Clarkson on: diesel
Coronation Street is the most watched programme on British television but this does not make it the best. Spain is the most popular foreign holiday destination for Brits yet I can assure you that Spain is very probably the nastiest country on earth; a place where they think it's a hoot to stick spears in cows, where they can't cook and they can't make wine. Also, lisping can be an endearing trait but not when everyone is doing it.
No, something may well be popular but that does not necessarily make it good. I mean, there have been periods in history when genocide was all the rage. And that brings me neatly on to the great diesel debate. Those who purvey derv-drinking cars point out, noisily, that one car in five sold in Britain now runs around on a diet of diesel. And then, with a contented sigh, they sit back, belly puffed out and hands steepled behind their heads. For years, they have been telling us that diesel is clean and cheap and that diesel cars are efficient. Right now, they are feeling vindicated and worthy because at last, people are queuing up to buy cars that run on ‘the fuel of the future'.
"The diesel lobby argues that petrol contains fumes that will kill us all. This is nonsense"
Well, it isn't. Diesel has only two places in current society: under the bonnet of something with six axles and a tattooed arm sticking out of the window, or in a tractor. Providing, of course, the taxpayer does not end up paying the farmer to use it, which we do. But then again, we also pay for his car, his wife's new coat, his children's education and all his restaurant bills so I guess a drop of derv every now and again is small bacon.
Diesel-powered cars are an absolute and complete waste of everybody's afternoon. First, despite what everyone says, they are a lot slower than their petrol-driven counterparts. They often cost more to buy and, if you actually do your sums, you will find that in many cases you need to do upwards of 50,000 miles before the savings start. Get this: when you've done 100,000 miles, you will be better off to the tune of £100. I lose that kind of money down the back of my sofa every time the film gets exciting.
And how much fun will you have had with your diesel as those long, tedious, and noisy miles roll by? None. On hills, you will have been able to watch the trees grow. And then die, as the smoke from your exhaust suffocates them.
At night, your neighbours, fed up with being woken up every morning by what sounds like a washing machine full of house bricks, will sneak out and urinate through your letter box. And rightly so.
At every traffic light you will have had all your fillings shaken loose by the vibrations and you will not have been able to call your dentist either because the constant wobbling will have broken your carphone.
The diesel lobby argues that petrol contains fumes that will kill us all. This is nonsense. Open the bonnet of, say, a Saab Aero and you will find geraniums and honeysuckle on the cylinder heads. Open the bonnet of a diesel and you will find a lot of soot and some dead rats.
Diesel engines chuck out black, oily smoke. I'm sorry, but there is no way that I'll be convinced this is good for us. I am not allowed to smoke in aeroplanes, tube trains, restaurants, cinemas and even this office, so why should your car be allowed to smoke on the road? It shouldn't. Get rid of it, get a life and buy a Dodge Viper instead.