back to article Treehuggers lose legal fight to solar-powered neighbour

Wrangling Californian neighbours have recently concluded a bitter six-year legal battle, as a judge ordered a treehugging couple's lovingly-tended redwoods cut down in order to prevent them shading solar panels installed by the man next door. Prius driver Richard Treanor, owner of the proscribed foliage, said the decision wasn …


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  1. Highlander

    Silly Californians

    One can't help but wonder just what the carbon footprint of the legal case is/was. I mean all those meetings and hearings, the various members of staff and reporters as well as the court itself. How green are these tree hugging enthusiasts when you take that into account?

  2. Solomon Grundy


    The trees were obviously there first. Some dumbass installed solar panels without proper planning. Now the trees get cut down. Total crap.

    If I were involved in this I would simply threaten the offending solar neighbor with bodily harm until they shut up or moved. It's too bad our society is moving away from settling disagreements through contests of strength. Duels between gentlemen were good things.

  3. Peter Lenz

    How many trees?

    How many trees died to make the legal briefs for all this?

    My coat? The shiny one that reflects the sun in your eyes,

  4. Paul Smith

    Land of the free

    What sort of country has laws that allow tress to grow "in an illegal fashion"?

  5. mat

    Nature is inferior

    This clear legal precedent confirms that human technology is better than nature, we should remove all forests and install solar panels.

  6. b166er


    So when they have to cut down the trees, wouldn't it be extremely unfortunate if they just happened to fall on the neighbours panels ;p

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "What sort of country has laws that allow tress to grow "in an illegal fashion"?"

    The UK.

    Remember the curse of the Leylandi (may be spelt incorrectly but can't be arsed to check) that hit the headlines a few years back? In the UK you are entitled to a certain amount of light and if the growth of trees in a garden prevent this, they can be ordered to be cut back.

    Sound daft but imaginie if you house & garden never received any daylight, due to you neighbour being "Green"

  8. GrahamT

    Oh Dear..

    Two people working toward the same ends end up fighting each other in court over who's solution is best. I despair.

    Trees are a sink of CO2, and solar cells mean so much isn't produced in the first place. There is room in the world (and need, perhaps) for both solutions.

    There appear to be a distinct lack of common sense in some court cases. Maybe it came as a surprise to the solar cell owner that trees continue growing, even after he has placed his panels, but the judge should have used a bit of common. After all it should be easier to resite solar panels than a bloody great Redwood.

    They say "Good fences make good neighbours". Not apparently in California, where they would sue each other because the fence casts a shadow.

  9. Steve

    They could be greener

    They could get rid of the car and walk or cycle. Cars should always be the last resort for transporting yourself if you want to live a green lifestyle.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20/20 foresight

    So in 1977 some yogi in Soviet California invented a law making it illegal to shade more than 10% (sic?) of a neighbours solar panels between the hours of 1000-1400 (sic?) ?? And he's not President???

    Pull the other crystal.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    correct decision

    Of course you shouldn't be allowed to grow or build anything that throws too much shade onto your neighbours. It's just anti social. How would you like it if your neighbours all planted trees and your house was in perpetual shade?

    Planting redwoods in a suburban environment is idiotic. As far as I know, redwoods grow, er, tall. Really tall.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Electric car efficiency

    From my back of fag packet (if I smoked) calculations and some loose figures from unreliable sources such as wikipedia I've got the following:

    Fossil fuel power station efficiency: 35%

    Power grid distribution efficiency: 92%

    Lead-acid battery efficiency: 80%

    Electric motor efficiency:90%

    Rounding with a figure in around 23%

    If the average fuel efficiency of an internal combustion engine is 20% and the Prius is a shade on the top side of this then the difference in "green" is not really that much at all...

    Obviously in the case of this story the guy is powering his car from photoelectric cells and therefore this argument is voided.

    Paris is another city where solar power wouldn't be that effective ;)

  13. Gareth

    Re: Land of the free

    "What sort of country has laws that allow tress to grow "in an illegal fashion"?"

    Most countries, actually. At least the countries with inhabitants who have enough free time to be complaining about their neighbours to the council rather than having to expend all their energy finding food/water/not getting killed...

