On The Road: the fuel crisis
The fuel crisis spells doom for petrolheads, but for the rest of us there's a solution. It will just take time, effort – and lots and lots of money
Sunday 01 June 2008
Worried about the impending fuel-related political, financial and environmental Armageddon? Here's a quick heads-up:
Biofuels won't work because they compete with food supplies and desecrate biodiversity. Electricity is as dirty as the source of energy that supplies it and, right now, unless you live in Sweden, that is likely to be grimy and non-renewable. Which also rules out hydrogen. Solar-powered cars are fine if you are jockey-sized and OK with seeing the world horizontally at 3mph, but, well, no. And petrol-electric hybrids pollute virtually as much as the most efficient diesels and are not as frugal as manufacturers have claimed. Plus they use far greater resources in their manufacture and recycling. And most of them are really nerdy-looking.
The Government's solution is to make us pay more to drive in every single way it can imagine. But there is a teensy flaw in this: a couple of hundred extra quid on road tax is not going to cause a Porsche Cayenne owner a great deal of angst; indeed it will only make his car that bit more show-offy. But it might well be the last financial straw for someone trying to run a 10-year-old Sierra.
Advocates of public transport tell us to use trains and buses which, believe it or not, I do – most of the time, but half the population haven't seen a train since Dr Beeching's day and the rest of us would prefer it that way.
Jeremy Clarkson's solution has been to buy a 25-year-old Mercedes limo that does 5mpg and turns pedestrians into chimney sweeps as it passes by. At least he is saving himself tax and providing some entertainment, but, as far as I can see, there is only one solution. You're expecting some feeble punchline here, aren't you? (Am I that predictable?) But the solution is really dull, mildly complex and expensive in the short term. We build safe, clean nuclear reactors – and wind turbines.
We harness wave power and we trade electricity as the Scandinavians do. When the wind blows in Jutland, Denmark sells electricity to Norway; when it doesn't, Denmark buys hydro-electric power from Norway. And we start mass producing Teslas (Californian-built electric sportscars) to replace those Bamber Gascoigne-plastic flid boxes. Then we get China, India, Russia and America to do likewise.
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