Modern civilisation revolves around crude oil.
Cars are one of the most visible uses for it, and therein lies the story of two brothers: petrol and diesel. They’re born of the same origin and differentiated by little other than the lengths of their carbon atom chains, yet diesel has a far dirtier (literally) image.
After all, it’s estimated that despite being more fuel efficient and producing less CO2, diesels cough out as much as 10 times more polluting soot particles than equivalent petrol-engined cars.
On 2 October 1996, Autocar’s Tony Lewin wrote about the uncertain future of the controversial fuel.
“Diesel is set to become the environmental battle of the next decade,” we began. “Just as more car makers are turning to diesel power in order to meet stringent consumption targets, environmentalists and medical experts have come up with new warnings linking diesel particulate (PM) emissions with increased risk of respiratory diseases and cancer.”
In 1996, US Lung Foundation expert Mike Walshe said: “Diesel is hazardous because the small particles are drawn deep into the lungs and past the natural defence of the body" and that "evidence is emerging that new technology is making particles smaller, reducing their mass, not their number. This may make the health risks worse.”