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If Britain goes carbon free does that mean no more life as we know it?

The Liberal Democrats -- currently Britain's third largest political party -- are pushing to ban not just sports cars, SUVs, and all other manner of "gas guzzling" vehicles, as some have suggested in the U.S., but all petroleum and diesel vehicles off the streets of Britain by 2040.  If isn't -- at least in part -- electric, it won't be allowed on the streets.

The plan is currently in its final stages and would be voted upon at the socially liberal party's upcoming conference in Glasgow, UK.

The proposal, according to a draft obtained by The Telegraph, states:

By 2040, only ultra-low carbon vehicles will be permitted on UK roads for non-freight purposes.

In other words, only hybrids, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) would be legal.  Anything else -- in terms of consumer vehicles (including taxis and other small commercial vehicles) -- would not be.

Currently, the British do not buy many electric vehicles.  In 2012 a total of roughly 2 million cars were sold to British buyers.  Meanwhile the top-selling hybrid electric vehicle, Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TYO:7203) Prius moved only 13,000 units (about 0.6 percent of total sales), while the Plug-in Prius saw 470 sales -- even more miniscule.  In total only 3,600 PHEVs or BEVs have sold in the UK since the launch a £5,000 ($7,750 USD) tax incentive in mid 2010.

By contrast nearly 435,000 hybrids were sold in the U.S. last year [source], accounting for approximately 3 percent of sales.  While BEV sales were slow, combined BEV and PHEV sales moved nearly 53,000 units in the U.S. in 2012.  These numbers indicate that the U.S. is likely selling at least twice the number of electric vehicles and hybrids -- percentage wise -- as Britain.

A second plank of the proposed platform calls for airfare taxes to be replaced with a more significant carbon tax.  The party describes:

[Air passenger duty would be replaced with] per-plane duty, charged in proportion to the carbon emissions created by that journey.

That move is intended to stoke the use of biofuels and cut down on "frivolous" air travel.  

One thing such critics of these proposals will likely appreciate is that the party calls for expansion of Britain's nuclear power and natural gas shale exploration/extraction.  The proposal calls on cutting legal red tape to increasing use of nuclear and natural gas for the nation's energy.  

Nuclear energy
The plan does call for the expansion of clean nuclear energy. [Image Source: Corbis]

Among the proposed changes would be to allow for fracking -- hydraulic fracturing -- a process in which pressurized/heat water and chemicals is injected into sites containing oil or natural gas in order to extract it.  The process is controversial as some have suggested it might cause earthquakes; however, at present the evidence supporting that hypothesis remains far from conclusive.  The proposal to drop the party's opposition to fracking does come with some provisions.  The party writes:

[Fracking can commence so long as] regulations controlling pollution and protecting local environmental quality are strictly enforced, planning decisions remain with local authorities and local communities are fully consulted over extraction and fully compensated for all damage to the local landscape.

Experts have estimated that 700 million barrels of oil or more a year could be extracted from oil shale in two areas of Surrey and Sussex.

The proposals -- which aim to create a "zero-carbon" Britain (a rather humorous term, surely) might not be taken seriously were it not for the Liberal Democrats' key role as kingmaker in the British government.  By entering into a coalition with the center-right Conservative party (while ironically bucking the center-left Labour Party), the Conservatives were able to command leadership of the country, including the role of prime minister, which is currently filled by Conservative party leader David Cameron.

In order to stay in power, the Conservative government must make major concessions to their Liberal Democrat allies, despite having a significantly larger head count in Parliament.  Thus as absurd as the idea of banning all non-electric vehicles from the streets of Britain sounds, if the Liberal Democrats pass the proposal, their Conservative allies may be forced to listen.

Source: Telegraph

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Stupid humans
By Belard on 8/8/2013 4:52:17 AM , Rating: 3
Stupid humans... it would be funny if not serious.

1 - Oil *IS* LIMITED. Simple proof in two words: Offshore Drilling
It costs 10x to drill off shore than on land. The deeper they drill, the more it costs and the difficulty increases.

2 - Cost of gas and oil will always rise. We'll never see $1.00 gallon gas, ever. We drill more oil today in the USA than when Bush was ever in Office, yet Gas prices are still $3.20~3.80 a gallon. Our OIL is being exported to OTHER countries. Get it? Oil companies are the top profitable companies in the WORLD.

3 - This love for combustion engine is stupid. Get back to me when gas is $15 a gallon

4 - Pollution harms people, it effects our food, our water which in turn effects our health and that of our children = we spend money being sick. Prove it: Drink a quart of motor oil instead of water. Yummmy.

RE: Stupid humans
By FastEddieLB on 8/8/2013 5:12:53 AM , Rating: 2
two words: Offshore Drilling

The result of legislation forbidding land-based drilling to not interfere with the three-toed newt's natural habitat.

Cost of gas and oil will always rise.

Except for when it drops. I work at a gas station, I've seen it happen.

We'll never see $1.00 gallon gas, ever

It's called inflation. The dollar isn't worth what it used to be ever since we were taken off of the gold standard and the government started printing money without anything of substance to back it.

RE: Stupid humans
By Mint on 8/8/2013 9:07:41 AM , Rating: 4
Oil has increased in price MUCH faster than core inflation in the last decade. If money printing was the reason, all goods would be cheaper.

What you've seen at a gas stations is just short term variation. In the longer term, it's not going to drop for two main reasons. The first is that developing countries are going to keep increasing their demand for oil.

The second is that oil production is not free market. Half of it is controlled by a cartel, and for an inelastic commodity, that's enough to control prices through quotas. This type of collusion is illegal in every modern economy.

When the recession hit, there was a hefty drop in global oil consumption, and oil prices tanked as producers competed with each other for the remaining demand. However, less than a year later prices rose again, even without a recovery of demand. Why? Because OPEC cut production.

The only thing stopping OPEC from raising prices even further is that they don't want alternatives to grow rapidly or for consumer behavior to change.

RE: Stupid humans
By Mint on 8/8/2013 7:43:32 PM , Rating: 2
(EDIT: sorry, I meant all goods would be more expensive)

RE: Stupid humans
By Dr of crap on 8/8/2013 11:41:40 AM , Rating: 2
GAS is over priced mostly because of the insane amount of money being made trading oil futures. Look into it. Check out the investment bankers and the money they make using oil futures. Take away their ability to use that money making area, and gas falls like a hugh rock.

Yes the ICE is not efficient, but it's the best mass marketable, read money maker, transportation we have right now.

AND yes agree pollution should be reduced, and todays ICE is a very low pollution device.

AS the price of gas goes up because it's in limited supply will cause other fueled engines to come to the forefront.

BUT carbon credits is completely the wrong way to go about it!!!

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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