Dear Fellows and Members
On 30 April, The Daily Telegraph had the front page headline, “Pollution ruling ‘end of the road for diesel cars’”. The article referred to the Supreme Court decision that the UK had failed to comply with Article 13 of the EU Air Quality Directive. As a result, it is expected that diesel powered vehicles will be targeted by the Government because of their emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide and particulate matter, the former contributing, according to the article, to seven thousand deaths a year and both contributing to breathing difficulties for patients with respiratory illnesses.
The ruling prompts speculation that, despite their higher fuel efficiency, diesel cars, taxis, lorries, earth moving equipment may be priced off the roads. Should that prospect arise, there will be an enormous amount of work for engineers: to advise the government of the day on what is technically achievable; to design and manufacture alternatively powered but equally efficient power trains; to design and manufacture conversion kits for existing diesel power units and of course the redesign of existing capital equipment (if that is possible) to produce new fuels with lowered pollution potential. The list is endless. The corollary, does provide an opportunity for a fresh look at the nation’s transport policy, particularly rail transport for freight and electric public transport by tram in the cities.
The Supreme Court ruling implies another pressing demand for the engineer. The current edition of UK-SPEC has a section devoted to the ethical conduct of professional engineers. Of the four foundation principles to guide engineers and technicians towards high ideals of professional life, the third brings a very significant focus, in view of the foregoing comments: “Respect for life, law and the public good”.
This chapter implores professional engineers “to give due weight to ensure that all work is lawful and justified; to minimise and to justify any adverse effect on society or the natural environment for their own and succeeding generations; to take account of the limited availability of natural and human resources; to hold paramount the health and safety of others; to act honourably, responsibly, lawfully and to uphold the reputation, standing and dignity of the profession”.
There is plenty for engineers (and the newly elected politicians) to think about here and some ideas will possibly be mutually exclusive. As an example, how will the engineer rationalise with his ethical responsibilities, the design of a motor the effluent gases of which may injure the health of susceptible members of the public?
The committee for Suffolk and N Essex hope that you find our regular lecture meetings to be enjoyable and informative. They are open to members of the Institution and their guests, so please invite them to join us. The next meeting is on 13 October 2015.