Trade offs, eh? Such a bastard…

The move prompted a profound shift towards diesel cars, which produce lower levels of carbon dioxide because they are about 20 per cent more efficient than petrol engines.

Over the past decade, the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has risen from 1.6 million to more than 11 million and accounts for a third of vehicles.

However Labour’s plan failed to take into account that diesel vehicles emit 10 times the fine particles and up to twice the nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year.

All hail powerful government planning and the Courageous State!

23 comments on “Trade offs, eh? Such a bastard…

  1. I think you’ll find they all died from Tertiary Smoke From Cigarettes.

    There was an interesting piece over at Dick Puddlecote’s place about NHS Scotland banning smoking in hospital grounds.

    The Glasgow Royal Infirmary abuts junction 15 of the M8…

  2. “which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year.”

    Probably just by counting the number of lung-related deaths not attributable directly to smoking and “linking” them to particulate pollution.

    Otherwise, we’d have to conclude that use of diesel cars is 9% as dangerous as smoking, since ASH (hardly unbiased) attribute 79k UK deaths per year to smoking.

    So it seems like another bollocksy attribution figure.

  3. I’m not so sure it was CO2 emissions that drove the switch to diesel cars. From what I remember, the attraction was higher mileage at a time when petrol prices were increasing.

    In France, almost every car is a diesel and diesel fuel around 15-20c per litre cheaper than petrol. I understand this is because the French engine manufacturers were early adopters of diesel power, and the French refineries are set up to supply a lot of diesel. Whatever the reason, it’s worked out quite well, Parisian pollution aside.

  4. Trade offs or often just straight forward rotten decisions impose by law, like with the wretched light bulbs: the hallmark of government involvement with every detail at every level of everything.

  5. Isn’t true though, that Diesel vehicles use as much fuel as petrol when measured by weight. Diesel is significantly denser than petrol so a KG of diesel is rather smaller volumetrically than a Kg of petrol. Given that these fuels are basically CHx wouldn’t this suggest that diesel and Petrol vehicles would emit similar amounts of CO2 per mile because they do about the same number of miles per Kg ?

  6. Now what we have here is typical bureaucratic thinking, treating a car and in particular a diesel engine, like a horse. A well fed horse will shit a given amount each day, it is a law of nature. You cannot engineer the horse to shit less unless you start starving it.

    On the other hand, a diesel engine is an engineered piece of kit. Tell the manufacturers to design and fit filters to clean up the exhaust air, and they will.

  7. About 25 years ago I did consulting job wherein I stumbled across some papers on the dangers of particulate emissions from diesels. I had already known that most environmental scares were bunkum, designed to undermine capitalism, free markets, free societies, Western Civilisation and so forth. But this was when the penny dropped that there were also environmental problems that were perfectly real but were not shouted about, presumably because they wouldn’t contribute much to said undermining.

    Of course, once you’ve cajoled a large part of the population into buying diesel-engined cars, then there’s far more undermining potential in becoming anti-diesel.

    This sort of thing could almost make a cynic out of me.

  8. “Tell the manufacturers to design and fit filters to clean up the exhaust air, and they will.” Experience shows that politicians will, in a knicker-wetting frenzy, do that the stupid way by requiring particular technology whether it’s ready or not. Thus the absurd DPFs that clog up so easily.

  9. @john miller

    The Glasgow Royal Infirmary abuts junction 15 of the M8…

    Neither the ban nor the particulates seemed to bother the three blokes I passed at GRI this morning puffing away outside A&E…

  10. I’m not so sure it was CO2 emissions that drove the switch to diesel cars. From what I remember, the attraction was higher mileage at a time when petrol prices were increasing.

    In UK Government allowed the tax differential to widen between petrol and diesel to the point where the differential made it advantageous in almost all cases for consumers to buy diesel*. Lo and behold revenues dropped and so they quickly restored it to its current levels.

    *IIRC you need to drive around 12k miles a year for it to make some difference, which is around average mileage.

  11. Not sure there is any advantage of using diesel when you can get a fiesta or similar that will do 60+mpg

  12. Not sure there is any advantage of using diesel when you can get a fiesta or similar that will do 60+mpg

    There isn’t. Diesels are more expensive to buy and more expensive to service (higher pressures in the engine), and the fuel consumption advantage only kicks in if you’re in a larger car doing lots of miles. But as BinD rightly says, the government can fuck you over on this by simply increasing the tax on diesel: diesel is more expensive than petrol in the UK IIRC. Whereas in France, diesel is cheaper, has been for years, and so buying a diesel is a no-brainer.

  13. “which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year”

    Habeas corpus.

    Tell ’em to name just one.

  14. Several thoughts occur. Firstly it’s all based on dodgy epidemiology, and is unlikely to be true. Secondly I’d be willing to bet that the air in London is probably cleaner now than at any time since the Industrial Revolution began, and possibly before even then if there were lots of wood fires around. Thirdly it will get better anyhow without any additional Government intervention, as newer cars that meet stricter emissions standards replace older vehicles in the fleet. Fourthly virtually everywhere inside the M25 is a Low Emission Zone, so something has already been done. Fifthly it gives politicians the chance to take more powers over our lives, an opportunity they will not be able to resist. Whatever my next car will be a petrol. I wonder if they’re planning to control the wind so the pollution that comes in from the continent can be diverted.

  15. Tim Newman,

    Isn’t there also a benefit that they do more mileage? So, if you’re an airport driver, you can have a car do 350-400K instead of 200-250K?

  16. Ian Reid,

    1. Yes, the number of deaths is nigh impossible to quantify. I’ve seen estimates of 60,000 per year in the UK reported in the FT.

    2. Seems plausible. But our expectations for air quality are different today. It’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: today we’re all fed, clothed, safe, and healthy; but our air smells a bit funny. Standing at a taxi rank in central London, the air is positively filthy.

    3. Only if the stricter emissions standards are actually effective. A German report a few years ago discovered that most of the last decade’s improvements in emissions came from car companies “teaching to the test” – i.e. tuning their engines to perform under artificial test conditions. Real-world emissions had barely changed at all.

    4. Something has already been done (see also 3 above), but it hasn’t resolved the problem. So something different needs to be done. This statement applies to many issues.

  17. Tim Newman: Whereas in France, diesel is cheaper, has been for years, and so buying a diesel is a no-brainer

    To such a degree that Landrovers with a V8 petrol engine weren’t even offered for sale in that market.

  18. Diesels are great. I drive a diesel 4×4 because it makes me feel like a big man, cyclists do hardly any damage in a collision, and if I ever needed to go offroad it’s nice to know that I could.

    Remember when diesel engines used to sound like a bin lorry with a chest infection? No longer. They’re almost as quiet as petrol, smooth, and the fuel economy is decent.

  19. Steve – seconded.

    I’ll love the way my 3L diesel jag wafts up and down the motorways of “this ere great cuntry….”

  20. Remember when diesel engines used to sound like a bin lorry with a chest infection? No longer. They’re almost as quiet as petrol, smooth, and the fuel economy is decent.

    Alas when mine idles it still sounds more like a Massey a Ferguson than a BMW. At higher revs it’s as smooth as silk.

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