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Happy bunch of European diesel car owners
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Wed, 20th January 2016 14:49:51 GMT

Diesel fuel pump black and white 2016

Open quote signWho would have predicted that only a handful of year’s ago? 

For years the future price of oil was a one-way bet, with prices heading into one direction. 


And yet, at a time when both the US and Western Europe, two main drivers of global economic growth, are well on the way of getting back into their strides, global oil prices have not picked up, but have plummeted instead. 

Oil prices have slumped almost 75 per cent during the past year and a half, dropping below the $30 levels only last week. 

If some visionaries are to be believed, the bottom has not yet been reached. 

A greatly welcome by-product of these recent trends, for motorists, if not the oil producers, the good times are back again. 

Pump prices, even in high-tax Europe, have continued to move steadily into a downward direction. 

In the process, in mainland Europe, the litre price of diesel for instance has now dropped past the psychologically significant one Euro level, and of late prices have slumped even below €0.90 per litre. 

Now, for American consumers that’s still more than twice the price they pay these days, but here in Europe that’s perceived as seriously cheap. 

So much so that Europe’s long-stressed motorists can now be seen filling up their cars with a broad grin of satisfaction.

That loyalty has surprised a great number of market observers. 

Reality is that of late diesels have taken a severe hammering and were justifiably subjected to a forever swelling tide of negative press coverage. 

Nevertheless, among Europe’s diesel car owners, all this condemnation was like water of a duck’s back. 

Joe Public, latest AID compiled numbers suggest, cares precious little about NOx emissions, and continues to give diesels the thumbs up. 

That at least is the message from latest European car sales numbers showing that during last year’s 4th quarter, following the deeply damaging revelations of VW’s dieselgate affair in September, the sales share going to diesels eased back only slightly to 52.2 per cent. 

Last year’s highest quarterly diesel share in Western Europe. 

However, given the significance of motoring costs to Europe’s average drivers, all that could be changed at short notice. 

Say a significant extra tax burden for diesel cars, plus a sharp hike in diesel fuel tax. 

Such discriminatory measures aimed specifically at diesel cars, could force a notable rethink among Europe’s cost-conscious motorists and potentially lead to rapid and significant switch back to petrol fuelled cars. 

But what would be gained?

Carmakers, thanks to the higher CO2 emission from petrol cars would stand next to no realistic chance of complying with the EU’s ultra tough 95g/km fleet-average levels by 2021. 

Billions ploughed of late into diesel engine technology would be wasted and the global oil industry could conceivably drown in a forever expanding ocean of surplus diesel fuel. 

Electric cars? 

No notable win-win scenario in CO2 terms, unless, as is the case in Norway today, electricity is generated from near 100 per cent from renewable sources. 

Moreover, the continuing need for tempting electric car subsidies, at least in the short and medium term, adds up to a horror scenario for Europe’s already cash starved governments. 

What’s more, today’s electric cars, bought chiefly by the better off, are effectively subsidised by taxes from normal wage earners. 

Now there’s a conflict. 

Surely better to improve forthwith the offending and lax on-road NOx emissions of today’s otherwise much-loved diesels, while keeping things largely as they stand. 

Europe’s happy diesel car buyers, bursting into a chorus with carmaker and oil industry voices, would surely say amen to that
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