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22/07/2020 Sustainability

Recovery in Diesel Sales Shows Breath of Fresh Air will be Short Lived

Diesel sales in June recovered by 25% when compared to May as Ireland’s economy started to get going again. This is 71% up on April, the low point for diesel sales. Diesel sales are now running at 83% of the 2019 level for the same time of year.[1]

Sales of diesel are a good indication of activity in the economy and they had plummeted by half in April as the lockdown had started.May saw about half of that loss regained as the economy started to open up.June and July saw the recovery continue.

While the increase in activity is important, it comes with a price in terms of air quality.Diesel, which is the motor fuel of choice in Ireland, creates significant emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxides and particulates. These particulate emissions cause damage to our air quality and are a contributory factor in diseases such as asthma and bronchitis as well as heightening the risk of pulmonary disease.

One of the few positives of the pandemic was the impact on our environment. Over the lockdown period, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency had reported an improvement in air quality as diesel use in transport plummeted.

“There was a decrease in (Nitrogen dioxide) concentrations of up to 50% at many monitoring stations across the National Air Quality Monitoring Network. This is not unexpected as we know reduced traffic congestion should decrease the levels of this pollutant.”[2]

Transport has been an area where emissions have remained stubbornly high. Ireland is not alone in this, but as an island economy with a dispersed population, we do face some additional challenges. Unlike people in London or Paris, if we wish to travel outside of our country, we don’t, in most cases, have the option of Public Transport. As a country, we are heavily dependent on aviation, marine transport and heavy freight.

While transport is hard to decarbonise, there are easy wins to be had. 20% of our transport emissions come from Heavy Goods Vehicles. These vehicles make up only 3% of the vehicles on our roads, but they are constantly on the go and they use a lot of fuel.HGVs are a significant part of our emissions problem but they are also hugely important. By switching a relatively small number of vehicles to a cleaner energy, we can have a huge impact on emissions.

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the importance of supply chains. Our shops never ran out of food or even toilet paper because hauliers made sure that it got from the factories in Ireland and the UK, to our local supermarket. These trucks bring Irish product to market all across the continent and they are a vital, if often forgotten, part of our economy.

So, our new Government wants to reduce emissions by 7% per annum. That’s a tough ask, but one we have to achieve.Transport needs to be a key focus. While electricity can help with small vehicles, it is an impractical energy source for machines that carry heavy loads and travel long distances under strict time schedules.

Gas, in particular Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), is the obvious solution to this issue. LNG technology is increasingly being deployed throughout Europe as the fuel of choice for hauliers.LNG has many benefits; LNG is more cost effective than diesel, causes fewer emissions, is quieter to run and also reduces maintenance. The fuel takes a similar amount of time to refill, when compared to diesel and new vehicles have ranges comparable to those with diesel engines.

Calor GB has begun building a network of LNG stations and we are planning a similar network in Ireland.Our goal by 2030 is clear: HGVs running on diesel will be a thing of the past and we will be refilling with LNG and even BioLNG – a renewable form of gas made from plant and animal waste.

The coming months will see economic activity return to somewhere near normal. The brief breath of fresh air that we experienced will disappear unless we take action to change how we fuel our society and particularly our transport sector. Calor look forward to working with the new Government and with hauliers to plot a route to a cleaner future.



[2] EPA Website

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