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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Coalition Government's shaky green agenda

Chris Huhne is doing a lot of good work as Energy Secretary to mark out the UK Coalition's green agenda but his work is in danger of being undermined by his cabinet colleagues.

This proposal by Eric Pickles for example to put aside £250 million to tempt English Councils to revert to weekly bin collections is just bizarre.

On the plus side it shows that Ministers cannot just do what they like, they need to work with Councils to get things done. On the minus side the proposal threatens to undo all the good work being done to increase recycling and reduce landfill. Will the Government be cutting the landfill tax? I thought not. So were is the financial incentive to do Mr. Pickles' bidding?

There are also questions about the Government's commitment to the localism agenda here, though at least this bribe is being painted as an incentive rather than a command. If fortnightly bin collections are done properly and combined with proper kerbside recycling on the alternate weeks, as well as weekly composting and nappy collections then the sort of problems highlighted by the media can be avoided.

And then there is Phillip Hammond's proposal to increase motorway speeds to 80mph. On the plus side the Liberal Democrats have got a commitment to expand the number of 20mph zones in built-up areas. But it is a fact that cars use about 20 per cent more fuel at the higher speed. In addition road safety campaigners have condemned the proposals as they believe that it will lead to an increase in deaths and serious injuries.

The Independent say that the police currently turn a blind eye to most motorists who drive at 80mph, and they are rarely prosecuted, though that is not my understanding. The issue is that if the change happens then 90mph could become the new 80mph.

Britain has some of the safest roads in Europe, as well as a lower speed limit than most. The maximum in France and Italy is 81mph, while in Ireland, Spain and Portugal it is 75mph. Germany's autobahns are unrestricted.

None of this is very green. Can Chris Huhne speed to the rescue?
Tory socialists with weekly bin collections, more money for the taxpayer
You are wrong to say the maximum speed limit in France is 130km/h. It is 110km/h when wet, double penalty for excess. You are also wrong about fuel consumption being 20% more at 80mph than 70mph. It depends on the type of vehicle. It is considerably more than this in heavy 4*4s, but negligible in light aerodynamic cars. HGVs with international certification have intelligent speed limiters, useful for the limits in different countries, fuel economy for the owner and driver productivity monitoring as a tacho ratio. Such smart limiters are relatively cheap and should be considered for cars. It would certainly be a green step forward to allow light aerodynamic cars to go to 80, but limit 4*4s and vans to 70. Variations on upper limit already exist in the UK for caravans, trailers etc. It's a pity the ConDem goverenment have not thought about this and rushed in policy from a soundbite.
We cannot now recycle glass in our weekly collections because of the health and safety, yet we have to wash out tins which have been opened my wife has cut her arms twice, washing out a tin of beans.

Then of course no more bottles or glass, we have placed a class collection unit for you, where? over ah over, lets see over, ok we will, they have not.

They took our salt containers away on the biggest bloody hill you have seen, elderly person ill with snow on the ground people would go out salt the road for the ambulance they said the salt would be better used on motorways.

I do not know nanny state.
They collect glass in the doorstep collection in Swansea.
I can think of yet another reason increasing road speed limits is a bad idea. By doing that you would reduce the journey time for car travel, which will make public transport less attractive (particularly rail, since that is actually able to beat the car on journey time in some cases). All current passenger trains can manage 75mph on suitable track. At the momment therefore trains can often go faster than it is legal to drive and hence make up for the time they spend in stations. You throw that away, and eat into the advantage of 125mph trains, if you allow motorists to drive faster.
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