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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 Solandri on 8/9/2013 1:21:46 AM , Rating: 4
Even with a transition period, he's mostly right. The fundamental measure here is productivity. How much work (food production, manufacturing, even making movies) can you as an individual get done per day? First you have to generate enough productivity to feed, clothe, and house yourself. Then enough to buy all the toys we like to play with. After that, you can work for more toys or take time off with family and relaxing.

In the old days, people spent most of their waking lives working in the fields just to grow enough food to survive. Each technological advance in agriculture leveraged cheap energy to increase the productivity per man-hour worked. At first it was water and wind to relive us from the labor of milling, but eventually we transitioned to coal, then oil as even higher density energy sources (yield more energy for a given cost) applied to more and more aspects of food production.

The only reason you have time to spend 8 hrs/day and 2 days a week reading web sites like this is because cheap energy has reduced the number of man-hours needed to provide what you need to survive. If you increase the cost of energy, your productivity decreases and either you have to work longer hours to enjoy the same lifestyle you have today, or your standard of living decreases.

Transition period is irrelevant. What matters is the relative cost of the two energy sources. That's why conservatives tend to be against "green" energy. It's not because they don't like the environment (which is a ridiculously naive assumption made by people who aren't even trying to understand what those with a different opinion are thinking). It's because switching to green energy sources before they're ready (i.e. before they're cost is competitive with fossil fuels) won't magically result in a better world. It'll result in a decreased standard of living.

Maybe that trade-off is worth it. Maybe the pollution from fossil fuels is damaging our lives more than the decreased cost of living if we were to give up fossil fuels. But that's a debatable argument that I rarely see debated. Usually I just see people who think that switching to green energy has only benefits and no disadvantages. If that's what you think, then you simply don't understand how the economy works. Holding all other things constant, increasing the cost of energy decreases the standard of living. The burden of proof is then upon those proposing the switch to green energy to prove that eliminating the negatives of using fossil fuels will benefit us enough to make it worthwhile.


RE: Oh boy..
By conq on 8/12/2013 9:07:35 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
In the old days, people spent most of their waking lives working in the fields just to grow enough food to survive.

Now they instead spend it watching Jersey Shore and ESPN. My, my, my. How far we've come!


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