    Most interesting point in this article for me was that the solar panel-related law cited was 30 years old - quite forward thinking of California. But I wonder how many utterly useless futuristic laws are on the books, or what ridiculous ones are currently going through to anticipate problems which may occur in 2040... flying car ordinances, raygun control measures? Might be amusing to investigate.

  14. brian korn


    Prius owner out smugged by solar. Damn funny,

  15. Myron McCasland

    That is why I planned ahead...

    I live here in Idaho where (even after asking my local P&Z) we have no rules or guidance to go by for PV. But, when I placed my cells I took into account my neighbors aspen trees before I chose my angle and location. At the time the trees were only 15 feet tall, but these trees get 50-70 foot tall and with the sun at 15-18deg at the highest in the winter months this was quite a restriction on me. I never once considered my PVs should trump their property rights.

    I'm betting the shade lost by removing those trees will increase his/her A/C needs by the summer sun beating down on their roof.

  16. Brett Brennan
    Paris Hilton

    There may be precedent

    Most communities have laws that require the removal of items that can cause damage to a neighboring property, provided that the neighboring property is within all building/maintenance codes and standards. I, for example, had to remove a tree (the only tree over 3 meters tall in my entire neighborhood) as it had the potential for crashing down on my neighbor's home. (BTW, I did so without being asked or served upon: since I'm never home, I figured that it was better to prevent the damage in my absence...)

    "Illegal growth" in California *USUALLY* refers to trees that are growing on a property line and encroach with a large part of their bulk into another property. (My tree - although I was in Arizona - was "illegal growth".) I'm betting that these trees were of this type of "illegal". Again, an interpretation of the law that is, in most cases, completely reasonable.

    Now, with all that said, someone should have done a site survey - and building inspection - for the solar installation before construction, and these issues should have been identified much earlier than after installation. Being familiar with the areas of California that are "redwood territory", however, it's much more likely that the "installer" was a local Hippie (yes, they still exist) with little practical experience - and even if they did warn the solar folks about possible shade, they were certainly ignored. Indeed, it may go event further on the case law side: if the building (I'm assuming here) that has the solar panels installed predates the trees (entirely possible in NoCal, especially since it seems the trees are NOW a bigger problem), then the law is probably correct in requiring removal or maintenance.

    A final note: revenge for the "tree huggers" may still be at hand. Another "quirk" of construction in the redwood forest areas is that, due to insane environmental and use restrictions imposed by these self-same "Hippies" (many of whom started out as squatters that then acquired "owner" status over the past half century) is that most homes in these areas are wildly in violation of building and use code. A visit from a "real" building inspector will probably find the solar "palace" in multiple violations - even to the point of red-tagging the property until very costly and possibly impractical updates are made. (FYI: most of these homes are sold "as-is", meaning if you want it, you take it without an inspection, something EVERYONE does in that area...)

    On the other hand, one call for an inspection may trigger another...and the war escalates. Maybe Mr. Grundy's suggestion of bongs at sunrise is going to come to pass anyway...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me...

    of a guy who painted his rather large house a putrid shade of pink (downtown area) because the city council re-zoned the land so he couldn't run his business from his home, even though he'd gotten the permits before he'd set up the business.

  18. Hans Mustermann
    Dead Vulture

    @Solomon Grundy

    "If I were involved in this I would simply threaten the offending solar neighbor with bodily harm until they shut up or moved. It's too bad our society is moving away from settling disagreements through contests of strength. Duels between gentlemen were good things."

    Duels as justice were always a bad idea. Sorry.

    E.g., as just one of the many places and ways that went wrong: viking holmgangs (duels) as a way of settling who's right, had quickly become obvious even back then, that they had degenerated into legalized robbery. A veteran swordsman could basically just come and claim that your land is his, although noone had even seen him or his family in those parts before, and your only recourse would be to go take a sword in the gut (since most peasants couldn't afford an extensive martial instruction) or refuse and be dishonoured. And lose that land either way.

    That's why civilized countries eventually figured out better ways to decide who's right or wrong.

    Justice is that-a-way, and who's stronger / has a bigger dick / whatever, that's in that other direction. They're not even vaguely related.

