Lembit Öpik reports on the dramatic conclusions contained in research by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) – and a report could change the course of Government policy regarding the threatened ban on the sale of petrol-powered motorcycles.
The British Government’s stated its goal of achieving net zero CO2 emissions for the country by 2050 carries huge consequences. Essentially, this extraordinary target is driven by a belief that carbon dioxide is overheating the climate – a statement that’s extremely hard to justify in scientific terms. By the way, don’t believe the emphatic claims about a 99.9% ‘consensus’ – for reasons we’ve previously covered, it’s not true – and besides, science is not about consensus, it’s about hard facts, and the hard facts don’t seem to back up this CO2 claim.
Wherever one stands on the shrill claims about some kind of ‘climate emergeny,’ it’s not evident that banning the sale of new ICE vehicles is a good idea. That’s why MAG agreed to work with the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) and Fair Fuel UK on a report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR). This research was to evaluate the impact of the ICE ban on society and the economy. Note that the actual effect of CO2 on the climate was far beyond the scope of the report, and therefore continues to be a hotly contested subject elsewhere.
Whether or not you think humans are wrecking the climate, there’s still an economic question at stake regarding the impact on the UK of a total prohibition on the sale of petrol and diesel cars and motorbikes. Remember, the Government is intent on banning internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2030 as well as, possibly, small motorcycles, with sales of new Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) cars, motorbikes, and vans being illegal from 2035. Then, larger motorcycles are set to follow in 2035. Incidentally, they’re also talking about banning diesel Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) over 26 tonnes from 2040.
Government statistics state transport is the highest single emitting sector of the UK economy, accounting for 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) – technically, 113 Million tonnes of CO2 or its equivalent in 2019. Cars comprise 13% of the UK’s GHG emissions, vans 4% and HGVs 4%. Motorcycles contribute a miniscule percentage. The level of GHG emissions deriving from the transport sector has remained fairly consistent over time, with improvements in fuel efficiency offset by increased travel. That’s why road vehicles are such a target for the green lobby and, it seems, the Government. Therefore, the Government thinks the number of Electric Vehicles (EVs) will increase in number.
So, what did the CEBR find? They concluded that while, with a clean grid (we’ll come back to that) there would be some change in how ‘clean’ the air is due to lower overall emissions, there will also be negative impacts on society. To quote the report: ‘the clear message deriving from the analysis is that this decision represents ‘poor’ value for money as associated costs are five times more than estimated benefits. The analysis implies that even once the full benefits of the contribution of the ban to reaching achieving the goal of Net Zero are priced in, the costs still far outweigh these benefits.’
And that’s not all. The cost of these changes to each household would be a five figure sum, amounting to hundreds of billions of Pounds across the country. Again, to quote the CEBR: ‘this represents a huge hole in public finances which will need to be addressed.’
Then there are the social costs. The CEBR’s cost-benefit analysis suggests that key costs to society including significantly increased waiting times – because charging an electric vehicle will take a lot more time than refuelling ICE vehicles at petrol pumps. Maybe technology will improve, but it won’t have improved enough by 2030 or 2035. Repeated – especially super-fast – charging wears out a battery. Anyone with an old mobile phone knows this – and cars are no exception. The battery technology hasn’t resolved problems of battery longevity.
Moving on, electric vehicles tend to cost more, especially given the expectation of shortages of key raw materials that are essential for building them. On top of this, there will be huge logistical and financial costs to rapidly reorient the National Grid to generate sufficient renewable energy, in a smart way, to supply energy for all these vehicles. The more rapidly these demands increase, the more costly it is likely to be for the economy.
With Labour leader Kier Starmer, apparently – and some say incongruously – committing to a net zero energy system for the UK by 2030, and embracing the ICE ban, it’s beginning to look like neither part really cares about the implications for real people, whether drivers, bikers or anyone else. Instead, they’re racing headlong into financial and social consequences clearly risk harming the general public.
What makes the CEBR’s findings particularly convincing is that it was undertaken in a way consistent with government analytical methodological guidance. In other words, even using the Government’s own figures, which arguably paint an unduly positive picture of their carbon dioxide plans, the ICE ban is demonstrably detrimental to the economy and society.
There are other, knock-on effects too. The emissions associated with the mining of raw materials and transporting of those materials across the globe have not been covered in the scope of this study but the CEBR concludes that the total net emissions impacts collectively make the ban a ‘very poor’ value for money decision. Bluntly, there are greater costs than benefits. There may remain some residual reason in the minds of some for implementing the ban, such as ‘saving the planet’ from CO2 emissions – and if you think that’s all that matters then good luck with arguing that. However, to quote the report, this ‘regulatory policy should be seen primarily as one that reduces the welfare of UK citizens.’
The conclusion is unambiguous: ‘the core recommendation of this report is that the government undertake their own rigorous analysis so that the full extent of net impacts can be more fully explored. The findings of this report strongly suggest that a similar government led analysis would come to a similar conclusion that the benefits to UK households of implementing the ICE vehicle sale bans are far outweighed by the costs.’ In practice, what the CEBR concluded is what the British motorcycling community has also concluded: the ICE ban makes no sense economically or socially.
In terms of riders’ rights, it’s a tokenistic example of gesture politics that does much more harm than good, even if you think reducing CO2 is desirable. For those of us who have studied the science and realised human caused CO2 cannot possibly be driving significant, damaging climate change, the proposed ban is self-harming madness – that can’t be achieved logistically and can’t be afforded financially.
We’re indebted to the CEBR for their excellent report. The onus is on us to publicise it and demand answers. At the same time, the onus is on politicians to respect the facts and act accordingly; by junking a ban on petrol motorcycles and other vehicles, a ban that won’t save the planet, but will damage our way of life forever.