Cleaner air

There is a growing mood in favour of cleaner air. There is general agreement that the air in city centres like London needs urgent action to clean it up. In the centres of our Thames Valley towns there is also room for improvement. Some are already blaming the diesel car as the main cause and urging higher taxes or bans on diesel vehicles.  It is a good idea first to examine what we know about the sources and causes of pollution.

The London Assembly researched the sources of Nox in London in 2015. This showed the following sources

Bus, coach and rail public transport    18%

Goods vehicles    17%

Gas heating systems    16%

Non road mobile machinery    14%

Diesel cars    11%

Petrol cars and motorcycles  8%

Aviation    8%

Industry   7%

The TFL study in 2016 showed a similar pattern, with gas heating and industry  as the biggest source, and with  both bus and coach and goods vehicles each a bit bigger than diesel cars.

The new Euro VI standards for engines require both petrol and diesel engines to emit less than 5mg per km of particulates. They allow just 80 mg of Nox for diesels compared to 60 mg for petrol, whilst allowing petrol engines to emit more carbon monoxide than diesels (100mg versus 50mg)

In order to clean up the air, especially removing particulates, requires replacement of a lot of older technology buses, trains, cars, and  gas boilers. This will also allow the introduction of equipment which is more fuel efficient, also helping to drive down emissions and cut running costs.

Instead of working up a new series of penalties for owners of older diesel cars, government should work on a range of incentives to tackle the problem in a broad based way, removing the oldest buses, lorries, cars and boilers which would do the most to improve the position. it could also give a welcome boost to the home industries that produce these items.

We should not ignore the contribution replacing old heating boilers at home and work can have, with the added  bonus of cutting running costs. Lets have better scrappage and financing schemes, so more people can afford to make their contribution to cleaner air, and can at the same time take pride in owning better machines.





  1. Lifelogic
    April 14, 2017

    Well the best bang for the buck is to tackle the vehicles and equipment that are in use for long parts of the day. Delivery vehicles, taxis, buses, some construction machinery, boilers and the likes. Hitting private car that are probably only used for short period of the day makes far less return.

    I rather suspect that as usual it will be all about excuses to introduce yet more tax demands on private car owner rather than to address the real issue. Khan is just after more £10 charges (but doubtless to increase). This on top of the congestion zone charges. It is all about more tax really, just like the climate alarmism religion.

    1. Richard1
      April 14, 2017

      It is the climate alarmism which drove the push for diesel in the first place. A very clear example of bad policy railroaded through by virtue signalling (Labour) politicians goaded by the green blob shrieking ‘denier’ at anyone who wanted proper scrutiny and debate.

      There is now developed an excellent technology which allows diesel buses to be retrofitted as electric hybrids – this should be accelerated in implementation.

      1. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        And climate alarmism was so clearly another scam mainly to justify higher taxes too. Still no warming since 1998 despite the computer model projections. Nothing significant or remotely outside normal variations over the last hundred years. No reason at all to assume a calamity round the corner.

        So what is socialist May’s position on this topic? She is keeping very shtum, but her actions all seem to be on the wrong side just as one would expect.

        Come on Trump get all the details of the lies and temperature record fiddling (surely fraudulent) by “experts” fully exposed as soon as possible.

        1. Paul
          April 17, 2017

          Oh dear – what a load of uninformed ranting. You are ignorant of the facts or science. I’d suggest that you spend your time understanding the science and researching the evidence that is out there before spouting this sort of nonsense. Humans are changing this planet’s environment at a pace that’s unprecedented and alarming. We owe it to our children to face the issues and not go into self-comforting denial.

    2. Hope
      April 14, 2017

      Agreed by whom? The same idiots that commenced every other far fetched green schemes that cost us taxpayers a fortune while lobbyist and MPs get rich. Bios mass, wind farms, solar panels etc. Utter expensive junk. Get rid of the Clinate Change Act and normal people might take you seriously.

      1. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        Exactly I have yet to mean a sensible Physicist or Engineer who does not think that Climate Alarmism is a total con. Indeed the more people “believe” in this new religion the less understanding of science or engineering they seem to have.

        1. Lifelogic
          April 14, 2017

          That is they think it is a massive exaggeration and no climate catastrophe threatening at all. Most think a little bit warmer would be a net benefit anyway with better crop yields and more precipitation anyway….. It is very clear indeed that renewables are totally bonkers outside a few special circumstances.

          1. Hope
            April 14, 2017

            How much energy is used to make a wind machine, transport to its sea location. Erect and dismantle it? More than it will ever produce. Who thought of this dopey scheme and the energy and diesel used to transport and rectify it. The govt is acting like a poor con man without any new tricks to convince people. Idea to PM, stop spending wastefulky, less govt, equals less tax. Fewer MPs, fewer Lords. Same principle applies a lost of cost no output!

        2. Jim Ford
          April 18, 2017

          Don’t meet many Physicists or Engineers the, do you?

  2. Leslie Singleton
    April 14, 2017

    If cities have a problem, one might have expected to see mention of stopping building on brownfield sites–always mentioned as if they were the answer to a maiden’s prayer and indeed they are if left alone: open parks and grow trees instead; trees and bushes and grass absorb and adsorb pollutants very well indeed. It should be against the law to concrete over front gardens. Air inside and around cities slops in and out a lot which means preserving Green Belts at all costs. There should be curbs on immigration of course, especially in to cities. Much more teleworking would be good.

    1. Lifelogic
      April 14, 2017

      Well if we are going to move over to electric cars (when they finally do get the batteries energy dense enough to give a decent range) then people will need to park their cars near to their houses so they can charge them. Parking on the garden is perhaps the best way. It could still be parked under a tree!

      Policies that encourage people to live nearer to where they work might be rather sensible and more internet meetings rather than real ones and working from home should reduce the need to travel as much anyway.

      The big advantage of electric cars (once they get the range) is that the pollution is at the power station and not in the city.

