On January 12 the Daily Mail wrote an “EXCLUSIVE” that: “Electric double-decker buses will NOT be withdrawn from service after one ‘exploded’ on the school run, TfL [Transport for London] confirms – as hybrid bus catches fire in east London just a day later”. See in our perfect imagined world EV fires don’t happen, but if they do maybe people can at least gather around and warm their hands. But in grubby reality, alas, things are different. After a second bus erupted in flames in North Woolwich (east London) that took an hour to extinguish, emitted ghastly fumes and burned it nearly to the axles, the fleet was withdrawn from service as a “precaution” although naturally some bureaucrat, specifically TfL’s “head of bus business development” said the bus system was “safe to use”.
Never mind. It’s all fine in green make-believe world. Indeed, as severe cold overstrained energy systems as far south as Texas (so much for the end of winter as we know it), Heatmap Daily editor Matthew Zeitlin seemed positively giddy:
“What if all you had to do was ask? That may be the lesson the managers of the nation’s electricity markets and grids are learning after a cold front brought temperatures in much of the South and Midwest well below freezing. This meant that grids would face a heavy test from households cranking up their (electric) heat. So, in Texas and the Tennessee Valley, customers were asked to use a little less electricity on a few especially cold mornings. Now, it’s true that ‘just asking’ is hardly the type of things [sic] you’d expect from the grid of the future – unlike some complex demand response payment scheme or reserve power source spinning up to meet high demand, which would flatter our ideas of technological progress. But still, it does seem to work.”
So hey, it doesn’t even matter if wind and solar don’t deliver. And in fact it doesn’t, in the short run, as normal people dig deep and pull together to get through a crisis. (Just as Britons stayed calm and carried on during the Blitz, but it didn’t mean a policy of bombing one’s own cities regularly would therefore be economically and morally reasonable.) But if you tell them that you’re going to make that crisis the new normal because you won’t stop believing in things that don’t actually work, you can expect a very different response because actually this stuff kills people.
One news story, sticking to the snap script, said “Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital ER loses heat during winter cold snap”. The immediate cause was an engineering problem, but one related to cold because very little works well at low temperatures. And if you toss away reliable energy infrastructure because you dream dreams of a brave new economy, and such things happen with any regularity, many people will die for your illusions.
Here's the sort of thing that doesn’t intrude on green dreams. The publication Pipeline Online warned earlier this month that:
“One of the first lessons any new engineering student learns in their materials class is “cold brittle behaviour” of materials. When it gets really cold, like -30 C or colder, many materials lose much of their strength and are prone to shattering. This applies to wind turbines as much as it applies to car bumpers. And as a result, most wind turbines are shut down when the ambient temperatures reaches around -30 C, lest their continued operation cause them to shatter. And such shutdowns were plainly evident the evening of Jan. 11, on both the Alberta Electric System Operator website and on Dispatcho.app. That’s a website that logs the minute-by-minute data published by the AESO regarding the Alberta electrical grid.”
Wind power cannot get you through the prolonged “cold snap” known as winter in Canada. Nor can solar, including if snow gets on the panels, not to mention hail. And if you try, you kill people.