Azara Blog: Increase in UK fuel duty postponed

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Date published: 2005/07/05

The BBC says:

The increase in UK fuel duty due in September is being postponed again, the government has announced.

Fuel duty is due to rise at least in line with inflation every year but Gordon Brown used his Budget in March to defer the rise.

Now the Treasury says it will review whether to raise the tax in the autumn pre-Budget report.

The tax was frozen last year because of "volatility in the oil market". Oil prices have since risen further.

Fuel duties have now been frozen since October 2003.
The government's general policy of imposing an inflation rise in fuel duty is designed to meet environmental commitments.

Friends of the Earth said it was extremely disappointed by Tuesday's decision, saying the cost of motoring had fallen by 6% in real terms since Labour came to power in 1997.

A spokesman said traffic levels had risen in the same period and road transport accounted for 22% of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions.

"Coming just before the G8 summit, this sends the wrong signal about tackling climate change," he added.

Of course Friends of the Earth (FoE) hate cars, so you have to take anything they say on this front with a pinch of salt. The fact that road transport allegedly accounts for 22% of the UK CO2 emissions is neither here nor there, it just means that an awful lot of the economy uses road transport. Formula 1 accounts for less than 1% of the UK CO2 emissions, does FoE consider that to be a better form of activity?

There is often a similarly idiotic criticism of the use of cement in the construction of buildings, using absolute numbers which are meaningless if you don't at the same time consider the bang for the buck that you are getting. Most construction uses cement so obviously the absolute numbers are high.

And why is it a disaster that the cost of something has fallen in real terms? Perhaps this is just an extremely efficient form of economic activity, bringing economies of scale to the market. (In spite of all the idiotic health and safety regulations constantly foisted on the car companies.)

Well, obviously, a lot of the cost of driving is down to the arbitrary tax rate leveled by the government on petrol. Petrol is more expensive in the UK than almost anywhere else in Europe, and driving is the only economic activity in the UK which more than pays a fair level of carbon tax. So it's not as if car drivers are getting away with murder. On the contrary, it is rail commuters who have successfully externalised much of their costs and in particular who do not pay a carbon tax. (They get away with this because most of the media, in particular the people who work from the BBC, benefit from this subsidy, and these people also have the same comfortable middle class anti-car mentality as the FoE.)

In a similar vein, the so-called environmentalists complain that when roads are built people just come out and use them. How dreadful. Imagine government using money for something that its citizens will actually use, what a quaint concept. Perhaps only roads that nobody will use should be built. Put a six-lane circular motorway in the middle of the Highlands of Scotland, with no entrances and exits, and no doubt the FoE will go to bed happy.

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