The high moral ground
If you’re not Queensland LNP Senator Gerard Rennick, you’ll understand there is a connection between the burning of fossil fuel and increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. The ALP and Greens recently called a truce for long enough to pass changes to the Coalition’s ‘Safeguard Mechanism’ to ensure it actually has the effect of reducing carbon emissions by Australia’s ‘top emitters’. For that, we should all be grateful. While the ALP was apparently forced to climb up the hill a little more than they wanted and the Greens had to come down a bit from their moral high ground to meet them, the result was better than when the Greens with Bob Brown as leader voted against an emissions reduction scheme proposed by former Prime Minister Rudd. Rudd can’t take any credit here either as after calling it ‘the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time’ prior to the vote – the scheme was effectively shelved after the vote.
You might have missed a recent report in The Guardian where LNP Senator for Queensland Gerard Rennick claimed that gravity causes climate change. Rennick seems to think he has the proof and his claimed degrees in taxation, commerce and finance gives him the right to publish his views. The article is here, good luck in working out the logic although some of the published responses by real atmospheric scientists show they are are capable of using humour to make a point. Suffice to say, his claims demonstrate why the former Coalition government couldn’t manage any genuine action on emission reduction.
And while we have the top emitters in Australia ratcheting down their emissions over time (or buying offsets if they can’t or won’t reduce them internally), there is a lot of other ’low hanging fruit’ that could be harvested to reduce emissions further and faster. One of them is transportation. While electric vehicles are available that cost similar amounts to traditional medium sized hatches, sedans and wagons, electric vehicles are not the answer for everyone.
Australia, unlike most developed economies, doesn’t have vehicle fuel consumption standards. It’s not a co-incidence that Europeans and New Zealanders seem to be able to move around quite adequately without the need for a large SUV or ute to do the grocery shopping, dropping the kids at school or commuting to the workplace. And while a regular sedan or hatch can’t get to the off-road fishing or camping spot it’s probably fair to say that most SUVs or utes don’t get there either – even if they have the capabilities to do so.
The fuel consumption regulations in Europe and New Zealand financially penalise vehicle manufacturers or importers and vehicle users if fuel consumption targets are not met. Unsurprisingly there seems to be a correlation between vehicle fuel consumption and carbon emissions as identified by the Climate Council’s ‘Ute Beauty’ report
“If people really need a ute for work today, there are much more efficient and cheaper-to-run utes out there than most Australians are buying,” Rayner said.
“People who want to cut their fuel bill and emissions can do that without waiting for any new technology. There are vehicles on the market right now.”
The report found that the two top-selling utes in Australia, the Toyota HiLux and the Ford Ranger, are among the most expensive to run and have poor tailpipe CO2 emissions, while other popular utes such as the Toyota LandCruiser are considerably worse.
However, the report highlights some readily available models that are fuel efficient, such as the Mazda BT-50.
The Grattan Institute recently released a report on the financial and environmental implications of tax breaks when it came to people’s choice of vehicle.
The surge in popularity of larger vehicles in Australia has been driven by tax perks that incentivise buying SUVs, utes and other 4WDs instead of less-polluting smaller-sized cars and sedans, transport experts argue.
SUVs accounted for more than 50% of new vehicles sold in Australia last year, a share which has almost doubled over the past decade. The uptick has prompted calls to tackle the trend by limiting tax incentives, building bus lane-style narrow lanes and more parking spots exclusively for small cars.
The Grattan Institute has also identified that the predominance of large SUVs and utes in Australia has adverse implications on land use and safety for road users such as bike riders and pedestrians.
Vehicle importers also have a role to play here. Even the US has ‘fuel consumption’ requirements that are mandated for each vehicle importer/manufacturer. To meet the standards, they have to balance the demand for large ‘thirsty’ SUV’s/utes against fuel efficient or zero emissions vehicles to achieve a ‘corporate average fuel consumption’ within the legal requirement or pay the substantial fine. In Europe, not only the manufacturers have to manage the ratio of fuel-efficient vehicles, they also have to manage the emissions of those vehicles. The manufacturers comply by spending money on the engineering development of engines to develop units that don’t use as much fuel or emit as much from the exhaust pipe while providing existing levels of power and torque.