      Finally get rid of the absurd stamp duty rates so people can move cheaply to be nearer to their jobs, this without being mugged for circa £50K in SDLT etc. in the process!

      1. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        And under the car can be grass with plastic supports in the soil. It does not have to be tarmac or concrete.

      2. JJE
        April 14, 2017

        Half of people have no off road parking.
        There is inadequate power generation capacity in this country and chronic inability of governments to deal with this.
        The electricity networks to domestic streets were never designed or built to distribute the amount of power that electric cars would draw once more than a few people in the street try to charge theirs at the same time.

        Otherwise a great idea

        1. David Price
          April 14, 2017

          Most domestic chargers use 7kW or less. Compare that with the 10kW that a oven and hob would use, so the notion that a domestic supply and a residential street could not cope is not really that realistic considering that the majority of users charge overnight when there is a large trough in demand on the grid.

          Lack of off-street parking would be an issue for some but a proportion of those users could charge at work or in car parks.

          1. Ian Wragg
            April 15, 2017

            Not very convincing as many cook with gas and for very short periods.
            7kw for 8 hours for 26 million vehicles even spread over 24 hours would destroy the grid.
            Then again you will only have the capacity when the wind is blowing

            My gas boiler is 45kw. Replace those with electric and you will need 400 Gwynedd installed capacity. 8 times current availability

          2. David Price
            April 15, 2017

            Ian W – Rapid charging would be 7kW for 3 – 5 hours for a full charge depending on capacity but based on the average commute being 22 miles (RAC – the car and the commute 2013 p11) and the average performance of an EV at around 4 miles per kWh the demand would average 6kWh charge per night – 1 kW for 6 hours.

            So, 26 million cars would demand about 26GW during the Economy 7 period each night. DUKES 2016 puts total generating capacity at end 2015 as 81 GW while Gridwatch shows a peak demand per year around 40GW in the winter, this being the daytime demand which is typically 10GW or so higher than nighttime demand.

            It looks like there is a practical margin with existing capacity but it would be useful to know what the actual data and situation is rather than have to rely on scaremongering from journalists.

            I am not advocating 100% renewables or even 100% electric cars. I prefer a pragmatic approach – EVs would be a good option for some users but not all, especially longer distance business travel.

        2. acorn
          April 14, 2017

          Agreed JJE. I was recently party to a conversation concerned with “Darkness Peak” electricity demand. The half hour periods of 17:30 and 18:00 hrs in winter, when the lights go on; the ovens go on and the kettles go on. The prospect of plugging in the electric vehicle chargers when Mum and Dad get home from their work at that same time, was causing more than a little concern.

          1. David Price
            April 15, 2017

            According to the SMMT, as of 5th April 2017 there were around 2,600 new plug-ins registered March 2016 to 2017.

            Compare that to the approximate 300,000 net immigrants a year and I suggest the power and infrastructure industry have a far more immediate demand problem to worry about than electric cars.

            EVs have charging timers so the load can be shifted now to the early hours. The future roll-out of Vehicle-to-Grid offers a way to coordinate grid demand/supply exploiting all those connected batteries (ie vehicles).

          2. Lifelogic
            April 15, 2017

            Well you price the cheap electricity such that most people use that to charge with during the quiet periods.

        3. Lifelogic
          April 14, 2017

          If they network can cope with everyone cooking, fan heaters and boiling kettles on winter days they can cope with a quite a few cars charging. This would mainly be at night on the off peak tariffs anyway and when other usage is low.

          Nissan Leaf batteries are 30 kWh so even a full charge from empty is no more than a 3KW fan heater for 10 hours or two for five hours.

          1. acorn
            April 16, 2017

            It looks like the government will have to ban the charging of electric vehicles between 5 pm and 7 pm in the evening, in winter.

            Mum and Dad going out in the evening; or, taking the kids somewhere, will need some battery range calculations. The kids will probably have an “app” on their phones, to convince Mum, she can get there and back.

        4. getahead
          April 14, 2017

          Run the power cables alongside the fibre installation.

      3. APL
        April 14, 2017

        Lifelogic: “(when they finally do get the batteries energy dense enough to give a decent range) ”

        Physics is a bitch.

        1. Lifelogic
          April 14, 2017

          Indeed but most MPs seem to think they can change the laws of physics economics and nature just by passing laws on say “renewable energy”, gender neutral insurance premiums, gender equality laws, minimum national pay laws and the likes.

          Soon T May will be forcing girls to study physics A levels as it is clearly an outrage that the gender mix is four+ to one male here and boys to study performing arts and languages where the reverse is the case!

          It all does huge harm and damages the economy. Just pass another law dear. Perhaps if you get to be a God (and not just PM) you can address the laws of nature and economics then.

          1. Leslie Singleton
            April 15, 2017

            Dear Lifelogic–It must really annoy the people who at every turn artificially seek identity between the sexes, sorry genders [1], that only women can give birth (or maybe there is a phone app coming along to cope with that).

            [1] Why do we still say sexist and not genderist?

    2. Caterpillar
      April 14, 2017


      I think you are correct brownfield sites should not be built on, at least for many years until they are through their diversity peak – so much more diverse than green belt!

      I would hazard a guess that concreting over in cities is bad because the existing city trees were planted prior to the development of urban tree knowledge. Someone must know whether retrofitting urban trees is possible and what its effects would be on air quality.

      However, I suspect large amounts of building on green belt would be a good approach but, again guessing, this should be done with large amounts of appropriate urban trees appropriate for the inevitable concrete environment.

      1. Hope
        April 14, 2017

        No housing crisis, a mass immigration crisis created by the govt, while lying to the people it will cut the number yet figures consistently show record numbers and that the govt is lying.

      2. getahead
        April 14, 2017

        Urban forests, Caterpillar.

    3. Hope
      April 14, 2017

      What about trains and shipping? Woods felled in the US transported to the U.K. As chip and burnt in power stations. How exactly is this clean air, is the world going to convert to nuclear shipping? Thought not.

