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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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RE: Oh boy..
By Camikazi on 8/8/2013 5:37:50 PM , Rating: 3
Am I wrong or isn't it true that at the time in our planets history that the world was at it's lushest point (plants everywhere and life abundant) was a time when CO2 levels were at their highest and MUCH higher than now? While there might be gasses that hurt the environment CO2 is not one of them, at least not in the amounts found now or even in the amounts climate change people say it will reach.


RE: Oh boy..
By Reclaimer77 on 8/8/2013 6:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
Hey hey hey!!! Don't come in here with actual provable facts about Earth's environment! Their awesome computer model technology shows otherwise!


RE: Oh boy..
By Mint on 8/10/2013 5:03:31 PM , Rating: 2
Life adapted to changing conditions like that over millions of years, not 100. This line of argumentation is rather pathetic.

What you should be arguing instead is that humans will adapt to whatever consequences come our way. We have bigger fish to fry than spending $5T for every 0.1 degrees of warming that we want to avert.


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