If I told you that my new car averaged 3,2 litres of diesel per 100km, that statement would be meaningful to you. You would grasp that this was an amazingly frugal little vehicle that could travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town on one 45-litre tank of fuel.
Similarly, if I told you that my new car could go from 0 – 160 km/h in five seconds and had a top speed of 300 km/h, you would realise that this was a fast, powerful and very impressive machine.
But what if I told you that my new 1,2-litre, three-cylinder Eco Warrior Bluetek BlueCommotion with hybrid technology, auto stop/start, regenerative braking and Perpetual Eco Mode emitted just 50 grams of CO2 per kilometre? The smug and self-righteous way in which I declared this would probably have tipped you off that it was an impressive figure, but apart from that, I suspect that it wouldn’t have meant very much to you at all.
What real-world difference does it make whether a vehicle emits 50 g/km or 400 g/km of CO2?
The biggest obvious difference is that it will save you money when it comes to SA’s absurd CO2 tax.
A BMW X5 50i which, for example, emits 242 g/km of CO2 will cost you R12 517.20 in CO2 tax. Of course, you will also be spending more on fuel, and consequently also be handing over more money to Government in the form of a fuel levy.
Considering the acrimony with which the implementation of e-tolls was met, I’m still surprised by the relative ease with which this piece of legislation was put through.
With the rand in free-fall, cars in South Africa are getting ridiculously expensive. A year ago an X5 50i retailed for R847 000. It now goes for R1 004 000.
So why should you have to pay a CO2 tax on top of this?
It is claimed that agriculture is responsible for 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Cows are a particular problem. They “emit” methane as a by-product of their digestive process, and methane is 23 times for powerful than carbon dioxide. Yet you’re not expected to pay an emissions tax on that tasty steak or litre of milk you buy at Spar.
Nor are you forced to pay an emissions tax because your new television or computer was built in China and shipped all the way to South Africa. Make no mistake, shipping is a huge contributor when it comes to emissions. It generates around 1,2 billion tonnes of CO2 a year. Global annual cellphone usage results in an estimated 125,000,000,000 kilograms of CO2 every year as well.
So why is there no emissions tax on your cellphone or new TV?
The vehicle industry is being singled out, and in a country such as SA, this is absurd. According to the AA, the average age of a vehicle on SA roads is eleven years. For busses, the average age is 20! You need only look around you when travelling on the highway to see examples of ancient trucks and jalopies that get to indulge in some tax-free pollution.
And what about Eskom? Thanks to its dependence on coal, it creates more than 200 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
In a perfect world, your vehicle’s CO2 emission would matter. But in SA, where we get our electricity from coal, trucks are used to transport just about everything and the roads are filled with ancient cars that are trailed by black clouds as they drive along, the CO2 emissions of new vehicles are irrelevant.
When it comes to sustainability, your new BMW X5 is the least of our worries, which is why you shouldn’t have to pay an emissions tax. In the greater scheme of things, your SUV’s CO2 emissions doesn’t make any difference.