Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Smoking and driving


George Monbiot's 'Will they never stand up to the carmakers and save our lungs?' (via Norm):
some 54 bar staff in the UK die as a result of their exposure to other people's cigarette smoke. And every year, according to the EU, some 39,000 deaths in this country are caused or hastened by air pollution, most of which comes from vehicles.
Nonetheless, Monbiot is a supporter of the smoking ban which 'will save some fraction of the bar staff who die every year'  Some fraction? Like 5? 1?

So much for the token politics of the smoking ban. Vehicle pollution, on the other hand, is a serious issue and deserves a serious analysis. Monbiot pursues a familiar line: it's all the fault of the carmakers (in the same way, Michael Moore justifies his witch-hunt on smokers by claiming that he is attacking tobacco companies). Never mind that people want to drive cars (not to mention those who work producing them).

'But in 2000 the decline in the most dangerous pollutant - small particles of soot - came to a halt.' The particles are produced by diesel engines. However, they can be practically eliminated by the filters that manufacturers have introduced on some cars (mentioned towards the end of Monbiot's article, completely out of context - 'Why, in this age of particulate filters and hypercars...').

Diesel engines do have one big advantage: they consume less fuel and therefore produce less of the greenhouse gases. (Strange, that someone who is supposed to have environmental credentials does not even mention global warming.)  The consultancy Integral Powertrain says that 'diesel throws up a CO2 emission benefit of around 27 per cent based on comparing engines of the same power rating.' (*)

Manufacturers are subject to increasingly stringent regulations from the EU and US as to the emissions their vehicles produce.

However, planned European emissions rules could add as much as €1500 to the cost of a diesel car. This might reduce the market penetration of diesel and consequently increase the problem of carbon dioxide,  according to the European Association of Automobile Manufacturers (*).

People could also hang on longer to their older cars, which are subject to less stringent regulations.

Finally, the failure 'to stand up to a handful of motor manufacturers who no longer even operate here?' But who still produce cars in Britain: Toyota (with their hybrid Prius), Ford and Peugeot-Citroen (who are co-operating on designing diesel engines) and so on.

*  Financial Times, Motor Industry special report, 13 Sep 2005 (this is available online, but it's  subscribers only)

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