U.K. to Continue Driving Differently: No Support for E.U. Petrol Car Ban

The European Commission has adopted Transport 2050, a plan to increase mobility and decrease oil dependence which also reduces carbon emissions from the transportation sector by 60%.  Eliminating conventionally fueled cars from city centers is a key tenet to the plan.  U.K. Transport Minister Norman Baker said that such a decision rests in the authority of the individual cities.

To what degree the various levels of government should influence action in another level of government is often filled with contention.  While Baker may not want to interfere with the domain of individual cities, the same does not hold true for individual people.  Transport plans in the U.K. include a £5,000 credit to individuals purchasing electric cars.

The Transport 2050 white paper includes, “Charges and taxes do not fully reflect the societal costs of transport.  The attempts at introducing policies to internalise the transport externalities and to remove present tax distortions have been unsuccessful. The road and aviation sector are the main beneficiaries of such distortions”.

Basically, the perceived cost of transport, especially via road or air, is less than the real cost.  When the societal costs, including damage to the environment and public health, are included then Transport 2050 is a proactive move for the long term good of the European Union’s citizens and economy.

Transport 2050 also looks to unify and increase rail transport in the Union.  European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said, “Curbing mobility is not an option. Nor is business as usual”, and “Freedom to travel is a basic right for our citizens and it is critical to the development of Europe's business sector.”

Environmentalists are concerned that the goal of a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from the transport sector are not enough.  It is wrong to sit back and hope technology will save the day but 2050 is 39 years in the future.  The more rapidly the situation is addressed the better but 39 years gives time for continued efforts to further reduce transport related carbon emissions.

Adding to the fray, Baker said, “"We will not be banning cars from city centres anymore than we will be having rectangular bananas," as quoted by the BBC.  Seems like a silly stance since an optimistic outlook has the  transition to non-conventionally fueled vehicles occurring for a number of reasons anyway.  As to the square bananas, even though the E.U. is ahead of some countries regarding genetically modified food, it may be best to check with Monsanto before placing any bets.  Who knew Baker was an agriculture expert too.   After all, they aren’t genetically modified, but we do have cubic or “square” watermelons.  For the curious, they are grown in glass cubes.

Photo Credit: Laughlin Elkind