How COVID-19 Dooms the Climate: Another Silver Lining!

Guest “sarcastic reality check” by David Middleton

The Global Economy’s Fuel Gauge
Oil powers almost all transportation—and Covid-19 will only intensify its dominance.

Mark P. Mills
May 21, 2020

China is about one month ahead of the United States in exiting the Covid-19 shutdown. That country’s rush-hour traffic jams now equal or exceeded pre-lockdown levels, even in Wuhan. This quick reversal happened despite claims that telecommuting would “change everything,” especially old-fashioned commuting and, thus, oil demand.

[…]

Consider the view that communications will now replace commutes—an idea dating to the dawn of the Internet and even to the dawn of telegraphy. But most of what most people do at work requires showing up, not video conferencing.

[…]

There is one thing the pandemic will change and that’s the trend to cram employees closer together in open-plan offices, and simultaneously reduce air-exchanges in buildings to make them more energy-efficient. More space between employees and more (clean) air will boost electricity demand in the summer and heat in the winter. Meantime, in the travel sector, reservations for fuel-guzzling recreational vehicles are reporting all-time highs. That mirrors a trend seen after 9/11, when Americans bypassed foreign vacations for domestic ones, traveling to those destinations mainly by cars, which use more energy per passenger mile than aircraft.

Then there are the other energy-related trends that predate the coronavirus crisis but will now likely accelerate. Young professionals, for example, were already moving to the suburbs. Odds are that the urban exodus will only intensify, with many baby boomers joining in. Car commuting and suburbia are essentially synonymous. As for mass transit, in post-recovery China, ridership remains down some 30 to 50 percent. Absent massive subsidies, travel by (crowded) mass transit—at least as we knew it—might be finished.

[…]

No doubt, we’ll soon get back to pre-Covid debates about how best to fuel cars and power plants. But in an age of cheap oil, will a recession-riddled world show the same tolerance for subsidizing expensive alternatives like wind or solar?

Mark P. Mills, a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow and author of Digital Cathedrals: The Information Infrastructure Era, is a strategic partner in an energy-tech venture fund.

Read the full article on City Journal

OK… So COVID-19 won’t “doom the climate”… Honestly, the climate can no more be doomed than it can be denied. But, COVID-19 may have killed mass transit… “at least as we knew it.”

MAY 20, 2020

Empty trains, clogged roads: Americans get behind the wheel to avoid transit
Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – As Americans plan for life after pandemic lockdowns, many want to avoid public transport and use a car instead, straining already underfunded transit systems and risking an increase in road congestion and pollution.

Several opinion polls show Americans plan to avoid trains and buses as stay-at-home orders ease, with some city dwellers buying a car for the first time. A potential boon to coronavirus-battered automakers, the shift poses a challenge to city planners end environmental goals.

[…]

In an April Ipsos poll among U.S. transit riders, 72% said they would either reduce their use of public transportation or wait until it was safe again. That compared with 68% of U.S. consumers who said they will use their car as much or more than before the pandemic.

[…]

Some businesses, like the New York Stock Exchange, have told employees they are not allowed to take public transit to work.

[…]

“If officials fail to convince the public that public transportation is safe, we could see a permanent shift away from transit,” said Dan Work, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering and one of the study’s co-authors.

[…]

Reuters

Could the world survive the Coronavirus apocalypse, just to be wiped out by a traffic apocalypse, long before the climate apocalypse gets us?

Is America Headed for a Post-Coronavirus Traffic Apocalypse?
Substantial numbers of people returning to work, but avoiding the buses and trains that took them there, could see urban travel speeds grind to a halt.

CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI | 5.19.2020

America’s eerily empty highways could soon become the site of apocalyptic gridlock as people start returning to work but keep avoiding the crowded buses and trains that once took them there.

Transit ridership plunged some 80 percent in major American cities during the peak of the coronavirus shutdowns, according to the transit app Moovit. Individual transit agencies in New York CitySan Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have reported declines of 90 percent or more.

Passenger auto travel, by comparison, only fell about 60 percent nationwide between the end of February and mid-March, according to traffic analytics firm INRIX, and has since started to rebound. INRIX reports that traffic volumes are now back to 75 percent of their late February levels. Transit ridership, however, has seen a far less dramatic bounce back.

