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Friday 30 May 2008

The UK government's false green policies [Beej]

Buying fuel - it hurtsssssss! Here's one of many gripes on the hot topic:

Britain’s diesel prices are the lowest in Europe before tax – but the highest once tax has been added on, official Government figures have revealed.

In Britain the average pre-tax price for diesel was 48.8p per litre during April, but that spiralled to 116.6p per litre at the pump. This means taxes account for a mighty 58% of the total price.

The Tories said the latest statistics showed that the Government could not blame international fuel costs for sky-high prices at the pumps.

A Treasury spokesman denied that fuel taxes were too high, saying they were justified because they were green and designed to reduce carbon consumption.

In less than 10 years, driving has suddenly become so very bad. It's killing the planet (isn't it?) but fortunately the Government are doing something about it! Yes, they're raising taxes so that now we think twice about about our habitual driving. Well, oh genius green-minded Government, I still need to go to work in the mornings and buy food at the supermarket. I work in the next town, there's no bus or sequence of buses, and there's no train station let alone a train. So like pretty much everyone who doesn't live inside a city, I still need my car.

Taxing drivers for buying fuel is said to be a green policy. It is supposed to make people drive less. Thus spewing out less evil CO2, thus saving the previous planet.

Except for the teeny-tiny problem that it isn't a green policy, and it isn't saving the planet.


  1. Moving nearer your job isn't an option?

    No, this doesn't reduce essential journies, but it does reduce journies overall, and is proven to do so, so it is a green policy, albeit a flawed one, and it is saving the planet.


  2. The escalator strikes me as a good policy that is been made to look like a bad policy by external influences - mental oil prices. Thing is, if you keep putting off the rises, then you take away the potency of the policy, and you're seen as bowing to potentially misguided populist viewpoints. If you don't put off the rises, then you potentially fuck the economy to the point where no-one has the financial luxury of adopting a green outlook.

    Sadly, since this is something we're going to have to do anyway, then my gut reaction is that we're just going to have to suck it down and adapt. It won't be pretty. Our patterns of behaviour will change by necessity.

    An interesting read is the Hirsch Report findings on the effects of peak oil. It seems reasonable to assume that we're past the point where we can spend 20 years preparing, so at the very least, we're into the 10 year preperation period. The Hirsch Report finds that this amount of preperation will buy us another decade of fuel shortages before we get our act together. Scary stuff.


  3. The problem I have with this is that it basically just whacks people who can't afford it. The jag-driving brigade will soldier on and have a bit of a moan before they break for tea and celebrate the bonus. Where as the guy in a village in the arse end of nowhere, trying to run his own business, gets hammered on driving his van around to the point that he's possibly unprofitable. Look, society has to change because of fuel running out but you do need a reasonable approach to this. Not a knee-jerk blanket justification.

    The thing is, you look at the tax wonga dreamed in by Brown off these ridiculous levels. Is he slapping that into some sort of solution? No, he's just using the green thing as a justification for creaming of crazy taxes. Evidence of that? Well alright then...

    Let's look at how significant it all is. UK produces 2% of worldwide CO2. Automotive use accounts for 22% of UK emissions, private use about 13.5%. UK per-capita emissions are half of that of the United States.One of the only studys done on the effect of taxation on demand concluded that for every 10% increase in price demand fell between 0.34 to 0.77%. We have an obscene 117% rate of tax in the UK. That means we ought to be seeing something in the region of a 6.5% reduction in demand.

    That meaning the entire effect on the UK CO2 output is an overall reduction of 1.43%. In exchange for significantly damaging the economy including the ability of the UK to trade, pushing up the price of goods and hence inflation and having particular ill effect on those of lower income or who live in decentralised areas.

    Meanwhile if you happen to live in a walking distance to work, on an island say, when you're being taxed fuck all anyway - maybe it's a little rich to steam ahead advocating the fuel price pain for the rest of the country on some flimsy green agenda. Particularly when this governments green strategy is so clumsy and ineffectual that it's doing a pretty good job of causing actual serious economic damage while doing pretty much nothing in terms of genuine epic-levels of investment to match the epic-levels of taxation income to genuinely combat climate change.

    Exactly as Dave says, the ability of the United Kingdom to 'lead' on climate change issues (and to assist the Third World who are really going to be the big problem in the next 50 years) is largely linked to the economic fortunes of the country. You chuck the country on the bread line, screwing manufacturing, farming, small business, regional population etc... people are going to start burning coal and not have any time whatsoever for indulgent policies. They'll vote the government out and demand their standard of living back.

    Signing some papers to allow private enterprise to go build new nuclear power stations does not constitute anything like enough genuine action. Not when they've just reaped an extra HALF BILLION QUID in tax due to the wholesale fuel price situation. And Darling *still* doesn't rule out the 2% increase for the love of God.

    Whatever argument you have for pricing reducing demand, wholesale prices have risen far harder than any government taxation. Goverment happy to stand there and say oh well. We're certainly not cutting tax so, you know, fuel is only a shitload more expensive rather than completely un-fucking-affordable. Oh no, because then we wont have been able to fund that tax cut bodge to make up for the 10% tax rate catastrophe. There isn't a fucking shred of competency, strategy or even a moral underpinning in the government with regard to fuel price taxation.

    These guys are looking out for what gets them in power at the next general election and I suspect they're absolutely bricking it now that the public are beginning to really feel pain. I'm having the feeling that a Tory government is inevitable. I wonder what their approach will be.


  4. "Move nearer to work" is a bogus argument, as I live in a small town and work in a village. You think the solution is to move to that village? Okay, fair enough, I could be a bit further from work and live on a bus or train route that goes through that village. Do you think there are many buses to villages, on the whole?

    How many people should move closer to their place of work - all of them? That would only be a few hundred thousand families, at a guess.


  5. If a government was serious about this at all we would have government owned wind and solar panels everywhere, we would have taxfree electric vehicles, we would have taxfree trainrides etc etc etc

    Its all just rediculous.


  6. I think you're dead right actually. Just develop a European electric bus and within 20 years and ban diesel buses. Ban them all. Build the (ahem, massive) infrastructure you need to operate and charge the silent electro-buses in towns.

    In another scheme, ban all vehicluar taxis everywhere in the UK. All of them. Banned. Especially the ghastly loud London cabs. Replace them all with govt-owned silent electric taxis with solar panels on the roof. Designed and built in Europe, perhaps using the same or building on the charging infrastructure as the buses.

    Incentivise employers to buy their own for their car pool. If the expensive electro-taxis were 90% state-owned (decreasing over time, so the cabbie gets to drive it home after 5 years) and leased to the taxi firms, the govt could have the vehicles in the mornings for commuters, control the advertising revenue to those millions of people, and use the taxis to create free car pooling schemes where the bus and train infrastructure is inadequate. In the other half of the day, the govt doesn't have control and the taxi firm uses them for taxing Tom Dick and Harry to the Legion.

    Trains... hmmm, sack the cretins, build new freight infrastructure, get lorries off the roads. The DHL depot I pick my e-purchases up from should be a DHL depot at the train station.


  7. Bans are for commies!

    You just make alternatives so cheap they nuke the opposition. Lorries will be needed, what they burn is another matter, remove taxes on biodiesel for transport companies and help them change their vehicle park. And travel, lets say there were free trains and buses, would i drive everywhere like now? Like fuck.

    If we get free masstravel we could manage cars running on ethanol for the rest of our needs without nuking food production in the process. Of course, hydrogen research should be statesponsored so we get a proper alternative later on.

    But instead we got bans, taxation and utter shit like that which might as well be custom tailored by some evil mastermind to get people to pay LOADS of cash for nothing while old money is carving gold with a knife while crying with laughter all the way to the bank.