GOVERNMENTS often make flawed decisions, but few can ever have been so fundamentally wrong as the announced ban on fossil fuelled cars in 23 years.

Firstly, it is a knee-jerk reaction to reports of increased deaths from atmospheric pollution.

The media regularly trots out the figure of 40,000 premature deaths, due to air pollution. This figure does not stand up to scrutiny, and I suggest anyone who wishes to see the evidence for my statement, should read the paper by the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence at Cambridge University dated February 21, 2017, which examines the whole statistical basis for this figure, and finds some alarming flaws, not in the research as such, but in the blind acceptance of a figure which is a 'best guess'.


This paper points out that, unlike in the 'smogs' of the fifties, no-one actually drops dead from air pollution. In some cases existing cardio-vascular diseases can be made worse by exposures to certain particulates, so an earlier death may result.

But how many? This where the oft-quoted figure falls down completely. The authors of the paper which gave rise to the '40,000' freely state that the confidence limits on this number are very wide, and using their own data, the true number could be anywhere between 5,000 and 60,000, with a 25 per cent chance that it is outside even these figures. So in fact, we may, or may not, have a serious problem, we just do not know!

The good news is that, in fact, overall levels of particulates and nitrogen oxides have been falling for decades, and are a quarter of the levels they were in the seventies, though pockets remain in some major cities. London has a measured figure well above the World Health Organisation's 'safe' level, but the estimated effect on the populace is considered to be equivalent to smoking one cigarette per day!

Secondly, where does this pollution come from? The easy target is the car, but modern engines are so much cleaner than their predecessors, and this situation is self policing as older vehicles are scrapped.

Older buses and trucks are among the more visible culprits, particularly when left idling for long periods, but again, this will improve by natural wastage. Heating by fossil fuels in the workplace and at home also adds to the mix, and the massive increase (more than 300 per cent in ten years) in wood-burning stoves is beginning to add significantly to particulate levels.

Thirdly, electric cars require charging, and this is probably where the whole idea falls apart.

It is estimated that if the current number of cars on the road were to all change to electric power, we would need the equivalent of three to five new Hinkley Point power stations by 2040.

Given the huge cost, and the problems we seem to have in getting even one built, this simply will not happen. Add to this that the materials needed for the power units of the cars are extremely rare and expensive, and their extraction is certainly not an 'environmentally friendly' operation.

Overall then, I am sure we will be treated to a massive 'U-turn' when the reality of the situation becomes clear, but what worries me is that politicians of all shades seem to broadly agree on a course of action, which is based on a completely false premise.

Mike McVeigh