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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 EricMartello on 8/9/2013 3:53:58 PM , Rating: 2
Carbon monoxide, not dioxide. It's toxic to humans and animals. Its the leading cause of death by air pollution, and its produced in engine exhaust, along with C02 and heaps of other compounds.

Let me put it another way:

A forest fire burns down huge swaths of greenery and an average person's perception of this event is pure destruction. In reality, the immolation of a forest renews life, improves biodiversity and allows plants that require fire to take root.

Transpose this to CO or CO2 emissions being harmful to mammals - not really. We cannot breath either of these gases but their presence is not toxic to us (i.e. chlorine gas would be toxic even if we held our breath). As levels of CO or CO2 rise, plant life and simple life forms like algae follows suit and helps balance this out to ensure that these gases do not displace the O2 and N that mammals and other complex life breaths.

Life is very adaptable and while there is no doubt that sucking an exhaust pipe is going to kill a human, it's not going to kill the planet.

You're right, but it's very unlikely that organisms of today (including many food crops) would be able to survive such conditions, as a result of the millions of years of evolution that have taken place. Also, the higher temperatures would melt the ice caps, leading to sea level rise.

If the change was gradual, which it is likely to be, then the plants will adapt to the changes in climate. Palm trees have adapted themselves to thrive in warm climates where strong storms are frequent. That is why they have slender trunks and long, thin leaves rather than branches and broad leaves.

Even if the change happened quickly; plant and animal life will return after an initial shock.

And who's saying that higher sea levels are a bad thing? It's presented as a bad thing because today a lot of people live on or near the coast...but even if the glaciers and ice caps melted 100%, there would still be plenty of inhabitable land available.

It's both. A imbalanced diet is bad for you, so too is an excess of anything. Vitamin A is essential to the body, but only in minute quantities. Too much leads to death.

Then we agree on this point, because doesn't having a balanced diet imply having a diverse diet? You can't survive by only eating chocolate bars, although it would be a delicious way to die.

Equilibrium isn't; constant though. It can occur over long timescales, but if the balance is shifted over a short period of time then the results can be very violent or unpredictable. Massive hurricanes, solar storms and other natural phenomena are an example of this.

Actually it is constant as all counter-forces seek to exist in a state of balance, whether it is hot and cold or whether it is an interaction between matter and anti-matter.

The natural phenomena you listed can be viewed as the universe's attempt to restore balance, not offset it. The point you're overlooking is that our existence as humans on this planet is itself an some point we're going to have to return to zero. Humans like to believe that a balanced universe means they get to be a part of it, which is not true.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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