The subtext of both the Grattan Institute and Climate Council reports is that the manufacturers and importers are dumping vehicles fitted with older design engines with less efficiency and higher emissions in Australia – because they can. More stringent government standards on fuels available for sale would also assist. To be fair the Albanese Government has brought forward new standards that allows less contaminants in fuel by a few years which will allow for higher technology engines to be used. A cynic would suggest that the engineering development of some of the engines in a number of vehicles sold in Australia was completed some years ago and the costs have been well and truely amortised over the years the engine has been in production. The manufacturer/importer is making more money from every less efficient vehicle sold – while the vehicle prices are broadly equal to those overseas they have no incentive to promote fuel or emissions efficiency in this country and the older motors cost less to make.
The cynic could be correct. Recently a family member was looking to purchase a small hatchback manufactured by a large German vehicle manufacturer. The same manufacturer also sells a SUV that salespeople at two dealerships admitted was the same car ‘on stilts’. The SUV is priced around $5000 higher than the hatchback and while the fuel consumption estimate is the same, actual results may vary (with the SUV having to push more air out of the way to go anywhere combined with a higher and accordingly less stable centre of gravity). The SUV in most permutations of colour and option packs was available within weeks, the hatchback was effectively a factory order only – meaning a 6-to-9-month delay between order and delivery of the vehicle.
Clearly the manufacturers and importers of vehicles are there to make money, not friends, The government has to step up to provide direction on the future vehicle fleet in Australia because clearly the importers won’t do any more than charge additional money for essentially the same vehicle ‘on stilts’. While no one is saying that SUV’s and utes should be immediately banned, there has to be some not so gentle encouragement to convince Australian’s that there are better environmental, efficiency and space usage options than the large SUV or ute at the school pickup (with the air-conditioning running for half an hour) or sitting in the traffic jam at 5pm most weekdays on the way home from work.
Australians purchase around a million new vehicles a year. If the top 10 cars were efficient fuel and space consumers, the environmental costs start falling almost immediately with no real impediment to our lifestyle. And that should be something the ALP and Greens can both work on from their respective high moral grounds.
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10 commentsLogin here Register here
When we, as humans, react to the results of climate change we do so with equipment using fossil fuels.
So its pretty unlikely that we will ever recover.
Bush fires, floods, tornadoes etc seem to draw together increased air activity, together with earth moving and other energy hungry machinery.
To top that,the carbon footprint for defence is obscene.
However lets keep looking since there may be some intelligent life form on this planet?
SUVs and autos are going the way of the dinosaur, and soon. Europe is banning sales of new petrol cars from 2035.
By 2030 the 20 minute ‘Smart City’ idea will be up and running if the trials happening now in the UK is any indication. That means, if you still own a car and can get petrol you can drive around in circles in ‘your 20 min zone’ every day up to the limit of your petrol ration per month, with an additional permission to travel outside your zone according to transit rules adjacent Councils agree upon.
It was nice while it lasted, our rich Western lifestyles, living with little thought to how much energy we can lavish on whims.
The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals lists Transport rationalisation as a goal and the C40 Cities plan has an aim to reduce car ownership to 19/100, down from the current 75/100 (Australia) by 2030, ambitiously they want 0/100 ownership.
Fine, just have some decent public transport and I’m onboard.
I have a headache after reading the article about Ravingnut’s lunacy. A thinks appears: thinks…could my headache be caused by gravity which has caused climate change near my head?…unthinks.
