Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Lowest of the Low

EU Flag
Power for the Sake of Power
I've got a healthy disrespect for most politicians, but have to reluctantly admit that many are driven by the best of motives and often articulate issues with which I fundamentally disagree in an intelligent, challenging way. There is however, one group to whom I have never been able to apply these caveats, British Liberal Democrat MEPs. It's an old cliché, but it must be emphasised at every available opportunity that they are not liberal, and display on many occasions a breathtaking contempt for democracy. They will tend to dress it up in voter friendly wrapping such as care for the environment but, when you see a Lib Dem heavily involved in something at the European Parliament, you can be almost certain that it will concern an increase in power of the EU over national parliaments, or over the freedom of individuals to run their lives as they see fit.

Their latest assault is being lead by MEP Chris Davies, who is the rapporteur to the parliament for a draft bill that is trying to outlaw cars in the EU with a top speed in excess of 101mph, allegedly as part of the fight against climate change.

According to the BBC Mr Davies has said,
"101mph is 25% more than the top speed limit in most EU states."

Well, yes that is probably true, but the thing is Mr Davies, for a thousand and one reasons of physics and engineering that are far beyond the capabilities of your peanut sized brain to understand, machines do not tend to operate at their optimal efficiency at the extreme ends of their performance range. It is far beyond the realms of impossibility that a car with a top speed of 101mph might well be less efficient at 80mph than one with a top speed of 121mph. It's not always the case, but certainly looking at top speed of a vehicle is unlikely to be an especially good way of predicting what its likely emissions will be.

Ferrari F430
No More Ferraris?
The truly pathetic thing is that there is actually, and I'm loathed to say it, sensible EU action in this area. Manufacturers are being obliged to meet targets for new vehicles framed in terms of the grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kilometer driven. I have my doubts about some of the science behind climate change, but tend towards the view that there is enough of a possibility that it is real that it is worth taking sensible steps to reduce emissions. Setting manufacturers targets in terms of grams per kilometers is obviously the most sensible way to go about it, though it would be better if it factored in an amount to reflect the impact of the manufacturing and maintenance processes of the vehicle over its working life.

I suspect there may several motives behind the new proposal that Mr Davies is championing, none of them good ones:

  • The eternal desire of politicians to be seen to be 'doing something, especially MEPs whose own leaders earlier this year admitted there was a lack of things to legislate on.

  • The 'if the EU does it, it must be good' attitude of the Lib Dems - lets face it they'd back the slaughter of the first-born if it was a commission proposal.

  • Good old fashioned envy of the rich who will own the fastest cars.

The most powerful motivation of all though, I suspect, is that the targets under existing proposals look likely to be met with only a little pain by the manufacturers as they were heading in the right direction anyway, and with no conscious impact on the public at large. In other words it lacked the hair shirt aspect which idiots like Mr Davies tend to believe is at the heart of all good environmental policy.

I could also properly attack the fact that his report
"...suggests that a fifth of car advertisements should be devoted to cars' fuel consumption and CO2 emissions."

...but it's so laughable I can't take it seriously enough. Mr Davies, we don't read what's printed already, and we don't listen to it when we hear it on TV. Yes we might look in to this stuff if we come to buy a car, but that's something we don't do very often, so to pollute our magazines and screens with sanctimonious garbage like you suggest is a waste of time. It will be ignored in the same way health warning on cigarette packets are, and Caroline Flint's retarded alcohol labeling scheme will be. Only someone interested in the basest kind of tokenism would ever suggest it.

No More Maseratis?
As it happens, I'm no great lover of the EU and since I live in London where a care is just a liability it won't effect me anyway. If I was being selfish I'd love to see the law pass to see this ridiculous organisation's public image take another good kicking. Damn, being a libertarian can be hard some times.

Actually, no, I could never back action like this. I'm no petrolhead, but I do think the engineering that goes into Ferarris, Maseratis, Porches and all the other performance cars that Europe is so good at manufacturing, is a thing of beauty and says much for the ingenuity, imagination and creativity that is the best side of the human mind. I'll never own one but, unlike Mr Davies, I'm not riddled with the prejudices and jealousies that lie behind much of the worst side of human nature.

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