Don’t pretend the EU protects the environment

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Car buyers are increasingly choosing hybrids over diesels. That’s good news for the air quality in our cities. But let’s not forget that, if it weren’t for the EU, diesel cars would never have become so prevalent in the first place.

One of the big Europhile myths is that the EU has been great for the environment. It hasn’t.

The Common Agricultural Policy has damaged the countryside. The Common Fisheries Policy has wrecked our fish stocks. But on a par with both is the EU’s legacy on pollution.

Diesel-fuelled cars are a European phenomenon. They make up 50% of the market in the EU, compared to just 3% in the US. That’s no coincidence.

Ever since the 1990s, the EU has favoured diesel over petrol. The justification was that diesel is cleaner, because burning it emits less carbon dioxide. On that basis, taxes on petrol were ramped up, while diesel was subsidised.

What we weren’t told is that its other emissions are far more toxic. Diesel cars produce 15% less CO2 than petrol, but four times more nitrogen dioxide – and 22 times more particulates, which directly harm human health.

Moreover, we now know that the big corporations that pushed for diesel – like Volkswagen – were gaming even the lax rules they lobbied for.

Now consumers – who want better air quality – are correcting the regulators’ mistakes in the market. Something for the champions of top-down, supranational government to ponder.