We like to keep our ears to the ground and we have come across some worrying concerns that diesels may be on the hit list in this autumn’s budget statement in the wake of the VW emissions scandal. As if diesels haven’t taken enough of a pounding recently.

Diesel cars to be hit in budget?

We dug around and it looks to have its source with Quentin Willson, the lead campaigner for FairFuel UK.

Now Quentin, former Top Gear host and widely respected as a motor trade commentator, is unlikely to be looking for a bit of headline grabbing for the sake of it and along with Fleet News (the magazine for the fleet sector) which was subsequently quoted by The Telegraph the other day in its round-up of budget predictions, we think he makes a powerful point and his warning should be taken seriously.

FaIrFuel UK believe a diesel tax could be announced when Chancellor George Osborne delivers his budget on 25th November.

In his blog on the FaIrFuel UK website, Quentin wrote: “The UK’s 15 million diesel drivers shouldn’t be financially penalised because of a knee-jerk reaction to the recent VW emissions scandal.  We’re hearing rumours in Westminster that the Treasury could be considering higher Vehicle Excise Duty rates, a purchase tax on used diesel vehicles, a 1p rise in duty and even an increase in VAT on diesel. This could cause used diesel car and van values to collapse and add millions in extra costs to families and businesses across the country.”

Quentin points out that previous governments put incentives in place to encourage diesel ownership. And it worked; around 50% of all cars on the roads are diesel. FaIrFuel UK is collating the views of diesel drivers to strengthen their position, the survey, which netted 3,000 responses in a 48-hour period, can be completed here and the campaign hopes it will provide a ‘snapshot’ of public opinion which will be used to drive the debate.

The end of the diesel?

But is it really the end of the diesel powered car? Like most of our customers who service and sell used diesels, we don’t think so. In our thirst for knowledge, we also came across an interesting blog post hosted on industry magazine Automotive Management’s website. It put the case for a process to make diesels cleaner called gas-to-liquids (GTL). Written by Neville Hargreaves, business development director at Velocys, a company which turns natural gas (or biomass) into premium liquid products, such as diesel and jet fuel, he cited a study by Daimler Chrysler carried out way back in 2004 which showed a car running on 100% GTL diesel produced 30% less particulate emissions and delivered a 90% reduction in hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions relative to EU sulphur-free diesel (ok, we agree, it’s all a bit technical so if you want the nitty gritty, read it here.

Does Diesel have to be dirty?

The fact is diesel doesn’t need to be dirty. GTL is already in use; it fuels some Le Mans race cars, for example, and is already being blended with premium diesels on forecourts across Europe although GTL is currently shipped from Qatar which has its own environmental impact. The question is; why isn’t the government exploring ways of producing this cleaner diesel in the UK and thereby making it more available at the pump and why aren’t manufacturers lobbying to this end?

One of the issues, Hargreaves explains, is that there are only a small number of GTL plants compounded by the fact that they have to be in specific locations such as close to huge gas fields and with a coastal location which is accessible. However, there is apparently a case for smaller GTL plants and Hargreaves suggests such operations could produce diesel from up to 50% of the stranded gas fields (a reserve of natural gas which has been discovered, but remains unusable due to physical or economic reasons, thanks Wikipedia).

Given that it is estimated that up to a third of the world’s fuel can be supplied by GTL using shale and stranded gas which would otherwise not have an economic route to market, it seems logical to us that this requires government backing. Perhaps Osborne could divert some of the revenue he may be looking at gaining from half the country’s motorists into developing this cleaner diesel and making it more widely available!

We leave you with Hargreaves thoughts on diesel, he writes: “Ultimately, diesel remains the most flexible fuel; the one that will continue to give the automotive industry its backbone.”

Hear, Hear!