Go green, buy a new car. Or so the Government would have us believe. At the same time we are encouraged to recycle. Which is exactly what classic car enthusiasts have been doing for years.

So why the hell are we portrayed as evil, polluting eco-terrorists, most recently by Ken Livingstone, who is considering banning classic cars from central London?

The argument that it is somehow kind to the environment to regularly throw away old cars and buy new ones is such obvious nonsense I find it depressing that anyone is stupid enough to accept it. The Green lobby has a lot to answer for.

From what, and how do these people think new cars are made? Woven from organic yogurt and hand finished on the thighs of virgin maidens? More than 30 per cent of all the energy a car consumes is used during its manufacture. The bigger and more sophisticated the car, the more building it impacts the environment.

Half of a car's lifetime production of nitrides of oxygen comes from the factory that built it, during its manufacture. In the case of the BMW it will be South Carolina. No matter. Pollution is a world-wide problem, not a south-eastern England one. Shifting the pollution from one continent to another does not help anyone in the long term.

Scrapping an old car and buying a new one can actually create more environmental damage than maintaining the old car and keeping it on the road. If consumers treated white goods the same way classic car fans looked after their cars we would not have a mountain of a million scrapped fridges, the disposal of which will cost the UK taxpayer £40m. And the mountain grows at the rate of 40,000 a week.

Not that we should be surprised about politicians making policy decisions based on arguments so holed they make the ozone layer look like a colander.

Take diesel engines. During the mid-1980s the authorities encouraged people to buy diesel cars and sold us the idea that they were somehow cleaner. This is rubbish. Diesel engines produce lower carbon monoxide emissions than petrol engines but this is more than offset by the high levels of nitrides of oxygen they churn out. Ever followed a diesel vehicle and started coughing as the fumes from its exhaust fill your car? Buses and taxis in London use diesel engines.

But don't look for logic in the decisions our leaders make. There is only one reason why governments encourage us to scrap old cars and buy new ones. Manufacturers are building 20 per cent more cars than anyone wants to buy, let alone needs.

Saul Rubin, of UBS Warburg, said the auto industry will be unprofitable in 10 years unless business models change to eliminate overproduction. Manufacturers need us to buy new cars. And they need governments to encourage us to buy them. Governments hopping into bed with big business will not surprise many people.

If Mr Livingstone is serious about improving air quality for Londoners - and he should be - he would ban the oil-burners from the capital. It would stop all those buses blocking up the roads, too.

The author is editor of 'Practical Classics'

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