Back to the Future, with the Department of Transport

27th Nov 2017


On Thursday, the Department of Transport released the latest figures on the environment. For the majority that want to see Greenhouse Gas emissions fall, they make for depressing reading. What’s more, unless the Department reverses recent trends, emissions from HGVs will be back to 1990 levels not 80 per cent down from then. Back to the Future thanks to inaction, a lack of co-ordination and an overly-cautious approach bordering on paranoia. To continue a transport metaphor, like rabbits in the headlights.

In keeping with the Chancellor’s new love of maths, here are the numbers. In 1990, GHG emissions from HGVs stood at 20.5 mTCO2e, the latest figures (2015) stand at 19.6. This figure has been steadily rising from 2011. If this recent trend continues, by 2018 (which is only a few weeks away), we’ll be back to the 1990 level.

The lack of progress is worrying, so are the rumours coming from the Department of Transport, that they don’t believe biomethane fuelled HGVs should be encouraged. It seems, the VW emissions scandal has made the Department so wary of industry data, they aren’t willing to believe industry stats. If we were talking about the margins, then I’d understand. But frankly were not.

Findings from the Leyland CNG gas filling station, where HGVs use 100 per cent certified biomethane, show GHG emission reductions over diesel of 84 per cent. Not 8 per cent, or 4 per cent, in which case I’d also be wary of supporting biomethane but 84 per cent. A few points either way and the savings would still be significant. And given the Back to the Future record of the Department to date, they should be jumping at this lifeline. HGVs comprise fewer than 2 per cent of vehicles but contribute nearly 20 per cent of domestic transport GHG emissions.

Forward thinking industry sees a future for biomethane in transport; our European neighbours are moving forward using gas for transport, so why is the UK so cautious that it risks going Back to the Future?