The Blog of Zak Spade
September 2021 Archive
My Other Writing
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Thursday 30 September, 2021
E-vehicles are going to save the world. They will be solely responsible for the removal of all pollution and greenhouse gases. There will be no more man-made toxins produced which will kill our planet.
That’s one view.
Another is that the electricity required to power our green transportation will need to come from somewhere. That might mean restarting a few coal-fired power stations so as to make sure we don’t deny electric kettles the electricity they require. Imagine society breaking down because kettle owners find they are unable to make tea or coffee when their televisions are off due to a power outage.
Not to worry, governments around the world have huge projects in place to generate electricity from the wind, waves or the sun. Renewable energy for all!
Except they haven’t. Yes, there is lots of talk about it and one doesn’t need to travel far in developed countries before seeing giant turbines slowly turning on the horizon or in a field adjacent to whatever road is being used.
In the UK, almost half of our electricity now comes from renewable sources. Wind alone gives us nearly a quarter of our needs. By the time we are all driving around in e-cars, the total will be 100%.
Or maybe not; or at least not in other parts of the world.
Currently China produces more electricity than does the USA. The growth in demand has rocketed alongside the expansion of the Chinese economy as it heads towards domination of the world’s manufacturing market. In fact, having passed the USA’s electricity output in 2011, China now produces more electricity than the USA, India and Russia combined.
Over half of that electricity is produced by coal-fired power stations...
So, while one part of the world strives to reduce pollutants, another adds more. However, don’t allow yourself to be mired in a China Vs The-Rest-of-the-World argument. It is a much wider issue.
Imagine you are a medical doctor working with an organisation such as Médecins Sans Frontières and are located in a remote area miles from an adequate power supply with which to charge the batteries on their e-4x4. Or that emergency dash to the nearest big town to save the life of a mother and soon-to-be-born baby can’t be made because their 4x4 e-ambulance needs to be tied to the solar cells outside the village a bit longer.
Except it is night-time and that ‘bit longer’ doesn’t start until the sun comes up.
Any argument along those lines that one wishes to make against e-vehicles pales into insignificance once the scale of the toxic metals and chemicals required to manufacture one of them is multiplied up by the number of those nasty hydrocarbon burners currently in existence and destroying the Earth.
There are well over 30 million licensed vehicles on the roads of the UK.
Now, let us assume that the number remains static so the number registered when new is matched by the number which is taken off the road. In 2020 there was a dip in new car sales to 1.6 million. It was 2.3 to 2.5 million in each of the preceding three years. Before then you have to look back to 2009 to see new sales drop below two million.
I don’t think it would be unfair to suggest that we are likely to see two million new cars being added to our roads each year. That would mean decommissioning two million electric cars each year in the future – assuming things remain as they are and car ownership doesn’t increase in line with population expansion.
Disposing of the materials that go into making an e-vehicle isn’t easy. Now multiply the difficulty by at least two million.
I forgot to mention and emphasis the fact that the number referred to is specifically regarding passenger cars and does not include commercial vehicles of any size or shape.
That’s a lot of batteries and stuff to get rid of each year, and a lot of electricity to be generated. It is a hugely bigger matter than the current situation being addressed. Remember that very few e-vehicles have reached their end-of-life.
The crazy thing is that we already have facilities to ecologically dispose of ‘normal’ vehicles. It is tried and tested, and it works when policed properly.
Now, the next time you are out in your car, play this little game. I call it, Spot the SUV with Just the Driver in it.
Look at how many different types of combustion-engine car you can buy. Quite how it can be legal to buy something that returns 7mpg when on the School Run, I just don’t know. Imagine it only legal to produce a car to a set design. It is entirely possible to produce a low emission vehicle which could attain 40mpg in town and carry five people.
Mind you, it would probably barely reach 100mph. It wouldn’t manage 0-60mph in less than 12 seconds. That said, it wouldn’t add any appreciable time to your journey, given the speed limits which exist. Nor would it be jostling for the title of Top Planet Killer either.
What if the only choices you could make were colour and size (small, medium or large)? What if everyone used the same tyres? What if everyone drove a vehicle with the same emissions as everyone else?
