BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 01:31 GMT
EU 'should ban inefficient cars'
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Cars (Getty)
Markets need to be pointed in the right direction, Sir Mark says
The EU should ban the sale of cars that do under 35 miles to the gallon, the ex-chairman of oil giant Shell says.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart told BBC News the motor industry would adapt to cope with stricter environmental rules.

The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders opposes the idea, saying drivers of the most polluting cars pay extra through road tax and petrol duty.

But Sir Mark said this simply let rich people avoid taking responsibility for tackling climate change.

Expanding on the views he expressed in a BBC News website Green Room opinion column, Sir Mark said: "Nobody needs a car that does 10-15mpg.

"We need very tough regulation saying that you can't drive or build something less than a certain standard. You would be allowed to drive an Aston Martin - but only if it did 50-60mpg."

Sir Mark's rule would apply only to new cars. Eventually, old polluting cars would die quietly of their own accord.

While car-makers could improve the efficiency of many sports cars to meet such a target, they would struggle to get some heavy, luxury cars to qualify.

The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders spokesman Nigel Wonnacott said drivers of polluting cars already paid extra through VED (road tax) and petrol duty. That was enough.

Green Room link (BBC)

Sir Mark said that, in addition to addressing inefficient cars, he also wanted very tough efficiency standards applied to other sectors, such as buildings and lighting.

He added that the rich should not escape their responsibility to tackle climate change: "It is a social thing. We don't say the wealthy can avoid doing what is needed by society.

"When we eliminated coal fires in London we didn't say to people in Chelsea you can pay a bit more and toast your crumpets in front of an open fire - we said nobody, but nobody, could have an open fire.

"When we introduced catalytic converters the car-makers said it would put the price of cars through the roof - but it didn't. Now we all have to have catalytic converters - that's only right."

Sir Mark - currently chairman of the mining group Anglo American - said his years in industry had taught him that the market would provide solutions if governments demanded them with enough conviction.

Battle for opinion

"Government's job is to set the framework in which industry can compete," he added. "The market is a magical thing - it will meet people's convenience but it needs guiding."

He said the EU was far too lax with motor manufacturers.

Such comments from a leading industrialist will make an impact on the current European debate in which German car-makers are fighting to avoid being punished for continuing to build heavy cars.

They say jobs are at risk if they have to change their models.

Sir Mark says that with a growing world demand for cars, jobs lost in one polluting part of the industry will be more than replaced by jobs in a newer, cleaner part of industry.

His remarks may chime well with many of the public.

Opinion polls consistently show that people are prepared to change their ways to tackle climate change - but only if their neighbours are forced to do the same.

This fact is regularly ignored by politicians fearing a potential backlash.

They may find in future that it is less controversial for them to impose tough rules on everyone rather than to seek compromises to accommodate minorities.

Nigel Case, director of The Classic Car Club in London, said he supported Sir Mark's comments, in theory but said that currently car-makers were not producing clean vehicles attractive to drivers.

He noted that the Tesla electric sports car was capable of 60 mph in around 4 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph.

"It sounds great," he said. "But we just can't get hold of one. If there were more cars like this available, it would make drivers feel good driving them."

A range of gas-guzzlers currently on the road

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific