Friday, December 14, 2007

Same old traffic jams

The Evening Standard yesterday brought us an excellent article exposing the failure of London's 'landmark' congestion charge scheme.

Despite undoubtedly cutting car use in the zone (the only vehicles mayor Ken Livingstone ever likes to discuss), the latest Department for Transport figures have shown that average morning traffic speeds in London have now fallen to 9.3mph - well below the 9.9mph recorded before the congestion charge was launched in 2003.

That screams abject failure. But what's the reason for this strange anomoly?

The answer, Douglas McWilliams of the Centre for Economics and Business Research writes, is that lorries and, in particular, buses are now clogging London's roads.

He blames the fact that most transport experts use models that understate the congestion impact of large vehicles like buses in cities, like London, with narrow, congested streets.

So they miss the point that a charge that mainly targets cars will only do a limited amount to reduce congestion.

Buses clogging roads

Our roads, McWilliams suggests, are increasingly clogged up by more buses than there is either space or need for, with the infamous 'bendy' buses singled out for particular blame.

In Britain we have twice as many buses as in Germany, France or Italy. Apparently we have a fifth of all the buses in the EU!

And as we have said on this blog many times before, it's not as if buses are particularly environmentally attractive. For all the space they take up, they spend large parts of the time virtually empty. Over all services, from beginning to end of routes, the average number of passengers in a bus is just eight.

Since a bus does, on average, just 3.6 miles to the gallon, and since half of bus journeys would not be undertaken if the buses were not there, McWilliams has calculated that extra buses have about the same environmental effect as driving the passengers around in Bentleys.

This is Ken Livingstone's idea of traffic management.

Environment suffers

And what's his idea of helping the environment or public health? To fill London's streets with excess numbers of vehicles that, in the course of their operation, stand stationary for extended periods both blocking other traffic and spewing harmful diesel fumes in often densely populated areas.

TfL's excuse for the traffic slow-down is roadworks. But that conveniently ignores the fact that Livingstone prevented many roadworks schemes from happening just after the C-charge started, so as to give a misleading impression that charging had raised traffic speeds.

As McWilliams so rightly concludes: "Ken Livingstone's old-fashioned, anti-car policy has to be replaced with a more modern and flexible approach that allows for the fact that, for some people, cars are the only option. Without such a shift, we risk simply grinding to a halt."

If Livingstone is too stuck in his ways to do it, maybe we need a different mayor who will.

Monday, December 03, 2007

BMW boss slams 'ludicrous' anti-car schemes

The out-spoken boss of BMW UK has slammed the growing number of local anti-car schemes as 'unfair' and 'ludicrous'.

The intervention, which came at the BMW Group's recent Annual Press Dinner, is another sign of the growing backlash from the car industry against excessive and unjustified attacks on the car and car-users in the name of alleged man-made global warming.

Echoing a common theme on this blog, he also raised the prospect of British manufacturers Jaguar and Land Rover being taxed out of the UK.

In a hard-hitting speech, half of which was devoted to environmental issues, Jim O'Donnell directed much of his scorn at local politicians, singling out London mayor Ken Livingstone over his plan to raise the congestion charge from £8 to £25 a day for higher-polluting cars.

He said that the initiative would save just 8,100 tonnes of carbon each year - the equivalent of three hours of emissions from Heathrow.

"It was introduced as a congestion charge - now it's a green tax. Make up your mind, Ken" he said.

O'Donnell also rounded on Richmond Borough Council, the wealthy London suburb that's targeting top-end cars owned by residents.

The cost of parking two band G cars has this year risen from £150 to £500, and similar schemes are now popping up all over the country.

Councils 'out of control'

"The government must stamp out this regional tax spree by out-of-control councils now. It must restore some sort of respect for CO2 tax planning by leading from the front and putting the petty local politicians back in their boxes," he said.

"We are dealing with a serious global issue, not a local tax-raising initiative designed to further a public servant's career through old-fashioned 'soak the rich' schemes."

The BMW MD insisted he wasn't anti-green, and was firmly behind his company's own Efficient Dynamics measures for cleaner engines.

He quipped: "The automotive world is turning green more rapidly than a bunch of teenagers on alcopops."

Big cars debut latest technology

Big cars are an easy target for green-minded politicians but, O'Donnell argued, there are relatively few of them in use, and they had a plus side that was all too easily overlooked.

He made the excellent point that anti-lock brakes, catalytic converters, airbags and stability control were among the features that had debuted on top-end cars before trickling down to the mainstream, warning "The enforced demise of such cars will bring a slow-down in the development of such technology in future."

Attacks on big, thirsty cars could also, he added, be a blow to Jaguar and Land Rover.

"Do our political leaders really want to kill off major contributors to the UK economy and major employers? The UK needs both Jaguar and Land Rover as strong competitors in the global marketplace", he said.

BMW UK has vehicle manufacturing plants in Oxford (Mini) and Goodwood (Rolls Royce) with a body pressings plant in Swindon and an engine plant in Hamms Hall, Birmingham from which all production is exported.

In total the company employs around 8,000 people, with thousands more jobs involved in supplier companies.

Let's hope the politicians start listening - especially those with constituencies in Swindon and Birmingham - before excessive actions in response to climate changes that there is no proof we are causing provoke an economic tragedy affecting thousands of people.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Car emissions are wrong target

Following on from the previous post, an interesting contribution on the EU's plans to enforce excessively strict emissions limits for cars has come from Roger Helmer, the 'straight-talking' Conservative MEP.

Making the potential damage the plans could do to Britain's sports and executive car-makers even more galling, it turns out they're far from the most effective action that could be taken.

That's according to the body EU Commission itself set up to study technologies to combat climate change.

Helmer highlights that the cost of the EU's car emissions proposals has been calculated to be between €132 and €233 per ton of CO2 they will save.

However, the European Climate Change Panel has established a series of cost effective measures that could more than achieve the EU's emissions targets for less than €20 per ton.

So for the EU to be obsessing over car emissions is not just economically damaging and threatening tens of thousands of British car industry jobs, but also incredibly wasteful and inefficient.

Bad choices

Of course, some will say that cost is not such a big consideration, given the importance they place on the task of tackling climate change. But this overlooks the reality that there is only so much money available to spend on such measures.

Helmer puts it like this: if you have €200 to spend on the environment, would you rather stop one ton of CO2 with auto legislation, or 10 tons through more efficient projects?

Strangely the EU is going for the first option when, in reality, energy conservation is a less high-profile but much more cost effective approach.

More EU hypocrisy

But what caps it all is the EU's on-going hypocrisy.

All the while they're preaching about climate change and (in institutions beyond meaningful democratic control) making harsh laws that will have very personal implications for many of us, MEPs continue their monthly circus of travelling between two EU 'parliament' buildings ... one in Brussels, and one in Strasbourg.

Keeping the EU 'parliament' on one site in Brussels would not just save a handy €200 million (£142m) a year, but also 90,000 tons of CO2!

So howabout the EU busies itself with reducing the emissions resulting from its own excessive behaviour first, before dreaming up hugely damaging and expensive other ways to cut emissions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Squabbles continue over car emissions targets

The wrangling between EU institutions continues over the setting of medium and long-term emissions limits for cars.

The outcome could have very serious implications for Britain's executive, sports and off-road car makers, and the tens of thousands of people they employ - both directly and indirectly.

In a European Parliament resolution of 24 October 2007, MEPs responded to the EU Commission's aspiration to set an average emissions limit of 120g/km of CO2 by 2012.

This limit would require car-makers to reduce average emissions to 130g/km CO2 through improved vehicle technology, with the further 10g/km reduction permitted to come from use of alternative fuels, improved tyres etc.

However, in their response, MEPs demanded a more stringent emissions limit, albeit conceding an extended deadline by three years. They want average emissions reduced to 125g/km of CO2 by 2015, to be achieved through technological changes alone.

EU's "kneejerk" timescale

Bearing in mind that average car emissions last year were 160g/km of CO2, such dramatic reductions in the space of a few years are extremely ambitious targets and have been described by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders as a "kneejerk" response that doesn't give the car industry time to plan.

Biting back at the European 'Parliament', the Commission has struck a note of defiance.

Spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said the EU would stick by its targets for overall fleet-wide averages of 120g/km by 2012 and aimed to come forward with the proposals for legislation by the end of the year.

"We have done our homework and we think the industry will be able to afford these measures," Helfferich says.

Kelly's noises off

Most recently, Ruth Kelly - the Transport Secretary - has intervened in the debate. In an interview in The Times, she says that she will urge the European Union to adopt an even tougher target of 100g of CO2 per kilometre for the average new car, but wants the compliance deadline extended further to between 2020 and 2025.

Kelly also said she would seek exemptions from the limits for elements of Britain's car industry which produced relatively small numbers of high-emission cars.

Time will tell how successful she ends up being. In truth, our Transport Secretrary has been reduced to the status of chief lobbyist to the real decision-makers, which will be the EU institutions.

Being brought forward as an environmental measure, this issue will ultimately be decided by majority voting. So if our elected government minister isn't given what she wants, there's nothing she or anyone will be able to do about it anyway. She'll get out-voted, and we'll have to impose the law regardless.

Predictable outcome

How this sorry saga will end is already all too predictable.

I'll stick my neck out and predict that Kelly will not get the deadline extended as far as she wants. Neither will she get Britain's specialist car makers permanently excluded from the limits.

What she may get, as a face-saving gesture, is some kind of temporary derogation from the limits for Britain. This will basically be a stay of execution for Britain's specialist car industry, as it isn't likely companies such as Rolls Royce, Bentley or Aston Martin will be able to comply with the average emissions limit in their model range in any likely extended term, nor have the kind of money necessary to develop technology that will bring about such a rapid cut in the emissions of their products.

So not only will large sections of our industry and tens of thousands of workers very likely suffer due to a blinkered obsession with the dodgy science apparently linking CO2 emissions to global warming, but their fate will be decided by people sitting in Brussels that none of us can hold accountable for their decisions in any meaningful way.

Hardly good for prosperity, nor what most people would understand by the idea of living in a democracy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Official report slams CO2-linked 'congestion-charge' plans

A report published by Transport for London (TfL) has demolished the claimed benefits of Ken Livingstone's plans for emissions-based road charging.

Livingstone's latest not-so-bright idea is to switch away from charging cars simply for entering central London and over to charging according to their emissions, starting next year.

This will herald the conversion of the C-charge - originally sold to Londoners on the grounds of combatting congestion - into simply an additional emissions-linked road tax.

The key differences of the new scheme are that cars emitting up to 120g/km of CO2 will be able to enter London without charge - the aim being to encourage people to switch to such lower-emissions cars.

At the other end of the new charging scale, those with cars that emit more than 226g/km CO2 will be hit with a highly punitive £25 daily tax to enter the C-charge zone - and will also lose their
current 90% 'residents discount' if they live inside the zone.

So any cars within this emissions bracket that 'live' inside the zone will become punitively and unreasonably expensive to move during the charging hours.

All cars with emissions in between will continue to be subject to the current £8 daily charge.

More cars = more emissions

However the TfL-commissioned Impact Assessement for the revisions, authored by environmental consultants AEA, has pointed out that not only will the effect of the changes be "an increase in cars moving within the zone" - defeating the purpose of an anti-congestion scheme - but that "Increased congestion would mean that all vehicles would move more slowly leading to increases in CO2 emissions."

So if the scheme is successful on Livingstone's own terms - encouraging people to switch to lower emissions cars - the result is clearly going to be more cars in central London, more congestion and ultimately more, erm, emissions.

Even the AEA report's best case scenario (before the congestion has a chance to start building) is a tiny reduction in CO2 emissions of "between 0.3% and 2%" for 2009.

The likelihood of more cars hitting the roads has been backed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which recently revealed independent research showing the change in the C-charge rules would lead to 4,000-10,000 extra car users being tempted to drive in London.

Ken's class war

If Livingstone goes ahead with the revised scheme, regardless of such a projected failure to either curb congestion or reduce emissions, the real justification could only be that he simply wants to engineer a way to financially attack the owners of what he perceives as 'big' cars with that punitive £25 charge, because he thinks they're likely to be wealthy people.

In other words - another indicator that he's still prosecuting the same old class war that he has a long reputation for, but this time wrapping his plans in green and trying to invoke the 'emissions' bogeyman as justification.

But using car emissions to target the wealthy just doesn't work. Anti-capitalists trying to disguise their objectives by wearing green clothes, like Livingstone, don't realise it because none are remotely interested in cars and none have bothered to look at the facts.

Far from the hype, the upper emissions bracket which Livingstone intends to slam with the £25 charge and loss of the residents discount includes modest family cars like the 1.8l Skoda Superb, people carriers like the 1.8l VW Sharan, family saloons like the 2.2l Fiat Croma and medium-sized estate cars like the 2.4 Honda Accord Tourer and Mercedes-Benz C230.

Hardly the Chelsea 'gas guzzlers' or (gasp!) 4x4s that the likes of Red Ken and 'green' cronies seem to get so excited about. Rather, normal family transport that any family with a couple of kids is likely to need.

Car industry's green progress

The SMMT's Christopher Macgowan has countered these on-going efforts to slap excessively punitive taxes on car users by pointing out the considerable progress being made by the car industry to reduce the impact their products make on the environment.

In the last four years the industry has cut CO2 emissions by more than 36%, equivalent to 0.78 million tonnes, and average car emissions have fallen by 12% since 1997.

Doesn't London deserve a mayor who will act primarily in the interests of the city rather than in pursuing out-dated class war at any cost to hard-working families and reducing congestion?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rolls flat out

Rolls-Royce has announced the creation of several hundred new jobs, as its factory at Goodwood is now working flat-out to meet demand for the luxury car.

With the recently announced 101EX coupe model and the smaller Roller that will follow, plans are being laid to expand capacity at the West Sussex site.

Sales for the third quarter of the year were up 22% on the same period in 2006, and workers at the factory are set to rake in the overtime for the rest of 2007.

The waiting list for the regular and long-wheelbase Phantoms reaches well into next year and orders for the Phantom Drophead Coupe now stretch into 2009.

Chairman and chief executive Ian Robertson said: "These are exciting times for Rolls-Royce. With the success of Phantom, the recent addition of the
convertible and last week's announcement of a new coupe in the Phantom family, our challenge is to cope with exceptional customer demand.

"The changes that will soon take place mark a significant investment in Goodwood, in the future of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and in the future of manufacturing in the UK."

4x4 sales rise

Meanwhile up in Solihull, the good news continues for Land Rover.

Once again hammering the hype of an anti-4x4 'backlash', the company has announced that September was its best sales month in its entire 60-year history.

With the diesel Range Rover and all-new Freelander 2 leading the charge, globally the company sold 26,000 4x4s - 34% more than the previous September.

And so far in 2007 sales have reached 167,400 - 15.7% up on the same period in 2006.

Business is booming in Russia and China in particular, where September sales were up by 105 and 249% respectively.

Land Rover MD Phil Popham said "This year we shall sell around 40,000 cars in countries where we didn't even have a presence five years ago.

"We're on track with plans to fit technology to improve the environmental performance of our cars and we've given a hint of new, exciting design. A great future is shaping up."

This month Land Rover has also revealed plans to cut the CO2 emissions of its model range by an impressive nearly 20% by 2012.

Two more great success stories for the British car industry - and a useful guide as to what's being risked by those advocating oppressive financial attacks on car makers and users on un-proven 'global warming' grounds.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Treasury misses chance of big cut in emissions

The great clunking fist hammered down on millions of hard-pressed car users yet again today, as Gordon Brown's fuel tax rise announced in his last budget as Chancellor reaches the forecourts.

Prices will rise by 2p a litre but, taking into account VAT, the rise will actually top 2.3p.

Further rises are on the way, with another 2p a litre scheduled for next April and 1.84p more in April 2009.

But it wasn't just motorists getting a hammering, as the announcement also left the government's claim that 'urgent' action is necessary to halt climate change badly bruised.

Speaking to the BBC, a Treasury spokesman claimed that the tax rise sent "the right environmental signals in our fight against climate change".

But because the increase has been applied to all grades of fuel, including more efficient fuels on the market like BP Ultimate, the only signal that has actually been sent is 'we could give car users a real choice to cut emissions, but we'd rather just pocket a bit more cash'.

Brown's choice: pounds or planet?

Due to its cleaning power and greater efficiency, BP claims that if everyone used their Ultimate range, emissions equivalent to one million cars would be extinguished.

That'd be like removing all the cars from a city like Newcastle. The benefit to the environment would be quick and considerable.

With more efficient fuels upwards of 6p a litre more expensive than ordinary unleaded, few car users currently opt to shoulder the extra costs.

However, when 70% of the price of a litre of fuel is tax - about 68p a litre - the government has considerable scope to equalise the price of greener fuels with ordinary unleaded without losing too much income.

After all, can the government seriously expect only us to make the sacrifices they claim are needed to cut emissions? Can taxes only be 'green' if they go up? Clearly not.

Rhetoric or action?

The only conclusion to draw from this apparent unwillingness to take a very simple and effective action to reduce emissions - albeit one involving the government cutting its income slightly - is that the government doesn't believe its own hype about the 'urgency' of climate change.

So why should we? No wonder so many are coming to suspect that climate change is simply being used as a bogus justification for government to grab an even bigger share of people's earnings.

The result of today's change is that most car users still can't afford to take action to reduce their carbon footprint, even if they wanted to.

Right environmental signals? Hardly.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Land Rover to add to SUV range

Solihull-based 4x4 manufacturer Land Rover has announced plans to build a small SUV-hatchback crossover in the mould of the successful Nissan Qashqai.

The new model, the only picture of which that's currently available is shown above, is about three years away from production and would enter the current line up below the Freelander.

It would be aimed more at on-road use
than Land Rover's traditional heavyweight 4x4s, and so potentially offer much lower CO2 emissions.

This week Land
Rover has also announced further steps in its programme to make its vehicles more environmentally-friendly.

Beyond the company's contributions to environmental charities and scheme to offset the emissions related to the manufacture of every vehicle and its first 45,000 miles of use, from early 2009 a stop-start system will be fitted as standard to all Freelander 2 TD4 manual vehicles.

The system turns off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and automatically restarts it when the driver is ready to move off, cutting CO2 emissions by 7% from 194 g/km to 179 g/km.

In addition, Land Rover announced a charitable partnership between the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Land Rover G4 Challenge.

Land Rover is committed to generating £1m for the Federation.

Monday, September 03, 2007

100mph cars to be banned by the EU?

Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies (pictured) has revealed himself to be a leading candidate for this blog's Idiot of the Year.

Davies - who last year had to resign as Lib Dem leader in the European Parliament over offensive comments he made in a letter to a Jewish constituent - has evidently been keeping himself busy helping to draft a new EU proposal that calls for a ban on the making of cars capable of more than 101mph, to help cut CO2 emissions.

Only military, emergency and police cars would be exempt from the law, which is being voted on in the European Parliament this month and could come into force in four years' time.

Davies argues that "between 1994 and 2004 the power of new cars went up by 28%, making them a lot heavier, and so increasing the amount of CO2 they put out, even though no country raised its speed limit to allow cars to use this increased power".

Flawed idea

But his idea that cars have only become heavier due to a pursuit of power and top speed have been condemned by many commentators as badly ill-informed.

In fact it's completely the opposite. Cars have mainly got heavier to accommodate compulsory new EU safety features, such as airbags and pedestrian impact zones, and to meet ever more stringent EU occupant safety requirements - measures in which Chris Davies himself has presumably also been involved in implementing.

Consequently, more power is then needed to maintain a heavier car's existing performance, particularly acceleration, and that will inevitably also result in a higher top speed.

So if he's worried about cars getting heavier and emitting more, Davies would do better to look a lot closer to home for the blame.

Second mistake

Beyond his mistake over the root causes of cars becoming more powerful, Davies also gaffes by making a simple link between power and more weight.

Often power outputs are increased merely by altering a car's computer chip, as with the Mini One to Mini Cooper, making no difference to weight whatsoever.

The big question is how does an MEP get to write proposals that could have such serious implications for the car industry, while evidently labouring under such fundamental ignorance?

Davies threatens tens of thousands of jobs

Elsewhere in the proposals, Mr Davies proves himself no friend to tens of thousands of British car industry workers and a major section of British industry, by suggesting that cars emitting double an average 120g/km of CO2 by 2015 should be banned.

That would very likely sound the death knell for major British sports and executive car-makers like Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, which employ tens of thousands of people in this country and make a huge contribution to our economy.

What has Mr Davies got to say to them? Very little, probably.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Homes pollute more than cars

It's official! People produce less pollution while using their car than they do by watching TV, washing the dishes and keeping warm.

That's according to a new Government website, which allows users to work out their annual carbon footprint.

The Internet-based calculator takes into account the property you live in, the appliances you have and transport you use.

But car magazine Auto Express wanted to see exactly how much a car contributes to someone's total carbon output, so entered figures for one of their team who lives on his own in a two-bedroom flat in London.

