Fossil fuels and the environment


Sir, – On behalf of all those young people growing up on city streets, it is time for a class action to be taken against the collective motor car industry. In the dirty particles of exhaust fumes our children’s lungs are turning black. It is no longer okay to use cheap fossil fuels to spread a comfort blanket around your individual needs. I include myself in this; I am no saint. But it is only the rule of law or serious financial pain that will make me change my behaviour as an individual.

Fossil fuels (including airline fuel) and combustion-engine cars for individual use must be taxed at a prohibitively high rate to force change. It is imperative that, at the same time, governments invest heavily in public transport providing jobs, investing in communities, creating a better world for our grandchildren. Public transport is a great leveller. No one is better than anyone else when sitting on a train or a bus. Kings and paupers are one and the same.

But I suspect the motor car industry will be like the tobacco industry. They will drag their heels in recognising the harm their products cause.

We can end the tyranny of the motor car. Our city centres can return to beautiful, quiet built environments, places where we can go to the market in safety and breathe clean air.

The homage to the motor car is all very 20th century. Let it go. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – People are becoming aware that the many ways we burn fossil fuels are threatening the future of human civilisation. Lots of us might now agree, for example, that driving vehicles with internal combustion engines is as bad for the planet as smoking is bad for people. Yet we have not begun to tackle the glamour associated with driving these vehicles.

We’re comfortable talking about green alternatives – bicycles and better public transport. But think about the impact we could have if we deglamourised fossil-fuelled vehicles.

Let’s end car adverts, like those falsely suggesting that vehicles with outdoorsy brand names are mostly driven on empty roads through pristine wilderness. Let’s come up with the deglamourising equivalents to warning labels on cigarettes and plain packaging. – Yours, etc,



Sherkin Island,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Crude oil is a fungible commodity. That means that a barrel of oil forgone from an oilfield off Ireland’s coast is simply replaced by a barrel of oil from another country. This ultimately means replacing Irish oil with crude from a carbon-intensive source such as the Canadian oil sands or perhaps oil produced by a despotic regime (take your pick).

No one would seriously suggest banning sugar beet production in order to tackle the obesity crisis – as sugar would simply be replaced by sugar from another source. Why then are campaigners allowed to use illogical and unscientific sloganeering instead of science-based arguments to try to ban oil production in Ireland?

Climate campaigners need to focus on the insatiable demand for energy from Irish consumers rather than convenient bogeymen such as faceless oil corporations.

While it may seem that people are taking an interest in climate science lately, the “scientific method” is missing from many of the popular policies. It was not so long ago that the Green Party was touting diesel cars as a solution to pollution and penalising small petrol cars as a result of its misconceptions.

Irish public life has long suffered from a dearth of scientists and engineers.

Nothing has changed in this respect, even if the “the ecstasy of sanctimony” is on full display from partisans masquerading as “climate activists”. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.