Having just sat through a speech by Lord Mandelson and an interview, I’ve heard the phrase "low-carbon economy" more times than I’d care to recall.

In case you haven’t heard it before, Lord M wants the UK to be the world leader in making low carbon cars and has spent a good chunk of his time in the past year trying to make it happen.

He’s also been instrumental in founding the Automotive Commission, the new brains trust of car industry people, including Richard Parry-Jones and Gordon Murray to assist the UK in getting there. But is this such a bad thing?

Low-carbon cars mean hi-tech, advanced engineering and cutting-edge design - all of which the UK can and does provide. Mandelson also realises that we’re not all just going to start buying these things without some sort of incentives, so £230 million in subsidies is going to be made available by 2011.

Before we all get carried away, though, there’s a lot of work to be done. The UK has to be able to compete with the rest of the world - and it hasn’t always made good a job of that.

We also need to get an infrastructure put in - such as an electric charging network - and that can’t all be left to the car makers. We also have to protect what Britain is good at: luxury cars and specialists sports cars, neither of which is currently part of the low-carbon dream.

Mandelson told me that he was taking them into consideration but has previously told us that carbon costs needs to start being reflecting in the price of cars. That's not exactly going to inspire Land Rover and Jaguar sales, is it?

Lord M describes himself as a fan of cars and a fan of the industry. But while creating a hi-tech future for Britain is a sound objective, government can’t leave everything to the car industry.

He needs to put up some real money to make it happen. Let’s hope he can do it before the next election.

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