The website found he created 4.06 tonnes of carbon a year heating and lighting his home and powering appliances such as TVs, a fridge and a dishwasher.

The transport section of the calculator works out the combined total for public transport use, flights and cars. Doing 10,000 miles a year in a 42mpg Ford Focus 1.6, the Auto Express writer's transport carbon footprint came out at 2.89 tonnes - 42% of the total.

Another clear illustration of how the relentless pursuit of car users to shoulder the burden of so-called 'green taxes' is so wilfully misdirected that it must be far more about raising extra cash from an easy target than helping the environment.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Diesel pollution 'clogs arteries'

Diesel fumes appear to combine with artery-clogging fats to raise the risk of heart disease, research published in the online journal Genome Biology suggests.

UCLA scientists found the two act in concert to switch on genes that cause potentially dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels.

The results suggest that government incentives - such as cheaper road tax - to encourage people to buy diesel cars in order to reduce carbon emissions is likely to be having a directly adverse effect on human health.

Yet it's far from proven that reducing human carbon emissions will have any effect whatsoever on the planet's climate.

Lead researcher Dr André Nel, an expert in nanomedicine, said the impact of diesel particles and cholesterol fats combined was much greater than the impact of each in isolation.

He said: "Their combination creates a dangerous synergy that wreaks cardiovascular havoc far beyond what's caused by the diesel or cholesterol alone."

Both are sources of molecules called free radicals which cause cell and tissue damage, and can trigger the inflammation that leads to artery disease.

The researchers combined the pollutants and fats and cultured them with cells taken from the inner lining of human blood vessels.

A few hours later, they extracted DNA from the cells for genetic analysis. They showed that the genes that promote cellular inflammation had been activated.

Then they exposed mice with high cholesterol to the diesel particles, and saw that some of the same genes were activated in the animals' tissue.

Dr Nel said: "Exactly how air pollutants cause cardiovascular injury is poorly understood.

"But we do know that these particles are coated with chemicals that damage tissue and cause inflammation of the nose and lungs.

"Vascular inflammation in turn leads to cholesterol deposits and clogged arteries, which can give rise to blood clots that trigger heart attack or stroke."

If the government turns out to be wrong about the cause of climate change, and global warming is not related to man-made carbon emissions, then they will have to take responsibility for pursuing policies likely to have caused thousands of people major health problems.

This study certainly destroys any claim by London mayor Ken Livingstone - in seeking to reduce the number of petrol cars on the road through congestion charging, yet needlessly packing the roads with diesel buses - to be motivated by a desire to improve air quality or human health.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

EU pays to be lobbied on global warming

The EU Referendum blog has a story today that gives a very revealing insight into how global warming obsessives and politicians have organised themselves into a mutually-supportive society at taxpayers' expense.

It's a perfect demonstration of exactly how, consequently, the global warming agenda has become so prevalent among political decision-makers, despite the science behind it being far from conclusive.

Friends of the Earth Europe, a leading group in lobbying the EU for oppressive taxes on car users and the car industry in the hope of combatting global warming, apparently received an astonishing €635,000 in funding from the European Commission last year.

Together with funds from the German, Austrian and Dutch ministries of environment, plus contributions from the United Nations Environment Programme, this accounted for over half of the group's income, making it primarily a taxpayer-funded organisation - not an independent grass-roots environmental campaign group as it likes to style itself.

FoE forms part of the "civil society" caucus to which the EU Commission pays special attention, as part of its programme to encourage "participative democracy" – its response to the low turn-out for EU parliament elections and the fact that Commission members are unelected.

So FoEE gets access to high-level decision-makers, plus some very helpful funding to promote their global warming agenda.

The Commission gets to say it's 'responding' to a group supposedly arising from "civil society" to justify the needlessly oppressive regulations and higher taxes it wants to impose.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Global warming to go into reverse?

The BBC reports today on a new scientific study that purports to show that changes in the Sun's output cannot be causing modern-day climate change.

The study has been carried out by Mike Lockwood, from the UK's Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, together with Claus Froehlich from the World Radiation Center in Switzerland.

Their main argument is that, in the last 20 years, the Sun's output has declined while temperatures on our planet have continued to rise.

While the authors concede that most of the 20th Century saw a slight but steady increase in solar output, and even that cosmic rays may have affected our climate in the past, they point out that in about 1985 that trend appears to have reversed and solar output started to decline.

'Small' detail missing

However, what they don't acknowledge is that the temperature effects of solar radiation have been shown to lag, one big reason being the time it takes for the heat from the sun, or lack of, to affect the temperature of our oceans.

So the influence on Earth's temperatures from the declining solar output this study highlights may in fact take considerably longer to become apparent in temperature changes.

In essence, Lockwood is drawing his conclusions prematurely.

So far from "settling the debate", as Lockwood rather arrogantly hopes, what he may have in fact revealed in this study is not that global warming is man-made, but a looming cooling trend.

Once again, far from an excuse for politicians to heap excessive financial burdens on hard-pressed car users.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Climate change hits Mars

Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, the
Sunday Times has reported.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s.
This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth.

One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet’s temperature.

Fenton’s team unearthed heat maps of the Martian surface from Nasa’s Viking mission in the 1970s and compared them with maps gathered more than two decades later by Mars Global Surveyor.

They found there had been widespread changes, with some areas becoming darker.

When a surface darkens it absorbs more heat, eventually radiating that heat back to warm the thin Martian atmosphere: lighter surfaces have the opposite effect.

