Let’s take the “slow lane” to tackle pollution

6th Mar 2017


Each day we hear stories in the media about poor air quality. And rightly so.

According to the recent report “Air Necessities: Place-based approaches to a pollution crisis”, in the UK some 40,000 deaths a year are attributable to the effects of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide. So it is a deadly serious issue. EUA plays its part through the Natural Gas Vehicle Network. The NGVN have pulled together some “killer” facts which should focus the minds of policymakers.

 Outside London, 48 per cent of roadside pollution is caused by HGVs and buses. Yet these vehicles drive only 6 per cent of total vehicle miles in the UK, and in terms of numbers, comprise less than 2 per cent of total vehicles on our roads. So if you were a policymaker, concerned about air quality, what is the priority group – the 2 per cent causing 48 per cent of the problem, or the other 98 per cent of vehicles causing 52 per cent? Good old Pareto Theory suggests tackling HGVs and buses first.

 So what can gas vehicles deliver? According to the Government backed LowCVP tests, a EuroVI gas engine emits 74 per cent less nitrogen oxide compared to the Euro VI diesel. The improvements to existing dirty diesels (Euro V and older) is obviously even greater. So there is a compelling case to improve air quality by switching from diesel to gas (but there are always naysayers).

 I have seen a passage from a draft report, I won’t name the organisation to avoid their embarrassment, but they suggest the improvement in air quality from using gas and not diesel is at best marginal and probably a distraction in most circumstances”. Pollutant level cuts on this scale are certainly not “marginal”, so I thought I’d find out more about the organisation of sandal-wearers that thinks it is also a “distraction”.

 Distraction from what you might ask? Well this organisation advocates switching freight from lorries to barges. Yep, onto canals and rivers. They claim it would allow direct access to major cities. It would, I know, but is this really the best way to tackle air pollution? Canals were great in the late 18th Century for freight, they are good now for leisure but as a means to improve air quality, I suspect it is they who are “marginal”.

 Quick test – how long does it take for a barge to get from London to Birmingham? (answer in the next week or so)