In London, 8,000 people die each year from smoking. That’s according to the report from the London Health Commission late last year. The same report tells us that its author, Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, was “shocked” to find that 4,200 Londoners die each year from air pollution in the capital.
Imagine Lord Darzi’s state of mind this week as King’s College published findings suggesting that more than double that amount succumb to the city’s toxic air? Moreover, the non-governmental organisation ClientEarth suggests that the new 9,400 annual total, based on deaths studied as far back as 2010, are “only the tip of the iceberg”.
By coincidence, it was in 2010 that Transport for London began to deprecate the alternative fuel discount. And perhaps by design, TfL is one of the addressees of the Health Commission’s report. But is the government and/or mayoral office willing to listen?
Choosing lower emissions may not be in the UK government’s hands
Coinciding with this week’s King’s College publication is the MEP’s environmental discussion in Brussels. Initial proposals left those in greener camps disappointed. But the higher air pollutant targets the committee has now set for Europe, which it hopes to finalise as a bill sooner rather than later, have pleased the pro-environmental set.
Labour, Green Party and Lib Dem MEPs have all welcomed the heightened ambition of the EU. The Conservatives have bucked their rivals’ trend, labelling the new measures both unrealistic and unreasonable.
True, much of the Tories’ chagrin is a result of the inclusion of methane and ammonia in the new targets. Using penalisation of the agricultural sector as their reasoning, Julie Girling (Conservative MEP) believes the new measures the EU hopes to introduce will delay the signing off of the bill, as well as making it untenable.
Is the government protecting investment from the oil industry?
Going back to the London Health Commission report, Lord Darzi appeals to the government and London mayoral office to introduce an Ultra-low emission zone in the capital.
Thinking back to last week’s budget, new taxation makes owning a fleet of electric cars and vans a less appealing proposition for fleet managers over the life of the fleet. This suggests that Lord Darzi’s pleas have fell on deaf ears.
However, Autogas have also joined the chorus. Their LPG fuel powers 150,000 cars and commercial vehicles in the UK to date. Compared to the 10 million drivers who use LPG on the continent, we still have some catching up to do.
With the EU emission bill imminent, it’s a race we have to win. And there can be no moral argument against the cuts to dangerous toxins in our fuel. There are 1,400 stations offering Liquefied Petroleum Gas across the UK. The fuel’s emission of NO2 is 80% lower than diesel and 98% lower in PM2.5, both lethal toxins in high doses.
It’s not just the environment and lives we could save by going green
If the government isn’t making the switch to green energy easy for fleet managers, then perhaps the price of LPG will. According to Autogas, LPG is 40% less at the pumps than diesel.
Irrespective of the Chancellor lessening the cost benefits of going green – not that the oil companies have any influence in government, of course 😉 – a 40% saving on a fleet’s annual fuel bill may well tempt businesses to convert.
Autogas is calling for the government to reinstate the conversion to LPG it once offered. In the meantime, it’s integrating the service into the core operations of many of its service stations.
The company – a joint venture between Calor Gas and Shell Oil – also wants the congestion charge exemption reinstated in the capital to encourage drivers to lower their emissions.
The government may not agree that going green is high on its priority list, either at home or in Europe. 9,400 lives lost to air pollution in 2010 alone says they’re wrong. They were quick enough to ban smoking in public places. With air pollution a greater potential threat, how can they now refuse to ban high-emission fuels?