All manufacturers could make cars which would be cleaner, but they’d never sell them when pitched against the overweight, accessory-laden fuel-guzzling, electronic gadget peppered cars that fly out of showrooms these days.
Picture a world in which it was illegal to manufacture a car that could reach 150mph and only do 7mpg, or less when trying to reach that top speed! No cars weighing so much that they caused even greater pollution through a need for frequent road repairs.
Forget introducing an arguably flawed solution. Just stick with what is known and understood. Legislate against vehicular obesity and excess. Make laws that allow the manufacturer of a lean, mean, clean but low performance car much more attractive than the planet-destroying mega-car that takes up two car parking bays at your local supermarket.
Ask yourself this when you next look at a shiny megalith of a car, Do you desire it or do you need it?
Perhaps making it only legal to sell what we need rather than what we desire would probably remove the drive toward eventually poisoning the planet with crushed e-cars in the future...
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Tuesday 28 September, 2021
D-Day approacheth. I’m not sure that everyone, or indeed anyone in power, has faced up to the possible fact that it is bearing down upon us like an increasingly rare HGV as we walk across a motorway.
Remainers keep harking on about how the UK HGV lorry shortage is the fault of Brexit. Brexiteers argue back that the UK is suffering from the effects of Covid-19. Both sides seem unaware of the fact that across Europe there is an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 lack of HGV drivers. Poland – when looking at the size of its population in comparison with the UK – is particularly hard hit.
It appears ironic that the traditional suppliers of labour, and a potential solution to the HGV lorry driver shortfall, seems to be suffering more than the UK.
Of course, there are some who do see the bigger picture. They are aware of the Europe-wide problem. However, those who are determined to argue for a case regardless of the facts then claim Brexit is still to blame because it upset the HGV driver apple cart.
And let’s not concern ourselves with the truck driver shortage in the good ol' US of A. The current deficit runs to around 50,000 to 60,000 drivers with the number predicted to be around the 100,000 mark by around 2023.
Interestingly, in Australia there is said to be a 61,000 vacancies. Or rather, there were. That figure comes from 2019, before Covid-19 was a twinkle in a bat’s respiratory system.
A worldwide shortage? And before Covid-19? Really? What’s the connection to Brexit?
Naturally, there is no connection. What is really concerning is that the data for the issue are easily found and the picture is easy to see and understand. So why are we reading and hearing so much about how Brexit or Covid is to blame?
Read and listen carefully. None of the ‘reputable’ media are claiming any connection with Brexit although some do allude to a Covid cause. However, they happily give voices to those who are making the claims and then they trade upon the hysteria created.
Think of it like this: run page after page of scientific reports from flat earth believers and create readers and listeners wonder whether the world really could be flat after all given that so many people are claiming it.
But, regardless of one’s beliefs over Brexit or the effects of Covid-19 upon driver training and tests provision, the fact is that there is a driver shortage. The ridiculous and panic inducing reporting is blinding everyone to the most important question which isn’t actually, Why?
The shortage it there. The job doesn't pay well enough to attract people. The stress attached to the job is having older drivers retire quicker than new blood can be brought in.
So, what to do?
Remember the argument many years back for getting lorries off our roads and transporting stuff across the country by train? The idea was to use smaller vehicles from rail distribution points and reduce our reliance upon the dirty great articulated lorries for which we presently cannot find drivers.
It was a simple idea which Big Business deemed too expensive. So now the choice appears to be this: invest in drivers or invest in rail transport. Note that the word, invest appears twice.
Unfortunately, the idea that Big Business would stoop so low as to reckon on investment meaning something good for society rather than purely their bottom line is so ridiculous as to make me stop writing lest a rich and well off Fat Cat sends me a nasty email...
Monday 20 September, 2021
C is the third letter of the Latin alphabet. As such it could reasonably expect to find itself on a victor’s rostrum. However, who remembers those who come third?
That said, where would we be without the letter C? So many interesting and useful words are started by C and the English language would be far poorer for its loss. For instance, take, circus, circumference or circumcision. Three words covering entertainment, mathematics and possible trauma.
Also, words that could use an S instead.
