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IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT THE HIGH COST OF FUEL? THE SUSKES VIEW

Fuel prices continue high and make life more expensive. Demand for fuel increases worldwide while resources are uncertain and limited. The price we pay at the garage pump depends on the worldwide wholesale price but also includes tax, fuel duty at 58p/litre and VAT 20%. It’s hardly surprising that there are pressure groups trying to persuade the government to reduce tax on petrol and other fuels.

High fuel oil prices hit the motorist hard. They affect all of us because the rising transport costs of almost anything we buy are passed on to the consumer. Other fossil fuels power most of our electricity production. As president Bush said: we are addicted to oil. .We are addicted to other fossil fuels too. Our way of life depends on them.

What are the effects of our dependence to fossil fuels? When we burn fossil fuels we produce massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Every gallon of petrol or diesel burnt adds to the carbon dioxide load.

We now know, well beyond any reasonable doubt, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are causing global warming and climate change. The only doubt left is the severity of the outcome - how bad will it be for our children and grandchildren? And how soon will it be too late to prevent catastrophic and/or irreversible damage?

So, we, all of us, have to reduce drastically the amount of fossil fuel we burn. Our government should do everything it can to reduce this whether it is oil, coal, or gas. Other nations must be persuaded to do the same.

Transport, especially by car and air, causes a large part of the greenhouse gasses that are increasingly damaging the future of our planet. We can reduce the damage by changing the way we travel. High fuel costs help persuade us to use cars less, use less fuel, drive economically and share use of transport. High prices stimulate manufacturers to make more energy-efficient vehicles and the public to buy them and use them.

It’s good news that new cars emit 28% less carbon dioxide than those purchased 15 years ago. However a reduction of carbon dioxide by 80% by 2050 is needed. Reducing fuel use is the start of the process of weaning us off our dependency on oil.

It is sometimes said that the government is taking advantage of the motorist by imposing ever increasing taxes on fuel. Some people argue that reducing fuel tax would benefit the economy.

The tax that is taken on fuel is used by the government to run the NHS, schools, roads, police etc. If the tax on fuel was reduced, the money would have to be found by imposing other taxes. The average person in the street would be no better off.

Those who use larger amounts of fuel and ask for fuel tax reduction are asking to be subsidised by those who pollute less.

Air travel is particularly damaging. More greenhouse gases are produced per person per mile and are twice as harmful at altitude as they would be at ground level. Aviation fuel is not taxed. The cost per person per mile does not reflect the amount of environmental damage done. Air passenger duty does not balance this and is set to increase.

Higher fuel prices hurt. They are inevitable owing to increased demand and scarcer and more difficult supplies.

They are also absolutely necessary, to allow us to look forward to a decent future for ourselves. And for our children and grandchildren, a world fit for humans - and the millions of animal and plant species with which we share the planet.

June 2012

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