Azara Blog: Pointless UK quango report on the future of transport

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Date published: 2006/01/27

The BBC says:

Car makers are not doing enough to develop green alternatives to petrol, an influential government adviser says.

Japanese companies had a better record than European or American ones, Professor Stephen Blythe said.

But the industry had still not grasped the urgency of the problem - despite promoting its green credentials.

A car industry spokesman said the government could do a lot more to encourage the development of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

"It is not just a question of manufacturers developing the technology. All of the parties involved in future fuel technology must play their part," said Nigel Wannacott, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Mr Wannacott said Japanese manufacturers had led the way on hybrid electric and petrol cars but all major manufacturers were developing hydrogen and bio-fuel engines.

He urged the government to provide incentives and build infrastructure to encourage the take-up of hydrogen, which he said was about 15 to 20 years away.

But Professor Blythe, who is one of the key contributors to the government future transport strategy, claimed it was the manufacturers who were dragging their feet.

"We have had a lot of meetings with car companies, who promote their green credentials - but they say we are not going to do much for the next 20 to 30 years because our customers don't want to pay more.

"Japanese car manufacturers seem to be much more progressive than some of the European or American ones," he said.

He was speaking at the launch of a report on the long-term shape of UK transport policy.

The report includes four alternative scenarios of what life might be like in 50 years time to help industry and government plan future transport infrastructure.

The scenarios are:

Asked which of the scenarios would appeal to car manufacturers, Professor Blythe said: "I suspect they would not favour any of them."

Dear, oh dear. Why is Blythe allegedly "influential"? Why is this report (which Blythe is not one of the authors of) considered to be anything more than just a good laugh? You just have to look at the original report to see that this is why government should not waste money on such reports. The silly typical-consultant jargon gives the game away. As an example, just consider the names of the four scenarios considered, as listed above. As another example, here is a typical excerpt from the report (page 26):

The 'always on' loop stimulates demand and traps behaviour in a supply-and- demand escalation. The 'psychological stress' loop limits the pace of innovation and development, but the effect is delayed. Noticeably, the key enabler is the availability of clean low-cost energy. The logic of this system has been applied to provide structure to the scenario.

(Complete with a typical consultant's diagram with bubbles and arrows.) These people (over-paid and under-useful) are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The idea that they, of all people, have some magic view 50 years into the future is a joke. They also give the standard rant of the ruling elite that somehow (by definition, almost) cars are "high energy" but that so-called public transport is "low energy", which of course it is not if you include the total energy costs (e.g. including labour) and not just the direct energy costs (e.g. electricity). This prejudice in itself entirely discredits anything they might say, since they obviously have no interest in doing a proper analysis, just hand-waving in true consultant style. Close down www.foresight.gov.uk and give the money to someone useful, e.g. scientists and engineers who are doing real work, not producing vacuous documents.

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