Diesel to increase by 10c?

Can this year’s budget further incentivise electric vehicles with a diesel tax increase?

One of the lesser known tax breaks in Ireland, is a discount on the rate of carbon tax paid on diesel for road vehicles.  When you cross the border into Northern Ireland you will see the price of diesel often exceeds petrol, whereas down south, diesel is generally 10c cheaper per litre than petrol.

Although diesel emits more CO2 per Kg than petrol, we in the Republic tax it less; diesel is heavier than petrol and packs more energy per litre or Kg, as the diesel engine cycle is a more efficient combustion process, we use less overall and diesel remains the optimum fuel for high mileage vehicles.

In August the Irish Times mooted an increase in carbon tax on diesel by 2c per Litre in each budget 2017 to 2021, thus avoiding a 10c hike in one budget come 2020.  The reason given was the urgent need to reduce the harmful emissions from diesel. (see https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/motors/diesel-price-increase-likely-in-forthcoming-budget-1.2758345 )

Business’ appreciate tax certainty so predictable changes are good, but are we in danger of taxing human harmful pollutants over making reductions in the pollutants that harm the planet?   The harmful emissions are Nitrogen Oxides or NOx (widely associated with causing asthma) and Particulates or PM’s known to cause cancer (the soot you sometimes see from badly operated petrol and diesel engines are very large PM’s).

NOx has a global warming potential of 300 times that of CO2, so its a greenhouse gas and needs to be controlled.  Microscopic PM’s primarily harm us humans, larger PM’s do add to global warming as soot in the atmosphere.

Reduced road tax has incentivised cleaner cars very successfully (average new car emissions fell from 160+g/Km in 2007 to 116g/km in 2015 – add 25% to these figures for real world use).  But even as we buy more cars, we are travelling more by car adding 2.2% in miles per annum 2000-2014 (SEAI).

But petrol (and gas) engines are less energy efficient than diesel; the rules of thumb are 20-30% efficiency for petrol and 30-40% for diesel (assuming both are operated correctly), simply switching to petrol from diesel will increase overall CO2 emissions, helping us humans but harming the planet.

With 80% of Irish journeys less than 8km (CSO), when an internal combustion engine takes more than 8km to fully warm up:  Should we not be signalling car drivers to switch to electric vehicles wherever possible, reducing emissions and their running costs instead?

When this carbon tax is added to road diesel, politicians, journalists and NGO’s would do well to point out that the first and best alternative to diesel is not petrol, but electric; an electric car will dramatically reduce drivers’ fuel costs and reduce roadside emissions to zero.

With over 1.2m electric cars now on the roads worldwide and most cars lasting 10 years, let’s use this necessary carbon tax increase to accelerate Ireland’s move to electric vehicles.