Duty On Petrol

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With the oil price going up it’s quite common in the mainstream news to get a roving reporter on some garage forecourt asking people filling their tanks what they think of increases in fuel duty. Good balanced reporting and is it really news when they all say they’re not happy with it? It’s always about the government picking on the poor driver. The reporter never asks or presses with challenging questions or observations. They never point out that the duty is partly to reduce petrol use and people complaining about it is a sign that it’s doing it’s job not a sign to change. I’m not sure when driving a car became viewed a right and how people can be so detached from what using all this petrol is doing.

Then yesterday the second and third paragraphs on the front page of The Times were:

The Times has learnt that key ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, have agreed that 5.7 million people claiming benefits for the unemployed will each lose hundreds of pounds a year.

The savings are likely to go towards the Government’s ambition to scrap the planned 3p-a-litre rise in petrol in January, which would cost £1.5 billion.

Am I the only person that finds that shocking. The Times certainly didn’t. What we are saying is we are going to take money from the poorest in society and give to the richest.  About the bottom 25% don’t own cars so clearly it’s going to the richest 3/4s. Don’t believe this stuff about the 3p a litre will bolster the economy. To the richest that change will have no impact on their spending but taking £100s from the poorest certainly will.

Did we then see the roving reporter out on the forecourt asking the drivers whether they agreed it was fair that the poorest in society may go without heat this winter or may skip meals so that they can save 3p a litre on their petrol ? Of course they didn’t but this is precisely what the above decision is doing. It is shameful for what is supposedly a civilised society.

This highlights within the UK what will become a global issue as oil prices rise. Cheap grain is due to cheap oil as prices go up so do the price of grain. What this means is that fueling your car is in direct competition with feeding the poorer populations in the world. If we allow price to decide who gets the oil when supply is below demand it is almost by definition that the car driver will be able to afford more for that oil than the poor in third world nations for their food. It may not be as clear cut as those two paragraphs in The Times but those sort of trade offs will be happening. Oil is such a precious resource that we need some method to ensure we not only all plan to reduce our dependence but also have a better allocation method than price to ensure it is put to best use.

I am not saying give up your car but do think about your use of it. Think about making a transition to minimal use and eventual to no use. The biggest preparation you can do immediately is to remove your dependence.

My father rode a camel.

I drive a car.

My son  flies a jet airplane.

His son will ride a camel.

Saudi Proverb.

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