Sunday, February 19, 2006

Petrol is cheap - people are fat

Two pieces of evidence this week to support my theory that petrol is too cheap. Going down the M5* with the speedometer reading about 76 mph**, hundreds of cars went whizzing past. Increasing speed to that of the overtakers reduced our mpg by about 12%. Petrol must be too cheap; the people in a hurry didn't look rich.

Delivering some leaflets this morning (in the forlorn hope of persuading four people to come to the Branch AGM and thus make it quorate) I noticed people buying their newspapers. I saw some of their cars later, they had driven less than a mile to the shop. Not quite as bizarre as the people who drive similar distances to the nearby gym.

In 1982 I changed jobs and had to drive to work so the price of petrol was pertinent to my 'total remuneration package' calculations. It was just under GBP2 a gallon. If it had kept up with inflation it would now be over GBP1 a litre but it isn't.

What's to do about it? Nothing. There isn't the political will. The Tories put a fuel price escalator in place in the UK but less than a decade later they couldn't resist supporting the fuel price protesters; it was the only time during William Hague's leadership that they overtook Labour in the polls.

Even with all-party consensus it would be difficult to re-impose. However many figures are produced to show how cheap motoring is now compared to 50 years ago or how the taxes raised on drivers don't pay for the bits of the NHS, emergency services or police that wouldn't be needed if there were no cars, the pro-road lobby is too powerful.

Even worthy, well-meaning Independent readers have grown used to living the green dream in the 'country' and driving sixty miles or so each way each day to work. But they do carefully recycle all their rubbish and would use public transport to catch their budget flight to their unspoilt holiday locations if the times were a little more convenient......

*the certain essential domestic tasks mentioned in my 'Blog off' post below were not undertaken. We went to Cornwall instead.

** most speedometers over-estimate a vehicle's speed because the law says (I think) that they should be accurate to within +10% and -0%. So we were probably travelling at about 70 mph.


At 23:40, Blogger James.R.Skinner said...

sorry to be a bother, but i was wondering if you would be interested in adding my site to your "links" column. I have recently been trying to advertise my site, and have already added your blog to my "links" section on my webpage. If you could do the same for me, I would be most grateful.
Thank you, and all the best.

At 00:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cars, like it or not, are a neccesity. However much you tax petrol, due to its price elasticity of demand, people will continue to use their cars just as much.

Instead, road taxes rather than fuel duty are the way forward if you really want to cut car usage and pollution. However, we all know that the new home of the Communists and socialist rejects of the past is in the Green movement (oh, why do we tax everything so highly and then redistribute the wealth? because it might harm the environment of course!)

At 05:34, Blogger Neil Harding said...

Excellent post!

Never considered the NHS/road accidents angle.

At 10:56, Blogger Aunty Marianne said...

Tax petrol to its true environmental cost. Purchase carbon credits with additional tax. Forestry rises. At same time, teleworking cuts down on unnecessary driving. Britain is a service-oriented economy, so more and more people work from home, trading carbon futures on the side. Economic boom. Prizes for all!

Bob's your aunt, green and pleasant land.


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