A Rennick is an ulcer on an ant’s anus, troo or fawls?? It gravitated there from the empty bonecave above…
Senator Rennick is a classic example of what a poor quality education system produces – an empty headed skull. Next the LNP will be demanding elephants to fly to the moon on water-wings every Monday before noon. His next political party is likely with Porelein & the FRWNJs replacing Malcolm the Mindless.
i dont worry too much about car pollution and how to fix it anymore. What is will be with us for quite a while and what is new will rapidly change from next year on. The EV revolution is gaining momentum globally. What it means for us is that ICE powered cars will get more expensive as EVs get cheaper. Toyota ” supply” shortages will get longer. Ice engined production lines only have to drop below 80% capacity for them to become unviable. In fact what it means is you can buy and sell whatever car you want, if 1/ you can afford it and 2/ you can find one. They are not going to sell toxic deisel powered utes if the factories have stopped making them. BRING ON THE DISRUPTION. Senator Rennick is so far off with the pixies, you just couldnt make it up. A paper clerk that has discovered gravity. What have we here , another Einstein? No another dumb arse paper clerk. As NEC says, an empty headed skull. Not enough weight for a paper stop.
I am 75, I am retired on a pension, I would love to have an EV and be able to charge it from my solar panels but I do not have the 30, 40, 50, 60, thousand dollars to buy such a vehicle.
I need a vehicle to get around, and I can not afford a gas guzzler, so I have opted for a small diesel, which I know still produces carbon but I hope that it does so, economically for both me and the environment.
Educated idiots are a dime a dozen; think of the wise guys that gave the planet the 2008 GFC… all those bright men (and who knows, women too?) with their advanced degrees in finance, mathematics, business, taxation, actuarial studies; all of them blinded by their commitment to making oodles of money for their banks and themselves though busy devotion to ever-more arcane means of risk management of loans and investments, only to see the whole house of cards collapse and cause unimaginable pain and distress around the planet, except for themselves, lucky people, belonging to businesses ‘too big to fail.’
Fools like Rennick, with not a shred of insight and willing to blindly step into areas where they have zero understanding or competence yet feel qualified to comment deserve the criticisms and lampooning that follows their dumb-arse blatherings. The real pity of this circus is, of course, that somehow buffoons of his ilk managed to fool enough people that they get themselves elected to public office where they sit somewhat sequestered and rake in something approximating a king’s ransom for what?… being an idiot? In Rennick’s case, to state it succinctly, if you’re not a fucking scientist, don’t pretend to be one.
It’s always been my view that something’s very askew in the house of democracy when senators such as Rennick, Canavan, Hanson, Antic, Roberts, Cash, Hughes, along with representative of the likes of Joyce, Ley, Dutton, Fletcher, Morrison, Robert, Taylor, and McCormack continue to comfortably exist on the benches, secure in the knowledge that lack of knowledge or expertise is no impediment, free to freely offer their Grade One level pronouncements on all things serious, free to trumpet their ignorance, free to sup at the trough of privilege and grow fat & lazy while thousands of better-qualified individuals struggle to keep afloat, free to sneer at those who actually do know better and dare to say so, and so on.
I don’t know why it’s tolerated, given how intolerable it is. After all, you wouldn’t allow a hospital janitor to don the white gown and command an operating theatre, or a gas-station pump jockey to service the Merc, so why do we permit nings and nongs to speak and rule on behalf of our country, winging it in lieu of actual proper intelligent & responsible fulfilment of their elected responsibilities?
Good article, seldom if ever discussed the issues of urban design, oversized ICE motor vehicle obsessions, low quality fuel due to no standards, influence of fossil fuels e.g. business tax breaks for large vehicles and fleets (whether needed or not), suboptimal PT in regions and a dumping ground for vehicle manufacturers.
As Stephengb pointed out, there are many Australians who have no likelihood of obtaining an electric vehicle any time soon. I am quite happy though, to continue to use the embedded energy in my older ICE vehicles for a while yet. People are forced into using private vehicles to get around, and alternatives to this such as safe walkways and bicycle paths, public transport, taxi services are inadequate if existing at all.
As an older woman, I would love a vehicle a step up from the bicycle, enclosed against weather, like the ELF which was never available in Australia. See https://organictransit.com/