Interview - SKY News TV


DATE:  Wednesday, 26 July 2017 at 1930hrs

PROGRAMME:   NEWS TIME with Niall Paterson

SKY The Government is to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an effort to cut pollution.  They’ll be replaced by electric vehicles. 

A ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans could have a huge impact on those industries built on our reliance on fossil fuel driven internal combustion engines.  Just a little earlier I spoke to Brian Madderson, Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association.  I began by asking him if the Government’s announcement represented the beginning of the end for his industry.

CBM Far from it.  The forecourt industry has been very active in the last few years reinventing themselves with most of the independents now having convenience stores on their forecourts which generate terrific income.

SKY Mmm, but not being able to sell petrol or diesel is likely to have a knock on effect one imagines.

CBM Yes, but these are only proposals and we’re also looking at electric, there’s hybrid engines coming along as a possible Phase 2 and certainly the Government, I gather, would like hydrogen and that can attract fuel duty much more easily than you can with electric.

SKY So let’s just be absolutely clear about this.  The Petrol Retailers Association is not challenging the signs, they’re not saying that we do not need to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels?

CBM Not at all.  We understand perfectly well that we need cleaner air, a better environment for our children for the future.  This is a step in the right direction but I think the Environment Secretary has produced a very practical first few steps.  First of all, the headline of banning cars by 2040 is only a strategic proposals.  There are lots of technological developments which need to be achieved over the next 22 years for that to be realised.

SKY So what do you mean by that?  Do you believe that the Environment Secretary is not sincere when he says he wishes to see the Government bringing an end to the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by that date.

CBM No.  I think that he’s perfectly realistic but we just at the present time don’t have any of us absolute confirmation that electric vehicles only, certainly hybrids offer a much better route, but electric vehicles only are not absolutely proven to be the way forward.  Consumers, who are the people who are going to make this happen because they are going to have to pay for it, will have to beg reassured that electric will get them from Point A to B, 300 miles, without having to refuel and in comfort and at a price they can afford.  Currently our members are being charged anything up to £80,000 by power suppliers to put in a sub-station to provide them with the power to have fast charging on their forecourts and that’s more than the entire power for running a large forecourt.

SKY Part of the argument has always been about a move from fossil fuel to electric that there is not a finite supply of those fossil fuels – we know that they’re running out.  But neither is there a finite supply of electricity, much of it of course still comes for those fossil fuels.  I mean what’s your assessment of just how ready we are to make that shift?

CBM I don’t think we’re ready at all.  I think there are much more developments to come, the whole cost and life of batteries is not yet proven and they rely on some precious metals as well and those precious metals I’m sure will rocket in price once the industry starts moving towards electric and the time length that those precious metals are going to be available, like lithium, are not yet known.  So we could be going in a direction which has a relatively short amount of time and certainly hydrogen has got quite a lot of advantages in terms of it’s readily available and easy to use.

SKY And all of this is not to ignore the fact that at the moment the industry is donating a substantial amount of money to the Treasury, it forms the bedrock of the amount of money that our Government spends.

CBM Yes at least £20 billion a year comes from the retail sale of petrol and diesel and if that disappears, that’s a huge amount that the Treasury has got to find from other sources and it certainly won’t come from running electric vehicles unless they put the vehicle excise duty up which is going to put some of the electric vehicles out of reach of the poorer families who currently are probably running some of the older diesel vehicles.

SKY Still at the same time I think you perhaps alluded to a little earlier that the industry has perhaps had a little bit of a soft landing here,.  This isn’t perhaps as extreme as some would like to have seen from the Environment Secretary, amongst others Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, saying this is a half-hearted commitment from Government that simply isn't good enough.  I mean there is a real problem with air pollution in our inner cities at the moment and, as such, did this do anything to deal with that?

CBM Yes, I think it does because it has highlighted not just having to have a blanket ban on diesels across the major cities, and we’re talking about 27 cities being identified, what this does is identify 81 hotspots in 17 cities.

SKY But this is just passing the buck to local authorities isn’t it?

CBM And that’s the local authorities have got some ideas from the Government, they’ve got £255 million from Government to help them overcome these hotspots with challenges like removing bumps in the road, improving the traffic lights,  I think our worry as an industry is much more that cynical local authorities, cash strapped, will see this as a revenue source more quickly than the Treasury would want and certainly DEFRA would want.  So what is the Government going to do to try and police these local authorities so they don’t abuse the avenue that’s been given to them?

SKY Yes and we know just how expensive it is to drive a car at the moment anyway.  Brian Madderson, many thanks for being with us.

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The Retail Motor Industry represents the interests of operators in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man providing sales and services to motorists and businesses.