    Sure, it's fun to fantasize about you being right _and_ strong enough to bully that wussy neighbour into admitting you're right. Tough news: there's always someone stronger than you, or more skilled with a weapon if you want to go all the way to a duel.

    So what would happen is more like in reverse: you'd (eventually) end up with Bubba the 5- ft-wide trucker moving next to you, and be able to demand everything he wants from you, no matter how ludicrious, just because he can punch your clock any time he wants to. Forget cutting down your trees, he could just as well say that he wants you to remove your roof or your garage, if the only definition of "right" is who's stronger than who.

    Or do you plan to spend the rest of your days pushing weights a couple of hours a day, _and_ practicing your skills with a few weapons, just in case you ever need to prove you're right?

  19. Trygve Henriksen

    Parts missing in the Prius/electric calculations...

    One consideration that's missing is the distribution of the gasoline. It doesn't exactly magically transfer itself from the oilwell and to the local gas station...

    What does the transportation cost?

    (In resources and pollution)

    And what about the storage and pumping facilities?

    A Gas station is expensive to build and maintain, particularly if you want to avoid it going boom)

    Charging stations can be placed anywhere there's a power grid, and unless the electric is using Sony batteries, there's not much danger of explosion...

    In fact, many large chains are beginning to set up charging stations in their carparks as a service to their customers...

  20. Mike Plunkett

    Please Tell Me...

    ...that when they cut the trees down they're going to have a bloody big bonfire :-)

  21. Chris iverson
    Thumb Down

    As a native

    to the damn state in question. F*cking disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The fact that the law is in place and that someone, well 2 separate groups of people took action against said law. It is absolutely ridiculous that it made it to the courthouse in the first place.

    well, the good news is that they are up north and no where near my sunny front porch.

    No coat here, its LA

  22. John Ridley

    Idiots without forethought

    What kind of a moron spends $70,000 on solar panels in a location that a 5 minutes site review would reveal would be shaded by those trees?

    This is as bad as the idiots that build a "house in the country" then try to sue the pig farm next door to stop smelling so bad.

    If the trees were there before either the solar panels or the law, then they're absolutely right; you shouldn't be able to be made a criminal after the fact.

    Either this guy can't see past 5 minutes from now, or he believes that the whole world should bend to his whim. I'd be kind of surprised if there wasn't SOME location on his property that didn't get enough sunlight; build the panels there.

  23. ratfox

    So if your neighbours trees stop you from seeing the view...

    Just put some solar cells at the limit of their shade. In a couple of years, the trees will have to be cut, and the view will be yours.

    At that moment, be sure to move your solar cells in a way that he cannot plant any new tree, even a small one.

  24. Herby

    Strange things DO happen in California...

    Here in the Bay Area, where Redwoods are cut down to make solar panels work, we also have a bunch of tree-huggers that want to preserve the recently (about 75 years ago) planted Oak trees in Berkeley (next to the Memorial Stadium there). You see they (the university) wants to expand the athletic facilities to have better teams (more money in TV rights for the university too). The tree sitters (who are now fenced in (two layers) and have people sending food to them with launchers or some such. There is a solution:

    Install Solar Panels.

    Then they can legally insist on the trees being cut down as they are blocking the panels.

    There is a problem, they need to sell a square foot to some enterprising person who will claim the "right" to have solar energy. Perhaps it could be an emergency call box (they have solar panels) so you get a double whammy!

    Oh, well, back to the drawing board. File this one in the "unintended consequences" category.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should have...

    ...moved the solar panels up into the treetops and run a wire over to his house. Problem solved.

    Ugly, you say? So is a 6 year court battle between two neighbors who, after it all, still have to live next to each other and probably now hate the sight of the other. Can't imagine the volumes of paper used during that, or the size of the upgraded cars all the attorneys involved will be able to afford now.


  26. E. Daniel Ayres

    So much for private property...

