Thursday, February 08, 2007

EU emissions threat to Britain's car industry?

The European Union's new plan, announced yesterday, to enforce an average emissions limit on new cars of 130g of CO2 per kilometre could present a major threat to a large part of Britain's specialist car industry.

While the EU Commission has apparently assured car-makers that the new limit will not apply to each individual manufacturer but to the industry as a whole, the exact terms of how the plan will be regulated are yet to be set out.

But the EU has a long record of making reassuring noises when announcing a new plan, yet the final law turning out - many months later, when press attention has died down - to be far more harmful.

If the law does take a per-manufacturer approach, the major car groups could more easily meet the average emissions requirement using the smaller city cars in their range to offset the emissions of their larger products.

But specialist sports and executive car makers like Britain's Aston Martin, Land Rover and Jaguar, as well as Britain's wide range of independent sports car makers, could be under threat.

While the big three mentioned above are currently all part of the Ford group, that doesn't make them secure. In a likely foretaste of what may happen if this new EU proposal comes into force, Ford is already trying to sell Aston Martin.

The question is, under the new EU law, could Ford cope with the sports and executive cars produced by these British brands at the higher end of their emissions range dragging up their average?

The same question must be asked in the cases of Bentley and Rolls Royce, owned by Volkswagen and BMW respectively.

If these groups feel they've reached the limit of what they can achieve with low-emissions city cars, disposing of their luxury higher-emissions brands could easily become an option.

Yet tens of thousands of jobs in Britain are connected with the manufacturing operations of these car-makers.

Weight -v- emissions: EU contradiction

The EU has also been accused of contradiction in its approach to the car industry. Car-makers have made huge progress in engine efficiency in recent years, reducing average car emissions from 185g/km of CO2 in 1995 to 162 g/km last year, and aiming for 140g/km by 2008.

But this progress has been hampered to some extent by the size and weight of cars increasing, caused in large part by ever more stringent EU-derived car safety regulations. More crash protection built into a car means more metal being used and a heavier vehicle is the result.

Obviously making safe cars is also a priority, but there's no evidence of a joined up approach to regulation between achieving this objective and reducing emissions - as to whether ever more EU demands for vehicle rigidity are worth the extra weight and emissions that inevitably result, relative to whether road casualties could be reduced in other ways.

EU's big business bias

Consultation on this new EU emissions plan will apparently continue, but danger is present in the way the EU law-making process favours large corporations with multi-billion pound budgets and professional lobbying outfits in Brussels.

The major car groups will inevitably command more attention from EU institutions and may be supportive of this new plan, if they were to see it as an opportunity to consolidate their market position by turning up the heat on their smaller competitors.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

'4x4s safer' says TRL

A new report by the Transport Research Laboratory - the UK's internationally recognised centre for transport research and testing - has blasted another of the arguments being touted by anti-4x4 obsessives clean out of the water.

In a study of the effectiveness of roadside safety barriers, TRL's research shows that 4x4s are involved in fewer impacts with crash barriers. Just two per cent of strikes involve 4x4s, whereas these cars make up 10% of cars on Britain's roads.

That means 4x4s are five times less likely to be involved in this type of collision.

The study also reviewed UK national accident statistics, which indicate that the drivers and passengers of these larger vehicles are less likely to be killed or seriously injured in an accident than those in other types of car.

It also points out that 4x4s are "under-represented in accidents on unclassified roads".

Commenting on the results, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders pointed out that the results of the study were probably due to more 4x4s being fitted with accident avoidance technology like ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) as well as anti-rollover technology, assisted braking and lane departure warning systems to prevent skidding and loss of control.

TRL's findings follow a Department for Transport (DfT) report published in October last year, which examined 2004 accident data. That also revealed that occupants in a 4x4 were around half as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a two-car impact as those in other types of car.

While this report is no longer available to download from the DfT web site, copies can be requested from the DfT on +44 (0)20 7944 6395 or e-mail: .

So now that 4x4s have been shown to take up no more road space, are no more 'gas guzzling', are not more polluting, and are no more dangerous to their occupants than other average sized cars, will the anti-4x4 brigade finally admit that their bizarre obsession with these vehicles is more about an attempt to continue out-dated class war than any rational argument?

At the very least the mainstream media should now stop mindlessly repeating their failed arguments.

Friday, February 02, 2007

IPCC downgrades climate change effect by 25%

While this blog isn't necessarily concerned with scrutinising the theory that humans are causing global warming, today's renewed hysteria can't go without comment.

The latest IPCC report that's causing it will undoubtedly be leapt upon by politicians wanting to push through stinging tax rises and thinking 'saving the planet' may present a plausible justification. And typically such action is directed disproportionately at car users.

But the politicians had better think again. Because however much rhetoric about it 'ending debate' they might like to spout self-servingly, this latest report is very far from 'conclusive' evidence that there's a serious climate situation developing.

While the mainstream media obediently recites the usual gloom-and-doom scenarios, almost revelling in the potential horror, the only point that seems to be of real relevance is that the temperature estimates in this latest report have actually been downgraded by 25% from those given in the IPCC's previous offering.

Back in 2001, the IPCC's predicted upper temperature rise this century was 5.8C. By today's report the upper estimate had dropped to 4C.

This downgrade is being explained by the IPCC as a 'refinement', due to better quality data having being obtained. This is understandable.

But the IPCC have effectively admitted that their previous estimate was inaccurate to an astonishing degree. So what of their current estimates? Exactly why should they be taken so seriously?

Is it not within the bounds of possibility that better quality data still may cause further downgrades and reveal that there isn't that serious a climate problem looming at all?

A variation of the order of 25% suggests that a reasonable level of doubt about what we're being told by the IPCC on climate change should quite naturally remain.