A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wishful thinking versus the petrolheads.....

Only recently, Sir Jonathon Porritt, he of the boringly-PC 'Sustainability Commission', called Jeremy Clarkson, he of the highly-successful television show, Top Gear, an "outstandingly bigoted petrolhead" [see: 'Scourge of the greens: Clarkson branded "a bigoted petrolhead"', The Independent (May 31)]:
"He has insisted there is almost certainly no such thing as global warming, threatened to run down cyclists who get in his way and vowed to keep his patio heater lit 24 hours a day, just to annoy Greenpeace. But the environmentalists are no longer prepared to put up with Jeremy Clarkson's car-loving agenda.

Sir Jonathon Porritt, whose feud with Mr Clarkson dates back several years, has launched his most scathing attack yet on the presenter of the BBC2 motoring show Top Gear, branding him an 'outstandingly bigoted petrolhead'....."

Unfortunately for Ye Etonian Greens, the most recent predictions are with Mr. Clarkson and with his "car-loving agenda". Putting it simply, Sir Jonathon, The Independent, and the bicycle-loving fraternity/sorority (bloomers all round) are pedalling uphill, without gears, in a gale-force wind.

The fact is that the combustion engine will be with us, and in increasing numbers, for a long time to come:

(1) fuel-cell cars are only likely to appear in any numbers by 2020. They will then take at least 10 years to achieve a market share of c.1 percent, a 50 percent market share by 2050 being regarded as highly optimistic;

(2) for hybrid electric cars to become effective, a major breakthrough in battery technology is required, along with massive investment in charging infrastructures;

(3) the main current goal of car makers is to make petrol engines more efficient and to make diesel engines cleaner. This is likely to remain so for the next 20 years at least, even with Government support for alternatives;

(4) petrol engines are now receiving an engineering boost through fuel injection;

(5) price will remain the determining factor because car companies depend on high-volume sales. Alternatives will not be able to compete for a long time;

(6) overall world growth in car sales continues apace. For example, growth in car ownership in China has increased annually from 10.73% in 2001 to 12%, to 13.94%, to 14.6% in 2003. An accelerated expansion is predicted for the period 2003-2010. The same is true for countries like India and Brazil, with India now exhibiting the fastest growth in car production: 'India records fastest growth in car production' (Business Line, April 15, 2005):
"India registered the fastest growth among the top 15 passenger car producing countries in the world in 2004. As per latest rankings by the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, OICA, India's car production grew 30 per cent in 2004 while Brazil was the second with 17 per cent growth....."

I'm afraid that Sir Jonathon, The (utterly lurid) Independent, and far too many BBC metro commentators are just 'talking up' what they want to happen, when the reality is entirely with Mr. Clarkson and his gear stick, from Beijing via Delhi to Rio.

What the British people should be told is the straightforward, unvarnished facts, not utopian, wishful, media thinking. Taking your metro bike to work will have no effect on climate whatsoever! As bikes in India and China are being ditched, world car sales are growing, and will continue to grow, with petrol and diesel remaining Dual Kings for the foreseeable future. Top Gear is in for a very long run indeed! And where are all the bikes? I recently observed a bike lane for quite some time to record..... not a single bike, just congestion caused by the bike lane!

I think Sir Jonathon had better attend to his pot-porritts, as Mr. Clarkson wittily responded to the attack.

Philip, now, why not try this Sir J.: eau de petrol, with light diesel undertones, and oil of Arabia? Well, well, well! Nodding donkeys all round. Coffee in the garden. At last some warmth - no patio heater required today.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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