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Happy New Year, Free Parking at Hospitals, EVs' Relative Greenness

January 15, 2020

Peter Guest

Happy New Year, everyone. Deadlines mean that I am writing this before we have our general election and so I don’t know who will be governing Britain, if anybody, by the time that you read this. Based on the opinion poll positions and trend of the various parties, it seems that the most likely outcome will be no-change - that is a hung parliament with no party in control, Brexit not resolved, and absolute chaos. Oh, happy day.


Parking actually makes it into the hustings as Boris BOJO Johnson (our current PM, Trumps pick, and someone who could lose his seat), has announced that if re-elected he will make all hospital parking free. WHAT! Hasn’t anybody shown him a copy of the other Donald’s book? Free parking means taking money out of medical care, and I didn’t notice free buses, trains and taxis for the people who don’t have a car. Regardless of your politics, the man’s a bad joke.


About our health service, we still spend less than you and live longer than you, by the way. Well, as I have got older, I have finally started to use what I have been paying for, for all those years. I am diabetic, so I have my blood sugar checked regularly to see if I am dying. What happened last time managed to promote homicidal thoughts and had me reaching for a baseball bat. After the phlebotomist had sucked some blood out and sent me away, I got a text on my phone: “On a scale of 1-5 how likely was I to recommend ZZZ Family Health to a friend?” 


WHAT? WHAT? It’s a blood sample for Imhotep’s sake, not a restaurant or hairdresser. Who in the world says over coffee “If you need a blood test you should really go to ZZZ, they have really cute needles?” I despair.


Meanwhile, some more information about the realities of electric cars has come out of Europe. Hans Werner Sinn is Professor of Economics at the University of Munich and he has just published research into the relative “greenness” of different types of vehicles. Europe is rushing towards a future where the Internal Combustion Engine is consigned to history. By 2030, all European manufacturers must produce vehicles with an average emission of 59 grams of CO2 per Km. The problem is that is about half of what is possible with current technology. 


 CO2 was falling, but after Volkswagen’s cheat software “naughtiness,” the trend has reversed, as drivers swapped diesel for petrol which produces more CO2 than diesel. However, and here’s where it gets interesting, the EU assumes that EVs produce zero CO2. So, make half your vehicles electric and job done. Or not, according to Professor Sinn. 


Enormous amounts of fossil fuels are used in places like China, where the batteries are produced, but this doesn’t figure in the EU sums, presumably because China is on another planet. Further, based on the current mix of German power generation sources and comparing like with like, the EV actually produces more CO2 than the diesel. Other research in Austria has shown that in their environment an EV would have to travel 219,000 KM before an EV would be less polluting for CO2 than a diesel equivalent. However, since the batteries are expected to last for about 180,000 km it doesn’t work. I have commented before on EVs and particulates and the environmental mayhem that Lithium mining is causing.


Don’t get me wrong, I realize that we have a problem and something needs to be done; but trying to fix a problem by making a change that you know will make things worse and then simply ignoring the inconvenient truths to push your agenda, is bad science, bad politics and inevitably bad for the planet.


Uber isn’t doing too well, is it? It was launched with the surprising sales pitch that “it would probably never make a profit”, which to my simple mind is a very good reason to run screaming to the hills. After an initial honeymoon period when the shares rose by about 10 percent, they are now down by about a third from their launch price. 


To add to their woes, London has finally, and inevitably pulled the plug after once again finding Uber have come up short on their security. London hasn’t exactly been starstruck with Uber from day one and it seems that the problem has been the probity of the system, with the regulators finding problems that Uber then fixed, rather than Uber adequately stress testing its own systems. 


Uber is appealing and probably will end up going to court to fight the license refusal, but Transport for London has a pretty good track record with things like this and why would they want to perpetuate such a problematical arrangement when many other businesses seem more than happy to meet their requirements from the start? I saw in the paper today that, following the London decision, the authorities in the other UK cities where Uber operates are studying the London decision closely and, in Manchester at least, they are likely to follow the capital’s lead.


A few days ago, I visited the fair city of Southampton, something that I hadn’t done for a number of years. My trip was to go see a museum which was dedicated to the region’s aviation heritage. It’s a small building with no parking, but that’s alright, the street outside had pay and display meters with a reasonable charge and wasn’t very busy. It all looked good, clear instructions on the meter and the option of coins, wave and pay credit card, chip and pin credit card and pay by phone. 


So, Machine 1 won’t take coins and tells me to use wave and pay, but will not see my card, and when I try and use the chip and pin, it still tells me use wave and pay. Machine 2, the same, coin slot resolutely refuses to open for cash on either machine. Machine 3 on the other side of the road goes through the same folderol, but just as I am about to give up, after a long delay, it finally decides to allow chip and pin. 


I really do think that after two and a half tries, I would have been within my rights to walk away. If the city maintains its kit so badly that I have to make nine attempts to pay at three separate machines using three different types of payment before the system will work, they have surrendered the moral right to issue a citation.



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