News in Brief – Reduction in the carbon cost of smelting aluminium, mysterious rise in banned ozone depleting chemicals, does the UK really need until 2040 to stop selling hydrocarbon powered cars?

Reduction in the carbon cost of smelting aluminium

At the moment aluminium smelting is a process which uses carbon dioxide, as an ingredient,  which is then released.  New technology has been developed that will drastically cut carbon emissions from aluminium production. This is such a carbon intensive process that the change will save 6.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions a year in Canada alone.

The process will also save 15% of the operating costs, which is a significant thing because even if the manufacturer isn’t worried about emissions 15% is a big addition to the profit margins. It was carefully pointed out – aluminium manufacture is still using a lot of energy but it is still a significant difference. The manufacturers use a different (proprietary) material, and the exhaust gas is oxygen.

Aluminium smelting only accounts for around 0.8% of worldwide carbon emissions,  however as it is such a light metal cars and other vehicles made of this weigh less and so are less polluting in turn. It is of course also easily recycled.

Mysterious rise in banned ozone depleting chemicals

Scientists have reacted with alarm to the sudden rise in ozone depleting chemicals.  This is despite the worldwide ban on these chemicals. The ozone layer is highly import  protection from certain radiation, and the damage done in the past is on the way to recovery.

It is known that the source of this pollutant is somewhere in east Asia. If it continues at current rates it will delay healing of the ozone hole for at least a decade (assuming no increase in rates).

Given the universal condemnation of using this chemical, it is thought that even just the knowledge that the world has noticed could halt its use, but it just goes to show that we must continue to be vigilant on environmental issues that appear solved.

Does the car industry in the UK really need until 2040 to stop selling hydrocarbon powered cars?

The numbers vary as to how long it takes to take a design of a car from conception to sale ready. I found times ranging from 2 to 5 years. Assuming the worst case scenario of 5 years,  setting the end of fossil fuel cars at 2040 suggests another 4 and a bit generations.

Surely this is vastly over generous. A date of 2030 still allows 2 generations over which to work out how to make affordable attractive electric cars. Given Tesla cars are routinely seen amongst the most desired cars, it would suggest that with enough money sent in the right direction it could be done now.

Given a desire to keep carbon emissions as low as possible, a cut off date of 2040 is better than nothing. However it is nothing special, and many other countries will be far faster at removing this carbon emitter from the road than the UK will be.

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