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Market Forces & Global Warming

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  • Gervas Douglas
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2007
      <<There's only so much a man can write (or a reader can read) about
      Gordon Brown, private equity and whether the Bishop of Carlisle is
      right that this month's deluges are God's judgement on our moral
      decadence and lack of respect for the planet. So this week I'm going
      to stray into adjacent territory. Without, I hope, blocking Alan
      Judd's occasional reserved parking space at the back of the magazine,
      I've decided to turn myself into a motoring correspondent.

      The news item that prompts me to do so was brought to my attention by
      my man on the forecourt in a shiny suit, who tells me the London motor
      trade is in a fever of excitement about the new BMW X5 3.0d that comes
      on sale in October. BMW describes this re-engineered luxury 4X4 as
      `the only conventionally-powered vehicle in its segment with a CO2
      emissions figure that falls below the highest 225g/km banding for
      Vehicle Excise Duty'. Put more simply, it's the first Chelsea tractor
      specifically designed to beat Red Ken's proposed £25-a-day penalty on
      cars in the top band, as well as saving owners £95 a year on their
      annual Vehicle Excise Duty. Not only does it achieve what I'm told is
      a remarkably low emission figure for its engine size (214g/km) but it
      also consumes less fuel than its predecessor –clocking up 34.9miles
      per gallon instead of 32.5 – and goes from nought to 62 miles an hour
      one-fifth of a second quicker.

      So hat's off to the Bavarian and British boffins in BMW's
      laboratories. But will Mayor Livingstone be pleased at the news? I
      suspect not, because much as I'm sure he hates the brown cloud of
      exhaust pollution that hangs over the capital, I have a feeling that
      he does not hate it quite as much as he hates middle-class London
      residents who choose to ride around in big, safe, expensive cars
      rather than submitting themselves to his appalling public transport
      system. Now, thanks to the appliance of science, those that can afford
      to trade up to the new X5 (and in the western end of the Congestion
      Zone, most of them clearly can afford it) will be able to offer Ken a
      cheery two-fingered hand-gesture if they should ever find themselves
      flooring the accelerator as they pass him waiting at a rainy bus-stop.

      But seriously, what is so interesting about the BMW story is that it
      is a perfect example of the free market responding creatively to
      signals both from governments and customers. The overlap between
      global-warming sceptics and X5 drivers is probably pretty large, but
      even the most unreconstructed cigar-chomping, frequent-flying
      gas-guzzler will like the idea of more miles per gallon, cleaner air
      in the street where he actually lives and more cash left in his pocket
      to buy bigger cigars.

      Likewise, politicians may sometimes be cynical about climate change,
      paying lip service to the Al Gore rhetoric while secretly seeing it as
      a useful device to make citizens feel sufficiently guilty to pay more

      But even the cynics must recognize that a general competitive trend in
      the motor industry (and indeed the aircraft industry) to design
      engines that consume less carbon fuel and emit less poison is an
      unmixed good thing. Even if it has nothing whatever to do with the
      state of the weather, it means at the most basic level that the
      planet's finite supply of oil will last that little bit longer, so
      that the day is just that little bit further off when we all have to
      strap wind turbines to our bicycles. Before you know it, every 4X4 in
      London will be as fragrant as a summer meadow, Red Ken will be
      devising entirely new ways to penalise the middle classes for being
      middle class, and the Bishop of Carlisle will be proud to drive a BMW

      You can read this at:


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