Free market does whatever it can get away with

Independent, 25 Sept 2015:

It is extraordinary how car manufacturers will spend millions to evade or delay regulation rather than introducing technology that benefits public health (Volkswagen boss quits, while lawyer warns of huge group action in UK Sept 24).

It is 30 years since leaded petrol was banned in the UK, but that proposal was fiercely resisted by car manufacturers, who also opposed the subsequent introduction of catalytic converters. In those days less than 10 per cent of new cars were diesel, but nowadays it is 50 percent. The dangers of diesel particulates have also been well known for 30 years, but the car industry cynically proposed diesel as a means of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide instead of opting for genuinely clean alternative fuels. As a result air pollution now kills over 50,000 people annually in the UK and the UK Government was taken to the Supreme Court as it is unable to comply with EU air quality standards. There is a message here for those in the fossil fuel industry who promote shale gas as an alternative to coal. Industry appears completely incapable of acting in the public interest whilst civil servants and their political masters are toothless guardians of public health.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

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