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Paris Plans to Ban Diesels, Limits Cars Has a Rough Road...

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to actually being implemented with some calling it elitist! Will be interesting to see who wins this fight - things are never as simple as they may seem.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/world/europe/a-plan-to-limit-cars-in-paris-collides-with-french-politics-.html

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    The underlying problem of French air pollution is serious. But there's very little evidence the Paris council's reaction is based on any sensible analysis.

    The recent smogs haven't been limited to Paris: the one in March affected 30 French departments and much of Belgium. Traffic in Paris accounts for a small proportion of diesel emissions in Continental Europe's drizzle belt.

    The smogs seem to be largely caused by climate change, and there's no doubting that the widespread use of diesel in continental Europe makes them especially lethal. But most of the emissions come from road haulage, and banning diesel cars from Paris is likely to make very little difference. Any drive along the motorway system in Northern France and the Low Countries shows the real culprit: the explosion over the past 20 years in long-distance road freight - and on what's now a seriously inadequate motorway network, the resulting endless congestion which actually causes more pollution than uncongested driving.

    Ironically, the way the weather works on the NW Continent means the smog's hitting more or less the most de-industrialised place on earth: unlike China or India, NW Europe can't directly solve the problem by forcing factories to clean up, because there aren't any. The problem comes from getting stuff to where customers with money live.

    In the medium term, Continental governments need to stop manipulating the fuel tax system to give an artificial advantage to diesel: a policy designed to maximise fuel efficiency, but one that's now clearly creating the unforeseen effect of really dangerous pollution. But it'll take decades for such a policy to reduce materially the number of diesel cars and lorries.

    In a perfect world, we'd try to slash the use of road freight. But trains simply aren't flexible enough to move seasonal produce from Southern Europe to the North, or to move manufactured goods from scattered factories in the East to their markets in the West.

    What the Paris squabble really shows is that knee-jerk government reactions (like the original decisions to subsidise diesel) have long term unpredicted effects. It also shows how easy it is for armchair opinions about the environment to damage the poor, without doing much to change the pollution.

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