well-reasoned and unbiased analysis of the data unlike so many of the comments you see on this subject. The situation since it was published has no doubt improved even further.
There is simply no justification for extending the ULEZ scheme. The reduction in air pollution in Greater London would be miniscule – about 0.1% in the important PM2.5 emissions for example. Nobody is going to notice this and it won’t have any significant impact on health outcomes. See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/09/07/ulez-expansion-assessment-a-complete-fraud/ for the independent analysis commissioned by TfL (Jacobs Report).
There are many things the London Mayor and the Government could do about air pollution but expanding attacks on vehicle owners is one of the least beneficial in terms of cost/benefits. Reducing wood burning is one which the Government has recently tackled for example.
Removing air pollution might have some long-term health benefits although the likely benefit is uncertain. Removing all of it might extend life by a few days but to do that we would have to remove all road, rail and air transport, remove all domestic gas boilers, close down all restaurants, ban cooking at home, cease all agriculture, cease all new building and building renovation, close down most of industry, etc. How lunatic would such a policy be!
I am all for improving air quality where it can be achieved at reasonable cost and with no negative consequences. But expanding the ULEZ scheme will increase the cost of living for many people when they are already suffering from high inflation. It is simply unjustified and Sadiq Khan’s motivation despite his blustering about the impact on health is clearly motivated by financial imperatives.
The media reports on COP27 suggest we are all doomed as it is unlikely that we will keep to the target of 1.5 degrees of global warming. This is an unduly pessimistic outcome. A rise in temperature can actually be beneficial in many parts of the world, if damaging in others.
It is certainly sensible to try and reduce carbon emissions in the long-term but there needs to be a cost/benefit justification and a focus on countries that are the biggest carbon emitters – namely China, India, USA, and Russia. For the UK to aim for net zero makes no economic sense.
Meanwhile the UK Government has committed £11.6 billion to a “climate fund” to support a mix of energy transition, climate financing and forest and nature preservation measures. Some of these may be worthy objects but can the country really afford many billions on such projects when our own population is suffering from shortages of food and heating?
There is also a demand for “reparations” for the damage that has been caused by high carbon emissions that has resulted in floods and droughts. That is debateable to begin with and it ignores the benefits brought to the world by the cheap energy available from oil and gas. That has increased food production and enabled the world population to increase to a level that would otherwise have starved. See the book “How the World Really Works” by Prof. Vaclav Smil for the evidence on this subject. Reparations should certainly therefore be rejected.
I am certainly not supportive of the Just Stop Oil campaigners who are simply irrational and I will personally continue to invest in oil/gas companies but not in coal mining companies while I have been investing in alternative energy funds. Burning coal is a bad option in comparison with generating electricity from wind farms, hydro-electric schemes, solar arrays and other projects.
But we do need to reduce the world’s population if we are to improve the environment which is an objective most of the climate campaigners simply ignore.
How to stop the Just Oil Campaign who disrupted the M25 again today? One thing the Government could do to demoralise and undermine that campaign is simply to publicly announce that the Government will not be changing its mind and will continue to grant new licences for oil/gas production.
They should not just rely on tougher legislation and more active policing to halt such disruptive campaigns which I am sure the vast majority of people oppose. Those who think we can do without oil and gas are simply mistaken because they have not looked into the many uses of those products.
Yesterday the Government introduced the Energy Security Bill into Parliament. It is good to see that the Government continues to function after the recent political upheavals, but would it not be good to get back to some normality as opposed to the recent dramas?
The new Bill aims to:
– Boost Britain’s energy independence and security.
– Attract private investment, reindustrialise our economy and create jobs through new clean technologies, as well as protect consumers.
– Introduce new powers to help prevent disruption to fuel supply because of industrial action, malicious protests and on grounds of national security (comment: surely to be welcomed).
It includes new powers which will enable the extension of the energy price cap beyond 2023, shielding millions of customers across the country from being charged “unfair” prices as they call it. Or to put it another way – to protect consumers from the real world of market prices and hence making it uneconomic for some companies to operate in this sector. This is surely not a very “conservative” approach! There are better ways to subsidise household fuel bills.
The clear objective is to reduce reliance on imported oil and gas and encourage offshore wind farms, nuclear power generation and other infrastructure that we need to achieve carbon reductions although the growth of nuclear is still at a snail’s pace. It is certainly worth reading the document on the Bill’s contents and the associated British Energy Security Strategy mentioned in it.
But will any new Government back-track on the net zero commitment which has made for some very expensive (the public do not know how expensive) policies as regards motor transport.
Let us hope that any new Prime Minister does not get the job by promising more tax cuts. It’s clear that Government expenditure is rising by commitments in the Energy Security Bill for example and in many other areas when what is really needed is reducing the amount of our wealth that is spent by the Government. In the last couple of years we have had a quasi-socialist economy with more willingness to interfere in the economy by the Government. But civil servants consistently back the wrong horses.
What the country really needs is a period of stability under a competent leader who everyone can support.
