One of the things that instantly attracted me to Chris Huhne’s leadership bid was that from that first hustings meeting at the LSE, he had clearly got global warming right at the top of his agenda – where it belongs. Now there has to be a debate about how we tackle the problem. Chris has proposed greater taxation for burning fossil fuels, but with the proceeds being used to help the less well off. The logic is brilliantly simple, although admittedly there are detail questions about how you avoid coming down too hard on those who have no choice but to burn the fossil fuels in the first place – the obvious example is those who live in rural communities with poor public transport options. But none of these objections is insurmountable – as long as the detail is carefully worked out. I do understand that none of us wants to pay more for our fuel – but increasingly science accepts that doing nothing is not an option.
Which brings me neatly on to SUVs. Petrol and diesel are already expensive in this country. A few years ago, car adverts were crammed with headlines about how economical this or that model was. Low fuel consumption was a major selling point. Now I haven’t done any in depth research, but these things are breeding here in the South East. I have recently been canvassing for the Greater Marlow by election, and have been shocked to find some well heeled cul-de-sacs with one of these fuel guzzling monsters on nearly every drive. Two in some cases! If I have to go into London for work, and it’s not snowing, I often take my bike and thread my way through the lines of stationary traffic on the A40. These poor souls queue up every morning on a road that runs parallel to a major railway line and a tube line fuming (in both senses of the word) as we bikers slip between them on our way into London. Again, the numbers of king-size SUVs are definitely on the increase. You can’t miss the on a bike – some of them are so wide you are reduced to waddling between them with your feet down. Why do they need to be so big? These are clearly impressive vehicles that could cope easily with some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. These marvels of engineering are instead reduced to stop-starting around London’s streets belching out tonnes of CO2 as their drivers try to cope with the frustration. And the bull bars – two inch thick bull bars protect the front of many of these go anywhere gargantuans – what the hell do they need them for?
I am really desperate to know why these cars are becoming so popular. Please would anyone who owns one of these like to tell me how you reached your buying decision? What made you choose an eight wheel drive earth mover when a car would have done? I wholeheartedly endorse using the tax system to try and encourage more responsible use of fuel, but my sincere worry is that some people clearly have more money than sense!