      1. fedupsoutherner
        April 14, 2017

        Hope, Yes, and diesel generators to run when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. They really have lost the plot. Trouble is there are now too many people who can see through all this crap and just see all of it as another means to make money.

      2. Ian Wragg
        April 14, 2017

        It isn’t. It’s just a fad dreamt up by the green blob.
        Wood pellets give off more CO2 than coal and when you consider the thousands of tonnes of fuel to power the ships it’s completely lunatic.
        Then again that is all we can expect from politcians that worship at the altar of Brussels.
        Any scam to increase taxes under whatever tenuous excuse.
        We’re getting just like France where government takes about 60% GDP.
        A Tory government with socialist programmes.

      3. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        Perhaps back to wind powered container ships. With wind turbines on them. Just pass another law, who cares about the laws of physics when you are a politician or PM!

    4. fedupsoutherner
      April 14, 2017

      Leslie, your suggestions make a lot of sense. Too many trees are being cut down everywhere for bio mass burning now. We are destroying the very things that help to create a better environment for us. More and better equipped Park and Ride facilities might also help in cities.

      1. Leslie Singleton
        April 15, 2017

        Dear fedup–Reading about forests being cut down then chipped and shipped across the Atlantic is bad for my blood pressure–obviously crazy

  3. Lifelogic
    April 14, 2017

    More and clearer roads are needed with less deliberate government anti-vehicle congestion causing measures such as speed humps, bus lanes anti-car traffic lights. Then add more underpasses, overpasses, bridges, tunnels and the likes. Perhaps some double decker roads here and there.

    It recently took me 2.5 hours just to go the forty odd miles from Gatwick to Highgate, North London. With clear roads it could have been done in forty minutes with perhaps less than a third of the pollution.

    1. Hope
      April 14, 2017

      Who encouraged diesel cars under the green banner to help the world? UK govt. how many MP benefitted from lobbying or corporate firms?

      1. rose
        April 14, 2017

        It was the EU but as usual when implementing an EU directive, HMG pretended it was homegrown.

    2. behindthefrogs
      April 14, 2017

      It would also hav e been much quicker to travel by public transport

      1. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        Indeed, but the car was needed for the next days activities which could not be done on public transport.

  4. Caterpillar
    April 14, 2017

    I think we need to mindful in scrappage and renewal that this increases depreciation of capital so that although gdp growth might look good for a year of two, the net result is not as good and capital depreciation will also have increased.

    We also have to be aware that we are in a low growth environment due to misallocation of capital to low risk projects due to ZIRP.

    Yes we need to tackle the air but tackle the interest rates first so that productivity can start to return before destroying more economic capital.

    1. Leslie Singleton
      April 14, 2017

      Dear Caterpillar–I am not sure depreciating capital is a concern if the “capital” is cr*p, indeed positively harmful cr*p at that

      1. Caterpillar
        April 14, 2017

        Leslie, thinking allowed – UK gross savings plummeted (we are now Ghana), low interest pushing low risk private gains (no endogenous spillover), upping depreciation increases risk of falling into no growth trap. Yes pollution is a problem but approaches with human capital or social structure spillover might be better now.

    2. Mockbeggar
      April 14, 2017

      How much energy and pollution is generated by producing a new car (and probably transporting it halfway round the world) compared with the marginal extra pollution caused by an old car over a new one?

      1. Lifelogic
        April 14, 2017

        Exactly and the new ones tend to be more complex and thus often less reliable and more expensive to maintain.

        1. Leslie Singleton
          April 15, 2017

          Dear Lifelogic–I am still in shock that John apparently believes that we would or should be proud of the new (compulsory) “boilers” which are lightweight tinny over-complicated things destined to have maximum lives of a few years if one is lucky rather than many decades.

          1. Lifelogic
            April 17, 2017

            They certainly seem to be far less reliable and short lived in my experience m my experience. You save a little gas perhaps but then the combination of repairs and a short life more than wipe those saving out.

            The government deciding what boiler you should have is always likely to be a disaster just as having the government decide on you wages, pension and everything else. You either have a socialist dictatorship or freedom and free markets.

  5. Mark B
    April 14, 2017

    Good morning.

    It is a good idea first to examine what we know about the sources and causes of pollution.

    I know, I know, I know !

    More people equals more car’s, equals more pollution. Is that right ?

    The State creates the problems and then, in order to ‘solve’ (sic) the problems it has created it proposes either to tax or ban it !

    Would it not be easier to just not let these people do what they want in the first place ?

    1. Hope
      April 14, 2017

      Cut the number of immigrants, cut the number of car owners is a far better equation.

  6. alan jutson
    April 14, 2017

    So its a more complex problem than government propaganda suggests.!

    What a surprise, but I guess that will still not stop the fake green taxes will it !

    If aircraft are causing 8 percent of the pollution in London, why go for Heathrow expansion which will mean 50% more flights to this airport will overfly this city.

    Once again no joined up thinking by Government.

    The long term solution is of course engineering development by all manufacturers of products which cause such problems..

  7. Andy Marlot
    April 14, 2017

    It’s a nice excuse for politicians to ban older diesel vans as London did which pleases the big van and truck manufacturers. Nothing really to do with cleaner air since older vehicles naturally remove themselves from the road through wear and tear. Really a way to virtue signal and gain brownie points with big business at the expense of small business.
    Replacing old with new happens naturally with all things but forcing the pace does not help the environment since building the new makes a lot more pollution than simply continuing to run the old.

    1. Lifelogic
      April 14, 2017


  8. Yossarion
    April 14, 2017

    Still to many People being expected to live in a small part of a small Island, its not the Cars the Vans the Buses that drive themselves aimlessly delivering the next must have item ten minutes after it was ordered, or taking subsidised not so fresh air around the Country.