    Finally, a case and a decision which highlights one of the fundamental abusurd consequences of our system of private property and property rights. We all live on the earth and take resources necessary for our survival from it. There are too many already on the planet so population will be reduced one way or another going forward in time. Killing trees so that personal electric power can be generated and consumed is insane. The investments we are capable of making in solar infrastructure should be communal investments in a public power resource system which serves everyone. If this means requiring public utilities to buy back all excess power from every solar instalation constructed within a local grid, DO IT! But... don't install solar panels in places where trees can reasonably be expected to shade them. There aren't enough trees as it is... Redwood is an "endangered species" and should be protected by federal statues, although the bozo's in Washington have not recognized plants as species yet.

  27. Fred

    @ Myron McCasland

    that sounds like something a amanfrommars would say...

  28. Morely Dotes
    Thumb Down

    Re: Electric car efficiency

    You neglected to factor in the "efficiency" of drilling for oil, transporting the crude, cracking the crude into petrol and other things, transporting the petrol, pumping the petrol into storage tanks, pumping the petrol out of storage tanks, and all of the same factors for motor lubricants as well, plus disposal of the used lubricants.

    Overall, the total efficient of an internal combustion engine is close to 2%. A hybrid might possibly crowd 2.5% on a really good day.

    Compared to your 23% for the plug-in electric, that's on the order of "pathetic."

  29. Tone

    What sort of country has laws that allow tress to grow "in an illegal fashion"?

    The UK sort..?

  30. J Gray
    Dead Vulture

    Grew trees over solar panels

    "Trees already in place when solar panels are set up don't have to be cut down, but new growth causing shading is unlawful once the panels are in place. It seems that two of Treanor and Bissett's redwoods grew in an illegal fashion and had to be chopped down."

    So these hippies grew 2 redwoods in their backyard over their neighbors solar panels? I think my brain just died a little.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Show solarboy a map of California.

    Most of which is desert in which nothing of any consequence grows and stupid yahoo wants to live under the trees and have solar panels. Cheap land where you could live it up with all the solar panels you want, this is why I hate people.

  32. Not That Andrew

    Re: Efficiency of electric power stations:

    You forgot to factor in the cost of mining the coal, transporting it to the power station placing it in storage piles, removing it from storage piles and rendering it into a form usable by the power station (some stations need it ground into powder) and all the other associated costs. And that is not even including the environmental impact of open cast mining.

    Overall the total efficiency of an electric car could therefore be less than 2% on a good day.

    I'd say in the end there is very little to choose between the two evils.

  33. StopthePropaganda

    @ Hans Mustermann

    "viking holmgangs (duels) as a way of settling who's right, had quickly become obvious even back then, that they had degenerated into legalized robbery."

    How is that any different from the legal system today? He (or the Corporation) that hires the most expensive lawyers, wins. Instead of brute strength or personal skill (which a peasant could get while tending fields, which is why Chinese martial arts weapons are descended from agro tools) it's all about who has the most money. Celebrities get away with murder (OJ, Brandy, Robert Blake) and groups like RIAA stomp individuals rights by shotgun lawsuits that target the innocent-where the innocent (or even guilty) cannot afford the legal representation lose automatically.

    Try going thru a divorce where your ex wife's millionaire aunt gets her deadbeat granddaughter an attorney who charges a "bargain" of $10,000 a month in a custody case, where you've got nothing left because you've been supporting her non-workin @rse and your stepchildren for four years. Try settling a noise and disturbance suit (loud music at late hours nightly, cars parked across yards, ricer-racer "sideshows" in the street out front and rotting garbage/broken furniture on the yards and sidewalks) with your hispanic neighbors when they call on their "hispanic community" leaders and their ready list of eager litigators out to "end prejudice" pro-bono or guilty conscience folk donating sums of money to have a law firm on retainer to protect hermanos de raza from any "cultural disputes" from the "gringo's laws".

    When it's man on man, there's a chance someone can prepare. Slim sometimes but still a chance. When it's the legal system, you're not allowed to prepare. If you had tons of cash set aside, that's the first thing that's taken, before you even get a chance to fight to prove innocence. In civil cases, like divorce or RIAA stuff, you're guilty until you prove innocence. And the very act of fighting to prove that innocence increases your punishment.

  34. Joe Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    Did you know...

    "...moved the solar panels up into the treetops and run a wire over to his house. Problem solved."