The temperature differences between the two are thought to be stirring up more winds, and dust, creating a cycle that is warming the planet.

MGs in production again at Longbridge

The first MG cars to be built under Nanjiing Automobile Corporation (NAC) control started rolling off an assembly line at the Longbridge factory today.

Welding, painting and final assembly of the revised TF model takes place at Longbridge, with a revised Euro IV-compliant version of the K-Series engine and many other components sourced elsewhere.

The cars are set to be on sale before the end of the year.

The Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) spent £50m buying the MG brand, the manufacturing rights to its range of vehicles and MG Rover's assets.

NAC's chief executive, Yu Jian Wei, said MG had a "glorious past" and Longbridge had an "irreplaceable role in the MG project" and "This is the re-birth of MG."

The revised TF has had some cosmetic changes, mainly to the front bumper and the headlights, but nothing mechanical. The priority was to get it on sale, and to get the assembly procedures and quality control up to scratch, before evolving the car, he said.

Yu Jian Wei told a press conference after the opening ceremony: "In the not too distant future you will be seeing an upgraded TF, a hard top TF and maybe a whole new product.

"The first group of dealers are being selected. There are many applications, both from previous dealers and from new dealers that would like to become MG dealers."

Mike Whitby, the leader of Birmingham City Council, told the assembled dignitaries and journalists: "I was present here on that fearful night when Rover collapsed. The sense of loss was profound. Many thought that today was a day that would never come. We were told that Longbridge had no future as a manufacturing centre by one or two Jeremiahs.

"Today we see the start of the process that will see the return to quality manufacturing on this site."

NAC says it plans to build 15,000 cars a year at Longbridge in an unspecified "first phase"; not many compared to the 100,000 cars that were produced before the plant shut in 2005, and to the 200,000 MGs that the corporation is planning to build at its plant in China.

So far only 130 jobs have been created on a 469-acre site that once employed more than 20,000. When MG Rover collapsed into administration about 6,000 Longbridge workers lost their jobs.

Trade and industry minister Margaret Hodge welcomed the relaunch as "good news for the Midlands, and good news for UK car manufacturing".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Honda nearing capacity at Swindon

Honda's UK factory in Swindon, which builds the Civic and CR-V models, will be working at its peak output of 250,000 cars a year by the end of 2007.

An extra 700 workers have been recruited, bringing the total workforce to 5,000.

Honda is using the Swindon team's expertise to help with the expansion of the company's factory in Turkey, which is gearing up to produce 50,000 cars by the end of the year.

This will bring Honda's total production in Europe up to 300,000.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nissan's good news for Sunderland

Two bits of good news recently from Nissan and their award-winning car-making facility in Sunderland.

First, the company has announced that thousands of new jobs are to be created through the building of a new £4.5 million logistics centre for processing and distributing parts.

Working with Sunderland City Council and the One North East development agency, in connection with the plan the company will also make improvements to surrounding roads, and build a business park on a 45-acre site to include office space, a hotel, a car showroom and industrial units.

It's hoped around 4,000 new jobs will be created in the area.

Second, it was also announced this week that the Sunderland site - Britain's largest car plant - is now exporting two of the cars it makes back to Japan.

Since March the factory has been building Qashqais for Nissan's home market - the first such move in a decade. But the crossover hatchback has now been joined by the Micra C+C.

An initial batch of 1,500 cars will go on sale in Japan in July.

More than 23,000 British-designed C+Cs have been exported to more than 45 markets since production began 18 months ago.

Nissan's European production chief Trevor Mann said: "Coming so soon after Qashqai, this is great news for our plant.

"To have two of our products competing over there speaks volumes both about the quality of our employees, and the cars they produce."

Nissan's investment and activities in the UK epitomise what politicians put at risk if they succumb to vocal eco-extremists pushing the idea that car users should be hit with punishing tax rises.

That can only make Britain an increasingly hostile environment for cars ... and, inevitably, those businesses and thousands of jobs connected with this country's car industry.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Four million Landies and counting

The four-millionth Land Rover rolled off the production lines this week at the company's factory in Solihull.

The landmark vehicle was a Discovery 3 model, and Land Rover are celebrating by donating it to the Born Free Foundation wildlife conservation charity.

Patron Joanna Lumley (pictured) collected the car on behalf of the charity, which will be used in the UK in projects rescuing stranded or abandoned marine mammals such as grey seals.

Will Travers, Born Free chief executive, said, "This important vehicle will enable us to carry out important frontline conservation and animal welfare missions at will.

"Without Land Rover’s support we simply would not be able to reach some of the off-road remote destinations or tackle some of the rescues that are a vital part of our work.”

Born Free has been one of Land Rover’s Global Sponsorship Partners since 2002. The sponsorship includes financial and vehicle support in the UK, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

In 2006 Land Rover’s support contributed to the rescue and relocation of three lions from a circus in France to Shamwari in South Africa.

Dare we suggest that these charitable activities by Land Rover are likely to be a far greater contribution to helping our environment than most of those who whinge about 4x4s have ever made.

Land Rover has now been building its off-roaders for 59 years, crossing the three-million mark in 2001. The company is currently building around 700 cars a day, employing 10,000 people directly in Solihull, and helping to sustain over 50,000 more jobs in the local and national economy. The company exports 78% of all production.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Censorship row over global warming documentary

Leading scientists have moved to block the DVD release of the controversial Channel 4 documentary 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'.

