Saturday, 8 January 2011

Why you Can't Trust Mainstream Media.

Okay, I have here one of the many examples of why you can't trust what you read in the mainstream media.

Here on the BBC website on the , we have a report that electric cars may be costlier to run than petrol equivalents. If you take into consideration their depreciation and other costs like battery replacement over the life of the car, that hit you take buying an e-car cannot be offset by lower maintenance costs, lower cost of recharging, zero road tax, zero congestion charge (saving only applicable in London of course) and finally a fat government subsidy to reduce the purchase price of the car. None of those advantages of an electric car outweigh the massive depreciation, the replacement of the expensive (and very eco-unfriendly) battery technology and the limited range.

Also consider where the electricity comes from: A surge in electric cars coupled with dirty, inefficient old coal power stations generating the electricity that could actually increase CO2 emissions from the UK or at the very least put a big dent in the CO2 production targets the government seem to crave lemming-like adherence to.

Finally consider the expenditure in charging infrastructure, the blight of charging points on historically protected areas of towns and cities, the fact that its difficult to charge an electric car parked on a normal street, thereby excluding a huge swathe of people from ever owning an electric car.

But when reporting the government's subsidy of 25 percent of the cost of an electric car on the , some months later than the critical report above there's no mention of the extra running costs mentioned in August's report. Neither is there any mention of the environmental impact nor the technological cul-de-sac that battery-powered electric cars already are. Even when reporting the fact that only 3 of the nine cars earmarked for subsidy will be initially available, there's no criticism, only a report of the facts.

If government are going to piss away millions of pounds of taxpayer's money on cars that will be redundant and unsaleable within years, increase CO2 emissions and similar sums on the charging infrastructure that will add another level of blight on our town and city streets, you'd think someone, somewhere at the BBC would challenge the decision.

But no. Here, here and herethe BBC reports without any criticism at all of government policy.

The fact is the government is encouraging the public to buy into a technology that will end up costing them millions of pounds and that is already redundant.

I've blogged often before on the advantages of hydrogen technology in cars. Both in fuel cells and for burning in converted internal combustion engines. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a zero-emission technology that is an evolutionary leap ahead of battery-powered ones. They require no change in our driving habits, exhibit no range limitations and use a fuel that can be created easily and cheaply from electricity. Its school-project-level science, passing electricity through water to create hydrogen and oxygen.

Even on-off alternative energy sources like wind and solar could be made less variable by converting that energy into hydrogen and storing it. If we switch to hydrogen instead of natural gas, hydrogen instead of petrol and diesel, we can start to create a unified infrastructure providing economies of scale. We can produce it within our own borders, thereby eliminating the need to import energy sources like natural gas. In fact, whats not to like about becoming hydrogen energy based?

I just don't understand why the media seem to refuse to criticise the decision-makers we have in government who seem to be making all the wrong calls.


The BBC has coincidentally hours after I published this post released this article about driving an electric mini from London to Edinburgh. Currently, it looks like it can't be done as the article notes a gap between the Northernmost charging point and Edinburgh is further than the range of the car.

Note also the time it takes to get there: 4 days!! Note also the huge charging times at the non-overnight stops. Would you really stop somewhere for 6 hours to top up with fuel?

Exactly the reason why the battery-powered electric car is an expensive cul-de-sac. Why oh why waste precious money on expensive new infrastructure when you already have petrol stations at the roadside? All you need is the right financial incentives for the oil companies to offer hydrogen as another fuel alongside petrol, diesel and LPG and they'll install it.

No need for local or national government to get involved other than to provide the right conditions for it to happen.

But note the tone: no criticism of government at all. No mention of the millions already sunk into the technology  without producing a viable North-South route. No mention of the piss-poor planning and strategy that allows government to throw subsidies at a technology there is little infrastructure for.

Note also that battery powered cars have suddenly become "short distance" vehicles, rather than the replacement to fossil-fuelled vehicles they are usually touted as.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Met Office: The More you Delve, the Cloudier it Gets.

