When you want to scream

10th Sep 2018


You’ve probably experienced that feeling; you can hear nonsense being spouted by a whole range of people (all with a vested interest) telling each other how great their achievements are (or their products) whilst missing the bigger picture. Yes, I had that moment last week at the Low City conference.

Let me explain my frustration, in the hope you can sympathise.

No end of participants were patting themselves on the back for adopting “low emission” vehicles – they were referring to electric vehicles. They were thrilled with their lack of tailpipe emissions and ability to meet the requirements on Ultra Low Emission Zones.

I sat there, having warned them that viewing transport in isolation was a mistake. The UK needs to meet its global target, and that decarbonising transport cannot be done in isolation to heat, electricity supply, agriculture, waste and industrial use. So meeting tailpipe emission savings compared to petrol/diesel may well be a good thing and welcome, but how that electricity is produced matters.

Like many of you, I have the electricity app on my phone. Whilst delegates were boasting about the size of their EV fleet, I checked the app. 50 per cent of electricity produced was from gas; nearly 10 per cent by coal. So the tailpipe might be green, the whole life-cycle of that energy is far from green. Decision-makers really need to focus on this bigger picture or risk making serious strategic errors.

In this case, when Carbon Capture and Storage/Usage is fully deployed, then yes, electric would be green. But without CCS/U it isn’t and if EVs are being invested in at the expense of greener alternatives, then this is the mistake I alluded to.

I welcome all carbon reductions but to get to that ultimate goal, we need less back-patting for short-term success and greater levels of thought about the long-term. I might not burst a blood vessel that way too.