Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Green Driving

The environmentalists are at it again. The world is under threat because some people choose to do 80 on the motorway rather than the legally permitted 70. This apparently produces a third more CO2 which will cause the Earth to warm up until it can no longer support human life. Or it’ll cause more extreme weather and hot places will get hotter while cool places get cooler. The more you listen the clearer it becomes that no-one knows what will happen but everyone is happy to predict doom and gloom.

None of the news reporters, none of the lobbyists, no one at all has paused to consider what they are actually saying. Man made emissions account for a small amount of atmospheric CO2. Of that the UK is responsible for a tiny percentage. Transport might account for a large proportion of the UK’s carbon dioxide but remember transport is more than just cars and how much CO2 can be accounted for by cars exceeding the motorway speed limit as opposed to crawling through towns? The term “a drop in the ocean” barely seems adequate to express the magnitude the saving if the environmentalists get their way.

Anyone who makes long motorway journeys must have noticed that they are about the most economical (in terms of mpg) car journeys while driving in town use the most fuel. Where safe I treat the motorway limit as a guideline rather than an absolute rule (as most do). On long journeys it saves time, which is far more important than saving money. The amount of fuel needed to maintain steady motorway speeds is tiny even if doing 80mph produces a third more carbon dioxide than 70 (itself an unsound, one size fits all approximation) it is a third more of a tiny number.

Rather than trying to slow down motorway traffic the campaigners would be better advised to look elsewhere to make changes. If fuel consumption is at its worst in urban environments why not look at what can be done there to improve matters? Rather than having traffic stationary, burning fuel and going nowhere, try to keep the traffic flowing. Urban air quality would improve, people would be less frustrated, fewer precious resources (fuel and time in particular) would be wasted and less CO2 would be released into the atmosphere. Steve Cropley said much the same thing in this week’s Autocar. Of course if you want to stick to 70mph on the motorway feel free; just remember to keep left so other traffic can flow freely past.

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