    Did you know that trees are solar powered?????

    No, seriously. It's true! If the trees were under the panels, ~they~ would be in the shade, and consequently starve to death.

    Zany isn't it?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Arnold was more scared that the trees could harbour more Predators.

    Paris - because it was really her that made the law.

  36. Tom

    revenge is sweet

    Buy a bit of land in the shadow of the neighbours house and stick a couple of solar panels there and get their house pulled down - after all we have a good legal precedent now!

  37. Stuart Duel

    The obvious solution...

    ...would be to mount the solar panels on the tree lovers more sunny rooftop.

  38. Hugh Jorgan


    Two neighbors, with rocks for brains, end up in a 6-year duel in court over something that should have been settled over an afternoon coffee.

    And they're worried about their respective "carbon footprints"? I'm more concerned about the danger to our collective gene pool with idiots like them on the loose.

  39. Hans Mustermann
    Dead Vulture


    Actually, dunno about the US, but where I live you _can_ prepare for a legal battle too. E.g., I have basically a lawyer insurance, in case I end up needing one.

    Second, do some basic maths, mate. If you were going to train two hours a day for when you need to duel, the same amount of energy devoted to saving money for a legal duel will put you quite far ahead too.

    The RIAA is distasteful, but, sorry, they _don't_ take your money before you go to trial. They try to scare you into settling _instead_ of going to trial. Sorry, but, that's a whole different thing. If you want to fight instead, you start with exactly as much money as you had.

    And there _have_ been people who've won against the RIAA. Sometimes through equally underhanded PR tactics. E.g., the mother who went the "OMG they're suing my 6 year old daugher" bullshit route... although the address had been traced to the mother, not to the daughter.

    Of course, there have been dumbasses who've lost too. Like the retard who tried to destroy the data and give the court a different hard drive.

    Sorry, the system isn't perfect, but it seems to me like it still works better than the dick-waving contests of yore.

    Even in your example, by ye goode olde laws you'd _still_ be screwed. Someone rich or with rich relatives, would hire a veteran as their champion to fight you. And history has plenty of examples like that, where the "duel" was little more than legalized paid assassination.

    E.g., if you think that because you're a macho man, you could intimidate your wife into not wanting a divorce any more... well, that gives me an idea of why she wanted a divorce in a first place, sorry. But I digress. Well, her millionaire aunt would hire a thug to beat you up physically, if that's how justice went and that's the kind of trial you want, instead of hiring a lawyer. It's still not an improvement.

  40. Maty

    so does this mean ...

    America is no longer the land of the brave and the home of the tree?

    My coat, James. Time for me to leaf ...

  41. Matthew Mell

    solar panels

    the question still seems to be missed of how much energy it takes to produce the solar panels and whether they will ever make this energy back even with hacking down the trees.

    would it not just make more sense to grow more vegetation on his roof?

  42. Ishkandar
    Thumb Up

    Aah, California

    The fruits and nuts state reigned over by the Governator !!

  43. Jim

    @ Not That Andrew

    "You forgot to factor in the cost of mining the coal, transporting it to the power station placing it in storage piles, removing it from storage piles and rendering it into a form usable by the power station (some stations need it ground into powder) and all the other associated costs."

    It is correct to point out that coal requires extraction and transport too but, when considering electricity generation, these are ALWAYS bulk processes (no need to pop a tanker down to the local filling station). Also, the more modern coal plants manage efficiencies of 40-45% when that figure is derived from EXPORTED power from fuel potential, ie on-site energy use (such as fuel handling/preparation) has already been accounted for. Oh, and I think you will find coal powder a pretty widespread fuel for current coal-fired power stations.

    " And that is not even including the environmental impact of open cast mining."

    Yeah, because oil extraction/refining is just sooo clean.

    If I were to critcise the numbers provided by AC then it would be that 35% efficiency is way low for a coal-fired power station as it is much more like 40-45% and above. And if you want to include other fuels then CCGT can easily reach 55-60%. If you can find a local use for low-level (waste) heat then you can reach the heady heights of 80% efficiency.

