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Ross Clark: The EU’s Net Zero plan is in tatters – and not a moment too soon

March 30, 2023

By Paul Homewood



The bloc is backtracking on its plan to ban combustion engines. It’s time for Britain to follow suit
If anyone had any lingering doubts that the EU is run by German car-makers (in association with French farmers), they will surely have been dispelled by the news that the bloc is to backtrack on its plan to ban combustion engines from new vehicles by 2035. While petrol and diesel cars will still be banned, carbon neutral synthetic "e-fuels" will be permitted. While bringing the EU’s green juggernaut to a skidding halt may have required some very powerful lobbying, it is also the right decision.
Proposed bans on petrol and diesel cars in the EU and in Britain were put in place without any proper consideration as to whether electric cars were capable of replacing them. It was simply assumed that improvements in technology would solve the issues of range, ease of recharging, the cost of buying electric cars and their over-reliance on rare metals such as cobalt – which are extracted in troubled parts of the world. Yet prices of electric cars – not to mention the electricity to run them – have remained stubbornly high. Moreover, their manufacture can involve rather more emissions than a petrol or diesel equivalent.
Some are already trying to play down the significance of the EU’s decision, arguing that "e-fuels" will be so expensive that internal combustion engines will become a high-end, niche product. Yet two decades ago, long before we had a net zero target, drivers in Wales found to their pleasure (and to the annoyance of the then HM Customs and Excise) that an ordinary diesel engine could run quite happily on waste oil from chip shops. Since then, the government has made petrol with a 10 per cent renewable ethanol component the British standard, so most of us are already running our cars partly on non-fossil fuels.
As for synthetic fuels made from carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water, the German Aerospace Centre estimates such fuels could be made for aviation purposes using existing technology for around 2.26 Euros (£2 per litre). That is expensive – it currently costs around 50 pence to produce a litre of unleaded, the rest being tax and distribution costs – but it is not much higher than recent at-pump prices. The EU’s change of heart means that the car industry can now work developing what could be the ideal compromise: plug-in vehicles which could run 50 miles or so in pure electric mode, but which have a small engine – powered by synthetic fuel – to keep the battery charged on longer trips.
But what will Britain do? The government is showing no signs that its own ban on petrol and diesel cars will not go ahead as planned – which would mean no new pure petrol and diesels sold after 2030, and no hybrids from 2035. This is foolish, and the government will be forced to reconsider. No manufacturer is going to make cars exclusively with the UK market in mind, so if the internal combustion engine does remain a standard product in Europe and elsewhere in the world, UK motorists are going to find themselves restricted to a handful of pure – and expensive – electric models. What remains of our car industry will be put under even greater pressure.
If the electric car makers do improve and bring down the cost of their product, then that’s great – most of us will want to drive them. But in keeping options open for internal combustion engines the EU, for once, has done something sensible that Britain should emulate.

The point Ross Clark makes about manufacturers not wanting to make a car just for the UK market is a strong one. As he says, we will end up being restricted to a handful of expensive EVs, along with cheap Chinese ones. Quite where this leaves the UK car industry is debatable.

  1. liardetg permalink
    March 30, 2023 6:44 pm

    I was going to bubble wrap a couple of Citroen diesels for my grandchildren but now I guess it’ll have to be Mercs

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 30, 2023 11:40 pm

      No just convert any car to run on wood!
      Call it a “Draxmobile” – buy a couple of acres of woodland to crop and claim it is environmentally friendly running on a “renewable”.
      Should really piss quite a few people off…..with any luck.
      Come to think of it I might do it just to be a cantankerous old git.

  2. Mark Hodgson permalink
    March 30, 2023 6:49 pm

    We’ve just ordered a new diesel – seemed like a good idea to get one while we still can. The lack of choice was profoundly depressing.

    • Realist permalink
      March 31, 2023 7:30 am

      Also not easy to find proper cars with manual transmissions, at least not for new and relatively new ones.
      >>lack of choice

  3. thomas Carr permalink
    March 30, 2023 6:49 pm

    Any word from the BBC? Ever?

  4. Broadlands permalink
    March 30, 2023 6:56 pm

    “But in keeping options open for internal combustion engines the EU, for once, has done something sensible that Britain should emulate.”

    Indeed! When it comes to transportation there is no viable alternative to gasoline and biofuels. CVs are doing all of the transportation as we make the transition to renewables and EV transportation.

    • Realist permalink
      March 31, 2023 7:34 am

      Of course there is: diesel, CNG and LPG
      >> no viable alternative to gasoline

  5. David Coe permalink
    March 30, 2023 6:59 pm

    Just like carbon capture is a mythical beast, we now have ICEs powered by e-fuel manufactured from unicorn farts. Can the world get any more stupid?

    • T Walker permalink
      March 30, 2023 10:40 pm

      David, I know your question is rhetorical, but yes it can and it will.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 30, 2023 11:45 pm

      Back to the future.

      • March 31, 2023 2:05 am

        I think Idiocracy would be more fitting

      • 1saveenergy permalink
        March 31, 2023 10:38 am

        Good article Ray,

    • Vernon E permalink
      March 31, 2023 3:25 pm

      Today’s DT referred to the government’s support for carbon capture and storage at Drax burning biomass fuel. No details given, just a lovely warm feeling that why haven’t we done this already. Its nonsense. The only way that CCS can be applied to a carboniferous fuel is by oxy-combustion. That opens a gate into and enrtirely new world of high cost and low themal efficiency. Nothing new about it but its insane.

