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London leading crackdown on diesel emissions
<p><strong>London leading crackdown on diesel emissions.</strong></p>

Diesel-Vehicle Buyers Wronged, U.K. Newspaper Claims

The Sun accuses the government of offering incentives to diesel buyers since 2001, only to threaten them now with harsh penalties for excessive carbon-dioxide emissions.

A new U.K. campaign calls for a scrappage program to compensate motorists “seduced” by the U.K. government into buying diesel vehicles, but now facing draconian daily penalties in the name of clean air.

The “Pay Up Diesel Weasels” campaign by The Sun, a national newspaper with more than 6 million daily readers, calls for a £2,000 ($3,355) tax break for owners who scrap their existing diesel vehicle in favor of a new model that meets environmental standards.

Drivers can support the campaign by signing an online petition.

The Sun says that since 2001 almost 11 million consumers have been persuaded by successive governments to snap up diesel vehicles after Chancellor Gordon Brown increased excise duties for gasoline cars with higher carbon-dioxide emissions, making diesels a comparative bargain.

The number of diesel-car owners in the U.K. jumped from 1.6 million to 11 million in a decade.

“But major cities are now planning to punish diesel drivers with a £10 ($16.77)-a-day tax because of other killer fumes which are linked to the fuel,” the newspaper says in a statement. “A move to add a diesel levy on the congestion charge was unveiled by London Mayor Boris Johnson last month following Britain’s failure to meet air-quality targets set by the European Union.”

It says almost 460,000 trucks, 3.3 million vans and 10 million car owners can expect road-charge hikes unless they upgrade to vehicles complying with stricter new Euro 6 emissions standards. Owners of non-complying vehicles also could face lower resale values.

The proposed scrappage scheme is similar to one launched in 2009 to boost the auto industry and resulted in almost 400,000 car sales. Then the government agreed to provide £1,000 ($1,677) toward the purchase of a new car from participating dealers. Automakers also knocked £1,000 off the list price.

The Royal Automobile Club, the Automobile Assn. and the Road Haulage Assn. support the effort.

RAC technical director David Bizley says there’s a lot of merit in a scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles. “But the government also needs to be able to say how they can help drivers who have recently bought diesel,” he says.

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