UK’s CLASSICS AT RISK AS MPs BACK ETHANOL
It’s been linked to damage and fires – but politicians want to add more to your fuel
Politicians from Britain’s biggest parties are backing a campaign to increase the amount of ethanol in fuel sold at petrol stations – despite the risk of it damaging thousands of classics.
The Be10percentgood campaign to have E10 fuel introduced ahead of the Government’s aim of 2020 has picked up 499 signatures from delegates and politicians at this year’s Labour and Conservative party conferences, with backers including the Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald.
Despite this neither of the parties would commit to shielding classics from the changes, with only the Liberal Democrats saying that they would support a protection grade fuel with lower ethanol content being retained for users of older vehicles.
The Government is currently reviewing its own consultation on increased ethanol in fuel.
‘Labour supports the introduction of E10 petrol to tackle climate change’ ANDY McDONALD, MP
Calls to save classics from the negative effects of E10 petrol have not been addressed by four of Britain’s main political parties, Classic Car Weekly can reveal.
The Federation of
British Historic Vehicle
Clubs (FBHVC) said that it wasn’t surprised at the lack of prominence given to classics in the roll-out of E10, billed by its supporters like Be10percentgood as equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road a year in terms of emissions.
The FBHVC went on to add that such clarity was provided by the likes of the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicle Group (APPHVG), and that challenges like this to our hobby helped to justify the existence of the latter group.
The FBHVC’s communications director, Geoff Lancaster, said: ‘What’s vitally important to our hobby isn’t that important statistically when drawing up national policies; I’d be surprised if any party factored the historic movement into their planned roll out of E10. Where parties lack clarity, those with a vested interest can bring the topic back up the agenda via the APPHVG.’
Classic Car Weekly’s concerns with E10 – which harms classic fuel systems, rotting hoses and corroding carburettor float bowls – grew after the Department for Transport (DfT)’s consultation into bioethanol fuel, its labelling and inclusion on forecourts ended on 16 September; while the FBHVC called for a ‘protection grade’ of less harmful fuel, known as E5 (or five percent ethanol content) to be included at filling stations to protect older cars, both it and the RAC Foundation disagreed as to what octane rating E5 should be. The FBHVC argued for 9799 octane,to provide petrochemical companies with a financial incentive; but the RAC Foundation felt that 95 should be protection grade, so as to keep as many pre-2011 cars on the road as possible.
Geoff Lancaster said: ‘E10 fuel will certainly appeal to the public from a environmental standpoint. If the historic vehicle movement is seen to resist it, we run the risk of our hobby being seen as elitist and selfinterested. We don’t accept that, of course – we have to defend ourselves on heritage grounds and those of minimal annual usage [the National Historic Vehicle Survey 2016 found that historic vehicles cover an average of 1124 miles a year], meaning a negligible environmental impact.’
Britain is obliged to roll E10 petrol out on forecourts by 2020 for it to fulfil the guidelines of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, which tasks member states with a six per cent reduction in greenhouse gases.
Lobbyists for Be10percentgood, a campaign tasked with getting E10 fuel on to the forecourts before 2020, attracted a considerable number of signatures from party delegates and politicians at the recent Labour and Conservative party conferences; Labour’s ratio was 255-17, with the Conservatives running 216 delegates and 11 politicians.
Classic Car Weekly approached the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties for comment, but only Labour and the Lib Dems replied by our deadline.
Labour confirmed that party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had not signed the Be10percentgood pledge – but that Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald, had. Mr McDonald said: ‘Labour supports the introduction of E10 petrol and we have been calling on the Government to mandate the use of it for some time now in order to tackle climate change.’ He didn’t, however, clarify a specific roll-out date or protection grade at the pumps for historic vehicles.
Labour’s policy was later bolstered by its APPHVG representative and vice chair, Kelvin Hopkins, who called for E5 on forecourts. He said: ‘We need to make sure, at the very least, that there is a non- or low-ethanol fuel available at every station for modern classics as well as older ones.’
His sentiments were shared by the Liberal Democrats’ political adviser on the environment, Edward Molyneux. He said : ‘Given the impact this could have on many cars that are not capable of taking E10, particularly classics, we support the option of a protection grade suggested in the DfT’s consultation. Fuel stations over a certain size should be required to stock standard E5 petrol to ensure this change does not inadvertently force millions of cars off the road.’
With the outcome of E10 at the pumps still undecided, Geoff Lancaster said that there were further factors at play: ‘Fuel suppliers could bring E10 in tomorrow if they wanted, but there has to be a reason for them to do it before EU obligations make them do it. Their margins are small because of taxation anyway. Clearly, there’s still some work to do.’
More political parties would take a specific interest in E10 fuel and classics if more of them were on the road, said the FBHVC.