Europe has run most of its private and public vehicles on diesel fuel for nearly a hundred years — European makes and models, for the most part, always had diesel engines. Diesel was considered to be less polluting than regular gasoline, and was cheaper to distill from crude oil. But in Rome, at least, the honeymoon with diesel is over. This week Rome issued a ban on diesel vehicles within city limits for the first time in modern history, in an effort to fight the rising tide of pollution that threatens to erode paintings, sculpture, and other priceless antiquities, and is causing local schools to cancel classes because the smog is too dangerous for young children to walk in. A prolonged warm spell, with sun and no wind, has created an inversion of much of central Italy this week, which are ideal conditions for pervasive smog in urban areas with heavy traffic.
The Rome City Council banned all cars, vans, trucks, and motorbikes within city limits during daytime hours for the foreseeable future. Automotive companies with factories in Italy have accused Roman politicians of overreacting to the air pollution in order to garner more votes in upcoming elections.
There is no word from the Vatican, which is located inside Rome but is an autonomous state, about whether or not they will obey the ban on diesel vehicles.