If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 11 February 2010

'Green' fuels

This 'saving the planet' stuff is making my head spin.

First, we had the CRU mob emails, which showed that the people in charge of the data had deliberately cherry-picked and manipulated it, and then binned the original numbers so that no-one could check. And broken the law by refusing to share it with other scientists. Then we had the Himalayan glacier debacle, where not only was the prediction wrong, and based on wholly inappropriate material, but was admitted to be included only to sharpen up the minds of legislators and get the AGW scam rolling faster. And then, of course, the unravelling of the hidden business interests of the IPCC Chairman, who seems to be promoting a theory that nets him and his businesses trillions of dollars, and who is as arrogant in defending his own interests as any eeeeeevil capitalist.

What's a chap to think?

Well, here is something else:

Drivers who took the Government’s advice and chose a low-emission car could be left with a white elephant after a U-turn by ministers. Britain’s biggest supplier of biofuels will announce today that it is closing its pumps because the Government is ending financial support from April.

Well, what a surprise! Those of us who are old enough can remember the same thing happening with diesel 15 or 20 years ago. When diesel cars were a rarity, and a lot more expensive than petrol versions, the general wisdom was that diesel was much more environmentally-friendly (a phrase we used back then; haven't heard it much lately), and drivers were encouraged to go for the Heavy Oil option. A lot of people went along with it, and of course diesel was much cheaper than petrol then. Millions of bus and taxi drivers knew that. And after Joe Public had invested all his savings in one of the new, green machines and was enjoying both lower fuel consumption and cheaper fuel, the Government decided that it was not a green fuel after all, and started to jack up the duty on diesel. Nowadays, the price of diesel is substantially higher than petrol. Those who had opted for diesel cars had no option but to pay.

Then, of course, there was the confusion over LPG. First, it was saving the planet, with a fuel that was so benign that a car running on it left behind it nothing but the smell of lavender and some smiling bunnies. The Government even offered grants (up to £2000, I think) for existing cars to be converted. (Strangely, this specifically excluded Land Rovers, and I never found out why. You would think a 4.6 litre Range Rover would show more of a cost-benefit saving than almost anything else.) But then the grant scheme was stopped, and the price of LPG - or rather the duty on LPG - began to climb. More suckers trapped in the net.

And now biofuels: biodiesel and ethanol. There is no similar catch here, as cars adapted to run on 30% biodiesel will still run satisfactorily on normal fuel, and the same with petrol cars on a pertol-ethanol mix. In fact, they will run better, as there was always a question-mark over the lubricity of biodiesel and the service life of diesel pumps in car engines, which showed a worrying and expensive tendency to fail when used with the hybrid fuel. The owners merely lose the money they spent on converting the car. The thinking is the same: subsidise the latest gimmick (i.e. take money from me to give to you, to do something the Government approves of) and then drop it when it's inconvenient, without a thought to the people involved, who may have invested substantial amounts of their own money in following the Government's lead.

I was never a fan of biofuels. Apart from the serious questions over damage to the car's engine, which was never admitted or properly resolved, but which was real, nonetheless, there was a certain stupid arrogance in assuming that taking vast swathes of agricultural land (in the developing countries, natch) away from food production so that school-run Mums in Islington could feel better about filling up the family 4x4 was going to be good for the planet. In fact, it seemed like the height of selfish arrogance. So I don't mourn the passing of biodiesel. But it is indicative of the lack of long-term thinking by the Government, and its willingness to pick up and drop things on a whim, regardless of the consequences for the average Joe. What will happen when wind energy is proved to be uneconomic? Will they drop the subsidies for that too?

I hope so.

As a final, sweet irony,

... the Environment Agency all bought fleets of flexible-fuel vehicles on the assumption that the Government would continue its 20p a litre duty discount on ethanol. This will be withdrawn on April 1.


One lesson: Do Not Trust The Government. Ever.

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