Letter on diesel (1989)

Text of a letter to John Fairclough who was Chief Scientific Advisor to the Cabinet  under Thatcher from 1986-1990. The letter was sent in as Chair of CLEAR, The Campaign for Lead Free Air.  It is undated, but it must have been written in 1989 as duty on diesel fuel fell in 1989 and 1990.

In February 20156 the letter was quoted extensively by the Mail on Sunday.

John Fairclough FEng

Chief Scientific Advisor to the Cabinet

70, Whitehall

London SW1

Dear John

I read with amazement that the government is thinking of introducing a tax break in favour of diesel fuel on the grounds that it is environmentally friendly.  From the point of view of fuel efficiency and hence global warming I agree this is true, but from every other point of view it is a disaster. Volume for volume, diesel is ten times more carcinogenic than leaded petrol, and a hundred times more than a car running on unleaded and fitted with a catalytic convertor.

Furthermore diesel emissions are responsible for black smoke, and the soiling of buildings in urban areas. You only have to visit Italy or Greece, where diesel fuel is more widely used, to see the result. I hope it is not too late to prevent this lunatic proposal.

With best wishes


Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath