August 25, 2009
Regarding ‘Blair: Climate efforts no reason to give up cars‘:
It would seem that Mr Blair is not only an expert on weapons of mass destruction (their ownership or lack thereof) but also energy policy, transport policy and indeed, climate change in general.
In the case of cars, there is nothing inevitable about rising car ownership in China or indeed anywhere else. A policy focus on “individual transport” shows that Galbraith’s phrase “conventional wisdom” has lost none of its originality or validity.
Transport policies that focus on investment in public transport can have remarkable impacts. Vienna is a good example, the Swiss rail network another. Sadly, this view would not apply to the UK whose prime minister for more than 10 years was called Tony Blair and where, under his premiership, the rail network was a market leader in killing its customers.
Moving from relatively small-scale examples to ‘China-sized’ issues, doubtless Blair’s Climate Group is familiar with the 2007 study by the Energy Watch Group on oil. This looked at past production from oil fields as an indicator of future output. The picture presented is that we have already passed peak oil.
The IEA recently produced an oil report (July 2009) using a similar methodology (although the IEA still seem to think peak oil is 10 years off). Whatever propulsion system for individual transport the Chinese choose to use, oil-based systems are unlikely, if only for costs reasons (declining resource, rising use).
If Blair’s Climate Group is to be believed, China’s future transportation problems will be solved by electric vehicles (EVs). Indeed, China is already a large-scale producer of lithium-ion batteries (perhaps the largest). Lithium-ion batteries are by far the most popular technology for next-generation EVs.
Although China has some Lithium resources (about 10% of global reserves, 1.1 million tonnes – US Geological Survey), Bolivia has by far the largest reserves (60% – 5.4mt).
Unfortunately, a report by Meridian International Research expressed concerns about lithium availability.
“There are insufficient economically recoverable lithium resources available to sustain EV manufacture in the volumes required, based solely on Li-Ion batteries. Depletion rates would exceed current oil depletion rates and switch dependency from one diminishing resource to another. Concentration of supply would create new geopolitical tensions, not reduce them,” read the report.
Adding to the above are other reports on resource depletion which indicated that there is no possibility of the entire planet being able to enjoy a ‘Western-style’ lifestyle. This could be considered to include personal transport.
Mr Blair has a well know history of cognitive dissonance, so no doubt the report from his Climate Group matches his view of reality, whatever that might happen to be. This is not helpful to the Chinese, who quite rightly would like a good transportation system. It does not follow that this needs to be individual.