Regular readers of Action Briefing will be familiar with the issues surrounding the current fashion for urban four-wheel drive (4×4) vehicles. Besides being a menace to other road users, urban 4x4s are relatively fuel inefficient, particularly on the urban cycle, hence their higher carbon dioxide emissions and 'gas-guzzlers' tag.

In January, Birmingham FoE teamed up with the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s to protest against off-road vehicles on the morning school run (see Action Briefing Feb-Mar 2005) by distributing 'could do better' report cards to 4×4 drivers outside Edgbaston High School, Westbourne Road.

Greenpeace waded into the controversy in mid-May when thirty-five protesters dressed as Rover workers evaded security at Solihull's Land Rover plant and chained themselves to the assembly line, bringing production to a standstill for approximately four hours. After negotiations to end the protest failed, West Midlands police were called in and made fifteen arrests. Undeterred, Greenpeace later descended on Land Rover dealerships in seven major cities and thirty towns, clamping the worst models and demanding that 'Climate Criminals' Land Rover stop marketing off-road vehicles for use as urban run-arounds.

According to Greenpeace, the new Range Rover Sport, which 'has been tuned primarily for on-road performance', does fewer miles to the gallon than the Model T Ford built eighty years ago. So much for progress. (It's worth noting that Greenpeace did not shut down production of the Land Rover Defender, most of which are used for legitimate agricultural and industrial purposes.)

Irate
Greenpeace's protest attracted a predictably irate response from the local press. "Heavy-handed publicity stunts like this invasion and disruption of Land Rover's plant in Solihull do little to further the group's cause" thundered the Birmingham Evening Mail on 16th May. But with climate change proceeding apace and oil at $50 a barrel, there can be no future and no jobs in making cars that damage the environment. Greenpeace point out that Land Rover's parent company, Ford, is losing money and shedding jobs in the USA in response to falling sales of their gas-guzzling models. British sales of 4x4s have doubled in the last ten years, to almost 180,000 vehicles in 2004, but their share of the car market fell in the first three months of 2005.

For a full report on the protests and Greenpeace’s ongoing campaign visit www.greenpeace.org.