    The other major criticism is the assertion that 1% isn't a big deal. On an individual level, no, 1% isn't great but this is not about individuals. We are talking global here so all the little bits saved get added together and the numbers become staggeringly huge. Would you feel rich if I gave you 1% of £1bn (even using the US version)?

    As for trees vs pv, both have a positive effect. From reading the article, it seems that the trees were there first. Why did the pv owner not have a discussion about the obvious, eventually issue of shade before comitting to capital cost? Maybe s/he wanted rid of the trees, as per the strategy others have suggested...

    @ Herby

    Am I to take it that you place potential sporting success above the environment? You seriously think it is ok to live in a shithole so long as people you don't really know might win a game? I guess you can bask in the reflected glory and the knowledge that the University owners are even richer than you ;-)

  44. Not That Andrew


    here is a little hint: I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!

  45. cor
    Dead Vulture

    @ Solomon Grundy


    Well said. But with them thar' trees in the way dawn is 12:00 o'clock...

  46. Samuel Walker

    Let me get this straight

    1) Four-score and twenty years ago some trees were planted by some people.

    2) 6 months ago said trees had grown and were now under the ownership of some environMENTALists. These trees were legal.

    3) Their neighbour installed solar panels. Note: Neighbour was also an environMENTAList.

    4) Said trees continue to do what happens naturally, and what they've been doing for a long long time.

    5) Said trees grow over the solar panels

    6) The trees are now deemed to be 'illegal' and are ordered to be taken down.

    Is it me or does this just seem wrong?

    Only two groups of MENTAL people could take 6 months and not be able to reach a decision - hence the need for a court case.

  47. John Benson
    Paris Hilton

    a similar experience in hindsight

    Back in the eighties, PG&E (the local electric utility) came by to lop some branches off a large tree in my backyard that were growing too close to their high-tension lines.

    They offered to remove the entire tree to end the problem forever, and I went along with it because I liked the idea of not having to rake leaves each year, having more sun for my plants, and not having to pay for the tree removal.

    The day they came to "wreck the tree", my neighbor came over and was rather upset about it.

    Looking back at

    1) a now-unobstructed view of lovely high-tension wires,

    2) the fact that I annoyed a neighbor without really intending to, and

    3) the destruction of an good-looking tree that had been there for probably 30 years or more,

    I wish I had left well-enough alone and let PG&E just trim it now and then.

    When I read this report of someone who wrecked a neighbor's tree or trees to satisfy a personal desire to "go solar", I think that something worse has happened: the cult of self-assertiveness has won out over getting along with your neighbors.

    From my childhood up to now, I've noticed that it's increasingly common to live somewhere for years without even getting to know your neighbors, let alone cultivating good relations. Many of us increasingly assumed that we would move up and out, and so "neighborhood roots" were an antiquated concept. (William Whyte's "The Organization Man" describes this phenomenon, though in the context of the 1950's executive lifestyle.)

    This has combined with the geographic dispersal of families to produce a level of social atomization such that our operative concept of "neighbors" is largely reduced to "coworkers". I'm all for getting along with people at the office and try to rub along happily with everyone else there but still, something important has been lost if my solar panels are more important than my neighbors.

    Paris Hilton, because of the wistful yet lovely, questioning feeling conveyed by the gold-toned graphic.

  48. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    A simpler solution

    Surely, a simpler solution would have been to just trim the tree back a bit, maybe remove those branches which were shading the solar panels rather then removing the whole bloody tree?

    Utter toss pots...

  49. Jon Tocker

    @ Trygve Henriksen and Morely Dotes

    Great posts. I think you will find the "we don't want no steenking electric cars (because they haven't got the "wank factor" of a really loud exhaust)" crowd invariably "forget" to factor in the production/distribution costs of the fossil fuels (and the production/distribution costs of the electricity used to produce and distribute the fossil fuels - the refineries don't work by candle light or hamsters in treadmills) because their arguments get "shot to shit" when you start talking about diesel-powered tankers and ships etc and how much the local refinery spends on its 'leccy bill each month...

    Better to pretend we live in a world where refined petrol and diesel materialise at the bowsers and the fossil-fuel vehicles really aren't that much worse for the environment than those "gay electric vehicles that have superior power and torque but don't make a satisfyingly loud noise doing so."

    Or perhaps, in their view, crude oil is lovingly spooned from the ground by hand and carried in milk pails to the refinery where it is "cracked" by hitting it with small hammers by candle light (natural beeswax candles and ecofriendly renewable-resource (cotton) wicks) and then carried by foot in other pails to the service station where it is poured into the tanks ready to be pumped by hand into the cars.

    I seriously wonder how much electricity we'd save if we were to shut down all the fuel refineries and fuel pumps. I've never been inside a fuel refinery but the one I've seen was way bigger than the milk factory my dad worked at (comparable industry in some areas as both involve lengthy processes to extract things out of a liquid raw material and consume vast amounts of electricity in the process) and *that* was an enormous drain on the grid - so I dare say shutting an even-larger refinery down would free up a lot of electricity for the domestic (personal electric vehicles and home use) market.

    Would the "demand for electricity" really increase "that much" if we were to all go electric and ditch fossil fuels?

    How far would a months' electricity consumption of the Marsden Point refinery get a battery-powered electric car?

    BTW, we use a lot of hydroelectric power here so the costs and impacts of mining/transporting coal is an issue of only a small percentager of our power plants. We also use geothermal, wind and natural gas.

    OK, the batteries don't just materialise and their production has an impact but they are recyclable, petrol and diesel are not. The electric motors also take less resources and energy to manufacture than infernal combustion engines (which also require at least one electric motor and its close cousin, the alternator) and they have longer lives. Anyone added up the energy costs of their car's regular services and part replacements? Or worked out the costs of the decreasing efficiency if they don't get their cars serviced?

    When you start looking into total amounts of energy expended and divide it by the number of kilometres travelled electric cars come out as very cost-effective in addition to having better performance than infernal combustion vehicles (don't believe me? if IC engines are so great, why are most trains pure electric or diesel-electric hybrids? Pure diesel trains are inferior relics and I've never heard of one running on petrol...)

  50. Ole Juul

    Re: That is why I planned ahead...

    "I'm betting the shade lost by removing those trees will increase his/her A/C needs by the summer sun beating down on their roof."

    Yes, and this being in California, they will now be able to sue their neighbours again. This time for cutting down the trees and causing further financial burden.

  51. Rupert Brauch
    IT Angle

    Not a Redwood Forest

    This is down the road from me, in Sunnyvale, i.e. Silicon Valley. This is not a redwood forest, it's a suburban area with roughly 5000 sq foot lots. It's inevitable that redwood trees would encroach on a neighbor eventually, since they grow to be so tall.

  52. James


    That's the thing about common sense... It's not that common.

  53. John Dougald McCallum

    @Jon Tocker

    "By Jon Tocker

    Posted Monday 25th February 2008 03:17 GMT "

    I think that if you look into the refinery busness you will find out that most if not all refinaries have their own power plants

  54. Anonymous Coward


    I have to take issue at some of the enviro-comments in here.

    Jim: The average efficiency of a coal fired power station is 31% worldwide. The maximum efficiency that has been achieved is 48%. And those efficiencies do not include the cost of digging the coal out of the ground and transporting it. Nor does it include transmission losses etc. All of which can be very significant.

    Jon Tocker: The reason trains use electricity is because its really really easy to distribute said electricity to a fixed track site. The reason cars don't is because you need some damned inefficient storage system in the car to store the electricity and then regenerate it as needed. These use badly polluting chemicals to make (lots of them - and way worse than stuff in petrol cars). Its nice to think when you come back from a 2 week holiday that your full tank of petrol is still there from when you left. Its not as pleasant to think that your electric cars needs recharging because the batteries are flat.

    Electric cars will ONLY make any sense when they are powered by power from sources we do not dig out of the ground. And that means currently nuclear. Solar power will never amount to much of anything, nor will wind. Hydroelectric, tidal and the like may well be more successful, but with a few exceptions in some countries, will not work for large parts of the world. Nuclear fission in the short term and fusion in the long term are the only energy answers - in the interim, distributing power to cars in a liquid hydrocarbon form makes a lot of sense - read the papers by the professionals and you'll know what i mean.

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