  9. APL
    April 14, 2017

    JR: “Some are already blaming the diesel car as the main cause and urging higher taxes or bans on diesel vehicles. ”

    Who are ‘some’?

    A government funded ‘layaroundalldaydevisingdrivil’ ‘think’ tank?

    Because that’s real convenient!

    In about 1990 or so it was government policy to encourage diesel engined vehicles, ( despite the weight disadvantage ) because they were so much greener.

    There was an excise advantage on the fuel verses petrol to encourage diesel. The automotive industry invested billions in making diesel engines more efficient and more responsive, cleaner.

    Then, the fuel excise differential suddenly went away.

    And now twenty five years later, we need to penalise diesel engines, because.

    1. Hope
      April 14, 2017

      Less fuel is used, less fuel duty and VAT on fuel duty is recovered. HGV, trains and shipping will not change to petrol. It is another U.K. Govt scam on taxpayer for frivolous wasteful spending. Who is using STORM, diesel generators, to back up electricity supply for ineffective wind power? Tory govt!

    2. Mark
      April 14, 2017

      I don’t think the UK has ever granted diesel road fuel an excise advantage (at present both petrol and diesel pay 57.95ppl duty), although that has been commonplace in other EU countries. However, rising diesel demand has simply led to higher diesel prices, which are now usually more expensive at the wholesale level before taxes than petrol. The differential duty rates in the EU usually make diesel cheaper than petrol at the pump.

      1. APL
        April 15, 2017

        Mark: “I don’t think the UK has ever granted diesel road fuel an excise advantage ..”

        In ’89 I knew briefly a taxi driver who told me there was a price differential in diesel fuel’s favour at the pump.

        Of course it may have been on the vehicle itself, it’s a long time ago.

        Anyway, the upshot was it was economically advantageous to run a diesel rather than a petrol.

  10. Martyn G
    April 14, 2017

    This is the first time I have seen the breakdown of pollution per source, thank you. But does anyone take into consideration the fallout from the thousands of aircraft over cities – especially perhaps London? I would have thought that pollution from take-off engine power settings might be significant over densely populated areas around the airports.
    Has anyone thought about emissions from the hundreds of diesel powered vessels passing through the Channel and in and out of our ports? With the prevailing winds generally Westerly in the South, how much pollution from those sources drift across the country impacting on, say, Portsmouth and Southampton?
    As to the older gas heating systems, I have my 30-year old gas fire/back boiler serviced annually and on each occasion the gas-fitter, whom I have used for decades, set up his emissions recording device and shows and tells me how much lower are its emissions when compared to modern condensing boilers. He assures me that spares are still plentiful and that I need not worry about replacing it anytime soon. Are condensing boilers really that much better than and older well-maintained device such as mine?

    1. fedupsoutherner
      April 14, 2017

      Martyn, don’t worry because we are supposed to be leaving the EU. If we were staying then all gas boilers would have to be removed very soon and only electric used. Problem solved!!

      1. ian wragg
        April 14, 2017

        Removing ll gas boilers etc. isn’t a Brussels policy but a UK government policy.
        The fact that my gas costs 4 time more per Kwh which means that my fuel bill would increase from approximately £100 pcm to about £350 is of no consequence to the Westminster idiots.
        Plus we have approximately 55GW of installed capacity electricity and that would have to increase to about 400GW.
        This is stupidity of the highest magnitude and John supports the party which encourages such arrant nonsense.

        1. ian wragg
          April 14, 2017

          sorry, gas costs one quarter of electric per kwh.

          1. Leslie Singleton
            April 15, 2017

            Dear Ian–One never hears about how much better gas is for cooking: instant heat on the hob; nothing comes close to an eye-level gas grill; and outside gas barbecues (with underground gas feed from a remote tank and no bottles showing) are a delight in hot weather. If you are really nuts a couple of gas lamps in the dining room is lovely.

    2. APL
      April 14, 2017

      Martyn G: “But does anyone take into consideration the fallout from the thousands of aircraft over cities – especially perhaps London?”

      That is a very good point.

  11. agricola
    April 14, 2017

    Lets start with your final paragraph. In principal you are correct, but as ever government record in this area is abysmal. Not so long ago they had schemes for insulating homes and replacing boilers. Whole new industries were created only to go into liquidation when government decided it had run out of money and turned off the tap. People will take a lot of persuading to return to this government debacle which they have only just recovered from at great personal cost. What I said yesterday about government involvement in industry was epitomised by the way they ran, or screwed up fuel efficient home improvement.

    The idea of taxing to extinction the owners of diesel cars is straight out of the Green and Lib/Dem fantasy yurt dwelling mantra. From your figures 80% of the problem is not diesel cars, petrol cars or motorbikes. Government no brains see them as a soft target. What government should be doing is incentivising research in all the offending industries to get emissions down to acceptable levels. It should be a ten year programme. We did not get rid of smog overnight in the 60’s. An idea, if graphine filters can remove salt from sea water far cheaper than current desalination plants, why not detachable graphine particulate filters that can be cleaned for all vehicle exhaust systems. Start asking the researchers of graphine. but for god’s sake do not get government involved at more than your worst enemies arms length, and then only if you are wearing electro plater’s elbow length gloves.

  12. Lifelogic
    April 14, 2017

    Yesterday (on the BBC Parliament Channel) they showed Mathew Taylor answering MP’s questions on employment practices and the gig economy. After listening to him for about half an hour I wonder why on earth anyone sensible would appoint this misguided labour politician to inquire into anything at all. Mind you most of the questions asked were rather daft and totally missed the point too.

    What on earth was lefty Theresa May playing at? Just leave companies and people well alone, get out of their way, tax and regulate them to a minimum and let them make money, create jobs and grow the tax base.

  13. eeyore
    April 14, 2017

    The cost of air pollution in the UK is estimated at £54bn, almost £100o a head. Does government think the polluter should pay? How much would an air or bus ticket be if it included the true cost of pollution?

