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Emotions clouding the diesel debate

Sir

Much emotion has been generated by the government's decision to re-introduce the 3% diesel surcharge for all diesel-engined cars registered after 1 January 2006. Let me try to bring some sanity back into the argument.

The government announced the new CO2 based scheme in 1999 and filled in the details of how the scheme would work in the 2000 Budget. At this point the 3% supplement was to apply to all cars on the basis that despite lower CO2 emissions air quality was adversely affected by particulate and NOx emissions. Later, to encourage manufacturers to move towards cleaner technologies the supplement was waived for Euro IV compliant vehicles. That it is now being removed may be seen to be opportunistic, especially given the huge take up of diesel by business car drivers.

But if the industry is to do something positive this about instead of merely wringing its collective hands let me lay a challenge to manufacturers on behalf of the business car driver.

In the 2000 Budget announcement the government said, 'Recent developments in diesel after-treatment technologies have the potential to offer significant emission reductions, to the extent that some diesel cars could eventually have comparable emissions performance to the cleanest petrol cars,' and then promised to waive the supplement for these 'very low-emission diesel cars'.

Are we there, yet? If we are to hold the government to its promise then we need to establish how close current, clean diesel technology is to matching that of p> etrol cars. The BVRLA, on behalf of its Members customers and their drivers, has already started to collect information on particulates and NOx but we need input from every manufacturer which has a diesel engine in its range. I would anticipate that every manufacturer who reads this would want to make contact with either myself (robin@bvrla.co.uk) or John Lewis, BVRLA Director General (john@bvrla.co.uk). We'll tell them exactly the information that we want to collate. If it presents a sufficiently strong case then I promise that we will make every effort to persuade the government to change its mind on removal of the waiver but to remove it through logic, not emotion.

Robin Mackonochie
Head of Communications, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association

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