“People are starting to jump back faster into their cars than public transit,” said World Bank urban transportation specialist Leonardo Canon Rubiano, to The Washington Post. “Everyone is reassessing how much they need to move, even beyond the virus.”

[…]

Reason

Maybe if people stop taking mass transit, they’ll start buying electric cars to save the climate… With oil prices rebounding a bit last year and climate-consciousness supposedly on the rise, EV sales must be rising.

That would be a big, fat NO!. EV sales were down 10% in 2019. US Department of Energy.

Well at least EV’s must be gaining ground on gas guzzling pickup trucks… Right?

Ford F-Series crushes EV’s again. https://carsalesbase.com/us-ford-f-series/
U.S. PEV Sales U.S. Ford F-series Sales
2011             17,763                        584,917
2012             53,171                        645,316
2013             97,102                        763,402
2014           118,882                        753,851
2015           114,023                        780,354
2016           159,616                        820,799
2017           195,581                        896,764
2018           361,315                        909,330
2019           326,644                        896,526
Total        1,444,097                     7,051,259
Since 2011, 5 F-Series pickup trucks have been sold for every PEV of all makes and models.
I wonder what a year of low gas prices will do to this?

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41 thoughts on “How COVID-19 Dooms the Climate: Another Silver Lining!

  1. Thanks, David, I am waiting for the total end of quarantine to drive as much as possible. Nothing like organizing your own day, going in your own vehicle (no liberals and their supporters allowed), and doing what you want. Driving, and other normal every-day events, like sitting at an outdoor resturant with a glass of special fruit juice, will seem like being on vacation. Stay safe and sane. Wait for it.

    • We reopened the office this week, but are targeting only having 30% of the employees there at a time. About 2/3 work alternating days home/office and about 1/3 remain working from home, mostly those who are older or it’s impractical to work the alternating days (hauling a work station in a backpack isn’t practical). I am the WFH team… Which makes sense because home is Dallas and the office is Houston. Along with a bunch of other social distancing rules, public transit is prohibited for now.

      Restaurants in Texas opened at 25% capacity two weeks ago, went up to 50% this past weekend and bars were allowed to open at 25%. Had enchiladas at Matt’s Rancho Martinez Friday night and a cheeseburger at Chili’s on Saturday… Life is good…🍻

      • David, I’m happy to hear you are eating Mental Health Food! Now add some special fruit juice.

        • I drink lots of that at home… Not so much at restaurants… I can have a whole bottle for the cost of one glass at a restaurant!

          • David, isn’t the pleasure – not to say the luxury, today – of sitting on the sunny veranda of a restaurant worth the price difference? Let’s say, alternately?!

            Please allow me to go off-topic for one minute:
            We do not seem to be related, and I just want to tell you that my mother’s great-grandfather William Middleton (born 1799), was an English medical doctor, married to South African Eliza Hanson. They settled in the former Dutch colony, now Indonesia. Their eldest son married a Dutch woman, nationality that is still present six generations later, including great-grandchildren of mine (I was born in 1931, last generation in Indonesia). Greetings.
            .-

    • Yes. The automobile is freedom. Mass transit is submission to bureaucracy and collectivism.

      • Not if you drive from one of the many satellite towns outside London to inside central London, in fact around London in general. A drive can take 2hrs, usually more, to cover 30-40 miles during rush hour, train & tube typically just over half that, unless you leave before 5am and depart before 3pm. I never saw much freedom in my van driving in and out of London, it was tiring to spend at least one third of my working day driving, and that on top of working a minimum of 8 hours. The last few weeks has been mercifully quieter, so quite different, but it will change back to normal.

        It has been better for many trades to leave equipment locked up at work and travel mass transit from and to home than drive in and out of London. Of course, if I had to use mass transit to travel to a rural isolated location to work, I might only get there in time to turn home again. I’ll submit to your bureaucracy and collectivism if it gets me to work quicker, and not when it doesn’t.

        Right tool for the right job.

  2. OT but, I urge everyone to watch Bong Joon-ho’s film The Host (2006) :

    – – a brilliant, horrific and humorous parody of the SARS-COV1 panic demic in South Korea (2003) which fully applies to what’s going on with this ridiculous COVID 19 panic demic and some “weird” consequences of the CDC and the WHO’s completely stupid (and dangerous) way to “fight” the virus.