The programme cast doubt on the science behind popular theories on global warming - claiming climate change has nothing to do with man's actions.

In a letter to the programme's producers and the television regulatory authority OFCOM, 37 global warming experts asked for the documentary to be banned unless 'factual inaccuracies' were edited out, claiming repeats of the show would 'not be in the public's interest'.

In response, the show's producer Martin Durkin claimed the scientists wanted the programme banned only because they "have staked their reputations and built their careers on global warming".

Other observers have drawn comparisons between the scientists' letter and Soviet-style censorship.

The only real fact of the matter is that, whether these scientists agree with the claims made in the documentary or not, they were well-argued claims, by credible people - scientists and leading environmentalists.

This attempt to block such opposing arguments being made available more widely, so that people can make up their own minds on the issue - the idea that humans are causing global warming having had near monopoly coverage in the media for some considerable time - can only enhance suspicions that the science sustaining the man-made global warming theory is indeed as weak as the documentary claims.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

London council sets controversial clamping targets

A London borough has set new targets for traffic wardens that will see more vehicles clamped and more drivers facing parking fines.

The borough of Kensington and Chelsea has set a minimum target for 2007 in its contract with National Car Parks (NCP) of 306,000 parking tickets and 15,000 vehicles clamped, according to the Guardian.

Minimum targets? How can a public authority legislate for the minimum number of people who should be punished for breaking a law? What next ... minimum targets for the number of people who should be imprisoned for murder?

Under the terms of the deal, wardens will have to issue at least 840 tickets and clamp as many as 36 vehicles each day - or face paying a fine to the council.

Lobby groups and motorists' organisations are calling for better government regulation of parking enforcement and the companies who carry it out amid concerns that targets will lead to unfair ticketing and clamping. At present, parking firms are only subject to voluntary rather than statutory guidelines.

The British Parking Association has launched an investigation into the Kensington and Chelsea contract to determine whether it breaches the organisation's guidelines.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lotus joins green car-makers

Norfolk sportscar firm Lotus is joining the ranks of car-makers making a significant contribution to reducing the impact of their activities on the environment by building three giant wind turbines on its test track.

The windmills will harness wind-power to generate zero-emissions electricity for the Lotus factory, offices, design rooms and engine test facility.

So much power will be generated, in fact, that the excess will be fed into the national grid to also power local homes.

The announcement comes on top of recent initiatives and investment by a number of other car-makers aimed at making their products and industry kinder to the environment.

This illustrates once again just how unreasonable the demands by eco-extremists to hit the car industry and car-users with excessive 'green' taxes are.

Friday, May 04, 2007

MG set for UK comeback

Nanjing Automobile, the Chinese buyers of MG, have announced plans to bring the TF soft-top sportcar back to the UK.

Production of the TF is already underway in China and Nanjing hopes to start importing bodies and parts into the UK for assembly at MG Rover's old Longbridge plant.

115 people are still employed at the plant, with Nanjing planning to increase this to 800 as other revised MG models are launched.

Restyled versions of the MG ZT and ZS models, to be called the MG 7 and MG 5 respectively, are also on the way, alongside a significantly revised MG ZR, which will be re-badged the MG 3.

The MG 7 is expected to be the first to arrive, by the Autumn, with the 5 and 3 following in 2008.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Biodiesel supercar is Brit first

British firm Trident has broken the supercar mould with its new Iceni, by marrying stunning performance with economy and eco-friendliness.

The key to this triple achievement is the V8 diesel engine that Trident has sourced from GM to power the car, coupled to some clever gearbox engineering to make best use of the engine's monster torque.

The result is that, once installed in a lightweight sportscar as opposed to the Isuzu pick-ups in which the unit is usually found, the 6.6-litre 375bhp V8 can propel the Iceni from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, and on to 170mph.

So far, so supercar.

What's different is that this can be achieved while running the car on biodiesel, making the car capable of a planet and wallet-friendly 60mpg.

To prove their point, this month Trident is sending a car from the firm's Norfolk base to Monaco - on one tank of fuel.

Together with required engine service intervals at only every 100,000 miles, a three-year powertrain warranty and bodywork guaranteed against corrosion for life, the Iceni is set to be by far the cheapest supercar to run.

Trident also hold out the prospect of an 'R' model, developing the engine further to achieve a Ferrari-beating 550bhp and top speed of 230mph, cutting the car's 0-60 time to around 3 seconds.

So how much for a stunning 170mph supercar that does over 60mpg? The Iceni's a snip at £60,000 (or £75,000 for the Iceni R). That's the same price as a basic Porsche 911 or half a Ferrari F430.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Global warming?

Interesting story over on the EUReferendum blog today, contrasting the dire predictions from the "global warming scare industry" with problems being caused by unusually thick pack ice off Newfoundland's northeast coast.

While politicians would like to use the outpourings of the likes of Al Gore to justify hitting car users with extreme tax rises and putting unreasonable demands on the car industry, contradictory evidence such as this is seriously undermining their case.

Read more here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Size no obstacle to safety

The latest version of Land Rover's smallest 4x4 model, the Freelander 2, has been awarded the maximum five stars for adult passenger safety by independent car safety experts Euro NCAP.

It also achieved an impressive four marks for child protection.

Land Rover claims the recently-launched Freelander 2's success is down to its special inner 'safety cell', which is protected by crumple zones front and rear and ultra high-strength door beams.