    Or should the consumer pay? All must breathe – but all must die too and government has no objection to a Death Tax so long as we call it the Probate Fee. Perhaps this post follows on from the last series on taxation and flies a kite for a Breath Tax. Call it the Inspiration Fee.

    If all money is now society’s money, surely all air must be society’s air. Government could give us a free allowance, say five breaths a minute, but after that . . . . Portable breath meters would be needed, of course, but there would be, in JR’s words, “a welcome boost to the home industries that produce these items”. Asthmatics would get credits; selfish breath-dodgers would be named and shamed. All would benefit.

  14. They Work for Us?
    April 14, 2017

    A good article if I may say so. A major problem is that very few politicians have any scientific understanding at all and they and the majority of their “scientific advisers” or worse “executive summary” producers cannot be objective about scientific matters. Those in power need to recognise that there are a mass of environmental activists out there all clamouring for something. They are insatiable and giving in to them just moves them along to their next perceived problem. The response to them should be in most cases to ignore them. Government has been influenced far too much by clamouring minorities.

  15. A different Simon
    April 14, 2017

    Reading buses already run on bio-methane instead of diesel – which let us remember is all imported .

    London on the other hand rejected Reading’s practical solution in favour of the most extravagant and unreliable one ; electric busses imported from it’s new best friend ; China . Virtue signalling is much more costly .

    Methane sorts out the particulate problem and if the mix is changed so that by weight it is 80% methane , 20% hydrogen , NOX emissions are halved .

    As has already been learned , it’s not just the mass of particulates but the size of each particle . Thus a limit “by weight” can be counter productive if it encourages breaking up of large particulates into smaller ones .

    How about some legislation to force container ships to remove soot from their stacks ? It settles on the Arctic ice and causes it to absorb light and melt through .

  16. A.Sedgwick
    April 14, 2017

    Good piece, the diesel car hue and cry is on the same track as many contentious environmental issues – don’t let the facts get in the way of sanity. Anyone who has stood near the exhaust of a bus or lorry knew the fumes were very unpleasant and a health risk. The argument is about car manufacturers and the quality of their filter systems and their potential liabilities.

  17. Iain Moore
    April 14, 2017

    The more people you have the more onerous controls are needed to make the place habitable , which is probably why the left and interfering politicians just love everything to do with pollution and climate change, for it gives them a means to interfere in everybody’s lives, and why when they witter on about sustainability , they are only ever offering the choice of more rules, more laws, more interference, and more telling us how to live our lives. The one choice they will never ever offer us is fewer laws, less interference, less pollution, and more sustainability that comes with a lower population. It is also why the very section of our political class who seek to tell us what to do, are the very same people who make any sort of sustainability in our country an impossibility with their support for mass immigration driven population expansion.

  18. Antisthenes
    April 14, 2017

    Anything that is perceived as undesirable we attempt to tax and regulate out of existence which we frequently endeavour to do. All too frequently that leads to unwanted unintended consequences or to including that which is not as undesirable as perceived. We because of our scientific genius are creating machines and systems of ever more complexity which given our fallible nature are not without imperfections. Therefore the more we improve our material existence the more we have to spend time in addresses the errors that arise out of that process.

    The latter we are proving to be becoming less adept at accomplishing. Our diagnostic and problem solving abilities are not keeping pace with the technological world we are building. We experience the problems but all too often we attribute the wrong causes and the wrong solutions. Which either leads to exacerbating the problem and/or creating new ones. It has ever been thus but with the increasing complexity of our world what was hitherto an inconvenience has now become much more than that so that mistakes now are less forgiving and much more costly. This situation is not just observable in he world of technology but in all walks of life most tellingly in politics.

  19. fedupsoutherner
    April 14, 2017

    If we are all to convert to electric cars eventually then we will have to have a better way of providing the energy to charge them. At the moment we are too reliant on wind and solar and we will need to ensure that we have a supply 24/7. Diesel generators and biomass do not make sense when you are trying to bring down emissions. Germany’s main grid nearly went down in January due to lack of wind or sun. Emergency power stations including coal had to be brought on board. Nuclear and cleaner gas powerstations are the way forward so when are we going to see serious advances in fracking?

  20. Bert Young
    April 14, 2017

    My life is more home oriented now and I do not have to face the problem of City pollution . I did live in Central London for 20 odd years during which time the black “soot” on the window sills suggested it was not a good thing to open the windows . Today my concern – with the few car trips I make , is with traffic congestion . Sometimes it is impossible for me to turn right at the junction of the main road ( A 4074 ) due to the sheer volume of traffic . At times I have no choice but to go in the opposite direction and turn around at the roundabout – some distance away .

    Development plans nearby indicate a further 2,000 + houses . Obviously this will exacerbate the problem I face . So far there is nothing to indicate , from the plans I have heard of , that there will be any improvement to the road system . Where is the logic and sense to all this ?.

  21. bigneil
    April 14, 2017

    I would like to know what %age of the total planet’s pollution our overcrowded island is blamed for. as more and more people increase London’s population they will all need heating and transport. Even with improvements the pollution caused by modern living will continue to increase, though probably slower than at the moment. Mankind has sent things to the Moon, Venus and Mars – and left things on every one. Modern man pollutes wherever we go.

    1. Beecee
      April 14, 2017

      It was estimated 2 years ago as about 2%. It will be less now.

      If we went to zero emissions tomorrow then, apart from killing what little is left of our manufacturing base, China will have taken up our 2% by about the end of this year as more and more coal-fired power stations are built there.

      The cost to industry and the UK population of the absurd Climate Change Act shows just how incapable our politicians are, with a few laudable exceptions, of clarity of thought and the backbone to put the UK first!

      The solution is simple if are willing to ignore the weeping and wailing of the Greenies.

      Employ Mr Trump for a week!

