Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Philip Hammond's pro-car, low-carbon miracle

Latter-day messiah Philip Hammond has been explaining how making car ownership easier by allowing developers of new housing to put in more parking spaces and reducing council parking charges is  compatible with lower carbon emissions. This is a seemingly impossible task, but here's what the Great One, the Wise Counsellor says:

"For years politicians peddled the pessimistic, outdated attitude that they could only cut carbon emissions by forcing people out of their cars," he said. "But this Government recognises that cars are a lifeline for many people – and that by supporting the next generation of electric and ultra-low emission vehicles, it can enable sustainable green motoring to be a long-term part of future transport planning."

"Cars are a lifeline for many people".
 Hmmm. Some people are very reliant on their cars, it's true, but no-one's proposing abolishing all cars. For many people however, particularly in urban areas, a lot of their journeys don't need to be made by car, and because car dependency tends to lead to a sedentary lifestyle, cars can indirectly be a death warrant rather than a lifeline.

Electric cars will not be a significant part of the national fleet for years and probably decades. The National Grid forcasts 1M electric cars by 2020.  However, according to my source in the power generation industry, you should take that figure with a massive pinch of salt, because it's in the National Grid's interest to expand their asset base on the pretext of optimistic assumptions. Others in the generation industry are not assuming significant numbers of electric vehicles this decade.

Even if we take the Grid's forecast, that means there are still 29M fossil-fuelled cars on the streets in 2020, and quite possibly more, given that Hammond wants to make car ownership easier. Nothing very low-carbon about that.

Next week: Philip Hammond turns carbon dioxide into gold.

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