Occupants also benefit from seatbelt pre-tensioners and seven airbags.

The Suzuki Grand Vitara, also recently tested by NCAP, fared similarly well. Suzuki's compact 4x4 achieved a four star score for adult safety.

The Vitara also performed exceptionally well at pedestrian protection. Its three star score means it leads even many superminis in the pedestrian safety it provides in the event of a collision.

The results are a major set-back for the claims of anti-4x4 campaigners that cars like the Freelander and Vitara are unsafe simply because of their bulky styling or, even more irrationally, because they are driven through four wheels rather than two.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Brit-built Astras to stay

General Motors has confirmed that the next-generation Vauxhall/Opel Astra will be built in the UK.

GM's new 'family' of compact cars - to include the Astra, upcoming Saab 9-2 and a Saturn-badged model to go to North America - is scheduled for 2010, and will be made by Vauxhall's 2,200 employees at their Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire, as well as at plants in Germany, Poland and Sweden.

However, production at GM's plant in Antwerp, which currently makes Astra variants including the estate and coupe-convertible, will be discontinued. Around 1,400 people will lose their jobs in Antwerp this year as Astra production is wound down.

Cowley builds millionth Mini

This month, the millionth 'new' Mini has been built at the brand's plant in Cowley, near Oxford.

The car in question was a Cooper S model in Pepper White, with a unique Almond Green roof and matching leather upholstery (pictured). It will be sent to Mini owner BMW's Mobile Tradition heritage division for use in promotional activities.

BMW currently employs over 4,700 people at the Mini factory in Cowley, where it has the capacity to build 200,000 cars a year. Production is set to increase to 240,000 when the new Clubman estate goes into production later this year.

Nearly 80% of Minis are exported. Mini sales continue to rise since the launch of the Mk2 version last November; 7,854 were sold last month, an all-time record.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

EU chief's hypocrisy on car emissions

The president of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has been forced to defend himself against charges of hypocrisy for owning a so-called 'gas-guzzling' 4x4.

While driving a 4x4 is not an activity that someone can come under fire for on this blog, the problem lies in Barroso's abject double standards.

For himself, he chooses the safety, style and driving experience of a 4x4.

But at work heading the European Commission, he piously lectures us all about the urgency of cutting car emissions. Worse, he busies himself making excessive laws aimed at forcing the rest of us who aren't paid out of an apparently bottomless pit of taxpayers' money into tiny city cars, by steadily making anything else unaffordable.

Barroso, who owns a Volkswagen Touareg, said: "I have never spoken of myself as an example to anybody - today's moralistic approach is not mine."

But this is more than a tad rich, coming from the head of a body that, despite its democratic illegitimacy, constantly makes moral choices in a wide range of policy areas and enforces them on us all through EU-wide laws.

Barroso's VW 4x4 emits an above-average level of CO2 of 356 g/km - well above a 130g limit Brussels is seeking to impose on the car industry by 2012. Taken as a whole, the EU Commission's car fleet of 85 vehicles has an average emissions level of more than 258g/km.

Are they doing anything about that? So why should we make sacrifices in our choices?

'Collective action' EU-style

In response to the hypocrisy charge, Mr Barroso bizarrely insisted that fighting climate change was about "collective action" and voiced concern that a focus on an individual's CO2 usage could be a "slippery slope".

Yet most people would understand the simple idea that 'collective action' actually results from the choices of large numbers of individuals.

And few are likely to heed 'encouragements' to make certain perceived pro-environment choices when those doing the encouraging (or more accurately in this case, enforcing through EU law) don't take their own words seriously enough to act on them.

Euro corporatism exposed

Actually Barroso's response provides a chilling exposé of the corporatist mindset of those running the EU, in which 'collective action' comprised of individuals acting in common (for example, in voting for those who govern them) plays no part.

Rather, collective action EU-style is derived through the interaction of bodies taken to speak on behalf of groups of individuals. We individuals ourselves are expected to just do what the annointed 'collective' says.

Hence Barroso's idea that there's no need to focus on individuals, or being remotely credible in front of us.

Certainly, with such a 'don't drive what I do, drive what I say' mindset in evidence at the top of the EU and no appreciation of there being a problem in such an attitude, it's no wonder the EU-led way in which its member countries are increasingly governed is being described as 'neo-feudal'.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rapide growth planned at Aston Martin

More Aston Martin news in The Times today, which reports that the company plans to step up production by more than a quarter in the next three years.

Growth will be driven by the start of production of two new models - the DBS of latest James Bond fame and the four-door Rapide - taking the marque's range to seven cars.

Ulrich Bez, chief exec of Aston Martin, said that the Rapide would add another 1,000 - 2,000 cars to its record 2006 total of 7,000.

The sportscar maker expects to take on at least 200 more workers at its Warwickshire plant as a result, with the facility having to be expanded with a new production line and developments to the body and paint shops.

Mr Richards reassured Aston Martin fans that the new owners were committed to the company long term and would not be seeking a quick turnaround like many private equity groups.

He said: “The car industry and this business require long-term investment. You can’t come in and out in two to three years as some private equity groups do.”

Ford also owns Jaguar and Land Rover in the UK, but Lewis Booth, head of Ford Europe, yesterday said that there were no plans to sell those companies too.

Aston Martin has very little in common with other Ford brands so was seen as the easiest to sell. Land Rover and Jaguar and Ford-badged cars share a great deal of parts and design.