The Drive for Low Emissions

Europe is planning to follow California on vehicle CO2 emissions and that is not necessarily a coincidence. There is a lot of traffic between Brussels and Sacramento on green issues.

Published: 04-Jun-2007

KEN LIVINGSTONE, the mayor of London, last year caused a mild panic among drivers who cruise the city's narrow streets in “Chelsea tractors” (SUVs to the rest of the world). He announced that he was planning to charge cars emitting more than 225g of CO2 per kilometre £25 a day to go into the centre of London rather than the standard £8. “Red Ken” has always enjoyed stirring it among the rich, so he was probably quite happy at the stink he caused.

Worldwide car ownership is growing around 5% a year, so if emissions from cars are to be cut, engines will have to become dramatically more efficient, or there will have to be a technological breakthrough to replace petrol with a clean fuel. Now that governments seem to be getting serious about emissions, car and fuel companies are getting serious about finding less polluting alternatives.

 Fuel-efficiency regulations of varying kinds already exist in all the countries that matter, but in America, where they were fairly tough during the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s, they have lost their bite. Improvements in engine efficiency have been used not to reduce fuel consumption but to weigh cars down with gizmos. And car companies have carried the burden of those regulations. Fuel companies, so far, have got off scot-free.

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