Do electric cars pose a greater fire risk than petrol or diesel vehicles?: the first in a series exploring the myths and realities surrounding EVs (Jasper Jolly, 20 Nov 2023, The Guardian)

“All the data shows that EVs are just much, much less likely to set on fire than their petrol equivalent,” said Colin Walker, the head of transport at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit thinktank. “The many, many fires that you have for petrol or diesel cars just aren’t reported.”

Fires can start in several ways. Car batteries store energy by moving lithium ions inside a battery cell but if cells are penetrated or if impurities from manufacturing errors cause short-circuits, then unwanted chemical reactions can start “thermal runaway”, where cells heat up rapidly, releasing toxic and flammable gas. In petrol cars, fires can start via electrical faults causing sparks or if the engine overheats because of a fault in the cooling systems, potentially igniting flammable fuel.

In Norway, which has the world’s highest proportion of electric car sales, there are between four and five times more fires in petrol and diesel cars, according to the directorate for social security and emergency preparedness. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency this year found that there were 3.8 fires per 100,000 electric or hybrid cars in 2022, compared with 68 fires per 100,000 cars when taking all fuel types into account. However, the latter figures include arson, making comparisons tricky.

Australia’s Department of Defence funded EV FireSafe to look into the question. It found there was a 0.0012% chance of a passenger electric vehicle battery catching fire, compared with a 0.1% chance for internal combustion engine cars. (The Home Office said it was unable to provide data for the UK.)

Elon Musk’s Tesla is the world’s biggest maker of electric cars. It says the number of fires on US roads involving Teslas from 2012 to 2021 was 11 times lower per mile than the figure for all cars, the vast majority of which have petrol or diesel engines.


Piecing Together the Evidence: Open-Source Intelligence in Israel’s Gaza War: Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins breaks down his pioneering investigative toolkit (HENRY CARNELL, 11/24/23, MoJo)

What guidance would you give readers who are being flooded with this type of information? What does a well-investigated piece look like?

One issue over the last few weeks is, a lot of organizations that usually produce quite high-quality work on other issues have kind of tried to find answers where there may not be answers available. With the [Al-Ahli] hospital bombing, there are different versions of events, depending on which quite reputable organization you ask, and that’s a problem.

We’ve seen, for example, an analysis by one news organization that pointed towards the rocket being launched from Gaza. Another news organization analyzed the same videos and pointed to it being from Israel. Even good-quality news organizations are producing contradictory statements about the same footage. It’s not even an issue of disinformation around trolls and grifters. It’s a much bigger issue.

You’ve explained that it takes a while to get to the truth. What goes into a Bellingcat investigation?

If we’re talking about conflict incidents, like an airstrike that blows up a building, the first thing we’re trying to do is gather as much of the digital evidence that’s out there, like videos and photographs shared from the scene. Ideally, we try to find them from the original sources where they’re shared, but that’s sometimes not possible.

Once we have all that visual information, we do a process called geolocation, which confirms exactly where these images were taken. You can’t really trust an image from an incident unless you know exactly where it took place. Once you have that, you have a catalog of content of the incident. Then you put that into a timeline.

When you look at footage, you find other images of the same scene, and you start thinking, “What has changed?” You may start looking for munition debris, the shape of a crater, shrapnel spray, and other details like that. Establishing a link between that rocket fire and [an] explosion in the hospital is very important to do.

We also look at media reports and social media posts of witnesses talking about the incident—not to take them at face value, but to look at them and say, “What is consistent with what we’re seeing? What adds bits of information we can explore using visual evidence?” If someone says there was a rocket at the scene, or the remains of a rocket, then we’ll hunt for that through the imagery.

Using that process, [we’re] going back in time to the moment of the event to establish what happened—and, ideally, moments leading up to the event as well. And sometimes that’s possible. For example, we had one investigation into a supermarket hit by a missile in Ukraine. The actual missile in flight was caught by a CCTV camera just outside the building [in] two frames. From that, we’re able to identify the type of missile that was used. It’s piecing together all that evidence, understanding where it is in time and space, and using that nexus of information to start establishing facts and eliminating scenarios.

That’s not to say that if a claim is wrong, the opposite is true. That’s just to say that [the] scenario has been eliminated and we can move to looking at other potential scenarios, hoping that through that process of elimination, you come to one likely scenario—which isn’t always possible.

With the hospital bombing, there was a claim [that] it was a large Israeli bomb. The crater that was left was not from one of those kinds of bombs; it was from a different kind of smaller munition. I personally still don’t know if it was an Israeli missile or rocket or a misfired rocket from Gaza. But I can at least eliminate some of the scenarios. And as more information emerges, you can integrate that into your understanding of the events.


Cutting inheritance tax is not just fiscally unsound – it’s unfair (Ben Ramanauskas, 11/20/23, Cap X)

[U]sing this increased revenue to cut inheritance tax would not only be fiscally unsound, it would be deeply unfair. It would represent an even greater shift away from taxing wealth and towards wages. Cutting inheritance tax at this time would therefore be a giveaway to the wealthiest funded by working people.

Rather than cutting inheritance tax, the Chancellor should instead eliminate fiscal drag by unfreezing the income tax and national insurance thresholds.