  3. Chili’s, brings back memories. Visiting the original on Greenville Ave in Dallas for lunch, drove down from the TI North Bldg. Videos on the founding of TI from GSI and the totally cool gravitometer ( Worton sp? IIRC). TI lost a lot when Pat Haggerty died, and subsequent CEOs left much to be desired. These musings will mean nothing to most, so I’ll stop.

    • Texas Instruments!! I had their calculator when I was in tech school. It had “modules” you could plug in for electrical engineering and I could check my answers easily. Great memories. Ah my friend we are getting old. LOL.

      • I bought one of the first HP-41C’s sold. Had slots for various math pak’s and extra memory.
        The reverse Polish notation took a few days to get used to.

        • I still set my downloaded calculator app on RPN and guard my HP200LX like it was a gold bar.

      • I remember TI. In the late 1970s early 1980s I worked for a long defunct UK mainframe manufacturing company. A 74 series TTL 4×4 RAM was used as a scratchpad. For about 2 years we had a problem which nobody could identify. But by testing just outside specification we could identify those likely to fail. Unfortunately TI wouldn’t accept that their device was faulty and we couldn’t use them. So a stock of quarantined parts built up, and regular fiery meetings took place. Eventually are a chance remark it was identified that under certain combinations read and write enable inputs while chip enable was off contents were over written. This triggered the most memorable business meetings of my life. People nearly coming to blows as TI couldn’t replicate the problem in any of the thousands of parts they got back.
        Finally after they got hold of a Fairchild Xincom test system they agreed there was a problem.
        Two valuable lessons never ignore off the cuff observations, never be so convinced that you can’t possibly be wrong.

        • When I started grad school in 75, behavioural observation data was recorded by putting various dc inputs to an old polygraph and later computing totals with dividers. I built a simple circut with semos and ttl chips to do the job and print on cash register paper. A postdoc (now husband) built a much more complicated one to open and close gates in a maze and time the rat’s responses. He had to operate the whole mess floating because of the noise on the building ground. a few years later we did it all with software. Those early days were fun.

      • My SR11 had reciprocal, square and square root. Maybe log too. I loved the red dot LED display. Remember 71077345 upside down?

    • GSI… That brings back 1980’s memories. I haven’t eaten at the Greenville Avenue Chili’s in a long time… Back when I was working for Enserch Exploration at Energy Square at Greenville & University. The Casa Linda Chili’s is the one I usually go to… IIRC, that one has been around since the early 80’s.

    • Now that I think of it… TI made the DFS V (Digital Field System V), which was probably the most commonly used seismic recording system back in the 80’s.

    • I have TI’s mathematical graphing calculator around somewhere. Took the batteries out when I put it aside a few years ago.

      Doing mining exploration in Northern British Columbia and the Yukon in the late 1960s we used to get the accountant in the Vancouver office to do the statistical calculations for deciding on the background readings and grading of anomalies for large regional stream sediment geochemical surveys for multiple-metals to generate follow-up investigation. He was the quickest guy I’ve ever seen on one of the mechanical calculator beasts of those times. The next year a geologist came in with an early (first?) TI calculator that cost~$100 that made doing the job easy for anyone.

  4. Most people have short memories. They’ll be humping back on the buses before you know it. I have little confidence that important lessons will have been learned.

    With regard to PEVs, their share will gain with lower prices and higher performance, whenever that might be.

  5. There is one thing the pandemic will change and that’s the trend to cram employees closer together in open-plan offices, and simultaneously reduce air-exchanges in buildings to make them more energy-efficient.

    A certain large company I am familiar with is in roughly year 3 of their master workplace transformation plan:

    (1) No work from home; absent special circumstances everyone must physically show up at a designated hub site daily.
    (2) No new hires of people who can’t commute to or relocate to a hub site (relocation at their own expense).
    (3) All cubicles are “hotel cubicles”. You show up in the morning and get assigned a cubicle for that day. You get a locker to store personal items so you don’t have to bring them from home daily.
    (4) “open plan” office spaces with low (4-foot) cubicle walls — you see over them and into all your neighbors’ cubes even when seated.
    (5) a bunch of common conference rooms (“interaction centers”) for group meetings or private phone conversations.

    Then COVID-19 hit and everyone with an office desk job was required to work from home — provoking a mad scramble to provision enough new VPN capacity to handle the load.

