Monday, May 19, 2008

Manufacturers' Claims on CO2 Emissions Inaccurate

We came across two interesting articles in the national press. Lewis Smith argues in The Times that the emissions data that consumers rely on to make more environmentally sound choices is usually completely inaccurate. Car companies are accused of jumping on the “eco” bandwagon to make their brand seem greener, even though the figures don’t back them up.

The article refers to independent testing by Auto Express magazine. When they tested the CO2 emissions for some 'relatively green' cars, such as the Polo Blue Motion, they found a discrepancy between figures supplied by the car makers and theirs done in real world conditions.

We feel that the article doesn’t mention the comparative point – if a Honda Civic is “advertised” to put out 109g/km of CO2 and “actually” puts out 171, then where does that leave our friend the Porsche Cayenne? Using the same maths, its claimed output of 358g/km becomes a sky-high 562. Just because so-called “green” cars are getting a bad press doesn’t suddenly make hugely inefficient gas guzzling cars less of a problem. In fact, we should all be worried.

The article reinforces the fact that most emissions and efficiency data is calculated by the manufacturers themselves, usually in completely abnormal conditions, so is both biased and effectively useless. What’s needed is a truly independent method of testing new cars, as trustworthy from the consumer’s point of view as the Euro NCAP safety ratings.

Labeling of CO2 emissions also comes into Peter Popham’s article in The Independent. He notes that the Europe-wide breaches of the 1999 EU Directive on car advertising have resulted in the EU preparing to introduce tougher new rules regarding the display of emissions data. He even suggests that cars will soon go the way of cigarettes and alcohol, and making them look “desirable” may be frowned upon.

This is an area the Alliance has been pushing on recently, through the AdvertiseCO2 website, and it looks like we can expect more details about what happens next at the start of June.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Friend Miranda

We don't always want to talk about boring politics and what manufacturers and the government isn't doing - so we thought we'd mention our friend Miranda, over at the Accidental EcoManiac

Introducing her blog she writes: "I never wanted to become an EcoManiac. I was busy living the good life, complete with retail therapy and long-haul flights. In fact, when I moved back to London in 1999, I thought our home would be just perfect if we added a patio heater and outdoor hot tub. Who knew I was an accomplice in the murder of the planet?"

She writes lots of great articles and provides links to new 'green' stuff, including 'hot wheels'.

Miranda's written us this Top Hole entry all about 4x4s: "The 4x4 phenomenon (in the US and now in the UK and worldwide) is a triumph of advertising and cultural persuasion over common sense. For a while, MPG was the buzzword and it seemed cars were getting smaller and more efficient (and cheaper). Of course that’s not great news for car manufacturers – or the oil companies – so they started supersizing cars (and their advertising budgets)."

"I remember the first time I heard someone describe a 4x4 as 'sexy' (maybe 1981, soon after Reagan was elected, but when the ‘oil crisis’ of the 70s was still fresh in the mind.) I was shocked - at that time small sport scars were the height of cool (and midlife crises). I suppose 4x4s hint of a sporty, outdoorsy lifestyle (though instead of surfboards or camping gear, most 4x4s carry nothing more thrilling than the weekly shop)."

"Throughout the 90s and 00s, cars plumped up. At first they looked a bit OTT, but as the years passed and more people bought them, the behemoths didn’t look quite so odd. And celebrities' star power rubbed off and helped make 4x4s 'cool'. The ‘safety’ argument helped salve any misgivings and made people feel proud of their choice – and happy to defend it. Of course 4x4 are not so great for other road users or us pedestrians, but hey, there aren’t that many pedestrians in America anyway."

"Big cars got another boost when the IRS tax system (US) had a loophole for some SUVs allowing a deduction of up to $25,000 for for vehicles between 6-14,000 pounds. Buy a bigger car and get a 'rebate'? Who could resist that? Not many: most people in the US - even teenagers - drive gigantic cars. But now many families are finding it too expensive to fill up their 'gas guzzler' in order to travel to work, school or the shops, and the 4x4 craze doesn't seem quite so clever."

"Unfortunately the UK public has also indulged in bigger and heavier cars. The advertising seems irresistible. A 4x4 glides through the Nevada desert on an empty highway. Another climbs a cliff - what a thrilling adventure! What if ads had to show the grim reality – a frustrated UK driver trying to manoeuvre a 4x4 on a narrow road in an English village (or even in London), or trying to squeeze its giant girth into a standard car park space."

"I just can’t see why many people need a car like this (especially not in London). If your self-esteem needs a boost, do some volunteering or try to become a better person. Driving a big car doesn’t make you a big man (or woman)."

Cheers, Miranda

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The End of Cheap Oil

Today I received an email about how to protest the rising price of oil in the UK. In case you haven't noticed (or just don't drive), the recent price of petrol is up to near £1.30 per litre

I read the email suggesting that motorists boycott Esso and BP garages and realised that the sender didn't really get it, as probably most drivers don't.. the era of cheap oil is over.

Now, we do sympathetically agree that the Big Oil companies are making ludicrous profits. However, the rising cost of oil is a good thing, as it will force us to transition to a non-carbon society.

It's not rocket science: oil is becoming more expensive because consumer demand is outstripping the available supply. And the oil that is left in the ground is harder, more expensive, and more polluting to extract.

Boris and the Fate of London

Well, the mayoral contest has come and gone and Boris is in. What this means for Londoners will become apparent over time.

One of our supporters, Nick, sent this along with his order for a T Shirt: 'Hi there - I completely agree with what you are trying to do, and am fed up with seeing these pointless vehicles around the streets of London. Its sad that the new mayor clearly doesnt understand how important an issue this is.'

One thing is for certain: we'll still be here, chipping away at the fat gas guzzlers, and pushing forwards for better, more sustainable and visionary transport solutions fit for the 21st century.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Young People Turn Backs on Cars

We all aspire to have a new car when we grow up, right? Fast, independent, status...Well, apparently not.

Japanese car makers are worried the downturn over the past decade is part of a deeper generational shift among their young consumers. Unlike their parents' generation, which viewed cars as the passport to freedom and higher social status, it appears web-savvy Japanese youth today regards cars with indifference – they no longer depend on a car for shopping, entertainment and socialising. A survey last year of Japanese in their 20s and 30s discovered that only 25% of Japanese men in their 20s wanted a car, down from 48% in 2000.