  6. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    March 30, 2023 7:08 pm

    Net zero is a very stupid idea and anyone who believes in it should stop exhaling CO2, right now!

    • TC Hopalong permalink
      March 30, 2023 8:28 pm

      Just asking for a friend. Would he be saving the world if he stopped a climate zealot from exhaling CO2?

  7. liardetg permalink
    March 30, 2023 7:27 pm

    Further to. Whenever I ask someone about decarbonising motor transport they say “0f course – easy – it’s the EV plan!” They are all middle class liberals with a drive and a garage. Then I ask them about the thousands of giant twelve wheeler diesel powered lorries that don’t feature in their consciousness. Don’t they make the whole exercise rather pointless? Answer came there none.

  8. avro607 permalink
    March 30, 2023 7:31 pm

    The Germans are getting smart.Remember they also dug up a wind farm to get at the coal seams underneath for their power stations.

  9. johnbillscott permalink
    March 30, 2023 7:48 pm

    I understand the ethanol produced from plants generates more CO2 emissions than the petrol it displaces. I do not have figures but it is likely true. A bit like burning north American wood pellets at Drax.

    • Chris permalink
      March 30, 2023 10:32 pm

      What will be producing the electricity to manufacture the hydrogen using electrolysis? I get the impression that the car manufacturers know it’s BS but is a good cover story to keep engines being built past 2035 when hopefully the scam of netzero will be fully realised by the majority of people.

      • Chris permalink
        March 30, 2023 10:34 pm

        Mistake. This is not a reply to johnbillscott.

    • Chris permalink
      March 30, 2023 10:34 pm

      Mistake. This is not a reply to johnbillscott.

    • Broadlands permalink
      March 31, 2023 12:30 am

      Johnbillscott… Ethanol produced from planting corn and sugarcane requires vehicles that run on fossil fuels. The biofuels eventually produced are 90% fossil fuels. They are used for transportation almost immediately. And that process must keep repeating to hope to achieve “carbon neutrality”. It’s another scam.

  10. teaef permalink
    March 30, 2023 10:24 pm

    What are our armed forces going to run all their fighting machines on?

  11. T Walker permalink
    March 30, 2023 10:49 pm

    Now that we know – courtesy of VW and Volvo – that EVs need to do around 50k miles before they start to have lifetime CO2 emissions less than ICE vehicles, the whole scam is surely doomed. Oh that would be in sane world of course.

    Given that 60% plus of car buyers use 3 year PCP deals before getting a new car, they never will have a lower CO2 footprint than an ICE vehicle.

  12. Mikehig permalink
    March 30, 2023 11:09 pm

    This article over-eggs the pudding, massively.
    It’s a token concession to placate the ICE lobby. There will be only trivial amounts of “e-fuels” available and they will be extremely expensive.
    Do we really think the manufacturers are going to carry on pouring funds into the development of new ICE models for much longer when the potential market will be so small?
    Imho a greater hope for a return to sanity is that the 2030/35 deadlines will be pushed back due to cost and availability issues with battery materials combined with capacity issues on the power grids.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      March 31, 2023 6:11 am

      The pushback has startd as both Germany and Italy realise that the EU diktat would have wiped out their automotive industries (and lots of other dependent jobs).
      And the EU has to survive until 2035 which is looking doubtful.

  13. March 31, 2023 6:15 am

    As a non-scientist, may I ask this community whether the relation between the rotation of the Earth and its revolution round the Sun are more significant determinants of climate changes than carbon dioxide levels and industrial activity.

    Could the interplay of night, day and the succession of the seasons produce the iterations for “chaotic” extremes? Might this explain the variations in carbon dioxide proportions and the secondary effect on the biosphere? What do the statistics tell us?

    It would be a comfort to know that we rely more on steady astronomical influences on our climate than upon the scratchings of human activity!

  14. Realist permalink
    March 31, 2023 7:32 am

    If the EU is actually “run by German car makers”, why have they (and the others) been silent about anti-car policies for so long?

  15. ancientpopeye permalink
    March 31, 2023 8:02 am

    “Quite where this leaves the UK car industry is debatable.”
    It will send them to the scrap heap as has happened with most of heavy industry in this once wonderful Country (pre-EU), run by benighted politicos’ and their acolytes?

  16. Micky R permalink
    April 1, 2023 2:25 pm

    Ross Clarke is almost certainly a believer, although he is demonstrably incapable of delivering a coherent sentence:

    ” … the global climate is warming … ummm … almost certainly got some of that is … a lot of that is to do with …ummm … manmade carbon emissions ”

    LBC Radio today, Andrew Castle show, 7.06am (six minutes into the programme) . Available as listen again on the LBC website

  17. Vernon E permalink
    April 1, 2023 3:31 pm

    Too many of us are posting about the ifs and buts, dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Let’s up our game. Our way of life is under existential threat from well organised, massively funded anarchist groups who havethe unrealised support of all governments in the western world. As Dr North explained some years ago, we are all domed.

    • Micky R permalink
      April 1, 2023 6:57 pm

      ^^ Need a medjia presence, TalkRadio and GB News as a starter

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