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.