Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Johnson Matthey (IT 71)


A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone


  Johnson Matthey broadly welcomes the Government's Transport White Paper. It provides a new and dynamic impetus for issues of transport and the environment. It recognises that the problems and opportunities presented by our present transport dilemmas (pollution and congestion) require a flexible approach encompassing a range of alternative schemes, empowered by local decision making, guided by national government in partnership with local government and industry.

  As a world leader in the supply of catalyst technology for emission control and fuel cells, Johnson Matthey is at the forefront of developing and implementing technologies that deliver air quality benefits through meeting or exceeding mobile emissions regulations. Based on this expertise, Johnson Matthey has actively sought to provide government with guidance on the technical solutions available to address transport air pollution, and so suggest mechanisms by which these solutions could be most effectively implemented. Johnson Matthey has previously submitted written and oral evidence to Select Committees of both Houses on Transport and Environment issues. The company is an active participant in the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force and the Foresight Vehicle Link programme.


  It is recognised that much of the detail of the measures outlined in the White paper will be fleshed out with the publication of the "daughter documents". However, in the interim, Johnson Matthey would like to take the opportunity to comment on the elements of the White Paper that have particular resonance to our areas of interest and would welcome the opportunity to take part in the forthcoming consultation with the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee.


  Government figures show a 25 per cent reduction in emissions of regulated pollutants since 1992. These reductions coincide with the introduction of emission control equipment required by tighter emissions regulations set by the European Commission and Member States. These reductions will make a contribution to better air quality nationally, but concerns are rightly expressed that local air quality has not benefited to the same extent. Local air quality is greatly influenced by the make-up of the vehicle fleet, with heavy duty vehicles and taxi's commonly accounting for a higher proportion of fleet miles, while congestion further exacerbates the effects of exhaust pollution from these vehicles. Clear and Clean Air zones offer promising means by which local air quality can be greatly improved. The review of the National Air Quality Strategy presents great opportunities to deliver better air quality both locally and nationally.


  The White Paper is right to reference the Government's leadership in environmental and transport issues shown during its recent period as president of the European Union. During this presidency, the UK chaired the co-decision process between the European Parliament and the Council which resulted in the Auto-Oil directives, which established vehicle emissions and fuel quality standards to 2005 and beyond. The Green Transport Exhibition in Chester earlier this year demonstrated the Government's commitment to lead on these issues. Johnson Matthey welcomes this leadership and offers its support and technological guidance to the Government as it works closely with the European Commission and Member States to secure higher environmental standards for vehicles and fuel.

  The daughter document on climate change will no doubt recognise the need to address carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector in order that the UK can meet its Kyoto commitments. The European motor industry has entered into a voluntary agreement with the European Community to reduce by an average of 25 per cent the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the new car parc by 2008. This is dependent on the introduction of improved direct injection diesel and gasoline engine technology. The emission performance of these technologies critically requires low sulphur fuels and the voluntary agreement was framed with this consideration in mind. This further highlights the importance of the rapid introduction of cleaner fuels for reasons beyond the existing imperative of reducing the environmental impact of vehicles already in the parc. The Committee is urged to give particular attention to this issue.


  The White Paper is correct to recognise and wish to explore fully the role fiscal incentives can play in achieving environmental objectives.

  The lowering of the duty on ultra low sulphur diesel has provided the impetus needed for the wider distribution of this more environmentally friendly fuel. It is now available from a number of suppliers for fleet operations, and additionally is being introduced at the forecourt for supply to the passenger car fleet. In Sweden, ultra low sulphur diesel has achieved a 90 per cent market share through fiscal incentives alone.

  The introduction of ultra low sulphur gasoline could be similarly supported by fiscal incentives.

  The introduction of the graduated VED scheme for heavy duty vehicles complying to tight emissions standards is welcomed. Johnson Matthey is actively supporting the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions as it concludes the details of this scheme. The opportunity exists to extend this scheme through widening the taxation differential.

  The option of reforming the VED incentive for passenger cars offers opportunities to reward best practice and deserves detailed consideration. The Cleaner Vehicles Task Force sub-group 5 (Technology and Testing) has recommended that the government consider retrofitting non-catalyst equipped cars to meet Euro I emission regulations. Such a scheme could deliver sizeable air quality benefits over short time scales. In Germany this is achieved through a national government programme, supported by a graduated VED incentive.


  Johnson Matthey welcomes the importance the Government places on hypothecation. Revenues raised from road users should be channelled into local transport plans, while taxation schemes rewarding environment good practice should be funded by those who bear higher charges for non-participation.


  Buses will play an important role in delivering many of the objectives of the White Paper. While the bus retains a negative image as a polluter, considerable progress has been made in reducing the environmental impact of buses through emission attenuation devices including oxidation catalysts and the Continuously Regenerating Trap (CRT). Johnson Matthey would welcome the opportunity to submit its latest findings on the emission control options for further attenuating pollution from diesel and alternative fuel exhaust.

  The White Paper calls for industry to respond to the challenge of developing an environmentally friendly bus designed for the 21st century. The fuel cell is widely considered to be one of the most promising of the alternative power train technologies under development for vehicular application. The transit bus has been recognised as a promising market for the early introduction of fuel cell technology. As a world leading developer of fuel cell engine technology, Johnson Matthey is assessing technology for this application. It is presently undertaking a Solid Polymer Fuel Cell Bus Design Study and will be participating in the Futurbus project within the framework of the Department of Trade and Industry's Advanced Fuel Cell Programme. Progress in these studies can be made available to the Committee if so required.


  The Government is to be commended for the leadership it has shown in demonstrating alternative fuels, including LPG and CNG, within its own fleet. The environmental benefits of these fuels when used in conjunction with emission control are impressive. Johnson Matthey notes with interest that the Government Car Service will be closely monitoring the environmental performance of these vehicles through a programme of emissions tests. Johnson Matthey is developing its technology for use with these fuels but is also undertaking bench marking to compare air quality improvements achievable with those of gasoline and diesel vehicles incorporating the latest emission control technologies.


  The White Paper proposes to establish an independent Commission for Integrated Transport, whose remit will include monitoring progress towards the environmental objectives and targets set out in the White Paper.

  The Commission has a role to play in providing guidance to local authorities as they develop local transport plans.

  Through technology and partnerships with car and engine manufacturers, Johnson Matthey is in a unique position to advise on the role of existing and emerging technologies for light and heavy duty vehicle applications, identify and disseminate examples of best practice from home and abroad, and advise on research and investment.

  The terms of reference for the Commission need to be set as widely as possible and its recommendations taken seriously and reflected in regulatory practice.

Johnson Matthey Plc

25 September 1998

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