Tuesday 24 October 2017

Diesel: The 'fightback' begins. But is it too late to avert Budget hike?

  • Fears persist over effects of NOx emissions on health

  • Campaigners say diesel still makes most economic sense

The diesel case is being led by vested interests
The diesel case is being led by vested interests
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

It has gone from hero to villain in a short while, but now it appears diesel's great fightback has begun.

But is it too late? Has its reputation been damaged beyond repair? And are legislators already convinced it has no long-term future?

There is growing unease among owners/buyers about what to do.

Every week, we at Independent Motors get more questions from readers concerned about Budget measures that could increase tax on diesel cars and fuel.

And there are genuine concerns over the impact of diesel's NOx emissions on people's health in urban areas, where they have been blamed for respiratory and related illnesses.

But should all that deter those who drive 20,000km-plus a year all over the country?

Is petrol a better option? Hybrid? Electric?

The diesel case/fightback is being led by vested interests, of course, the latest being the SMMT in the UK (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) where, incidentally, diesel purchases have increased significantly despite the criticism.

A lot of the current confusion has to do with not distinguishing what 'emissions' we are talking about.

Essentially, diesel spits out fewer CO2 emissions than petrol. These are harmful to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. (These are the emissions on which our taxation system is based - so diesels usually enjoy lower road tax and VRT.)

Petrol, meanwhile, emits lower NOx which are harmful to humans.

Here's a summary of what the SMMT are saying:

* Diesel cars emit around 20pc fewer CO2 gases than petrols.

* Diesels consume 20pc less fuel than 'like-for-like petrols'.

* Diesel drivers cover 60pc more kms and benefit from lower fuel bills.

* Today's diesels are much cleaner (Euro 6). The SMMT says: "Advanced diesel technology has virtually eliminated emissions of particulate matter with 99pc of these soot particulates captured by special filters fitted to all new diesel cars since 2011."

* It adds: "The latest Euro 6 vehicles are the cleanest in history - and light years away from their older counterparts."

* As well as special filters, technology converts most of the NOx into "harmless nitrogen and water".

* It claims diesel cars are not the main source of urban NOx. It says the likes of gas heating in homes and offices are major culprits.

So, no worries then? All the fears about little particulates are unfounded?

Of course not. There are genuine concerns, especially on the health front.

Maybe the best thing to come out of the so-called 'Fightback' is that people will be better informed about both sides of the argument and make their decisions accordingly.

Your views/queries are welcome. Send them to: ecunningham@independent.ie

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