We all know that big-engined gas-guzzlers are wrecking the planet and need to be driven off the road. Instead, we should all be using clean-green public transport for local journeys.
The term ‘clean’ has become synonymous with super-frugal, low-CO2, cars but it is deeply-flawed terminology. CO2 may well be one of a number of ‘greenhouse’ gases, but in terms of an immediate threat to human health, it is the byproducts of diesel combustion that are the real problem.
I cannot understand why there wasn’t a uproar when, a few months ago, the World Health Organisation declared that diesel engine exhaust fumes can cause cancer in humans. Incredibly, the WHO placed diesel engine exhausts gases in the same category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.
Of course, we’ve all seen the clouds of black soot emitted by diesel vehicles when the driver accelerates hard. The particular problem are the tiny particulates that get lodged in the lungs and are suspected of being a trigger for cancer and possibly other diseases such as a Sarcoidosis. What you can’t see coming out of the exhaust are the Nitrogen Oxides, which are a big component of smog and a first-class lung irritant.
I suspect that the silence from the normally noisy environmentalists is because much of the problem in towns and cities is caused by public transport and commercial vehicles. I can’t help but think that the amount of venom directed at, say, Range Rovers is simply displacement activity on the part of campaigners who, deep down, know where the real threat to health lies.
At the beginning of the year, Putney High Street in west London broke EU air pollution regulations after the first 35 days of 2012 saw recorded pollution levels over the EU limit. Amazingly, Transport for London admitted that its buses were a big part of the problem and said new, cleaner, replacements were on the way.
What I call ‘pavement-side pollution’ will only be reduced with a radical re-think of public transport, more stringent rules about commercial vehicle access to city centres and the use of roadside pollution sensors, which can pick out the worst offenders.
Last week it was revealed that Transport for London was to order 600 of the ‘New Routemaster’ New Bus for London electric-drive buses, a project born out of an Autocar design proposal. With a diesel engine/generator of around half the size of a normal bus, the New Routemaster will probably deployed on the most polluted routes to reduce emissions and to try and prevent the mega-fines long-threatened by the EU.
Today, Milton Keynes announces a five-year project to install re-chargeable electric buses, replacing eight diesel models, on one of the town’s main routes. Eight companies are involved in the new technology, which will allow the electric buses to wirelessly recharge for 10 minutes at each end of the route, during the driver break. It’s claimed that two thirds of the charge needed to complete the No7 route can be achieved in the 10 minute slot.
Milton Keynes Council is pushing the figures that, once the No7 route is fully-electric, ‘500 tonnes of CO2’ will no longer be released into the atmosphere. Much more important to the heath of Keynesians, however, is the ‘45 tonnes of other noxious tailpipe emissions’ during the 450,000 miles covered by the No7 buses in a year.
One day, most public authorities will drop the obsession with ‘CO2’ and take to heart what the WTO said earlier this year. The failure to clean up public and commercial transport is one of the biggest health scandals of our time.