Okay, what about cat, cook or catch? The joys of pet ownership, eating, and playing.
And words that you could start with a K.
Maybe C would prefer to be forgotten.
Friday 17 September, 2021
Be careful! That's the label that should be appended to all social media. Thoughts about to be Posted ought to attract a banner asking if one is sure that what has been written is to be committed to the Internet.
Emma Raducanu won the US Open in fine style recently. Many people took to social media to congratulate the success of a British player.
And British she is. Brought up in the UK - educated in the UK - trained in the UK - holds joint Canadian and British nationality, but regardless of the joint aspect, she has lived a full and exclusive British life.
In an attempt to raise the fact that many of those who were proud of Britain having produced a great winner are the same who are seemingly wish to bar any and all immigrants to these shores, I pointed out, via a response to a social media Post, that her parents (Romanian and Chinese immigrants to Canada) brought their child, Emma as a two-year-old onto Britain, which makes her an immigrant.
It raises a technicality which many crowing about her success (usually the mainstream/tabloid media) are happy to overlook as they gleefully report and support arguments for the banning of any sort of immigration to the UK.
The problem is that Posts tend to be rather immediate. It was taken as being rather a negative viewpoint about her success.
I certainly hadn't any intention of knocking her or the success of the British teenager.
In an attempt to dig myself out of the hole I had inadvertently dug and fallen into, I sought to clarify my argument. Instead of doing so it looked like someone trying to justify a stance which wasn't justifiable.
The episode taught me something about myself: I am far better at putting forward a cogent argument or point after some thought but am rather poor when doing so as part of a virtual conversation.
Was I being negative about Raducanu? Not intentionally. The thrust of the original Post was induce naval gazing amongst anyone who fell into the anti-immigrants/Raducanu supporters group in a manner I thought would hit home without having laboured the point.
Whatever I write for publication is read, re-read, edited, re-written if required, edited once again, and finally slept on before submitting to whatever publication I am in favour with any particular week. Subtlety is not something I excel at when thinking on my feet, obviously...
Tuesday 14 September, 2021
Possibly the start of a journey. Guides exist that describe such treks as A to Z experiences. Indeed, we have all heard of the London A-Z.
However, what if there are more than two points in one's travels? I suppose it might still start with A and include additional letters to denote points along the way.
But what if one were to travel to a starting point agreed among multiple travellers?
"We'll all meet up at <place> and go onto <destination> from there!"
I'm sure we've all been there. Would the resulting journey be considered B to Z, or should it be counted from one's own start? What about the others in the party? If they all referred to the place from where they set out as A then multiple places would be seeking to lay claim to being A, and it just wouldn’t do.
The whole premise may come across as waffle, but think for a moment on how inexactness in communication gives lawyers a career and all your money. The argument over whose A is the A meant by someone who wants to pay a great sum to the owner of A is a question which will line someone’s pockets handsomely.
From that it might be said that the only true A to Z is the path taken by your money to someone who practises the art of argument.
Thursday 9 September, 2021
I have had the misfortune to be required to drive from my small town to the much larger affair nearby during the morning rush hour these last two days.
It hasn't been pretty.
I tend to work out how long it will take then add a bit to allow for me being laid-back over the whole thing and I try to anticipate potential points of congestion. Generally I arrive without being late, nor flustered through having had to drive like a fool to arrive in time.
It also means it is relaxing enough so I am free to be entertained by the shenanigans of others who seem to have timed their trip to the minute and seeming cannot afford to be delayed by a single second.
One driver hurtled up a dual carriageway - chopped lanes as if undecided whether to tuck in behind another car, or hold up the much faster BMW doing at least 90mph, and then, once appearing to have decided to hog a lane on the outside they dived across the lanes so as to barely make the slip road off said dual carriageway. Such guys are always entertaining.
In the past there have been equally entertaining socially inadequates providing my smiles.
The big 4x4 that came around a large roundabout at great speed and was confronted by a 7.5 tonne lorry. Maybe he should at least indicated if he wasn't minded to take the blind approach at something approaching 45mph.
Then there was the geezer in the Merc who pushed his way to the front of a double queue of vehicles trying to navigate a busy roundabout and who then pulled over, blocking one of the lanes, so he could make a telephone call...
