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Alternative fuels for construction plant could slash pollution deaths

8 October 2020
Image: Dreamstime/Alberto Masnovo

Construction firms have been urged to switch plant to alternative fuels to save up to 1,250 lives a year.

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) has released a report to coincide with Clean Air Day (8 October) arguing that liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) should be used as an interim measure before machines are made all-electric.

‘Alternative Fuels: Cutting Dangerous Air Pollution Faster’, said that where zero emission versions are not yet available or viable, vehicles and machinery should be switched to less polluting alternatives should be used. It said it was especially relevant to construction equipment, back-up generators and specialist vehicles, such as those used in refuse collection.

The report highlighted a scheme led by the Mayor of London which enabled black cab drivers to apply for a £5,000 grant to convert their vehicle to LPG, and argued that similar incentives could be used for other high-polluting sectors.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as 64,000 people die prematurely owing to poor air quality in the UK a year as a result of heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. It can also severely exacerbate asthma.

EIC estimated that around 10% of all air pollution comes from sectors where alternative fuels can be readily deployed. It said evidence suggested that such fuels can cut emissions of harmful nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) by 10 to 30%, which could mean more than 1,250 lives saved a year.

EIC policy director Matthew Farrow said: “While the government rightly looks to electric vehicles and construction plant as the long-term solution, we should also recognise that alternative fuels such as LPG and HVO – already widely used across Europe – could have an immediate and significant impact on levels of air pollution, especially in built-up urban areas. This move would save lives.”

The EIC is the sister organisation of the Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE). It represents the businesses which provide the technology and services that deliver environmental performance across the economy. Members include technology manufacturers, consultancies, universities, and consulting engineers.

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