It's the people who use stuff that emits that cause climate change Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

Once again we find the environmentalists not grasping the first clue about how to deal with climate change. That first point being “Well, OK, how much will it cost?” And when someone gaily states that each and every lamppost should be wired to be able to charge a car we’re not in that world where people are thinking of costs, are we? Quite obviously so – we’ve not got every parking place in the country set up to produce petrol now, have we?

New homes in suburban England would need to be fitted with electric car charging points under a government proposal to cut emissions.

Ministers also want new street lights to come with charge points wherever there’s on-street parking.

Details of a sales ban on new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 are also expected to be set out.

The strategy comes at a time when the government is facing criticism for failing to reduce carbon emissions.

The government’s target is to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

This is, as I say, to get this all entirely the wrong way around. No, this isn’t because climate change is something thought up by nonces to destroy society – could be true, who knows? – but because even within that agreement that climate change is happening it’s still wrong. Amazingly enough the Stern Review got it right too. The first thing is to work out what the costs of the climate changing will be. Then to agree that this is a problem, a problem we should be willing to spend up to those costs to avert. We shouldn’t agree to spend more than not spending anything will cost us. That would make us poorer of course.

But that’s the bit which is being missed by far too many of these schemes. So, what’s the cost of banning petrol and diesel cars? We’ve a century and a bit invested in the technologies themselves. Sure, that’s a sunk cost. But think on a bit. Anyone seen a proper emissions comparison between electric and petrol cars? Including all manufacturing costs, batteries and all? I’d be suspicious that there’s all that much of a saving to be honest. So too with this scheme. Having the street lamps being able to charge means running new cabling to every street light in the country. And not just a little copper wire, this is big, thick, stuff. Has to be to be able to carry the necessary power. What’s the cost of that?

And do note the benefit of this scheme is not the total benefit of everyone using electric cars -assuming there is any benefit in that. It’s the additional switch from petrol and diesel as a result of this network of charging at lampposts. What is the total cost of the scheme, what is the marginal benefit?

Yes, you’re right, I don’t know either. But my point is that nor does the damn fool idiot proposing the scheme. Proof perfect that he’s not taking climate change seriously nor thinking about solutions in the right manner.

For there are really two questions about climate change. That first “Well, OK, how much will it cost?” closely followed by the allied one, “Well, OK, what’s the benefit we gain from that cost?” And if people aren’t talking about it using those two then they’re not being serious in the slightest.

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  1. Ok, who’s going to be paying to replace millions upon millions of 0.5A power points with millions upon millions of 100A power points? Most street lamps I’ve seen the insides of are wired to the supply main with little more than bell wire.

    • Which is done so that any attempt to steal electricity from streetlights to do more than light a home (like running 3kv ceramic heaters during the winter), will result in said ‘bell wire’ fusing and thus bringing an end to such pikey power pilfering.

      • In which case, good luck rewiring Britain to dispense free electricity for the approved use of charging electric cars (to set the price of having one wrong) but keeping the free electricity from disapproved uses (like running 3kv ceramic heaters during the winter).

        • It doesn’t necessarily have to be free; Auckland Transport are trialling a couple of new streetlights cum electric vehicle chargers in our suburb. Hook the car up, tap the payment disk and it charges you for the energy that you use. These are slow AC chargers so don’t have the same output requirements as fast charging (6+ hours to fully charge a “city” EV, significantly longer for a Tesla).

          I wouldn’t go about replacing street lights and upgrading the existing infrastructure for them – but the idea is that this sort of charger would go in to places without on-street parking when they are building them, or when the existing infrastructure requires replacement anyway.

  2. Quite usefully, ONS had a FOI request asking how many street lights there are in the UK, and their first degree estimate was 5.6 million. I had a new leccy supply put into my flat ten years ago, about 90% of the cost was the digging up the pavement, cutting into the main, and covering over, so that can be reasonable to use as the per post cost. So, 5.6 million times 1500 quid. Call it a grand. So, 5-anna-half BEEELION quid as a very reasonable minimum.

  3. Jgh’s estimate doesn’t appear to allow for upgrading every electricity main, every sub- station, in fact the whole of the electricity supply network. Nor does it allow for the cost of extra generation needed to provide the supply.

  4. There is, of course, a third question about climate change before Cost and Benefit: Veracity. Why would we believe the assertions that industry and achievement are irreparably loading the planet with additional heat that will not be radiated into space? The cornucopia of their other attacks on industry and achievement (from powdered baby formula to drinking straws), plus their sporadic assertions at the UN that destroying industry and achievement is the goal, should induce us to oppose all these schemes, rather than join in, to prove that we can better measure Cost and Benefit.