    The transformation policy was already unpopular with employees. Quite a few facing mandatory relocation left the company instead. I’d love to hear the conversations taking place among the executive leadership on just how they can reverse these policies without imparting the impression they were a bad idea in the first place. I have confidence they will find a way.

    There’s enough comedy material in this to keep Dilbert in business for years.

  6. Too soon to say what lasting effect COVID-19 will have to EV/PEV auto sales. In many places people have not been able to get to dealers to shop and many assembly plants have been closed. So to the extent people are driving, they’re driving whatever they had before the lockdown.

    If people start substituting auto trips for flights, EVs will look a lot less attractive.

    If fuel prices stay low, that’s another disincentive to look at EVs.

  7. What I found the funniest was that as soon as the malls, beaches and parks were opened everyone went to the parks or beaches. The media were perplexed by that behaviour but when you are cooped up for 2+ months and finally get to go out I’m not going to a mall. I heading for the parks, hiking trails, camp grounds and beaches.

    That means all the so called “saved CO2 emissions” will be back shortly and I can just hear all the plants saying “And thank you for your support” 🙂

    • Even more funny, I recently saw a few pictures of the inside of a shopping mall in malaysia.
      As the mall was closed the building management shut off the AC for a few weeks, now all leatherware (think expensive handbags and shoes) are covered in mold😎.
      I wonder if the shop owners are going to be able to claim for the loss.
      Once the world restarts there will be many more unexpected things pop up.

      Stay sane,
      Willem

  8. I’m curious about the exclusion of the Tesla Model S from the PEV sales charts?

    I don’t think it would have moved the line much, but probably was the second or third best seller.

    Otherwise, spot on.

    • It’s on the bar chart. It’s just not in the legend. The legend cuts off just above it. Quite a few of the earlier models were cut off as well. If Excel can’t fit the entire legend into the space allotted, it truncates it. I labeled the Tesla Model S, expanded the legend and made the font bigger…

  9. It looks like the loons in charge of the EU are going to waste a large amount of public money, urgently required for sensible recovery plans, on huge subsidies to try and make EVs more popular, judging from Macron’s intention to trash reportedly 8 billion euros on the battery toys. Of course , this will serve the metropolitan elite nicely while the masses in the countryside who need reliable vehicles can go swing.

    Let’s hope the UK and USA stay clear of any such nonsense.

    • Boris appears to have quaffed the Kool-Aid.
      Maybe little Carrie is guiding his faltering feet.
      I suspect we’ll get the full greenwash push when the Covid is but a close memory.
      Unhappily.

      Auto

  10. They have made mask wear mandatory on most public transportation now.
    Sitting on a bus, train, subway, or airplane for an hour or more wearing a mask…. no thank you.
    I’ll even avoid flying commercial now to avoid that, which is what the elitist Greentards hope in order to destroy commercial aviation. The rich of course have their private jets.

  11. Of public transport systems and their kingly promoters….

    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    Glirastes (1818)

  12. Although I agree with the premise of the article, using 2019 sales numbers for EVs does nothing to advance the argument. Although I’ll be shocked if EV sales increase, we won’t know until 2020 numbers are available. The 2019 numbers are only useful in comparison to 2020 numbers.

  13. Loved the TI thread. Supposedly Sam Worden made the zero length quartz springs for his gravimeters in in his garage in Houston.

    And of course enter > =

    My HP 41CX still gets a workout once in a while. David, you are a standout for our profession. Please keep up the good work.

  14. I don’t care what anybody says; I love my truck — 2015 F-150 XL 4×4 EcoBoost 3.5L twin-turbo V6 w/tow package, caribou (well, brown but they paid a marketing firm $millions to come with color names so there you go).

    It’s big. I look down on the other cars, except that where I live (rural America) every other vehicle is as big or bigger than mine. People around here love their trucks. I’ve noticed. I wash and wax mine frequently, but so does everybody else! People around here also love their dogs. Trucks and dogs. So there you go.

  15. IF we need more office space because of COVID the pressure to work from home mounts. In the UK it is looking very attractive. Firms are seeing an increase in productivity, and can see savings to be made. They also see location as no longer an issue getting the skills they need.

    WFH is the big change coming out of this.

  16. Traffic Apocalypse

    Where do they come up w/this garbage? Though I do agree there is a Leftist-Government Apocalypse.

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