Subsidised ‘red diesel’ undermining government clean air strategy

30th October 2017

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Simon Hall

A tax loophole allowing heavy goods vehicles access to cheap ‘red diesel’ for powering refrigeration units is thwarting efforts to tackle air pollution in the UK.

That is according to clean tech start-up Dearman, which warns that cooling cargo with a separate engine using red diesel can result in emission rates of six times as much nitrogen dioxide.

The subsidised energy source is intended for registered agricultural or construction vehicles such as tractors and cranes, and is not allowed for powering vehicles on roads.

However, it can be used to power secondary engines for refrigeration units on trucks, and is taxed at 10.7 pence per litre, compared to 57.95 pence per litre for standard diesel.

“Providing a tax break for dirty fuels polluting Britain makes no sense,” Dearman CEO, Scott Mac Meekin, said. “This diesel tax exemption highlights a major lack of clarity from the government.”

These warnings come after a nationwide survey by OnePoll found that 62% of British adults want the government to end tax exemptions for diesel fuels used by second engines in commercial vehicles.

In addition, more than two-thirds support stronger regulation encouraging cleaner second engines in heavy goods vehicles, with 72% knowing diesel emissions are more harmful than those from regular petrol.

The findings also show that more than a third are worried about the impact of air pollution on their family’s health, with some 63% of the respondents bemoaning poor air quality in their area.

Although the government recently committed £1bn to funding the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles in its Clean Growth Strategy, Mac Meekin believes these efforts may be in vain with the continued subsiding of red diesel.

“Any government backing green initiatives must see that artificially lowering the price of dirty fuels makes it harder to develop competitively priced clean power,” he continued.

“The British public is acutely aware of the dangers of diesel emissions and we are urging the government to take a stronger stance in the fight for cleaner engines.”


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