Demonised for diesel?

Will owners of old diesel cars be punished in the emissions crackdown?

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Demonised for diesel?

Diesel car owners have been on a bit of a bumpy ride recently.

In the past few months owners of older diesel cars have been threatened with the prospect of everything from higher taxes to emission zone surcharges.

The catalyst for most of the above came in February, when the European Commission issued a “final warning” to the UK government for repeated breaches of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide levels.

The Guardian reported in February that Britain had been sent a final warning to comply with EU air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or face a case at the European Court of Justice.

Studies have shown that diesel cars can emit up to ten times as much nitrogen dioxide as a petrol equivalent.

In the wake of the European Commision's warning, transport secretary Chris Grayling was reported as saying that motorists should consider buying a low-emission vehicle rather than spending their money on a diesel.

The real blow for diesel drivers comes in the form of Sadiq Khan's plans to clean up the air in London by introducing one of the world's first Ultra Low Emmisions Zones (ULEZ).

His proposals would see drivers of polluting cars forced to pay up to £12.50 - on top of the congestion charge - each day to drive in central London.

The government's current approach to diesel cars is diametrically different to what it used to be.

At the start of the century one million motorists switched from petrol to diesel under Gordon Brown's Dash for Diesel campaign.

As part of this campaign, the then-Chancellor, overhauled vehicle excise duty so that cars that emitted a higher level of carbon dioxide faced a higher level of vehicle excise duty. Diesel cars produce 15 per cent less CO2 than petrol.

Brown's plans failed to take into account research into the effect of nitrogen oxide on people's health.

Analysis by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) found NO2 is estimated to be responsible for 23,500 deaths in the UK each year.

The most recent research by Can Clean Air Make You Happy? suggests that the effect on wellbeing of exposure to nitrogen dioxide fumes, is comparable to the toll from losing a job, ending a relationship or the death of a partner.

Car dealers are already suggesting that interest in diesel cars is waning. Will diesel drivers continue to be demonised?

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