The great CO2 debate and a packet of crisps

Published: 29 July 2010

News today that Britain's new cars' CO2 averages are tumbling got me thinking. Even in the first half of 2010, carbon emissions of the typical new car rolling out of showrooms have fallen 5% year-on-year to 145.2g/km. Which is good news. I mean, that's nearly as clean as a packet of crisps.

Two pints of petrol and a packet of crisps? What are you on about man?

Bear with me on this one. While holidaying in the north of England earlier this week, I noticed that a packet of Walkers salt and vinegar crisps I was busily munching had a new label: yes, my tangy crisps had a carbon footprint of 120g of CO2!

This new initiative is a wheeze by the Carbon Trust to raise awareness of CO2 – and it's great news for us motorists. When I comment on radio or television, I'm frequently asked aggressive questions by mainstream journalists who carry on as if the Evil Car was the only source of carbon emissions. I usually reply that cars are merely one lifestyle choice – yet most people conveniently forget that we can all do our bit to save the planet by shunning the latest 42in widescreen television or buying a more energy-efficient house. Or never having children.

I was heartened to find my pack of crisps took 120g of CO2 to manufacture. I mean, I could have driven a kilometre in a BMW 316d and produced less carbon. Granted, most drivers will drive many thousands of miles each year, so you'd have to be on a high-fat diet to have a dirtier footprint by crisp than by car.

So are Brits switching on to greener cars?

It seems so. As well as the average CO2 rating falling ever downwards, sales of 'signposted eco models' have leapt 141% in the first half of 2010 to nearly 74,000 cars. That's a hell of a lot of Bluemotion, Ecoflex and BlueEfficiency models out there.

Nobody's come up with a Smoky Bacon badge yet though...

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet