Wednesday, September 23, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Electric Car Fraud Allegations Rock Green Lobby & Investors


Nikola Chairman Quits Amid Turmoil Of Fraud Allegations

In this newsletter:

1) Nikola Chairman Quits Amid Turmoil Of Fraud Allegations
The Times, 22 September 2020

2) The Electric Car Hype Machine: Why Investors Are More Sceptical Than Ever
The Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2020

3) Corona-Induced CO2 Emission Reductions Are Not Yet Detectable In The Atmosphere
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 21 September 2020
4) Walter Russell Mead: Appeasing China Won’t Cool the Earth
The Wall Street Journal, 22 September 2020 
5) Benny Peiser on Prince Charles' Latest Climate Intervention
Talk Radio, 21 September 2020

6) The Costs of Offshore Wind Power: Blindness and Insight
Gordon Hughes & John Constable, Briefing for Britain, 21 September 2020

7) America’s Wildfires: Products Of The Policies That Left Us So Badly Burnt
Arthur Chrenkoff, The Spectator, 22 September 2020
8) And Finally: US Elections Won't Be The Climate Elections After All, Green Campaigners Concede.

Full details:

1) Nikola Chairman Quits Amid Turmoil Of Fraud Allegations
The Times, 22 September 2020

The founder of Nikola, a zero-emission truck and lorry manufacturer that does not yet make any vehicles and has become engulfed in fraud allegations, has resigned.

The company has admitted that a lorry it filmed for a marketing video did not have a working engine and was in fact rolling down a hill

Trevor Milton, 39, a billionaire through his 25 per cent-plus stake in Nikola — albeit a stock in decline — said that he was quitting as executive chairman because “the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me”.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and US justice department have launched investigations into whether the company misled investors.

Nikola is named after the inventor Nikola Tesla, but is not related to the other US company that borrowed his name, Tesla.

Last week Nikola admitted that it filmed one of its lorries rolling downhill for a marketing video. It was accused of using the hill to disguise the fact that it did not have a working engine, but Nikola said that it had only ever described the lorry as being “in motion”.
Full story (£)
2) The Electric Car Hype Machine: Why Investors Are More Sceptical Than Ever
The Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2020
As the electric car hype continues to grow it’s only getting more likely that unscrupulous fraudsters may seek to mislead the public. 

It was the kind of truck the Terminator might drive – at least when he needed extra cash. Sleek, silent and faintly sinister, the Skynet-esque lorry, filmed speeding through an American desert in 2018, seemed proof of its maker's technological prowess. 

"Behold," boasted the electric vehicle (EV) company Nikola. "The 1,000 HP, zero-emission Nikola One semi-truck in motion."

The claim was technically true. The lorry was indeed moving. But as the Arizona-based start-up admitted last week, it was moving because it had been towed up a hill and then left to roll

"Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video," a spokesman defiantly declared. "As Nikola pivoted to the next generation of trucks, it ultimately decided not to invest additional resources into completing the process to make the Nikola One drive on its own propulsion."

After the admission forced Nikola's chairman and founder Trevor Milton to resign, shares in the company plunged on Monday. 

But the implications were much bigger than just one firm. The news – part of a bombshell report by the short-selling investment firm Hindenburg Research, whose conclusions Nikola dismissed as "false and misleading"  – came just days after General Motors agreed to invest $2bn (£1.53bn) into Nikola.

Throw a briefcase full of cash in Silicon Valley today and you will hit an EV company, many racing towards an early public float. There is Rivian, NioFisker, Workhorse, Lordstown Motors, XPeng, and of course Tesla, whose breathtaking stock rally this year has dragged many imitators behind it. 

But as the original EV pioneer prepares for its latest "battery day" on Tuesday, when it will hold its annual meeting and show off new ideas, whispers of a bubble are only growing. Tesla's own history of failed predictions hardly helps matters.

"It looks awful," says Reilly Brennan of the San Francisco venture capitalist firm Trucks VC, referring to Nikola's ordeal. "This is the warning shot of how eventually things are going to roll out over the coming decades. And it could very well be that some of these companies are overvalued."

He points in particular to neophyte EV makers who are using unconventional corporate structures to float in a rush. Both Fisker and Lordstown plan to become public companies via special purpose acquisition vehicles, or SPACs – ersatz shell firms created purely to raise money through an initial public offering (IPO) and then buy the original firm outright. 
"You have a lot of companies that have come out, who previously could not have done an IPO in a traditional sort of year, and have used SPACs to come around, come through a different door and raise more capital," says Brennan.

"The future of the car business is increasingly electric [and] zero emission. [But] my concern is that a lot of these companies are coming out and raising money from the public markets. It's clear it's a little bit early for them to be doing so."

In part, Brennan attributes the problem to the sheer expense of developing new EVs – often underestimated amidst a hail of optimistic promises about our shiny green future. He says that ringing new models to production requires such prodigious amounts of cash – at least “ten figures” – that Silicon Valley investors are often tapped dry. 

Next up are sovereign wealth funds and international investors; and after that, public markets. But Brennan believes that “many” EV makers are “undercapitalised” even after that – such as Canoo, which is “not only building a whole new vehicle, but building it from a clean sheet of paper".

A prime example of this problem is Faraday Future, an ambitious electric car business whose Chinese billionaire chief executive filed for bankruptcy in 2019. His lawyers said in court that his personal bankruptcy scuppered a meeting with a sovereign wealth fund which had seemed poised to bankroll the business.

Other businesses in the space have been accused of going beyond generating hype and instead engaged in outright lying.
Full story (£)
3) Corona-Induced CO2 Emission Reductions Are Not Yet Detectable In The Atmosphere
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 21 September 2020

Effects of the pandemic will be detected in the atmosphere much later - To reach the Paris climate goals, decade-long measures are needed

Based on current data measured in the energy, industry, and mobility sectors, restrictions of social life during the corona pandemic can be predicted to lead to a reduction of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by up to eight percent in 2020.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cumulative reductions of about this magnitude would be required every year to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2030. Recent measurements by researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) revealed that concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has not yet changed due to the estimated emission reductions. The results are reported in Remote Sensing (DOI: 10.3390/rs12152387).

The corona pandemic has changed both our working and our private lives. People increasingly work from home, have video conferences instead of business trips, and spend their holidays in their home country. The lower traffic volume also reduces CO2 emissions. Reductions of up to eight percent are estimated for 2020.
"In spite of the reduced emissions, our measurements show that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has not yet decreased," says Ralf Sussmann from the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of KIT's Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), KIT's Campus Alpine, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
"To reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the long run, restrictions imposed during the corona pandemic would have to be continued for decades. But even this would be far from being sufficient."

To prove this, researchers additionally studied a long-term scenario that can be controlled well with atmospheric measurements: The goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius can only be reached by an immediate significant reduction of CO2 emissions and a further decrease down to zero by 2055. "The restrictions imposed during the corona crisis, however, are far from being sufficient. They have just resulted in a one-time reduction by eight percent.
To reach zero emissions in the coming decades, cumulative reductions of the same magnitude would be required every year, i.e. 16 percent in 2021, 24 percent in 2022, and so on. For this, political measures have to be taken to directly initiate fundamental technological changes in the energy and transport sectors," Sussmann says.

For the study, the team used data from the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON). It measured the concentrations in different layers of the atmosphere above Garmisch-Partenkirchen and at other places around the globe. "High-tech infrared spectrometers are applied, which use the sun as a light source. The measurement method is highly precise, uncertainties are in the range of a few thousandths," Sussmann adds.
Full story
4) Walter Russell Mead: Appeasing China Won’t Cool the Earth
The Wall Street Journal, 22 September 2020
A President Biden would face pressure from climate hawks to go easy on Beijing.

As policy makers in Beijing weigh their options in the event of a Biden victory, one of the subjects that will most engage their attention is climate change. Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that he will put the goal of slowing climate change at the heart of U.S. foreign policy.
Washington would rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and urge all countries to enact measures to keep Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, as the Democratic Party platform states.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Does this mean a Biden administration would add another dimension to U.S.-China tensions? Beijing likely hopes it’ll ease them.

For Chinese officials, the goal would be to get the Biden administration to negotiate with itself—the climate hawks persuading the incoming president to squelch the China hawks to save the planet. Beijing is the key to climate change, climate warriors will say, and America can’t persuade China to help cool the Earth by harassing it on trade, imposing sanctions against its companies, arming Taiwan, and encouraging its neighbors to form alliances against Beijing.

This is an approach China can work with. Beijing wants to fight climate change, its diplomats will whisper to U.S. climate hawks, but Chinese hard-liners need to be convinced. Help us to help you: If America demonstrates a spirit of compromise and cooperation on issues important to the hard-liners, well, who can say? We might even give up our coal plants. Someday.

There are Democrats to whom this will seem like smart statecraft. Global governance, they will tell Americans, transcends the petty stakes of geopolitical competition. Our common interest in saving humanity outweighs ephemeral disputes over maritime boundaries. Can we really let a conflict over Taiwan, a small island that America already officially recognizes as part of China, stand in the way of a climate treaty that could halt extinction?

The Biden team needs to assess Beijing’s position on climate change realistically. Global temperatures aside, China wants to improve the energy efficiency of its economy because energy is a cost. Beijing wants to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign fuel because the U.S. controls the sea lanes through which China’s Middle East imports must flow. It wants to mandate a shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles because this would destroy German and Japanese competitive advantages in the automobile industry.
A new technology would give Chinese car companies a chance to occupy the industry’s commanding heights. Beijing wants to reduce water and air pollution in and around China’s great cities because residents, including powerful Communist Party members, like clean water and air.

China’s emissions will slow also because its economy is no longer growing as rapidly as it did during the boom years. As Chinese consumers become older and more affluent, demand will tend to shift to less energy-intensive services, like health care. The information revolution, which is making the world more energy-efficient and reducing humanity’s environmental footprint, is at work in China as well.

Like diplomats from many other countries, Beijing’s climate negotiators spend a lot of time packaging steps their country would take anyway as bold and courageous initiatives demonstrating its altruistic leadership. Because China’s environmental record is so poor, there is much low-hanging fruit still to gather; Beijing can achieve significant progress on emissions while honoring its other policy goals. On the other hand, it will resist any commitments that seriously interfere with its economic and strategic ambitions. The sad reality is that there isn’t all that much difference between the steps China is prepared to take on its own and the steps U.S. pressure might induce it to take.

The November election is still six weeks away, but Team Biden needs to begin preparing now to avoid a foreign-policy train wreck over climate and China policy.
Just as Washington doesn’t accept linkage between geopolitics and human rights—e.g., America doesn’t offer to pull the navy out of the South China Sea if China agrees to ease up on the Uighurs—the U.S. needs to keep climate diplomacy and geopolitics on separate tracks.

That approach won’t please some Democratic activists, but if America fails to manage the geopolitical challenges associated with China’s rise, the world won’t be interested in Washington’s views on climate change or anything else.
5) Benny Peiser on Prince Charles' Latest Climate Intervention
Talk Radio, 21 September 2020
The GWPF's Dr Benny Peiser talks to Kevin O'Sullivan on Talk Radio about Prince Charles and his apparent criticism of the UK government's Net Zero policy.

Full interview
6) The Costs of Offshore Wind Power: Blindness and Insight
Gordon Hughes & John Constable, Briefing for Britain, 21 September 2020

In this important contribution to our series on post-Brexit Britain Professor Gordon Hughes and Dr John Constable take on the entire green energy movement in arguing that the widespread view about the falling costs of renewable energy is wrong.

They view official government projections of energy costs and hence prices as disgracefully inaccurate. Energy costs will be an important element in the UK’s future economic competitiveness and, if the authors are correct, energy prices are in for huge price rises.

The dramatically falling costs of renewables are now a political, a media, and conversational cliché. However, the claim is demonstrably false. Audited accounts show that far from getting cheaper, wind power is actually becoming more expensive. The failure of the British civil service to detect this fact and, hence, to protect the consumer and taxpayer from the consequences of the looming failure of the renewables sector raises important questions about the analytic competence of the Whitehall machine.

If we asked a random sample of broadsheet newspaper readers about the economics of offshore wind, it is practically certain that a majority of those interviewed would say they believed it was now cheap. A similar survey of investment analysts and advisors might return the same answer. Politicians and journalists would be certain about the matter. However, if pressed for evidence none of these groups could do much more than point to secondary sources. Some might remember that the Greenpeace sponsored an extensive advertising campaign in 2017, with full page adverts in the press. Others might point out that official bodies present offshore wind as the cheapest source of electricity. Those in financial circles might also indicate that almost every report or lengthy article on the future role of offshore wind power is accompanied by a chart which claims to show the rapid decline of costs over the last one or two decades, perhaps with forward projections to 2030 or 2040.

Incredible though it may seem, none of this is true. Neither offshore nor onshore wind has become cheaper; indeed, both have become more expensive over the last two decades.

How do we know this? Because one of us, Gordon Hughes, has compiled data from audited accounts on the capital and operating costs of 350 onshore and offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom, a set which covers the majority of the larger wind farms (> 10 MW capacity) built and commissioned between 2002 and 2019. It is the largest study of its kind to date and will be published shortly by the charity Renewable Energy Foundation, which John Constable directs.

In summary, analysis of the data reveals unequivocal findings:

1. The actual costs of onshore and offshore wind generation have not fallen significantly over the last two decades and there is little prospect that they will fall in the next five or even ten years.

2. While some of the components which feed into the calculation of costs have fallen, the overall costs have not. For example, the weighted return for investors and lenders has declined sharply, especially for offshore wind, because of a fall in perceived In addition, the average output per MW of new capacity may have increased, particularly for offshore turbines. However, these gains have been offset by higher operating and maintenance costs (O&M).

3. Far from falling, the actual capital costs per MW of capacity to build new wind farms increased substantially from 2002 to about 2015 and have, at best, remained constant since then. Reports of the costs of building new offshore wind farms in the early 2020s imply that their costs may fall by 2025, but such reports are consistently unreliable as well as being incomplete. Final costs tend to be significantly higher, so little weight can be attached to forecasts of future costs.

4. Far from falling, the operating costs per MW of new capacity have increased significantly for both onshore and offshore wind farms over the last two decades. In addition, operating costs for existing wind farms tend to grow even more rapidly as they age. The increase for new capacity seems to be due to the shift to sites that are more remote or difficult to service. Much of the increase with age is due to the frequency of equipment failures and the need for preventative maintenance, both of which are strongly associated with the adoption of new generations of larger turbines – both onshore and offshore.

5. Turbine manufacturers and wind operators appear to be relying on an increase in load factors (a measure of the generator’s energy productivity) via (i) an increase in hub heights to take advantage of higher wind speeds, and (ii) changes in the engineering balance between blade area and generator capacity. However, the inferior reliability of new turbine generations leads to a more rapid decline in performance with age, so that the ultimate effect on average performance over the lifetime of new turbines is not clear.

6. The combination of increasing operating and maintenance costs with the decline in yields due to ageing means that at current market prices the expected revenues from electricity generation will be less than expected operating costs after the expiry of contracts guaranteeing above-market prices. The length of these contracts has been reduced, implying a need to recover capital costs over a shorter economic life which pushes up the effective capital charge.

Full post
7) America’s Wildfires: Products Of The Policies That Left Us So Badly Burnt
Arthur Chrenkoff, The Spectator, 22 September 2020
Almost all fires are started by humans

First Australia in the first months of the year — and now the western parts of the United States. Australian wildfires ravaged the forested area equal in size to the state of Kentucky, destroying thousands of buildings and killing nearly 30 people. 
Now apocalyptic images from California, Washington and Oregon of uncontrollable infernos and sunless orange skies are flashing across our screens, eliciting talk of angry Mother Earth (Nancy Pelosi) and “existential climate CRISIS” (Gavin Newsom).

Whatever your position on climate change – the majority of experts believe that higher temperatures and drier conditions exacerbate wildfires, both in Australia and America –  there is no immediate solution to be found on the global level.
If you agree that man-made emissions are driving up temperatures, there is no course of action that will in any substantial way change the climatic conditions for the better over the next few decades (the most ambitious climate change plans talk in terms of slowing down temperature increases, not reversing the trend). Shut down the whole industrial civilisation tomorrow, and the present climate would still lag behind. Talking about wildfires and climate change (as Pelosi, Newsom and many others do) might be good propaganda for climate action, but it will do nothing for this or any future fiery disasters.

Fortunately, there are much more immediate factors and solutions than shutting down coal and transitioning to renewable energy, themselves decades-long projects. Wildfires are almost exclusively man-made calamities, but not in the way the climate change activists think.
Changing climate might indeed be making fires more difficult to contain and extinguish, but it neither starts nor fuels them. We do. Herein, therefore, lies the opportunities to mitigate such disasters as we are witnessing at the moment.

Almost all fires are started by humans
Forests don’t spontaneously combust. And while lightning can often set trees on fire, this accounts for only a very small proportion of all fires.

In Australia, it has been estimated that 87 per cent of 113,000 fires that occurred “in nature” between 1997 and 2009 have been man-made.

In the United States, the latest study from the University of Colorado at Boulder calculates that 97 per cent of fires between 1992 and 2015 that threatened homes (i.e. those happening in the so called “wildland-urban interface”) were started by humans (as were 85 per cent of all fires in “very-low-density housing” areas and 59% of all wildfires in the wild).
A word of caution: man-made does not automatically mean intentional. The scenarios range from broken glass acting as lenses for sun rays or sparks from power lines and machinery, through carelessly discarded cigarette butts and incompletely extinguished bonfires, to amateur back burn attempts getting out of control and – yes – deliberate arson.
Full post ($)
8) And Finally: US Elections Won't Be The Climate Elections After All, Green Campaigners Concede.
E&E News, 22 September 2020
This could have been the year of the first real climate change election. It probably won't be.


After years of climate change being low on voters' priorities, getting almost no news coverage as a campaign policy issue and only getting the occasional debate question, 2020 had the potential to be a blockbuster year for climate change.

But instead, with less than 50 days until Election Day and voters in some states already voting, the COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the scene, along with racial justice, the economy and health care.

And since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death Friday, the fight over replacing her on the court has overshadowed every other issue and might remain front and center through the rest of the campaign....

Despite pushing for debate questions and lamenting the lack of attention to climate, many environmental advocates say they are trying to keep perspective.
They recognize that the more immediate issues of the day, like racial justice and COVID-19, probably deserve the spotlight. Besides, climate change has strong connections with those issues (sic).

"COVID-19, the economic meltdown, the public health crisis, Black Lives Matter are all top-tier issues. That's a reality," said Kevin Curtis, executive director of NRDC Action Fund, which is the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council and supports Biden.
Full story ($)

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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