Wednesday, 7 August 2013

So the Liberal Democrats want to ban cars...

...which emit CO2, by 2040. Details can be found in this document. (PDF)

The main problem I have with this document is that it makes no mention of the biggest change to transport technology on the horizon, the driverless car. Instead, the Lib-Dems are wibbling about High-Speed Rail which will be almost completely obsolete by 2050 as everyone will be snoozing in their own autonomous vehicles. Such vehicles will run door-to-door on a vastly greater network of tracks (let's call them "roads" shall we?) than any train network will ever be able to compete with.

It also seeks to pick the winner from the competing technologies, suggesting battery cars are the future when they probably aren't.

Since the 1980s there has been a near perfect experiment in car design. The Americans used rules to define what emissions are acceptable, and relied on the motor-manufacturers to deliver more efficient cars. In Europe, a tax was applied to fuel, and pressure from consumers demanded more efficient cars. The Americans relied on state dirigisme, the Europeans relied on the market.



And as you can see, the State can drive the low-hanging fruit, but it takes a market solution (like a tax on fuel) to drive the technological changes which allow some cars to do 80-90 miles per gallon. Furthermore, rules can be gamed, which is why not included in the graph above are the grotesque pickup trucks which are popular in the USA as they are not included in the emissions regime.

The Liberal Democrats appear to want to use the bad American approach to vehicular emissions, and not the winning European one.

This document is being presented in the news as "silly lib-dems with unworkable proposals". Actually it's far from blue-sky thinking and merely a re-hash of old dogmas. It's arguable the oil price may fall. The lib-dems assume it will rise. VED is a VERY blunt tool to drive emissions compared to fuel duty. Road Pricing is likely to be insanely unpopular, and achieve little more than fuel duty does currently, and drive people off trunk-roads and onto smaller, more dangerous roads, increasing deaths and congestion. 

All the approaches in this turgid little document have been tried elsewhere, and been shown to be either useless at best, or counter productive at worst. The Weird Beards at Conference will love it.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

For once I agree with everything you wrote. The sooner Excise Duty is abolished and a similar amount put on fuel duty the better. Tax use not ownership.

Jackart said...

As I see it, VED is actually more about checking insurance/MOT etc, and less about revenue or emissions.

Andy M said...

Thanks for raising awareness of this document, there's lots wrong with it!

I work in the aviation sector, so I'll admit I have an interest! But the document talks about the increases in the environmental impact of aviation but makes no mention of the EU Single European Skies (SES) legislation (for which there is a corresponding UK law). SES enabled research (of which the UK is at the forefront) will enable a 10% CO2 reduction per flight by 2020 (based on 2005) while allowing for a 3x capacity increase across Europe.

So, unsurprisingly, a policy paper which doesn't take account of the reality of what's already happening in the industry today and in the coming years (usually at the behest of the Lib Dems's beloved EC!).

Anonymous said...

"As I see it, VED is actually more about checking insurance/MOT etc, and less about revenue or emissions"

A good argument once upon a time. Nowadays though every car has to be either on the DVLA database as insured or SORNed.

Police ANPR systems mean uninsured cars can be picked up more easily. Any uninsured cars are seized until the owner comes and gets them with valid insurance.

If the VED isn't about emissions why is it graded according to CO2 emissions per vehicle?

Trying to discourage CO2 emissions by a once a year charge is less effective than a charge per mile like a fuel tax.

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