(Author’s Note: This paper is an example of a relatively new phenomenon; “citizen science.” And citizen science deserves citizen peer review. I would, therefore, greatly appreciate review of this paper by those with the skills to do so; whether or not they live in the UK, or drive diesel cars. Thank you.)
The recent uproar over “toxin taxes” on diesel cars in the UK raises many questions. So, in this (long) essay, I’m going to try to get a handle on how big the cost of pollution from diesel cars really is, and whether the schemes being proposed to ameliorate it are sensible or not. To do that, I’ll try to estimate the so-called “social cost” of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars of different ages in the UK, in pounds per car per year.
If my calculations are right, there is some justification for central London pollution charges for diesel cars built before 2006; for, as I work it out, the social cost of the pollution from these cars is almost £300 per car per year. However, the further schemes in London and countrywide, that are planned to start as early as 2019, are out of all proportion to the reality of the problem. They will cost 8 million or so drivers of diesel cars, first registered between January 2006 and August 2015, orders of magnitude more than the social cost of the pollution their cars emit. Worse, these drivers – including me – may be forced to scrap our cars well before the end of their designed lives. Is this not grossly unjust?
According to my calculations, for a diesel car first registered between September 2010 and August 2015, like mine, the London ULEZ entry fees from 2019 for just two days in a year will be almost as much as the social cost of pollution from that car for the whole year, in comparison to a new (since September 2015) car, which won’t be charged at all. That is both unreasonable and unfair. Indeed, for both these cars and those first registered between 2006 and 2010, it would be far better and easier to collect the social cost of pollution through the yearly licence fee.