I won't hide the fact I like this furore over the Met Office forecasts. I've long since consigned their usability to the dustbin of history and tend to look at Meteo Charts or Satellite Images myself and make an educated guess as to the weather in my local area.Can I plug here one of the services the Met do get right, which is providing the animated Satellite images. They are a usefull tool, which tells me temperatures are going to plummet overnight. If I was going to make a prediction, I'd say that tomorrow the far North of Scotland will see snow, the Northern UK and Midlands would have an outside possibility of snow, with Southern England experiencing rain. Pretty similar to the Met's own forecast (except they don't mention snow in England), with not a supercomputer in sight.

The thing the Met get wrong is the politics it engages in. The more you delve into things, the cloudier it becomes. It now seems before the winter there were various different forecasts either predicting a warmer winter, or a colder one. This is an old game, where you make various conflicting predictions and then quote the correct one historically when the true forecast comes to light.
This is forecasting, supposedly a science, reduced to a confidence trick. The Met's computer models should work sucessfully and predict the weather with enough accuracy that they shouldn't need to resort to such tricks. If they don't, then lets accept the fact and modify the models to make them more accurate, or ditch the expensive hardware altogether and go back to manual predictions by humans.

Talking of politics, the Met Office on its own website has this page on Climate Change. To me this is wrong, especially because the information is provided in a very biased way and explicitly states that climate change is caused by human activity. In fact they say CO2 levels have soared, when in fact they have only increased by fractions of a percent of atmospheric content. Natural cycles and other natural causes are dismissed. In fact the same old rhetoric is spouted as you'll hear across the Man-Made-Global-Warming camp. Its wrong for a public body like the Met Office to become embroiled in what has become a political rather than a scientific argument. The science is not settled, there is no definitive link between increased CO2 and human activity, nor is there a definitive link to say increased CO2 causes global warming rather than is caused by it.
The Met Office is paid to be an objective weather forecaster: no more and no less. It is failing to be objective and be a weather forecaster of any merit. Maybe its time for a change of management.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Met Office appear to be Shitting Bricks.

I blogged last week about how for a long while I've not trusted the Met Office's weather forecasts. Reading around, some seem more charitable, saying its only their long-term forecasts that are innacurate and the shorter-term their forecasts are, the more accurate they get. I'd like to disagree, as I previously mentioned, watching medium-term forecasts change wildy the closer in you get, then changing on the day on an hour-by-hour basis as the weather is reported in real time.

Well, Autonomous Mind has a new twist in the tale of this winter's forecasting, with the Met Office now saying  they made an innacurate forecast public, but gave a more accurate one to the government which was kept secret. James Delingpole at the Telegraph also reports on this, quoting Autonomous Mind's blogpost. The reporter of this "news" was Roger Harrabin at the BBC. AM notes that Harrabin alludes to the accuracy of the Met against other independant weather forecasters, who promise better accuracy than the Met.
He says: "In a few year’s time hopefully we’ll all have a better idea of whom to trust. By then the Met Office might have recovered enough confidence to share with us its winter prediction of whether to buy a plane ticket or a toboggan."

Well, Harrabin should be able to comment right now on how well the Met did this winter.Way back in September he supposedly set up a steering group to track the accuracy of a number of weather forecasters. That fact is reported here on the BBC's website.
So the steering group should have had 4 months already with which to track the accuracy of long, medium and short-term forecasts by the various providers.

I just wonder if its already aparrent to the steering group that the Met Office's forecasts are wildly innacurate? Is all of this spin a smokescreen to obscure that fact and avoid risking the millions of pounds of taxpayer's money that are sunk into the Met office each year? Are they shitting a brick at the thought this all might become public knowlege?


All I know is that what is happening with the Met at the moment seems to smack of desperation. AM has already had a good go at fisking Harrabin's report. But really, would the Met be worth even a pound of taxpayer's money if it made innacurate forecasts public and kept accurate ones secret? Would the government have any credibility or deserve to stay in office if it received a super-secret weather forecast predicting extremely bad weather and then didn't act on it? Is Roger Harrabin the so-called reporter who put forward the Met Office spin without aparrently querying such a ludicrous suggestion worth his slice of our TV licence fee? I don't think so.