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In Brief: Behind the job figures, Blind faith

Not quite so rosy

The establishment media has portrayed the latest UK job figures in gushing terms.  And in fairness, things might have been a lot worse.  Nevertheless, the Office for National Statistics offers several caveats not reported in the mainstream.  Such as:

“It is possible that those made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme will be included in the RTI data for a few further months, while they work out their notice period.”

People in receipt of redundancy payments may also not be showing up in the unemployment figures for some months to come.  But the bigger problem is that these are year-on-year figures which reflect only changes between today and the height of the pandemic restrictions a year ago.  A more realistic appraisal of where the UK job market is, would ignore 2020 entirely and instead make a comparison with 2019.  The trouble is that when we do this, things do not appear quite so rosy.  For example:

“Total actual weekly hours worked increased on the quarter, reflecting the decreased coronavirus restrictions but are still below pre-pandemic levels.”

In a more detailed analysis from the ONS, we find a somewhat gloomier picture.  Employment has fallen by 550,000 since December-February 2019-20.  Unemployment is up by 84,000.  Economic inactivity has increased by 364,000.  And the number of weekly hours worked has fallen by 25,600,000.

At a time when economic lights are flashing red on the dashboard, the establishment could no doubt do with some good news.  And comparing pretty much anything with the same time last year is going to look positive.  But the reality is that the UK economy has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels which were themselves bordering on recession.  Moreover, with the price of essentials like energy, fuel and food rising dramatically, and with supply chain shortages only beginning to disrupt the flow of goods, a sharp downturn in 2022 is still a safer bet than a boom.

Blind faith

Woven into the fabric of the current Age of Stupid is the insane belief that we only have to wish for something to be true for it to become reality.  So it is that supposedly intelligent people can buy into a Net Zero narrative which depends upon a raft of non-existent – and often impossible – new technologies to put in an appearance within the next 28 years.

This has proved highly lucrative for the purveyors of ineffective and impossible green technologies, who have grown fat on public subsidies while diverting attention away from the necessary – but unpleasant – changes that advanced industrial economies are going to have to undergo.  To give just one example, consider the way the nuclear fusion lobby has defrauded governments around the world into believing that they are funding the first fusion power station when, in fact, they are merely funding a multi-billion dollar physics experiment which – even if successful – leaves the dream of fusion power decades into the future… assuming it can be achieved at all.

But confidence trickery isn’t only about selling fake cutting-edge technology to gullible politicians.  Barely a month goes by without someone suggesting that because we now have battery-powered bin lorries and hydrogen-powered buses, we can safely phase out diesel-powered trucks.  And when it comes to gullible, you have to go a long way to beat Britain’s politicians and civil servants.  Which is why yesterday’s Business News Wales could report that:

“The UK will become the first country in the world to commit to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040.”

Smaller electric trucks operating multiple deliveries across local areas already exist, of course.  But in part this is because the weight of the batteries does not make the decreased weight of the load cost prohibitive.  Moreover – as is the case with the bin lorries and electric taxis – the slower speeds and the electricity recovered from regenerative braking allows for a much longer range than would otherwise be possible. 

HGV’s though, are in a different category entirely.  They need to operate at constant relatively high speeds over much greater distances.  And to do this using today’s state of the art batteries means either building trucks so heavy that the entire road infrastructure would need strengthening, or having the batteries take up so much space that the loads would be too small to be economical.

To make this dream a reality, then, requires the invention of a high energy-density battery which is also significantly lighter than the lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars.  And for the moment, battery research is going the other way – aiming for heavier but more energy-dense batteries to incorporate into national grids.  This, perhaps, is why the latest wheeze from the UK Department of Transport is to research whether trucks could draw power from overhead cables.  Unfortunately, the cost – both financial and in resources – to cover the 247,500 miles of roads, or even the 31,800 miles of major roads in the UK rule this out.

Apparently, the government is also interested in fitting new – and potentially catastrophic – driverless technology into electric trucks so that an entire convey could be controlled by a single driver in the cab of the front lorry.  And if this sounds a little familiar, it is because what the government’s advisors are pushing there is a very expensive version of a technology known worldwide as a train!  Indeed, the one sensible thing that government could do now that global oil reserves are depleting, is to abandon heavy road transport entirely and instead put whatever funding it has left into electrifying the remainder of the UK’s railways.

As you made it to the end…

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