There have been a great many more entertainers of the highways who have given rise to much mirth and jocularity over the years.
However, the funniest ones are those in distinctive vehicles which blast past me - usually overtaking on/approaching/exiting a roundabout and seven or eight miles later are passed by me because they picked a bad lane to be in because of not watching four or five cars ahead.
That last type is always funnier if they had hared off into the distance in the first place at high speed and I haven't gone over 55mph at any point...
Tuesday 7 September, 2021
For a while now drivers across the country have been labouring under the misunderstanding that speed - sorry, safety cameras are there to catch anyone who travels faster than the speed limit on any particular stretch of road.
Not around here.
I have a theory. Speed (again, I apologise), safety cameras are on the roads in and around the area in which I live so as to identify and reward anyone who comes close to the speed limits.
The whole of the town centre is set to 20mph. The only people who get close are the pilots of the low flying helicopters and aeroplanes that plague the town.
Saturday 4 September, 2021
For various reasons, I had cause to visit the loo in the wee hours. Did you see what I did there?
It was around two-thirty. That's the two-thirty that comes after midnight and not the one in the afternoon.
It was dark outside, as is fitting for such a time in this part of the world. It was quiet. Nothing moved and nothing stirred. Except that I'm fibbing.
Through the open window of the bathroom I could hear the sound of a dog barking in the distance. It was quite a way off and I would never have heard it were it not for the fact of my nocturnal activity. It was quite faint, but I couldn't help but think that whoever lived nearer would be somewhat upset at the barking if it had woken them or kept them from sleeping.
Then I heard the man's voice.
For ****'s sake! Shut the **** up!
It was equally far off and faint, rather suggesting that it was the same location as the dog.
The dog came back in the only way it seemed to know - it barked some more.
Shut that ****ing dog the **** up or I will ****ing shut the ****er up for good!
The dog barked.
If you you don't shut that ****er up, I'll ****ing have the Old Bill here to shut the ****er up!
The dog barked.
Given the apparent distance and volume, it seemed to me that whoever was filling the air with expletives was doing so at a volume which was destined to have the 'Old Bill' over there, but not to deal with a barking dog. Instead they would be attending to a call out to address the extremely loud, abusive and vulgar ranting of someone who seemed to have 'lost' it and was probably doing a better job of waking their neighbours than was the dog.
Back in my bedroom I picked up my mobile phone and fired up the webcam pointing at the area in which my three dogs sleep at night downstairs. There, in the black and white forced by the use of infrared, were three dogs. They were all on the one bed, using each other as pillows.
On went the sound and I got to hear the loudest noise they were making. The beagle was snoring.
Unless his snoring became that of an earth shaking nature, I guessed no one would be screaming at the tops of their voices to, Shut the *** up!
Dogs checked, I went back to bed, glad I had closed the bathroom door in case the barking and shouting in the distance was joined by the sound of a police siren which might wake me up...
Thursday 2 September, 2021
My tendency is to shy away from driving anywhere these days. The word 'motion' seems rather inappropriate when referring to the act of trying to drive through my town. However, occasionally I have no choice, and so it was this morning.
I trickled towards a zebra crossing in the centre of town and pulled up behind the three cars which had stopped to let a mother and child cross. Then the Land Rover directly in front of me indicated they were turning right and proceeded to go around the two vehicles ahead of it and made the woman and child midway across the zebra crossing stop to let it push past.
At a guess I would say the drivers of the two cars it drove past, and the mother, were as surprised as me when they saw a flatbed Land Rover decide to ignore the rules of the road and all notions of civility and common sense.
What made it all the more unbelievable was that it remained in my sight because there was traffic up ahead and I could see it made no attempt to bypass any of it, despite the fact that opportunity to bully past the unfortunates stuck in the slow snake of traffic was greater and safer.
Had I not witnessed the event, I would have never believed the Land Rover was the same vehicle being driven by a person who had removed their brain only thirty seconds earlier.
I suppose it takes all sorts to clog up the roads of my town. I just wish that the more proficient morons would wait until I was safely home and driving nowhere.