SUVs and Campaign Against       

You have probably seen in the news a campaign against SUVs with tyres being let down. This is undoubtedly a criminal act which should be condemned.

But it’s worth saying that SUVs are an irrational choice of vehicle except for the very few who have a very large family or need to transport a lot of goods. An SUV typically is shaped like a brick and has a large frontal area. Therefore it will have higher wind resistance and fuel consumption than a smaller vehicle. If you want a luxury vehicle with plenty of space inside you don’t need to buy an SUV. Even electric SUVs will have a reduced range over comparable smaller vehicles.

So my view is that SUVs should be avoided and they have certainly contributed to higher overall air pollution in the last few years. But attacking the vehicle or their owners is wrong.

Roger Lawson

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Manchester Campaign Against CAZ and Bromley Air Quality

While Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, plans to expand his ULEZ scheme, in Manchester there has been a very effective campaign against their proposed CAZ scheme. Mayor Andy Burnham is now back-tracking on the proposals.

Daily charges for the most polluting vehicles that don’t meet emission standards – HGVs, buses, non-Greater Manchester licensed taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) – had been due to begin on 30 May 2022 but will now not go ahead. The withdrawn legal direction would have led to charges for non-compliant vans, Greater Manchester-licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) from June 2023. Private cars, motorcycles and mopeds were exempt. Concerns about financial hardship for local people and the availability of compliant vehicles led the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester local authority leaders to ask government to lift its legal direction. Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities have until 1 July 2022 to work with government to develop a new plan that will clean up the air while protecting livelihoods.

The campaign against the Manchester CAZ has 90,000 supporters under the banner Rethink GM. Go here for more information: www.rethinkgm.co.uk and to register support. On the home page click “Forums” then “Register” with just your name and email. The web site also provides a link to an active Facebook page.

Meanwhile the London Borough of Bromley have shown that it is not necessary to impose expensive ULEZ or CAZ schemes to clean up the air (most of that borough is outside the London ULEZ scheme). A press release from Bromley reports that updated data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that between 2016 and 2019 there was a 23% decline in NO2 across the borough, a 19% decline in PM2.5 and a 28% decline in PM10 particulates.

Bromley claims to now be the “cleanest and greenest borough in London”.

For more details see Bromley press release here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/2825/big_improvements_in_air_quality

Comment: Bromley has of course ignored demands for LTNs and road closures and is keen to keep traffic moving. But they have pursued positive initiatives such as electric bus trials. Unlike many Labour controlled boroughs in London they have taken a more empirical and less dogmatic approach to the air quality issue.

Readers are reminded that the London ULEZ did little to contribute to improvements in air quality so why is the Mayor wanting to expand it? See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/ . It will cost a great deal to install hundreds of new cameras to expand the zone and high operating costs, apart from the impact on residents who will need to buy new vehicles or pay £12.50 per day. Although the Mayor says he has abandoned the idea of a boundary charge for people driving into London from outside, the extra cameras will make it very easy to introduce such a scheme!

Roger Lawson

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A Great Article from Matt Ridley on Global Warming

Matt Ridley has issued a great blog article on “How Global Warming Can Be Good For Us”. The author of many books on science which are all worth reading, he argues in his latest article that global warming is real, but so far it is mostly beneficial. The biggest benefit from emissions is global greening as forests expand and more rainfall means more land can be cultivated. But there are several other advantages which are ignored by the prophets of doom and popular media who prefer to report only bad news.

For a more balanced view of the problem, read the article here: https://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/how-global-warming-can-be-good/

The current Government aim of achieving “Net Zero” at enormous financial cost with accompanying attacks on petrol/diesel vehicles and gas boilers is driving up inflation and making many people poorer. A more nuanced approach would be much wiser.

Roger Lawson

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How the World Really Works – Book Review

It is important for everyone to understand what factors are driving the world’s economies. This is particularly so when there are concerns about global warming and the alleged degradation of the environment as the world’s population continues to increase.

A good primer on this subject is a recently published book by Prof. Vaclav Smil entitled “How the World Really Works”. The author covers wide ranging topics from energy supply to food supply in a very analytic way based on established facts rather than polemics which he criticises as being far too common in the modern world.

His chapter on food production is particularly interesting and he shows how we now manage to feed 8 billion people reasonably well which would have been inconceivable 100 years ago. How do we do it? By using energy supplied mostly from fossil fuels to create fertilizers and by manufacturing farm machinery and road/rail/shipping transport to distribute the products efficiently. The author points out that if we reverted to solely “organic” farming methods we would be lucky to feed half the world’s population.

He covers the supply of key products such as steel, plastics and cement which are essential for our modern standard of living and how they are not only energy intensive in production but that there are few alternatives. He clearly supports the view that the climate is being affected by man’s activities but points out that the changing of energy production, food  production and the production of key products cannot be easily achieved. Certainly it will be difficult to achieve that in the timescales demanded by European politicians when the major carbon emitters of China, India, USA, and Russia are moving so slowly.

Meanwhile any forecasts of the use of oil declining or reserves running out should be treated with scepticism as the price of oil reaches a 7 year high of $95 per barrel. No doubt there will be the usual gripes by motorists who drive petrol/diesel vehicles over the price of fuel and the claimed excess profits being made by oil companies, which in my view are a persistent myth. If you look at the profits of companies such as BP, which it has been suggested should be subject to a “windfall tax”, they are not particularly great if averaged over the last 20 years. In fact returns on capital invested are worse than for many other public companies.

The author looks at the risks in the future for the world, many of which are uncertain. He mentions the risk of a big “Carrington event” – a geomagnetic storm occurring today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damage due to extended outages of the electrical grid. If that is not enough to scare you he suggests that another pandemic similar to Covid-19 is very likely as such epidemics have happened about every 20 years in the past and might be more virulent in future. But planning for such events, which were historically well known, was minimal and continues to be so.

He does not propose solutions to global warming other than that we do have many tools to enable us to adapt and cope with the issue. For example, farming could be made more efficient and wasted food reduced. Electrification of vehicles might help in a minor way and he is particularly critical of the increase in the use of SUVs in the last 20 years which has been particularly damaging (I cannot but agree with him on that point – if folks are concerned about the high price of fuel they should purchase more economic vehicles and particularly avoid SUVs). But this is not a book containing simple remedies to the world’s problems. It is more one that gives you an understanding of how we got to where we are now and where we might be going.

For example, the use of coal in energy generation can be much reduced, and oil/gas also to some extent. Nuclear fission is a good source of clean energy and fission is a possibility even if he was not aware of the latest announcements on the latter. But it is inconceivable that there will be short-term revolutions in energy supply.

Altogether the book is worth reading just to get an understanding of how the world currently works – as the book’s title suggests.

Incidentally some of the events covered in How the World Really Works are also discussed in my own recently published book entitled “A Journal of the Coronavirus Year” which covers not just the recent pandemic but the changes that have happened in the last 75 years of my lifetime including some of the vehicles I have owned. It’s now available from Amazon – see https://www.amazon.co.uk/Journal-Coronavirus-Year-2020-2021-Biographical/dp/0954539648/ for more information.

Roger Lawson

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