Yesterday (28/6/2022) the Office of National Statistics released the first results from the 2021 Census in the UK. The population of England and Wales rose to 59.6 million which is an increase of 6.3% since the last census 10 years ago.
This substantial change which directly affects our quality of life was barely covered in the national media. More people mean more stress on housing provision, more vehicles on our roads and a bigger demand for health services (particularly as the population has aged – there are more older people and they are living longer). Some of the age increase can be blamed on baby boomers growing old.
The population increase has been concentrated in London and the South-East but older people have tended to move out of London being replaced by young immigrants (not just from overseas but from within the UK). The census data might also have been distorted as people tended to move out of central London boroughs to the country during the pandemic.
England now has the highest population density of all major European countries.
One major impact of more population is degradation of the environment – more air pollution and more waste. Here’s a good quote from Sir David Attenborough that is very relevant: “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people”.
What is the Government doing to try and tackle this problem? In essence very little apart from rather feebly trying to restrict immigration. The birth rate is forecast to fall, but there is as yet no sign of any reduction in the population growth. A growing population might mean a healthy economy but the shortage of housing, particularly in the South-East, has been a major factor in political unrest while the elderly are facing problems in getting medical treatment as the NHS is over-stretched to cope.
The Government is being distracted by many other issues at present in a reactive fashion. Such problems as food and energy security would not be a problem if the UK population was reduced.
Likewise the growth of population, particularly in London and the South-East, has put great stress on the road network. Population growth has zoomed ahead of road capacity which has barely changed in the last few years. This is a recipe for more traffic congestion.
The Government surely needs to be less reactive to short-term problems and look at the longer-term issue of excessive population growth.
You have probably seen in the news a campaign against SUVs with tyres being let down. This is undoubtedly a criminal act which should be condemned.
But it’s worth saying that SUVs are an irrational choice of vehicle except for the very few who have a very large family or need to transport a lot of goods. An SUV typically is shaped like a brick and has a large frontal area. Therefore it will have higher wind resistance and fuel consumption than a smaller vehicle. If you want a luxury vehicle with plenty of space inside you don’t need to buy an SUV. Even electric SUVs will have a reduced range over comparable smaller vehicles.
So my view is that SUVs should be avoided and they have certainly contributed to higher overall air pollution in the last few years. But attacking the vehicle or their owners is wrong.
While Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, plans to expand his ULEZ scheme, in Manchester there has been a very effective campaign against their proposed CAZ scheme. Mayor Andy Burnham is now back-tracking on the proposals.
Daily charges for the most polluting vehicles that don’t meet emission standards – HGVs, buses, non-Greater Manchester licensed taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) – had been due to begin on 30 May 2022 but will now not go ahead. The withdrawn legal direction would have led to charges for non-compliant vans, Greater Manchester-licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) from June 2023. Private cars, motorcycles and mopeds were exempt. Concerns about financial hardship for local people and the availability of compliant vehicles led the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester local authority leaders to ask government to lift its legal direction. Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities have until 1 July 2022 to work with government to develop a new plan that will clean up the air while protecting livelihoods.
The campaign against the Manchester CAZ has 90,000 supporters under the banner Rethink GM. Go here for more information: www.rethinkgm.co.uk and to register support. On the home page click “Forums” then “Register” with just your name and email. The web site also provides a link to an active Facebook page.
Meanwhile the London Borough of Bromley have shown that it is not necessary to impose expensive ULEZ or CAZ schemes to clean up the air (most of that borough is outside the London ULEZ scheme). A press release from Bromley reports that updated data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that between 2016 and 2019 there was a 23% decline in NO2 across the borough, a 19% decline in PM2.5 and a 28% decline in PM10 particulates.
Bromley claims to now be the “cleanest and greenest borough in London”.
Comment: Bromley has of course ignored demands for LTNs and road closures and is keen to keep traffic moving. But they have pursued positive initiatives such as electric bus trials. Unlike many Labour controlled boroughs in London they have taken a more empirical and less dogmatic approach to the air quality issue.
Readers are reminded that the London ULEZ did little to contribute to improvements in air quality so why is the Mayor wanting to expand it? See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/ . It will cost a great deal to install hundreds of new cameras to expand the zone and high operating costs, apart from the impact on residents who will need to buy new vehicles or pay £12.50 per day. Although the Mayor says he has abandoned the idea of a boundary charge for people driving into London from outside, the extra cameras will make it very easy to introduce such a scheme!
Matt Ridley has issued a great blog article on “How Global Warming Can Be Good For Us”. The author of many books on science which are all worth reading, he argues in his latest article that global warming is real, but so far it is mostly beneficial. The biggest benefit from emissions is global greening as forests expand and more rainfall means more land can be cultivated. But there are several other advantages which are ignored by the prophets of doom and popular media who prefer to report only bad news.
The current Government aim of achieving “Net Zero” at enormous financial cost with accompanying attacks on petrol/diesel vehicles and gas boilers is driving up inflation and making many people poorer. A more nuanced approach would be much wiser.
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