      1. Prigger
        April 15, 2017

        “Employ Mr Trump for a week” No more than a week for the following week he will change it all back again and the following week back again …

  22. Pragmatist
    April 14, 2017

    Your cattle are producing an unmanageable amount of waste products including Nox especially when they move around.
    1. Do not move them around
    2. Have less of them per acre
    3. Improve waste disposal units
    4. Gentically alter them to produce less waste. Over 1000 years it has increased
    5. Get out of farming. You obviously haven’t a clue.

  23. NHSGP
    April 14, 2017

    1. Stop TFL subsidising diesel buses.

    2. Ban TFL from using diesel buses.

    After all they should have known. That’s the turn of phrase they use.

    3. Government to compensate in full any diesel owners [bar themselves] for telling them diesel was clean.

    The money to come from MP’s own pockets first.

  24. BOF
    April 14, 2017

    Thank you John for publishing the breakdown which shows that diesel cars are just 11% of NOX emissions in London and not that much more than petrol engines. Presumably the breakdown is similar in other parts of the country.

    Meanwhile diesel car drivers are being demonised and huge amounts are wiped off the value of their cars, which have been legally manufactured, and bought in good faith. All because the politicians and scientists got it wrong.

    What should happen is no action should be taken at all and new technology, will replace the old as has always happened.

    It is an appalling breach of faith to attack just one small section of the causes of polution.

    1. acorn
      April 14, 2017

      Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), can be sprayed into the exhaust stream of diesel engines. DEF is pretty much urea and purified water. The urea combines with NOx to form ammonia and CO2. A selective catalytic reducer (SCR) downstream converts the ammonia into water and N2. This system is somewhat simple and clean, but if retrofitted to existing Diesels, would have to be interlocked to the vehicle start-up and running modes. Perhaps a big flashing light on the front number plate when the vehicle runs out of DEF. Picked up by a roadside NPR camera; like a speeding fine.

  25. John Probert
    April 14, 2017

    Clean air is essential for good health the research has been done and the
    results are obvious. Our politicians seem to suffer from denial.
    The tax bands reward people for maximum health damage with
    the diesel vehicle.
    Why do you not do something about it ?

  26. Christopher Hudson
    April 14, 2017

    Or you could just wait a couple of days until the wind picks up and hey presto the air’s clean again.

    I imagine that when in government people grow to believe that even the tiniest inconvenience can be solved centrally.

    “Don’t like the shape of those raindrops, hey we can fix that”

    “Those autumn leaves not falling quite how you want them to, we’ve got the answer”

    Just call it as I see it.

    occupational hazard

    1. ian wragg
      April 14, 2017

      Government thinking……….everything can be solved by taxation.

    2. John Probert
      April 14, 2017

      May-Sept High pressure establishes sometimes for weeks with light wind
      and the pollution is unable to escape. Young people are suffering with
      respiratory problems and simply cannot breath.
      All diesel cars should be banned from London

  27. The PrangWizard
    April 14, 2017

    And where are we to get these new clean buses and the like from?

    Since governments, and particularly the Tories, encouraged and colluded in the destruction of our manufacturing and research in favour of their City spiv friends in closing down and selling off everything they could, we are going to have to import them or buy them here from foreign owned companies here. Even more money disappearing abroad.

    There is a collective sickness, a mental sickness, in government, and sadly amongst some ordinary people. A view that we are so rich and so superior that we don’t need to make the things that other countries have spent decades creating, which they now do far better than we can hope to. Live for the short-term, live in the past, we don’t want factories here it – will spoil the view.

  28. Roy Grainger
    April 14, 2017

    If we replaced all cars with electric cars how many new power stations would we have to build ? How many new power stations are we actually planning to build ? If these two numbers are not close then why are we incentivising a switch to electric cars?

  29. margaret
    April 14, 2017

    This is all about 25 years behind.

  30. behindthefrogs
    April 14, 2017

    Meanwhile Wokingham Council is intent on destroying all the mature trees in the centre of the town.

  31. BOF
    April 14, 2017

    With all the greencrap dished up by Government over the years that is causing immeasurable harm to the economy it is absolutely shameless for politicians to demonise and tax law abiding people in the is way.

    1. Lifelogic
      April 14, 2017

      Indeed but that is what they do. Piss other people’s money down the drain or try to buy vote with it. Or tie them up in red tape!

  32. forthurst
    April 14, 2017

    NOx is an important source of environmental pollution; however particulates which are produced by diesel engines and not significantly by petrol engines or by gas boilers are highly polluting and are carcinogetic as well as the source of vascular disease. Furthermore when assessing the health impact of NOx, it is difficult to separate those from the other noxious chemicals emitted by different types of appliances in differing quantities. NOx is mainly produced by reactions at high temperature with atmospheric nitrogen rather than from the endogenous composition of the fuel.

    One can only hope that future attempts to savetheplanet are not as pitiful as those that we have had inflicted on us so far. Leaving the EU removes any excuse politicians have for not removing the savetheplanet act from the statute book. The preponderance of dirty smelly polluting diesel cars is entirely due to the erroneous belief that carbon diaoxide is a pollutant.

  33. fedupsoutherner
    April 14, 2017

    With interest I note that about 99.5% of people commenting on this blog think the government’s drive to ‘save the planet’ is complete drivel. Is it any wonder when none of the ministers in charge of this mess know a thing about science?? It is all idealistic nonsense.

  34. Lindsay McDougall
    April 14, 2017

    Why not impose the tougher standards but at some time in the future, say by giving 10 years notice, so that people haven’t made uneconomic investments in capital equipment. That way there is need for neither penalties nor taxpayer funded incentives.

  35. stred
    April 14, 2017

    It was inevitable that Mrs May would jump on the ‘filthy air ‘bandwagon which the likes of Friends of the Earth and Green Lawyers have been trumpeting for the past year. Facts and scientific analysis count for nothing when voters have been convinced they are being killed because of a huge increase in diesel cars which belch out a deadly gas and particles in vast numbers.

    The fact that only a small % is caused by cars and the Physicians report also stated that cooking, especially with gas is a source of both NO2 and particles, is also a source- and is inhaled in enclosed spaces- is ignored. The share of pollution and disease caused by indoor cooking has been shown to be by far the biggest shortener of life by the WHO.

    The huge death numbers are arrived at by multiplying the number of days per year that life is estimated to be reduced by the total population and number of days per year, taking into account average life spans. The number of between 2 and 15 days can then come out as 40,000 deaths caused by filthy diesel cars.

    Then, who wishes to know that, by the government’s own figures, both particulates and NO2 have reduced by 2/3 over the past 20 years. And during this decrease, diseases such as dementia have increased, and now some doctors and academics are linking the two. There are well researched papers which put the various studies into perspective, but these are ignored. Even the link claimed with asthma is not proven but assumed.

    The highest levels of pollution are found in congested traffic, yet TFL is continuing to deliberately cause congestion. All the levels can be seen worldwide and instantly as recorded. The environmental groups have claimed in the past that some roads in London have the highest pollution levels. A glance at the world pollution websites shows levels over 500in China and Mexico but rarely over 40 in London.

    The above facts are covered in a recent website article by qualified engineers and geologists. The link is posted below and should be read by anyone who thinks that banning diesel cars will make anything but a negligible difference to their lifespan.

    1. stred
      April 14, 2017

      Re the deadly gas belched by diesels, I recently had to help an excellent ambulance crew deal with a relation who was in great pain. What portable anaesthetic did they have to use when morphine did not do the job? Nitrous Oxide-no side effects but wild dreams. This is why some people buy tins of it to sniff.

  36. Original Richard
    April 14, 2017

    “Lets have better scrappage and financing schemes, so more people can afford to make their contribution to cleaner air, and can at the same time take pride in owning better machines.”

    Isn’t the pollution produced by early scrappage and re-builds far larger than running the existing machinery/vehicles ?

    The government could help enormously to reduce the increase in pollution by cutting back on the 300K+ per year net immigration.

  37. Peejos
    April 14, 2017

    Just hold on a minute ~ just what is pollution and to what degree is it a problem? Mortality figures bandied about recently are shown quite clearly, not to be actual deaths at all, but statistical constructs, naturally seized upon by government as a plausible basis to increase taxation.

    How can any pathologist positively ascribe death from a mix of gases and particles over an unknown period in an otherwise unexceptional body ~ yet somehow that is what has been done to produce the figures? Yes of course a person with advanced pulmonary problems may well have died ahead of the day that would have been their fate anyway, but to actually state that the death was caused by pollution, must be as near to dishonesty as can be got.

    1. John Probert
      April 14, 2017

      There is a growing number of young people suffering from respiratory
      problems. You will observe the mortality figures over the next decade
      worsen due to poor air, poor diet and over reliance on damaging

      Poor air quality is a big problem

  38. Anonymous
    April 14, 2017

    Where is my VEL rebate for refusing to join the great diesel con ? It was undertaken at the behest of German car engineers through the EU.

    No way could an engine running on dirty fuel with a turbo attached to it meet emissions targets or be pure, and so it has proven.

  39. acorn
    April 14, 2017

    JR, I notice you have not highlighted the ASDA income tracker for February, surely some mistake?

    60% of UK families’ spending power falls year on year as the average growth continues to slow. Families had £202 of discretionary income in February, £3 more than the same time last year and £2 less than in January.

    Asda Income Tracker reveals that three out of five income groups in the UK are now in negative spending power growth. Fuel prices rose even further in February up nearly 20% year on year. New customer data shows that nearly 50% of consumers think their disposable income is set to fall.

  40. Jon Davies
    April 14, 2017

    Your call to look at the whole picture makes total sense. However this is easier said than done as the 11% figure for diesel figures is probably hugely understated. The 2015 London Assembly report you mention (I presume you are quoting the Driving Away From Diesel publication) has a number of flaws in the methods they used for assessing NOx emissions for cars. Subsequent research published in April 2016 , by the Department of Transport has demonstrated that NOx emissions for diesel cars including Euro 6 engines are significantly worse than originally assumed. Limited testing of Euro 6 diesel vehicles shows that in real driving conditions they produce 6 times the emission standard. Defra lost their high court case in November 2016 when they were arguing that 2.6 times the emissions standard was a reasonable assumption. Clearly it wasn’t as far as the court was concerned.

    When the figures are re-run we are likely to see that , close to main roads in urban areas, that upwards of 30% of NOx emissions are caused by diesel cars (my calculations). That doesn’t change your argument to look at the whole picture but please don’t underplay diesel car emissions. It is clear that for at least 10 years diesel car manufacturers have been “gaming the test system” to produce engines that pass laboratory emission tests but are dreadful in the real world. The truth is only just starting to catch up with these amoral organisations who chose to put profits before people’s health.

    See for the government funded diesel testing

    1. stred
      April 16, 2017

      The figure of 6x emission standards for Euro 6 diesel engines is misleading. Everyone knows that the test results are unrealistic and have been for 10 years. However, the ^ or 7 times figure applies to some cars and not all and only in peak adverse conditions. If a car is tested from cold starting and in congestion, it will fail. It will fail an MOT test if cold. This includes petrol cars.

      The new European test in real conditions did not find that all diesels failed. In fact the figures given on the Wikipedia page state that some exceeded standards, some by a little and some could be improved. A figure of 57% is given as reasonable. Thes do not mean that cars are giving of 6x the limit all the time in real driving.

      Also stated is the finding that some E6 diesels had lower emissions than Hybrid petrol cars, which we are subsidised to buy.

      Another inconvenient fact: Tower Hamlets and Westminster have similar NOx and particulate pollution, from cars and other sources. Tower Hamlets has some of the worst health statistics in the UK for lung and circulation, but Westminster the best.
      Please explain and who do you work for when publishing these claims?

  41. John
    April 14, 2017

    In the Budget was a change to buying a car via salary sacrifice which means that to benefit from the saving you can only purchase an ultra low emission vehicle. These are electric type cars.

    I don’t know how many this will effect but writing is on the wall. Scrapping fossil fuel cars is not the answer though, there is a huge environmental cost to making a car and deposing of it. Electric cars also use electric fuel which can be derived from fossil fuels. I’m not against some of these moves but the simplistic arguments from the likes of the London Mayor lack intellectual capital.

  42. Edward
    April 14, 2017

    Last year I asked Cambridge family physician Paul Cary about the smog deaths attributed to our region. He called it “quite ludicrous. In 40 years of medicine I have never once seen or heard of a patient struck down by air pollution.” While smog alerts can be associated with mass hospitalizations and an increase in deaths, Cary explains this is a spurious link. Heat-exhaustion and fluid loss are the real culprits, not pollution.

    The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.

    The Ontario Medical Association combines hospitalization and death rates, air quality readings and various other factors to create a guess at how many fatalities are due to air pollution. This includes short-term impacts arising from smog alerts as well as longer-term effects. Toronto Public Health uses the same technique to conclude that 1,700 residents die annually from air pollution.

    But computer modeling of this kind is a highly subjective exercise. It is necessary to apply some common sense to the results.

    Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economist, has taken a close look at the usefulness of the computer methods producing these smog death figures. First he took Toronto’s computer model and gave it data from the 1960s, when air pollution was noticeably worse than today. Back-testing is a common way to judge a computer model’s reliability. If it cannot explain what has already happened, then it’s usefulness in explaining the future is highly suspect.

    The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.

    “The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes. “

    Those susceptible to respiratory diseases are at risk but tend to be more mature in years, inevitably we are all going to die sometime and of something but “air pollution” – please think of who is making political capital out of this lastest environmental ‘chimera’.

  43. rose
    April 14, 2017

    Much pollution in our city is caused by the council having narrowed the main roads with chicanes and bottlenecks, buildouts, etc. Then the public have added to that by covering over their gardens, back and front, with concrete or planks of wood, though many still do garden in the traditional way. The relentless garden grabbing continues, with trees and grass being sacrificed to development. It used to be a very green city and its air quite sweet compared to London. One of the best things the Coalition government did in its first week was to redesignate gardens from brown to green field sites. But what was the point of doing that if they and the green belt are now being built on? We desperately need more trees in polluted streets, and more grass would have been good but not much chance of getting that back now. The modern cars seem to be better on the whole.

  44. ChrisS
    April 14, 2017

    As an owner of more than 20 gas boilers, most of which have been replaced in the last 12 years, I would like to draw your attention to the rip-off that is boiler replacement.

    If I go out to heating engineers for a quote for a direct replacement boiler I get prices ranging from £2,500-£3,500 from British Gas and £2,000-£2,600 from independent firms or self employed tradesmen.

    The average job takes one man up to 1.5 days or a man and apprentice a steady but full day.

    Using our trade accounts, the average boiler costs us £600 plus VAT and we don’t get the very best rates as we don’t buy enough in a year. Even at that rate, the average self employed tradesman working on a mid-range quote is getting around £1500 for a 12 hour job. That is far too much. No wonder so many repairs end up with a recommendation for a new boiler !

    Luckily I have an arrangement with a reliable engineer. I supply the parts and boiler and he the labour. I pay him £400 which is a fair rate of pay for Dorset.

    By the way, the average boiler we have replaced has been 25-30 years old and has rarely given any trouble during our ownership. However, the ones we replaced ten years or more ago are now starting to fail and – you guessed it- the recommendation is fit a new one because the parts are too expensive.

    So, beware, not only are you likely to be overcharged for your new boiler but it will be much less reliable and its service life could well be less than half that of the one it replaced.

    1. Beecee
      April 14, 2017

      A big thank you to Lord John (I will never accept a peerage) Prescott who made the Combi Boiler the boiler replacement rule.

      And an average life span of c 8 years. ( not John!)

    2. The Prangwizard
      April 15, 2017

      I have an oil boiler. I would guess it is 25 years old, it could be more. I have only lived in the house for 10 and don’t know when it was fitted.I have no plans to replace it. The man who services it agrees I should keep it.

  45. Ken Moore
    April 15, 2017

    Dr Redwood – ‘range of incentives to tackle the problem in a broad based way’

    It’s curious that Dr Redwood commends a ‘broad based approach’ but makes no mention of the unsustainability of London’s rising population. Mrs May’s forthcoming betrayal of the Brexit vote will see that the problem is ignored.

    What about the 38% (since 1997) increase in the number of cars registered in Barking & Dagenham?.

    It seems if it isn’t PC to tackle a problem it gets ignored…
    17% more cars in Tower Hamlets ?….the problem is also magnified by more congested roads , more roadworks and speed bumps..

  46. anon
    April 15, 2017

    Gas is relatively clean and cheap. Electric motors are better. The hybrid buses seem to rely on the diesel rather than the battery.

    Buses and car drivers also have a culture of leaving engines running even when at rest.

    Why not use more electric cable trams and or gas powered transport whilst the battery cost/per KW hour and or the battery cost per KWh per Kg.

    Comes back to population density i think and the reasons for travel. We should consider how the best Asian cites handle high density living or avoid high immigration.

    Plenty of technology could be used indeed Motorways could be upgraded with passive charging or other technology for lorries rather like train or Indeed fuel cells.

    Should domestic gas be cheaper than electricity for domestic use in high density cities? Should aeroplane fuel and tickets cost more for London Airports? Should we have a charging model for the problem areas? or to eno able a time shift in demand or to enable despatchable storage.What about inter-connectors to Norway (hydro) , Iceland(thermal).

    It would seem that cost curves for renewable energy will continually push the change.

    Seems to me politicans created the immigration crisis and related local pollution problems caused mainly by the former.

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