Minister has put drive for carbon emissions into sudden reverse

02 November 2007

The RSC today expressed dismay at reported comments by the transport secretary concerning carbon emissions and manufacturers of performance and luxury cars.

Minister Ruth Kelly was reported as saying that deadlines for car makers to introduce emissions technology should allow more time for the top-class car manufacturers to prepare their technology.

Richard Pike, the Royal Society of Chemistry chief executive, said: "The battle against carbon needs to be moving in the fast lane. If the minister's words take root then makers of high-class vehicles and fast cars will paradoxically be meandering in the inside lane of the campaign against carbon, if not resting in lay-bys" 

He added: "Britain is committed legally to reducing its overall carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26% by the year 2020 compared to reference levels in 1990. 

"That will take leadership, and innovative chemistry, from bio-fuels to hydrogen and electric cars.

"There are some grand scientific and engineering challenges to overcome. We need to improve the efficiency of conventional cars by making lighter materials, better tyres and improved fuels and additives. For hybrid-electric and electric cars we need to rapidly improve battery performance and durability.

"Bio-fuels must move away from food crops towards sophisticated, energy efficient 'second generation' technology that uses a greater proportion of the plant, and is not reliant upon these traditional routes. In fact, we could even ask 'Why should we devote millions of acres to produce bio-fuels, when in less than one-twentieth the area we can get the same energy as electricity from photo-voltaic cells, which could also provide hydrogen by electrolysing water?' These challenges need big decisions by government and big organisations on strategy, funding and infrastructure.

"All this must be pushed hard and with great urgency. It is not going to happen if ministers oddly make exceptions such as the one expressed so dismayingly yesterday."

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