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‘Groupthink’ over drive to switch to electric cars could put climate targets at risk because government is ignoring potential of sustainable fuels, MPs warn
- Synthetic and biofuels can be used in traditional engines to reduce emissions
- Iain Stewart warned rural drivers without access to chargers may be left behind
‘Groupthink’ over the drive to switch to electric cars could put climate targets at risk because the Government is ignoring the potential of sustainable fuels, MPs have warned.
Ministers have come under fire for shunning recommendations in a report by the Commons’ transport committee for more green fuels to be considered as an alternative to petrol or diesel.
The sale of new petrol and diesel cars is set to be banned from 2030, but MPs are concerned that there is little detail about the fate of existing polluting cars.
The Daily Mail has launched a campaign calling on ministers to rethink the target, designed to turbocharge Britain’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Iain Stewart, the Conservative chairman of the transport Committee, warned that rural drivers with poorer access to charging points could be left behind if ministers focus the green agenda solely on electric vehicles.
‘Groupthink’ over the drive to switch to electric cars could put climate targets at risk because the Government is ignoring the potential of sustainable fuels, MPs have warned (file image)
His committee believes that synthetic fuels and biofuels – which can be used in traditional combustion engines to reduce emissions – are being ‘demonised’ by ministers despite the fact that ‘addressing the existing fleet [of petrol and diesel cars] will be decisive in achieving our climate goals’.
Sustainable fuels would also offer a more ‘socially equitable’ way of reducing emissions.
Accusing the Government of ‘succumbing to groupthink’, the committee said: ‘Not everyone will be able to afford to replace their current car with an EV, nor will everyone easily be able to charge one at home.
‘There are questions over the adequacy of infrastructure and the use of raw materials to produce the necessary batteries. An exclusive focus on battery electric vehicles risks failing to meet the UK’s climate goals.’
Mr Stewart said: ‘I am not anti-EVs. But there will be areas where it is not going to be practical, such as rural areas, as well as with second hand cars.
‘My view would be not to put all our eggs in one basket and just to apply common sense. Don’t make it too rigid.’
Sustainable fuels are seen as a promising alternative to EVs because they can be used in existing car engines without costly conversion.
Both biofuels, which are generated from waste products, and synthetic fuels, created from ‘defossilised’ carbon dioxide sources, can help cars reduce emissions.
Critics, however, claim biofuels can put food production at risk by incentivising farmers to use their land to produce it instead of food resources.
There are also concerns that synthetic fuel – which does not displace food crops – is much more expensive than other fuels, as the power required to obtain fuel from key ingredients such as hydrocarbon is significant. The transport committee’s most recent report, published in March, also stated that there was a case for many people, particularly in rural or isolated communities, to continue driving wholly diesel or petrol-powered cars as their emissions would eventually become ‘negligible’.
More broadly, the report expressed concern that the cost of introducing electric car charging infrastructure across Britain would be ‘completely unrealistic’ and warned the pace of the electric vehicle rollout was already going more slowly than required.
Iain Stewart (pictured), the Conservative chairman of the transport Committee, warned that rural drivers with poorer access to charging points could be left behind
But when the Government published a response to the report earlier this month, it ignored the recommendations relating to sustainable fuels and rejected suggestions that it was demonising the technology.
‘There is a broad consensus amongst industry, non-governmental organisations, and other experts that electrification is the most efficient approach to decarbonising cars and vans,’ the Government’s response said.
Mr Stewart has hit back, saying the Government’s adopted approach – which claims to favour no technology in particular, despite evidence to the contrary – was ‘long past its sell-by date’.
Another member of the committee, Tory MP Karl McCartney, published his own furious response, saying: ‘By rejecting environmentally-friendly synthetic fuels and sustainable fuels as an alternative fuel option for cars and vans, the Government are burying their head in the sand and making a huge mistake.
‘Their response is basically ‘fingers crossed’ we can create enough electric batteries and deliver electric charging points, everywhere in the UK, that can fuel a car in the same time it takes to fill your petrol/diesel/LPG tank. It is not realistic.
‘It compounds their headlong herd-like, fashionable or EV evangelist belief, and naïve rush into stopping the manufacture of non-electric private cars from 2030 and requiring all private cars to be electric by 2050.’
He added that the 2030 deadline was ‘far tougher’ than the European Union – where the ban will be introduced from 2035 – and therefore placed Britain at a ‘serious economic disadvantage’.
A poll for the Mail has found that barely a quarter of the public agree with the Government’s 2030 deadline.
The survey, conducted by Survation across the UK, found that only 28 per cent of the public think the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales in 2030 is a good idea, compared with 53 per cent who think it is a bad idea.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘E-fuels are not proven technology, have expensive and complex supply chains, and emit much of the same pollutants as petrol and diesel.
‘They might have a role for specialist vehicles, but we are not looking at them as a solution for normal cars and vans.
‘A driver is never more than 25 miles away from a rapid chargepoint anywhere along England’s motorways and A roads, and last year on average 720 public charging devices were added to the UK’s public charging network each month.’
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