The main reason for this is that it will allow people to keep more of their money. While inflation is returning to target, there is still a cost of living crisis gripping the country. Millions of households across the country are struggling to make ends meet despite working hard, often in multiple jobs. Increasing tax thresholds in line with inflation will mean that they have more money to spend on themselves and their families.

Ending fiscal drag would also boost productivity. We have seen stagnant productivity growth in the UK since the Global Financial Crisis and while the tax rate is far from being the main cause of this, it has almost certainly contributed to it. As Paul Krugman pointed out, ‘Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything’. Productivity is the key driver of economic growth, which has been persistently low and is forecast to be non-existent over the next year. We have already experienced one lost decade in the UK and we are set to experience another if we don’t turn things around. The government should be doing whatever it takes to boost productivity, and so ending fiscal drag should be a priority.

Unfreezing tax thresholds could also help with the labour shortages facing many areas of the economy. While the labour market is loosening, it is tight by historical standards. Firms are really struggling to get staff to work for them, especially in hospitality and social care. If a person knows that they will be no better off in real terms then they are unlikely to say yes to an extra shift or take on another job. Allowing them to keep more of their money will incentivise them to work longer hours or look for another job.

In other words, stop punishing work, investment, and savings to make them more attractive.



Based on “geographic patterns for EV ownership” within the DMAs, the study’s researchers concluded that peer influence is a significant factor in the rising number of EV purchases.

New York City exhibited the strongest example of this peer pressure, dubbed the “neighborhood effect,” as the researchers were able to narrow the study down to specific ZIP codes that showed disproportionate EV registration growth.

The study concluded with several policy suggestions that could help expand EV adoption. Increased word of mouth about EV incentives, greater opportunities for interaction with EVs, and bundling EVs with other clean energy practices could all catalyze further EV growth.

Drive one, buy one.


Hinsdale man had no car and no furniture, but died leaving his town millions (Kathy McCormack and Robert F. Bukaty, Associated Press, November 21, 2023 NHPR)

Geoffrey Holt was unassuming as the caretaker of a mobile home park in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, where he lived a simple, but curious life.

Residents would see Holt around town in threadbare clothes — riding his lawn mower, headed to the convenience store, parked along the main road reading a newspaper or watching cars pass.

He did odd jobs for others, but rarely left town. Despite having taught driver’s ed to high schoolers, Holt had given up driving a car. He opted for a bicycle instead and finally the mower. His mobile home in the park was mostly empty of furniture — no TV and no computer, either. The legs of the bed went through the floor.

“He seemed to have what he wanted, but he didn’t want much,” said Edwin “Smokey” Smith, Holt’s best friend and former employer.

But Holt died earlier this year with a secret: He was a multimillionaire. And what’s more, he gave it all away to this community of 4,200 people.

His will had brief instructions: $3.8 million to the town of Hinsdale to benefit the community in the areas of education, health, recreation and culture.


How Laws Evolved by Natural Selection (Peter DeScioli Ph.D., August 8, 2023, Psychology Today)

Laws may seem unlikely to come from evolution. There are so many laws, and they differ so much across societies. This variation shows that natural selection did not install a single code of laws in the human mind. We do not have 10 commandments, or five or 20, etched into our minds, or else we would see the same code of laws repeated in society after society.

But does this mean that human evolution has little to tell us about the origin of laws? Not at all. To see why, just compare laws to tools.

Quite. Evolution is just a tool for intelligent use.


Milei’s Policy Challenges (luis pablo de la horra, 11/24/23, Law & Liberty)

Milei’s plan to tackle inflation hinges on the radical step of dismantling Argentina’s central bank (BCRA) and embracing the US dollar as the nation’s official currency. This proposition has sparked fervent debate, evident in the strong resistance it faces from politicians across the political spectrum and prominent academics. Nonetheless, there is a widespread acknowledgment that decisive action must be taken to confront the nation’s foremost economic challenge. Does dollarization represent the optimal strategy to set the nation on a path toward monetary stability?

There is no straightforward answer. Dollarization is not the first best choice, as it deprives central banks of the monetary policy tools they typically employ to address economic crises. For instance, in the face of deflationary pressures, a central bank would typically reduce the policy rates to stimulate economic activity. In a dollarized economy, the national central bank is either eliminated (as Milei proposes) or loses its authority over monetary policy, leaving policymakers with fewer resources to use in the event of a crisis.

Furthermore, the elimination of the BCRA implies the loss of its role as a lender of last resort to address liquidity issues within the banking sector, especially during financial crises. Likewise, the process of dollarization demands an ample supply of dollar reserves, and the BCRA has notably reduced its holdings over the past year. This reduction in reserves could potentially introduce complications in the dollarization process. The question then arises: are these challenges insurmountable?

Undoubtedly, the ideal stance for a country or a group of countries is to uphold monetary policy autonomy. However, the effectiveness of such a policy hinges on the existence of an independent central bank endowed with the capacity to promote price stability through judicious monetary measures. This stands in contrast to the BCRA, which has demonstrated a dismal track record in controlling inflation, as evidenced by the recurring inflationary episodes over the past decades.

A less radical course of action could involve retaining the peso while endowing the BCRA with independence from political interference, thereby curbing its tendency to monetize government debt. Regrettably, this option might be hindered by the BCRA’s lack of credibility and the historical inability of politicians over the past decades to effectively address and control inflation by granting independence to Argentina’s central bank.